La Liga round-up: Supercopa chaos, European qualifiers and transfer activity

Beyond the player strike that has delayed the start of the 2011-12 Primera and Segunda Division seasons, plenty of action has happened both on and off the pitch this week.

On the pitch
Barcelona and Real Madrid played out an entertaining Supercopa de Espana second leg, with Jose Mourinho’s men putting in yet another improved performance against the Blaugrana, but to fall to a late Lionel Messi goal, to lose 3-2 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate. The game was marred by a late brawl between the players and their respective benches, whilst Marcelo, Mesut Ozil and David Villa all received red cards.

In European qualification, Villarreal fell to a surprise Champions League third round first leg defeat in Norway to Odense. Despite dominating possession, Cristian Zapata’s late mistake let in Hans Andreasen to win the game 1-0 for the home side.

Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla were in Europa League action on Thursday evening. In the play-off round to reach the competition proper, Gregorio Manzano led Atleti to a 2-0 first leg lead over Portuguese Vitoria Guimaraes – two goals from linked away Elias proving the difference – whilst Marcelo Bielsa’s first official game in charge of Bilbao ended in a 0-0 home draw with Turks Trabzonspor. Sevilla were defeated by Hannover, but take a crucial away goal back to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, courtesy of Freddie Kanoute.

Off the pitch
Where Barcelona secured the services of Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas for an initial €29m fee, the largest figure paid this week in Spain was elsewhere. Atletico have secured Colombian striker Radamel Falcao from Porto for a fee of €40m. Reports linking Diego Forlan with a departure still remain, and are believed to be key to the Rojiblancos persuing Espanyol’s Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, who has also been linked with more enticing bids from Espanyol’s perspective from Roma and Paris Saint-Germain.

Espanyol are also fighting of interest from Rubin Kazan for midfielder Joan Verdu. Valencia meanwhile are expected to lose a key man over the weekend as Juan Mata edges closer to a €30m transfer to Chelsea. Identified by Andre Villas Boas for a key role in his attack, Los Che are understood to have accepted the offer due to the player’s acceptance to move, and the fee representing a higher amount than the release clause that once again becomes active in the player’s contract early next summer. Another La Liga to Premier League switch could see Tottenham pick up Real’s Lassana Diarra, with the clubs believed to be negotiating at a €11.5m fee.

Real Betis are stepping up activity in the market, by securing Bilbao’s Ustartiz Aldekoaotalora on a season-long loan, in light of being sidelined at the Basque side in favour of Mikel San Jose. Betis are following this up with attention on former Valencia man Nicola Zigic, having lost out on first choice replacement for Achille Emana, Dani Guiza, to Getafe. The Madrid side unveiled left-sided defender Tshepo Masilela and Juan Valera Esp

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