The wait is over – La Liga is back! With a new look squad, and one official title already in the bag, FC Barcelona’s bid to retain the Spanish championship begins tonight at 22:15h. (CET) at home to Alavés (THIS WAY FOR TICKETS).
Barça have won their opening fixture in every one of the last nine seasons. Can they make it an unprecedented ten in a row?
There have been changes galore at FCB this summer. Andrés Iniesta, Paulinho, Lucas Digne, Aleix Vidal, Yerry Mina and André Gomes are among the names that have departed, while new signings Arthur, Malcom and Arturo Vidal are all in contention to make their first ever Liga appearances, and Clément Lenglet for the first time wearing the famous blaugrana jersey.
Denis Suárez, Carles Aleña and Sergi Samper have all been carrying injuries but have trained normally this week. However, none make the matchday squad:
Ter Stegen, Cillessen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Umtiti; Rakitic, Busquets, Coutinho, Arthur, Rafinha, Arturo Vidal; Luis Suárez, Messi, Dembélé and Malcom.
The many changes at Alavés include Munir El Haddadi returning to Barça following a loan spell. Likewise, former FCB man Bojan Krkić has gone back ‘home’ to Stoke City.
Barça manager Ernesto Valverde expects a similar game to last season, when his team came from 1-0 down to beat the Basques with goals from Messi and Luis Suárez.
Alavés boss Abelardo Fernandez, a Barça player himself from 1994 to 2002, says that “the team is excited about this game, we’ll try to use our weapons to play a great game, and get a good result too, why not?,” while adding that his immediate objectives for the season ahead stretch no further than “making sure we’re playing first division next season too.”
Following the US Tour, Barça warmed up for their Liga debut by defeating Sevilla 2-1 to win the Spanish Super Cup and seeing off Boca Juniors 3-0 in the Gamper Trophy.
Alavés, who finished 14th in the league last season, took three wins, four draws and two defeats from their preseason fixtures, all against sides in the upper echelons of the Spanish pyramid.
Did you know?
If he plays, this will be Luis Suárez’s 200th official appearance for FC Barcelona (curiously, his 100th game was also against Alavés).
Alavés were the last team to beat Barça at Camp Nou in La Liga, a 2-1 victory way back in September 2016.
Eight years after Leo Messi scored Barça’s 5,000th goal in Liga history, Barça need just one more to make it 6,000. Philippe Coutinho’s goal on the final day of last season took the tally up to 5,999. So just one more to go...
Source: FC Barcelona / Mike Roberts