The French writer and political theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau once declared that happiness requires three things: "a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion." It sounds relatively simple, and the idea of not just being physically capable of letting things settle but also wilfully doing so is one we like. Not La Liga, though.
Less than 24 hours removed from one cluster of fixtures, Spain's top division is ready to load us with another. You might still be digesting the Seville derby from Tuesday or the frenetic draws in Madrid and Barcelona from a night later, but to hell with your happiness. La Liga wants you to wash down your Sunday roast with a large mixed kebab and then guzzle the chilli oil. There's no time for healthy savouring here.
On Friday, Real Betis and Malaga kick off the round, but kicking off is a loose concept this week. Since last Friday, La Liga has had a fixture for you every day, and when Monday arrives, Spanish football will have been on your television for 11 straight nights. Or not, if your life features better balance than this writer's.
It's hard to keep track of it all. Two courses rounds have passed without a moment's interruption, and the third is already coming with our mouths still full. It's as though the Primera Division has become a little like that friend's mother who won't let you leave without you having threatened the structural integrity of your belt. Spare a thought for the players who have to be the regurgitated dish.
Every year now when the Champions League knockout stages arrive and Spanish teams inevitably win, we're constantly told it's because the ride is easy in Spain. For those from English shores, the "long Premier League season" in comparison with others is an obstacle, they tell us, neglecting to notice that 38-game affairs are the norm elsewhere, too.
Weeks such as these in La Liga are necessary to accommodate that two-weekend window referred to by envious eyes as the winter break. But Real Madrid and Barcelona might disagree on that definition. Like the Catalans last December, the lot from the capital will spend their winter coming back from Japan, having contested the coveted-by-no-one Club World Cup. It's their punishment reward for winning the trophy that counts. Aren't they lucky.
The grind is real. The ability of Spain's behemoths to handle gruelling schedules is too often underplayed, but even they have their hands full at this early stage.
After Wednesday's thrill-a-minute action, Real Madrid will make the long journey to Gran Canaria on Saturday to tackle a savvy Las Palmas without Casemiro and Marcelo. The midfielder has a fractured fibula, per AS, while his fellow Brazilian limped off against Villarreal with a calf problem and won't make the trip. Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema don't yet look 100 per cent, either.
Wednesday was taxing, too. At the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid spent the evening in a constant state of acceleration, but it was the starting speed that was the problem. Even if Carlo Ancelotti once described Madrid to Il Giornale (h/t Reuters' Tim Hanlon) as a "diesel," it's not ideal when it temporarily becomes the 1.4 from a Volkswagen Polo.
"We started complacently," said manager Zinedine Zidane after the 1-1 draw. "We have to work on it because it's not the first time we've started a game in this manner."
Zidane will remember his last visit to Las Palmas in March. On the back of desperately poor away form and more humiliation in the Madrid derby, the Frenchman's side pitched up in the Canaries with the morning intensity of the region's socks-and-flip-flops tourist brigade. "I'm worried," said Zidane that night. "Playing like we did tonight, we're going nowhere."
Madrid have made enormous strides since then, but you always see a vulnerability when Casemiro isn't around. The rugged 24-year-old is an island of reason and sanity in a team that's rather bonkers without him. Against Las Palmas, there'll be no Kevin-Prince Boateng to deal with, but Marko Livaja will relish the chance to go up against a Sergio Ramos currently doing the most extreme impression of himself.
Madrid will also hope president Florentino Perez is well again after a minor operation saw him miss the draw with Villarreal. "With Madrid losing their 100 per cent run, is it possible that the president is Zidane's lucky charm?" asked AS. Somewhere, Ancelotti and a lot of others had a chuckle.
Barcelona have headaches of their own. On Saturday, the Catalans head north-west to tackle Sporting Gijon at El Molinon without Lionel Messi, who limped off after an hour in Wednesday's draw against Atletico Madrid. For the Argentinian, it's a continuation of the groin issue that has created a popcorn-worthy war of words between club and country and will keep him out for three weeks.
He could be joined on the sidelines by Sergio Busquets. The midfielder was withdrawn against Atleti because "he ran out of energy," according to manager Luis Enrique. The Barcelona boss insisted it was due to Busquets having the flu, but maybe this 11-day binge is simply a bit too much for him, just like it is for us. Aleix Vidal, though, would quite like to be a part of the bender.
For Enrique, missing the blond fella is never fun, but restructuring without Busquets might be the bigger problem. The drop off when Barcelona's anchor is taken out remains a little too severe for comfort. Trips to Malaga and Las Palmas last season were evidence of that, and though Sporting aren't exactly fearsome, they have improved.
Abelardo's team were often frustratingly conservative last term, but now they look different. From being as adventurous as your mate who goes to Spain armed with "hamburguesa" as the full extent of his travelling vocabulary, Sporting have grown in recent months. There's now some speed on the break and a willingness to open up. Duje Cop, Fernando Amorebieta and Victor Rodriguez look like decent signings, too.
The Asturians have also won their last five at home in the league, and six of their last seven there. On the opening weekend of the season, they made Athletic Bilbao look sluggish and then spent a half battering Leganes. So unaccustomed to handing out such treatment, they spent the next half receiving something similar, seemingly not sure what to do with it. But, hey, little steps.
Sadly, though, Douglas will be missing. The Brazilian is on loan at Sporting this season despite having "squatted" at the Camp Nou this summer in protest of the move. Sport's Ivan San Antonio's coverage of the affair even included what sounded like an episode of Suits: "Eventually he convinced the player that his squatting attempt was not correct. Eventually he came to his senses and had no choice but to give in, [and] sign the papers."
If that doesn't grab you, the news from Sport that Douglas is out against Barcelona after suffering a gluteal injury "while sleeping on the club coach" surely will. If only we were allowed to digest it for a second.
Not to Be Missed
"The weekends are when football is supposed to be played," said Real Betis manager Gus Poyet earlier this week, per Football Espana, when discussing his team's overly frequent appearances on Fridays. "We must excuse the TV broadcasters, but we are a little bit sick of this." Poyet will be thrilled his Betis face Malaga on Friday night.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Sevilla at San Mames on Saturday should be a cracker. Though Jorge Sampaoli's team might be a little knackered after they and Betis kicked the crap out of each other on Tuesday in the Seville derby, this might be an early "six pointer" in the race for the top four. That both of them are direct, aggressive and attack-first should make it a lot of fun.
If Sevilla win, they'll temporarily go top of the table.
Valencia won their first game following Pako Ayestaran's sacking against Alaves on Thursday with roll-your-eyes predictability. They go to the capital to face Leganes on Sunday, wondering if former Villarreal boss Marcelino might soon be theirs. It's complicated, though. According to AS' Conrado Valle, regulations from the Spanish FA prevent a manager from coaching two teams in the division in the same season, and though Marcelino never oversaw a game this term in departing before the campaign started, the RFEF's definition of a season involves anything after July 1.
Saturday's early kick-off gives us a Basque derby. Not the Basque Derby, but, well, one of them: Eibar vs. Real Sociedad. Given La Liga's new obsession with the onscreen experience of its product through the artificial filling of stands, though, it's rather ironic that such a TV-geared time slot will feature a ground where there almost isn't a stand.