Two historic, special clubs battled Madrid and Barça at grounds that embrace traditions rather than turn their backs on it
It’s exactly 100km from Anoeta to San Mamés as the car drives, passing Ipurúa halfway, sitting pretty in the Ego valley. Visible from the road, there was no one at the stadium this time – Eibar were down to Madrid to play Atlético – but there were thousands at each end of the AP8, striped shirts everywhere, flags hanging from bars where old photos hang from walls and they were making a lot of noise, packing Pozas Street in Bilbao, and spilling into the sunshine on Zorroaga Way, San Sebastián. Maybe even more noise than ever before. There’s something special about the Basque Country – 1.4% of Spain’s territory, 4.9% of its population, 20% of its first-division teams – and this Saturday even more so, an expression of its footballing identity, enhanced and offered up for all to see.
Between them, Real Sociedad and Athletic Club have 35 players in their squad who played for them pre-first team level and for four years at the start of the eighties they kept the league title in Euskadi. Those days are long gone – although they were second and third in 1997-98 and La Real really could have won it in 2003 – but on Saturday morning Marca lead with the headline: “The league looks north.” The first week back after the opening international break, when it feels like the season is properly under way at last, saw Barcelona travel to play La Real on Saturday afternoon, while Madrid went to Athletic that same evening, 100km apart.
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Huesca 0-1 Rayo Vallecano, Atlético Madrid 1-1 Eibar, Real Sociedad 1-2 Barcelona, Valencia 0-0 Real Betis, Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Real Madrid, Leganés 0-1 Villarreal, Espanyol 1-0 Levante, Real Valladolid 0-1 Alavés, Sevilla 0-2 Getafe
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