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Carlo Ancelotti has returned to Real Madrid six years after being sacked by Los Blancos
Carlo Ancelotti has returned to Real Madrid six years after being sacked by Los Blancos

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It is a brave new era in LaLiga with Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona and Sergio Ramos exiting Real Madrid.

With storylines aplenty, it is set to be another tense campaign in the Spanish top flight. 

Can Atletico Madrid win back-to-back titles for the first time in 70 years? How will Barca cope without the legendary Messi? Can Carlo Ancelotti reignite Real in his second spell as boss?

Those questions and a whole lot more will be answered between now and the end of the season. 

Friday's game

Valencia vs Getafe (8pm)

Mallorca vs Real Betis (Saturday, 6.30pm)

Mallorca secured an immediate return to LaLiga last season and their aim this time around is simply to stay up. 

They are keen to right the wrongs of the 2019-20 campaign, which saw them register just 3.08 shots on target per 90 minutes. 

Their opponents on the opening weekend are Manuel Pellegrini's Real Betis, who are looking to build on finishing sixth last season. 

Defensive midfielder Guido Rodriguez was imperious as Los Verdiblancos secured a Europa League spot.

The Argentine’s 3.07 tackles and 2.13 interceptions per 90 put him in LaLiga’s top 10 for both metrics.

Alaves vs Real Madrid (Saturday, 9pm)

Karim Benzema is now the highest-scoring active player in LaLiga following Lionel Messi's departure
Karim Benzema is now the highest-scoring active player in LaLiga following Lionel Messi's departure

Ancelotti’s second spell at Real Madrid begins with a trip to Alaves.

And if the Italian wants to bring the title back to the Bernabeu, he will have to start by shoring up the defence.

Los Blancos had an expected goals against figure of 36.5 last season, while league winners and cross-city rivals Atletico's was just 32.7.

New recruit David Alaba, 29, has big boots to fill as he steps in to the void left by the departure of Ramos. 

But Alaves face a tough task if they are to topple the giants from the capital. 

They will need former Newcastle forward Joselu to be on form once more — he has scored 11 times in each of the last two seasons.

Saturday's other games

Cadiz vs Levante (6.30pm
Osasuna vs Espanyol (9pm)

Celta Vigo vs Atletico Madrid (Sunday, 4.30pm)

Diego Simeone is looking to secure back-to-back title wins
Diego Simeone is looking to secure back-to-back title wins

Atleti kick off their campaign against Celta Vigo as they look to retain the title for the first time since 1951.

Diego Simeone’s side will always be hard to break down and it is their defensive wall that took them to the LaLiga crown, conceding just 25 goals against an expected tally of 32.7.

Celta Vigo finished eighth last term and missed out on qualifying for Europe after Villarreal won the Europa League. 

The Galician outfit were one of the more potent in front of goal in 2020-21 and finished up on their xG by 0.19 per 90.

Barcelona vs Real Sociedad (Sunday, 7pm)

What a summer it has been at the Camp Nou.

Along with publishing credit scores and signing players they cannot afford, they lost a player who had netted 672 goals across 17 seasons.

It will be strange seeing Barcelona play without Messi but they could also be missing new faces Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia due to LaLiga’s financial control rules. To make matters worse, Sergio Aguero is sidelined with a calf injury. 

The good news for Barca, according to reports, is that Emerson has already been registered and is free to play. 

Real Sociedad face the wounded Catalans smelling blood and knowing there is a real chance of getting their season off to the perfect start. 

And with super Swede Alexander Isak up front, they could do just that.

The21-year-old striker's 0.65 goals from 1.6 shots on target per 90 minutes made him one of the most clinical marksmen in Spain in 2020-21.

Lionel Messi said a tearful goodbye to Barcelona before joning Paris Saint-Germain
Lionel Messi said a tearful goodbye to Barcelona before joning Paris Saint-Germain

Sevilla vs Rayo Vallecano (Sunday, 9.15pm)

Sevilla clung on to the coattails of the big three right up until the final few weeks of the season as they mounted an unexpected title charge in 2020-21.

Ivan Rakitic was the standout arrival last summer but midfield partner Joan Jordan had a superb campaign, ranking 11th for completed passes (64.76) and 13th for touches (88.1)

Rayo Vallecano return to LaLiga after a two-year exile and they did so the hard way, finishing sixth and earning promotion via the play-offs.

They have goalkeeper Luca Zidane, son of Zinedine, to thank as the 23-year-old filled in for the Madrid outfit when No1 Stole Dimitrievski left early to link up with North Macedonia for Euro 2020.

The young Frenchman featured 11 times in 2020-21, conceding just 0.78 per 90 with an impressive 80% save rate.

Monday's games

Villarreal vs Granada (7pm
Elche vs Athletic Bilbao (9pm)

Tags

LaLigaReal MadridBarcelonaAtletico MadridSevillaReal BetisMallorcaDeportivo AlavesCelta VigoReal SociedadRayo Vallecano

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