Plenty to look forward to as curtain rises on La Liga season

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, August 16, 2019
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FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi (2nd R) breaks through during the Spanish King's Cup semifinal first leg match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 6, 2019. The match ended with a 1-1 draw. (Xinhua/Joan Gosa)

The first round of matches in the new Spanish Liga Santander season opens this week when Athletic Club Bilbao entertain reigning champions FC Barcelona in the San Mames Stadium on Friday night.

It seems fitting that two sides that have never been relegated should raise the curtain on the new campaign and expectations are high in Bilbao with tickets selling out in just hours.

Athletic have not made any new signings this summer, but look well-organized under coach Gaizka Garitano. Inaki Williams will be a huge threat to the Barca defense, while the home side will hope to take advantage of the likely absence of Leo Messi from the Barca starting line-up due to a calf injury.

However, Barca did well when Messi was injured last season and in Aintoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele they have a potent attack, even if recent headlines have been filled with stories over the possible return of Neymar from Paris Saint Germain.

Saturday kicks off with Real Madrid visiting Celta Vigo with the spotlight very much on Zinedine Zidane's side after a dreadful pre-season in which they have won just once match and made glaring tactical errors despite the big spending this summer.

The game will see Eden Hazard and perhaps Eder Militao and Luka Jovic make their league debuts and it will be interesting to see if Zidane uses a five or four man defense after his side has leaked goals in pre-season.

There is an interesting opener in Mestalla between Valencia, who will be without Spain international Rodrigo Moreno as he completes his move to Atletico Madrid, and Real Sociedad.

The visitors have strengthened their attack over the summer with the arrivals of Portu, Alexander Isak and Martin Odegaard, as well as goalkeeper Alex Remiro and the game will be an early indication of both sides' potential.

Newly promoted sides Mallorca, Granada and Osasuna are all in action on Saturday with Mallorca entertaining Eibar, while Granada are away to Villarreal, who need a good start after last season's struggles, and Osasuna visit a much-changed Leganes.

Osasuna completed the signing of central defender Raul Navas on Wednesday and the former Real Sociedad could go straight into their defense alongside Facundo Roncaglia.

Sunday sees a much changed Alaves side under new coach Aisier Garitano entertain Levante. Alaves have not convinced in pre-season but Garitano needs a good start after being sacked by Real Sociedad last season.

Wu Lei's Espanyol entertain Sevilla, who have brought in former Spain and Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui and made sweeping changes to their squad .

Early indications are positive for Sevilla, while Espanyol have looked solid against weaker opposition in the Europa League, but could miss striker Borja Iglesias, who joined Betis on Wednesday.

Iglesias is likely to make his Betis debut as his new side entertains Valladolid, who could hand a debut to recently signed goalkeeper Andriy Lunin before the weekend finishes with a Madrid derby as Atletico Madrid face Getafe.

Atletico are another side who have seen big changes this summer with the arrival of striker Joao Felix the most exciting and some are tipping Diego Simeone's side as possible Champions.

Getafe, who finished fifth last season should provide a tough opening day test in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. 

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