Following the departure of Lionel Messi, Barcelona will face Athletic Bilbao in their first round match on Saturday, hoping to support a promising La Liga opener last weekend, while Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are also second in a row. Want to win
Despite the shock of Messi’s departure for Paris Saint-Germain, Ronald Koeman’s Barca beat Real Sociedad 4-2 last weekend.
The Catalan giants are still without injured winger Usman Dembele and close-range arrival Sergio Aguero as they are mired in debt and want to rebuild despite finishing third last season.
Coeman won his first major trophy as Barca boss for the last time, his team beating Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in the Copa del Rey final in which Messi scored two goals.
Martin Braithwaite stepped into the shoes of the Ballon d’Or winner six times last Sunday, while Memphis Depp impressed with his debut film after joining Lyon.
Coeman admitted after the victory over Sociedad that other members of his team needed to step up without Messi – who scored 38 goals in his last Barca season.
“We no longer have players who can decide the fate of the matches themselves – it will be a collective effort,” the Dutchman said.
Instability at Camp Nou is far greater than the pitch, with President Juan Laporta saying Monday that the club’s financial problems are “troubling”.
He revealed that Barcelona owes 1.35 billion euros (8 1.58 billion) and that his salary bill is at least 25 per cent higher than 617 million euros.
Philippe Coutinho, one of the highest earners, was not part of the match-day squad against Sociedad and is linked to a return to the Premier League – where he previously played for Liverpool.
Veteran center-back Gerard Pack, who scored last weekend, could miss the calf issue against the athletes.
Atletico Madrid took advantage of the on-pitch woes of Barcelona and Real Madrid to win La Liga for the first time since last season 2014 and begin their title defense with a 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico welcomes Elche to Wanda Metropolitan on Sunday, where fans will be there to celebrate his 2021 title win.
Real have also seen significant changes in the recent season, with coach Zinedine Zidane leaving the club to replace former boss Carlo Ancelotti.
The long-running defensive duo of Sergio Ramos and Rafael Varane have also left for PSG and Manchester United, respectively, although David Alaba is expected to be one of them after his transfer from Bayern Munich. Will end
Ancelotti brought back Gareth Bale to beat Elliott 4-1 last week, while Karim Benzema, who is reportedly ready to sign a new contract, doubled.
At the Santiago Bernabeu, the focus is on pursuing Killian Mbabane, who has not yet agreed to a new deal with PSG.
This Sunday, though, Los Blancos will bid to continue its strong start at Leonte.
Along with Dutch international Antonio Griezmann, Barcelona will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility in Messi’s absence, although Spain has just arrived.
Depp’s last move at a major European club ended in disaster as he left Manchester United in 2016 after scoring just two goals in 33 Premier League games.
But he has enjoyed great magic in Lyon, where he scored 20 times in League 1 last season, and could have been ready to step up at the age of 27.
Three: Leont’s victory in his last six matches against Real Madrid.
Six: Atletico’s consecutive La Liga victories against Elche.
17: Apart from Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, no team has won the title.