Champions Barca hope it’s third time lucky against Athletic Bilbao
Champions Barcelona kick-off the new La Liga season against a familiar foe on Sunday afternoon with Luis Enrique and his men making the trip to San Mames to take on Athletic Bilbao.
It will be the third match between the two teams in eight days after Athletic overcame Barca 5-1 on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup. Ernesto Valverde’s men thumped the Catalans 4-0 on home soil in the first leg and followed it up with a professional 1-1 draw in the return fixture on Monday night. That will give the Basque club a big boost ahead of a tough-looking season opener.
Barca will also be without defender Gerard Pique after the former Manchester United man saw red at the Camp Nou last time out. With the champions already having shipped nine goals in their last three games his absence will leave Luis Enrique’s back four looking even more suspect.
Athletic are 5/1 to open the season with a shock victory and those odds look appealing given their form against the Catalans recently, as well San Mames being somewhat of a fortress. Even a draw looks good at 10/3 for the safer option.
Experienced forward Aritz Aduriz netted four times in the cup double header, including a hat-trick at San Mames, and he is 8/1 to break the deadlock on Sunday.
Barcelona won the treble last season and although they have suffered an indifferent start to their competitive campaign they will be desperate to bounce back and hit the ground running in the league. Odds of 9/20 are offered for a Barca win but a one-goal winning margin offers 13/5.
There may be no Neymar or Pedro but Lionel Messi and former Liverpool man Luis Suarez will both look to find the back of the net. Messi, keen to surpass Cristiano Ronaldo as the league’s top-scorer this season, is 3/1 to score first and Suarez is 7/2 to break the deadlock.
Both teams should provide a thrilling opener in the Basque country and odds of 8/11 for both to score look attractive.
Rafa Benitez kicks-off his Madrid reign at newly-promoted Sporting
Rafa Benitez starts life as Real Madrid coach in Gijon on Sunday night and the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Napoli coach will hope for a positive start in La Liga.
The Club World Cup aside, Madrid went without a trophy last season and watched on as arch rivals Barcelona swept everything up instead. Failure will not be an option for the 55-year-old with president Florentino Perez demanding success from the off.
Sporting will be licking their lips at welcoming the ten-time European Champions to town after achieving promotion back to the top-flight and will aim to make life as difficult as possible for the capital club at El Molinon.
Aberlardo’s men are capable of springing a surprise on the opening weekend, especially on home soil, and are 37/4 to take all three points.
However, despite a low-key pre-season Madrid are favourites to kick-off with victory at 2/9.
Much will be expected of former Tottenham Hotspur man Gareth Bale this season after a poor campaign last term and there will be no better way of answering his critics than getting on the scoresheet in the first match. The Welshman is 10/11 to score anytime during the match.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still the main man at the Bernabeu and the Portugal star is 5/2 to score first and silence the home crowd.
The rest of La Liga
Malaga host Sevilla at La Rosaleda on Friday night in the first La Liga match of the season.
The visitors enjoyed a superb 2014/15 campaign after pushing the league’s top-four all the way and winning the Europa League for the second year running. That European success ensured Champions League qualification this season.
The Andalusians pushed Barcelona all the way in a thrilling UEFA Super Cup clash earlier this month. Barca led 4-1 but Unai Emery’s men showed plenty of spirit to fightback and take the match to extra-time.
More of the same should see the Andalusians take all three points with them and they are 6/5 to open the season in buoyant fashion.
Powerhouse forward Carlos Bacca will not be there to lead the way this season after his summer move to Milan so Kevin Gameiro is expected to step-up and is 11/2 to score first.
Espanyol have lost a host of players over the summer, including goalkeeper Kiko Casilla and winger Lucas Vazquez to Madrid and talismanic forward Sergio Garcia. A home opener against Getafe will be a test for Sergio’s new-look side.
Getafe have a new coach in the experienced Fran Escriba and Saturday’s opener will be an even contest. Odds of 9/4 for the sides to share the spoils at the Power8 Stadium look attractive.
Goals could be a problem for both teams this season and a goalless stalemate is offered at 59/10.
David Moyes starts his second full season in charge at Real Sociedad with a trip to Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday afternoon.
Depor stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season and the former Everton and Manchester United boss will be looking for three points in Galicia as he targets more improvements for his side this season.
La Real are 9/5 for victory and they will look at summer recruit Jonathas for goals this season. The striker is 6/1 to score first and get the San Sebastian club off to a flying start to the campaign.
Moyes worked hard on his side’s defence last season and got the rewards. That, coupled with Depor’s failure to find the back of the net on a regular basis last season, should make odds of 37/20 for a Real Sociedad clean sheet seem attractive.
Atletico Madrid welcome top-flight new boys Las Palmas to the Vicente Calderon on Saturday night.
The Gran Canaria club will arrive in the capital on the crest of a wave but Diego Simeone has built a strong squad over the summer.
Amongst the arrivals was Jackson Martinez from Porto and the Colombian is 14/5 to start paying back some of his hefty fee with the opener. If he fails, Atleti’s top-scorer last season, Antoine Griezmann, provides stellar back-up and is 3/1 to break the deadlock.
Atleti are 1/2 to keep Las Palmas off the scoresheet and 6/4 for the hosts to win both halves looks attractive.
Valencia put one foot into the Champions League group stage thanks to victory over Monaco at the Mestalla in midweek but they will not want their league form to suffer when they travel to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday night.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men will be buoyed by their European result but a trip to Vallecas will provide a big test of character for his men after their midweek exploits, especially without Nicolas Otamendi.
On paper, Los Che have enough to leave with all three points at 19/20 but Paco Jemez’s men will not make things easy. Rayo’s attacking nature will leave the game open for goals and for both teams to score you can get odds of 5/8.
Former Manchester City man Alvaro Negredo was left out of the starting line-up in midweek but he could come back into the side in his home neighbourhood to score the opener at 5/1.
Levante and Celta Vigo go head-to-head in Valencia in Sunday’s 9pm kick-off match.
Neither side pulled up many trees last season but Celta will fancy their chances of getting their campaign off to a winning start.
The Galicians are 11/10 to claim all three points and if they are to achieve victory they will need Spain international Nolito to be at the top of his game. He is 11/2 to score first, as is former Manchester City man John Guidetti, who made the summer move to Vigo.
Expect goals to be few and far between, however, and odds of 51/20 for a one-goal winning margin in the Galicians’ favour looks appealing.
Real Betis celebrate life back in the Primera Division with a home clash against Villarreal on Sunday night.
Pepe Mel’s side will want to hit the ground running following promotion last season while Villarreal will target a much better start to this season than they finished last. A draw looks a good bet at 43/20
Ruben Castro was the man who fired Betis to promotion last season and he is 11/2 to score his side’s opening goal back in the top flight, while former Tottenham Hotspur man Roberto Soldado will hope to prove that he’s not over the finish line just yet with goals for Marcelino’s team. The Spaniard is 11/2 to strike first.
On Monday night Granada host Eibar and both sides will be out to prove they will be more than just relegation candidates this season.
The hosts survived by the skin of their teeth while Eibar took their place back in the top flight owing only go Elche’s financial problems. Both will be amongst the favourites for the drop this season.
Granada have home advantage and Jose Ramon Sandoval did a stellar job of keeping the Andalusians up last term. The hosts are the favourites for the victory at 5/6.