Post-Messi era LaLiga kicks off on Friday

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Barcelona host Real Sociedad in their first game without Lionel Messi. The club’s remaining creative talents look to show how they fit in to Ronald Koeman’s setup in the post-Messi era. Photo: Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images
Barcelona host Real Sociedad in their first game without Lionel Messi. The club’s remaining creative talents look to show how they fit in to Ronald Koeman’s setup in the post-Messi era. Photo: Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

SPORT


The 2021/22 LaLiga Santander season gets underway this weekend and the new campaign starts with some very tough fixtures for the main championship contenders.

Atlético de Madrid, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC battled for the title last term, with Atlético coming out on top. All four will be determined to start the new year with a three-point haul against tricky opposition.

The new campaign kicks off at Mestalla, the league’s oldest stadium, at 9pm on Friday night.

Valencia CF face Getafe CF and, thanks to a neat quirk of the fixture list, this will see new Valencia coach José Bordalás take on the club he just left. These two teams have played some fiery contests in recent years and now there’s another interesting dynamic in the mix.

Due to the intense heat of the Spanish summer, all fixtures on matchday one are scheduled for the late afternoon or evening. The first of Saturday’s games kick off at 5pm when CA Osasuna welcome newly promoted RCD Espanyol to El Sadar.

READ: WATCH | Hero’s welcome for Messi in Paris

The Catalan club, also known as RCD Espanyol de Barcelona, were excellent on their way to winning the second league title last season and are hoping to carry that momentum into this season’s campaign.

RCD Mallorca also earned automatic promotion last term and are in action on Saturday evening, welcoming Real Betis to their popular island home.

Cádiz CF and Levante UD also meet on Saturday evening, after facing each other and drawing 2-2 on the final day of last season. Real Madrid’s first match takes place at 10pm on Saturday. Even though Los Blancos’ new coach Carlo Ancelotti has managed the club in LaLiga before, the Italian will face a brand-new opponent in the form of D Alavés.

He never took on the Basque side during his previous stint in charge, but will be well aware of how tough they are to play at their Mendizorrotza home. Real Madrid famously lost there to a last-minute goal back in 2018.

The reigning champions Atlético launch their title defence in the first game of Sunday at 5:30pm. Like their city neighbours, they also start the season with a tough away trip as Diego Simeone takes his team to Galicia to face a RC Celta side that finished last season well. They have also added interesting reinforcements, including Javi Galán and Franco Cervi.

At the Camp Nou, Barcelona host Real Sociedad is their first game without Lionel Messi. This is perhaps the most fascinating match in recent Barça history as the club’s remaining creative talents look to show how they fit in to Ronald Koeman’s setup in the post-Messi era.

Their ability to adapt will now be needed against a Real Sociedad side that finished fifth last season and who have a habit starting seasons well.

Sevilla FC believe they could challenge for the title in 2021/22.

After finishing last year with a club-record 77 points, they have strengthened the squad this summer with the signing of Erik Lamela from Totenham Hotspur, they’ll hope to start off by taking three points against newly promoted Rayo Vallecano.

The last time Rayo were in the top flight (2018/19) they also faced Sevilla on matchday one and it didn’t end well for them (4-1). They will be hoping to avoid a similar drubbing this time around.

There are two fixtures on Monday night, with Europa League champions Villarreal CF hosting Granada CF, a repeat of an unforgettable matchday one fixture in 2019 that finished 4-4. Both clubs have changed coach since, but goals will still be expected. Villarreal will hope that Carlos Bacca doesn’t score as the Colombian striker has just switched from yellow to the red and white of Granada.

Elche CF take on Athletic Club in a match-up that ensured Elche stayed up last season, beating the Basques 2-0 on the final day of the 2020/21 campaign.


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