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Barcelona thrashes Real Sociedad at Camp Nou

Barcelona made a strong statement about its intention of reclaiming the La Liga title, cruising to a 5-1 win over Real Sociedad at Camp Nou on Sunday.

The Catalans surrendered the title to Real Madrid last term, but Sunday's dismantling of Real Sociedad could be a sign of things to come under new manager Tito Vilanova, who replaced Pep Guardiola over the summer.

Carles Puyol put the home side in front in atypical Barcelona fashion, nodding home a corner kick from close range in just the fourth minute.

The lead did not last long as Gonzalo Castro broke free in behind the Barcelona defense and hammered an equalizer into the roof of the net five minutes later.

But the Catalans seized control of the match through their talisman as Lionel Messi produced two goals in the span of five minutes.

The go-ahead goal came in the 11th minute when Messi turned through traffic and uncorked a left-footed shot that needed a slight deflection to get past Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

Messi added another in the 16th minute, poking a bouncing ball past Bravo at the near post.

Barcelona was not finished scoring as Pedro capped some exquisite combination play around the box by slotting Cristian Tello's cross past Bravo on the volley four minutes before halftime.

The night was capped with a goal from David Villa, who made a triumphant return to the pitch after a lengthy injury layoff.

Villa dished the ball off to Andres Iniesta only to fire the nifty return pass past Bravo and into the back of the net six minutes from time.

Real Madrid 1, Valencia 1

Madrid, Spain - Real Madrid stumbled off the La Liga starting blocks on Sunday, settling for a 1-1 draw with Valencia at the Bernabeu.

The Galacticos looked well on their way to all three points when Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring in the 10th minute.

But Valencia, widely regarded as La Liga's third-best team behind Real and Barcelona, salvaged a point when Jonas nodded home a set piece in the 42nd minute.

Real Betis 5, Athletic Bilbao 3

Bilbao, Spain - Real Betis shocked Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Sunday, coming out on top of an eight-goal thriller that saw the Verdiblancos claim an impressive 5-3 win on the road.

The visitors claimed a three-goal lead by halftime thanks to Ruben Castro, Jorge Molina and Benat Etxebarria, but Bilbao stormed back to level the score in the second half through Oscar de Marcos and a brace from Mikel San Jose.

Real Betis ultimately restored its lead with Alejandro Pozuelo notching the game-winner in the 80th minute and Molina tacking on his second of the match in the 86th minute.

Levante 1, Atletico Madrid 1

Valencia, Spain - Arda Turan canceled out an early goal from Nabil El Zhar as Atletico Madrid opened the season with a 1-1 draw at Levante on Sunday at the Ciudad de Valencia in La Liga.

El Zhar scored just five minutes into the match, but Turan equalized in the 22nd minute and the score held for the remainder of the match as the clubs that finished last season fifth and sixth, respectively, split the points.