La Liga: Atletico, Barcelona and Real Madrid braced for another titanic title tussle

Atletico Madrid will be champing at the bit to get the new La Liga campaign underway, while Barcelona and Real Madrid will be desperate to stop them in their tracks. We look ahead to two of the season openers this weekend — Celta Vigo v Atletico Madrid, and Barcelona v Real Sociedad. We will also highlight the latest odds to see how things are shaping up.

Atletico Madrid have now become the hunted

In past campaigns, Atletico adopted the role of the hunter, as they sought to topple Real Madrid and Barcelona. However, the roles have now reversed. After ending a seven-year wait to lift the La Liga title last term, Diego Simeone’s men will fight tooth and nail to hold onto it.

But Atletico will have been disappointed with how they wrapped up their pre-season preparations. Last Sunday, Atletico crashed to a 2-1 defeat against Feyenoord, and it was an ill-tempered clash. Yannick Carrasco was dismissed at half-time, and there were ugly scenes as Simeone stormed onto the pitch to berate his player.

Atletico Madrid maintain strong stance over Kieran Trippier

Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, are adamant they won’t let Kieran Trippier leave. With just over three weeks to go until the transfer window closes, Atletico are desperate to keep hold of their core players. Meanwhile, it will be fascinating to see how Rodrigo de Paul gets on after signing from Udinese.

Celta Vigo looking to push on this season

After claiming a top-eight finish last term, Celta Vigo will be eager to push on this campaign. They couldn’t have asked for a tougher start, although they will be hoping to exploit any opening-day nerves from Atletico. While Atletico look to force the initiative, Celta Vigo will have to hang in there and make the most of the chances that fall their way.

Barcelona preparing to face up to La Liga life without Lionel Messi

After ending his 21-year association with Barcelona, Lionel Messi’s Nou Camp exit was far from fitting for a player of his stature. Barca will now have to find a way to compete for trophies in the post-Messi era, and it could be one of their greatest challenges. Messi — who won 35 trophies with Barcelona — appears to be inching closer to a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barcelona dealt huge Sergio Aguero blow ahead of Real Sociedad clash

After waving goodbye to Messi last week, Barcelona were left reeling by the Argentine’s exit. But they were dealt another untimely blow ahead of the start of the season. Reports have emerged that summer signing Sergio Aguero has suffered a tendon injury, and he looks set to miss the first 10 weeks of the campaign.

Strangely, Aguero hasn’t formally registered with Barcelona due to contract issues, although it is hoped the La Liga giants will wrap everything up before Friday’s registration deadline. Aguero’s exploits at Manchester City were extraordinary, and he scored a club-record 260 goals during his decorated spell at the Etihad.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have set a 30% cap on capacity for Sunday evening’s game against Real Sociedad. There will be 30,000 fans at the Nou Camp, and it is the first time in 17 months that fans have been allowed into the ground. The last time that happened, coincidentally, was against Sociedad in March 2020.

Barcelona v Sociedad: A tale of past encounters

Real Sociedad will be trying to push for a top-four finish this term, but they could have their work cut out at the Nou Camp on Sunday. Sociedad have yet to taste victory against the Nou Camp, and of the 50 clashes between the two sides, Barcelona have dominated. With 32 wins to their name, Barcelona have been far superior in the head-to-head.

Last term, Sociedad were hammered 6-1 at home by Barca. Messi helped himself to a double, as did Sergino Dest, as Barca ran rampant. While Sociedad may fancy their chances against a Messi-less Barca, they could be run ragged again if they aren’t careful.

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