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Messi's good start reinforces Barcelona's status as favorite

Lionel Messi started the Spanish league right where he left off last season, and that's not a good sign for Real Madrid's weakened squad.

Madrid doesn't have Cristiano Ronaldo to try to match Messi's achievements for the first time in nearly a decade, and dethroning the defending league champions will be that much harder if the Argentine playmaker dominates again.

Messi, the league's top scorer last season, opened this year's campaign by scoring two goals in the team's 3-0 win over Alaves at Camp Nou on Saturday. His first goal was a clever free-kick shot underneath the wall, breaking the game open after Barcelona had struggled to get past the Alaves defense.

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