Just two months after Real Madrid lifted their record 34th La Liga title at their alternate home ground, Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, the Spanish top-flight is back in action this weekend. With the rumours of Barcelona legend Lionel Messi making rounds, the focus on Spain’s biggest footballing competition has been relatively low for the past few weeks.
But, as the Messi-Barcelona saga ended with the Argentine choosing to stay at Camo Nou, the spotlight has been shifted back to the beginning of the league this week.
Champions Real Madrid and runners-up FC Barcelona’s fixtures for the first game-week have been postponed due to their participation in the UEFA Champions League. Also, Sevilla being crowned as the Europa League Champions for a record fourth time in 7 years means that they will not play on the opening weekend due to the rest permitted. Consequently, Elche, Getafe and Atletico Madrid too sit this week out as the opponents of the three teams whose fixtures have been postponed.
Today we take a look at the 7 fixtures from the game-week one of the 2020–21 season of the La Liga, as the 14 teams begin their campaign with hopes and dreams of igniting the top-flight.
Granada vs Athletic Bilbao
On the first opening night of the Spanish footballing fiesta, Granada host Athletic Bilbao at the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes. It is really ironic how Athletic have fallen since seeing the glory days with legendary Argentine manager Marcelo Bielsa. They finished last season in the bottom-half of the table, on the 11th spot.
Though there was just a difference of five points between the visitors and Granada, the latter amazingly finished seventh and shall play in the Europa League this season — an incredible feat for the usually mid-table club.
Both the clubs have had contrasting recent forms. While Granada had a massive second half of the season after the COVID-break, they have lost all their friendlies in the past few weeks leading to the league. On the contrary, Athletic Bilbao had a difficult end to last season, losing their last two games. But they have bounced back with 3 wins in their 4 friendlies recently.
The opening encounter shall be a really entertaining one with both the sides having different playing philosophies and especially after the results of the friendlies off-late. Nevertheless, Granada at home will be a force to reckon with and there is no chance Athletic Bilbao will leave the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes with all three points.
Eibar vs Celta Vigo
Celta Vigo start their La Liga campaign as they visit the Ipurua Municipal Stadium to face a resilient Eibar side. Celta just escaped relegation last season as they finished in the 17th spot with 42 points from 38 games played. It is surprising that Eibar too had the same number of points but a better goal difference led them to finish comfortably in the 14th spot away from the hassle of relegation.
The visitors have had a disastrous run in 2020, especially in the last 10 games of the past season when Celta went 6 matches without a win and it was looking highly probable that they would relegated to the Segunda Division. But luck favoured them and they find themselves fighting to improve their position in the La Liga, starting September 12th.
Both Eibar and Celta have drawn their last 2 friendly games but there have been goals in each of those games. Eibar are the strong side here, but Celta Vigo will be hoping to make this season count and leave with at least a point away from home. This should be a draw between the two sides.
Cadiz vs Osasuna
Promoted side Cadiz will be hosting a dicey opponent in the form of Osasuna in the opening weekend. The hosts were fabulous last season in the Segunda Division as they were undefeated in 31 of their 42 total games played and have rightfully earned their place in this season’s La Liga.
On the other hand, their opponents Osasuna made decent progress as they brushed aside the likes of Real Betis, Athletic Bilbao and Celta Vigo to finish 10th in the La Liga last season.
The highlight for the game would surely be the arrival of former Spanish International Alvaro Negredo as a free signing from Dubai-based club Al Nasr. Negredo has played for European giants like Manchester City and Sevilla in the past and he will surely be the first choice in their striking force upfront.
Cadiz actually have a decent chance to win on Saturday as they are playing at home against a mid-table side like Osasuna. But their prowess has proven only in the Second Division and with La Liga being a level apart, Saturday’s game would be a big test for the promoted side. But they should be able to come out on top.
Real Valladolid vs Real Sociedad
Two yesteryear giants of Spanish football clash in their opening game, as Valladolid host Sociedad at the Jose Zorrilla Stadium on Super Sunday. Sociedad had a turbulent return after the Coronavirus break, but decent performances towards the end and a great first half of the season meant that they shall play in the Europa League this season.
Sociedad’s hosts Valladolid were expectantly in the bottom-half when the season ended. It has sort of become a routine for the side to finish in the bottom-half, but they should be applauded for not being relegated despite playing superior sides all season.
This is a game which could see new faces in the La Liga this season. Manchester City legend David Silva returns to his homeland after 8 wonderful years in England.
He rejected a move to Lazio to make a permanent move to Real Sociedad and there is no doubt he will start the game for the visitors. Valladolid have signed Shon Weissmann from Austrian side Wolfsberger. Weismann had 37 goals and 8 assists in 40 games last season and is tipped to become one of the best strikers in the La Liga this season.
Sociedad are the stronger side here and the addition of a big influence like Silva only improves their side multi-folds. The visitors should win this game and start their campaign on a high.
Villarreal vs Huesca
Villarreal go head-to-head with the La Liga 2 Champions of last season Huesca in their opening game. Huesca won 21 of their 42 Second Division games last season and successfully managed to seek promotion to the top flight for this season. They face a huge test against Villarreal so early in the competition.
The home side have had the best transfer window in Spain this season. They have scooped up Japanese teenage sensation Takefusa Kubo on loan from Real Madrid and have made an epic signing to bring in Dani Parejo from Valencia. Both these men are expected to start right away this Sunday and should add a different level of attacking display altogether.
Huesca are unlucky to face Villarreal away from home in the opening game, especially when their opponents finished in the 5th spot in the La Liga last season. Villarreal should romp on to a victory against Huesca in this one.
Valencia vs Levante
Valencia are the forgotten giants of Spanish football. They have produced the country’s best talents over the years in their youth academies — stars who are plying their trade in Europe’s biggest leagues in gargantuan clubs. Despite this, the club has now been having some rough patches over the years. They finished 9th in the league last season behind Getafe and Granada which was really disappointing.
They face Levante in the opening game at the Mestalla luckily, a club who is far inferior than them in all aspects. The visitors who finished 12th last season were winless in their last 3 games of their last season’s La Liga campaign. Overall, 2020 has not been very kind to Levante.
Valencia are unbeaten in 13 of their last 17 meetings with Levante and thus shouldn’t be worried at all. But their home form has been a bit shakey last season, as they have lost to some bottom sides unexpectedly. This adds another dimension to the game. Nevertheless, Valencia should come out as the winners on Sunday night.
Deportivo Alaves vs Real Betis
The last game of the game-week one is probably the closest fight between two very similarly levelled sides.
Alaves and Betis finished in the 16th and 15th spot respectively last season with a gap of just two points amongst them. They pick up from where they left off as the sides meet at the Estadio de Mendizorroza on Monday.
Not only last season’s finishing positions, the previous meetings between the two sides are also very close with Betis winning 7 and Alaves winning 6 of the sides’ last 17 outings against each other. The rest 4 games have been drawn.
There is very little to separate these two sides. While Betis are the slightly better side, Alaves are playing at home and wouldn’t be letting this opportunity slip of losing a capable tie on home turf. Alaves and Betis should share points on Monday.
Top sites like Mighty Tips will be offering more in-depth match predictions and betting tips for the La Liga this season. Feel free to check out their more detailed previews to the games as the new Spanish footballing season awaits its comeback this weekend.