Barcelona proceed post-Messi period after sturdy begin

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Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao on Saturday of their first away match for the reason that departure of Lionel Messi, hoping to again up a promising La Liga opener final weekend, whereas Actual Madrid and Atletico Madrid additionally look to notch second straight wins.

Ronald Koeman’s Barca beat Actual Sociedad 4-2 final weekend regardless of the shock of seeing Messi depart for Paris Saint-Germain.

The Catalan giants are additionally nonetheless with out injured winger Ousmane Dembele and close-season arrival Sergio Aguero as they appear to rebuild regardless of being saddled with debt and solely ending third final season.

Koeman did win his first main trophy as Barca boss final time period, his facet thrashing Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in a Copa del Rey ultimate during which Messi scored twice.

Martin Braithwaite stepped into the six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s footwear final Sunday by grabbing a brace, whereas Memphis Depay impressed on his debut after becoming a member of from Lyon.

Koeman admitted after the win over Sociedad that different gamers in his crew have to step up with out Messi — who scored 38 targets in his ultimate Barca season.

“We not have a participant who can determine the destiny of matches on his personal — now it is going to be a collective effort,” mentioned the Dutchman.

Instability on the Camp Nou can also be rampant off the pitch, with president Joan Laporta on Monday saying the membership’s monetary issues are “worrying”.

He revealed that Barcelona’s money owed stand at 1.35 billion euros ($1.58 billion) and that their wage invoice is at the very least 25 p.c increased than their opponents at 617 million euros.

Philippe Coutinho, amongst these excessive earners, was not a part of the matchday squad towards Sociedad and has been linked with a return to the Premier League — the place he beforehand starred for Liverpool.

Veteran centre-back Gerard Pique, who scored final weekend, may miss out with a calf drawback towards Athletic.

– Champions Atletico face Elche –

Atletico Madrid took benefit of Barcelona and Actual Madrid’s on-pitch woes to win La Liga for the primary time since 2014 final season and kicked off their title defence with a 2-1 victory at Celta Vigo.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico on Sunday welcome Elche to the Wanda Metropolitano, the place followers will probably be current to have fun their 2021 title triumph.

Actual have additionally seen loads of change within the close-season, with coach Zinedine Zidane departing the membership to get replaced by former boss Carlo Ancelotti.

The long-serving defensive duo of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane have additionally left, for PSG and Manchester United respectively, though David Alaba will probably be anticipated to plug a kind of gaps after his transfer from Bayern Munich.

Ancelotti introduced Gareth Bale again into the fold for a 4-1 thumping of Alaves final week when Karim Benzema, who’s reportedly set to signal a brand new contract, netted a double.

All the main focus on the Santiago Bernabeu stays on the chase of Kylian Mbappe, who continues to be but to agree a brand new take care of PSG.

This Sunday, although, Los Blancos will probably be bidding to proceed their sturdy begin at Levante.

One to look at: Memphis Depay

The Netherlands worldwide, alongside Antoine Griezmann, must shoulder loads of duty at Barcelona within the absence of Messi, regardless of having solely simply arrived in Spain.

Depay’s final transfer to a giant European membership resulted in catastrophe as he left Manchester United in 2016 after scoring simply two targets in 33 Premier League video games.

However he has loved a positive spell at Lyon, the place he scored 20 occasions in Ligue 1 final season, and might be able to step up on the age of 27.

Key stats

Three: Wins for Levante of their final six matches towards Actual Madrid.

Six: Consecutive La Liga victories for Atletico towards Elche.

17: Years since a crew apart from Barcelona, Actual Madrid and Atletico Madrid received the title.

Fixtures (all occasions GMT)

Friday

Actual Betis v Cadiz (1900)

Saturday

Alaves v Actual Mallorca (1500), Espanyol v Villarreal, Granada v Valencia (each 1730), Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona (2000)

Sunday

Actual Sociedad v Rayo Vallecano (1500), Atletico Madrid v Elche (1730), Levante v Actual Madrid (2000)

Monday

Getafe v Sevilla (1800), Osasuna v Celta Vigo (2000)

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