Barcelona starts its tenancy at the Olympic Stadium on Montjuic, the club’s temporary home while Camp Nou is being rebuilt, on Sunday against Cadiz without coach Xavi Hernandez after his red card in the season opener.
The Spanish champion staggered to a 0-0 draw in a bad-tempered clash at Getafe last weekend, with Brazilian winger Raphinha sent off for an elbow in the first half before Xavi saw red for his touchline protests.
The pair received two-match bans and will therefore also miss the trip to Villarreal on August 27, but Xavi is confident his team will shake off a slow start as well as his upcoming absence.
“There’s no need to get too worked up about it. We started last season badly too but things worked out in the end,” he said after his side started their campaign with a goalless draw, just like last season.
“Now I’m interested in improving the play and the result. A point for us is not sufficient but this was a very difficult game for us to play.”
Barcelona excelled at home last term, conceding a mere four goals in 19 outings at Camp Nou, two of which came in its lone defeat - a 2-1 loss to Real Sociedad with the title already won.
But it had to relocate while its iconic ground undergoes a vast redevelopment expected to be completed by 2026. Barcelona is due to return to Camp Nou not yet at full capacity late next year.
Situated on a large hill in the city, the Montjuic venue hosted the 1992 Olympics and formerly served as the home of local rival Espanyol from 1997 to 2009.
It is a considerably smaller venue than Camp Nou, accommodating just under 50,000 spectators - half that of Barcelona’s stadium - but is notable for being where Lionel Messi made his professional debut in 2004.
- Bellingham turning heads -
How it fares at its home away from home will largely determine its success as it plays catch-up from the outset with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Jude Bellingham gave Real Madrid a glimpse of his prodigious talent, scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win at Athletic Bilbao and earning praise from coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“He’s outstanding. He has plenty of personality and has adapted very quickly to the team’s system,” said the Italian.
“It seems like he’s been with us for a long time and he’s a very talented player.”
Another debut could be handed to goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for Saturday’s trip to Almeria following his arrival on a season-long loan from Chelsea.
The 28-year-old Spain international was brought in as cover for the injured Thibaut Courtois, who was replaced by Ukrainian Andriy Lunin at San Mames.
“I’m coming here more mature and in one of the best periods of my sporting career after a great year. I’m ready for the challenge,” said Kepa, who was close to signing for Madrid in 2018.
Madrid has also lost centre-back Eder Militao to a cruciate ligament injury, although it appears less likely to return to the transfer market to compensate for the Brazilian’s lengthy lay-off.
Atletico top the table after Monday’s 3-1 win over Granada, but Diego Simeone is set to be without his captain Koke for the team’s visit to Real Betis because of a hamstring problem.
Sevilla, beaten at home by Valencia to start the campaign, will look to bounce back from Wednesday’s UEFA Super loss to Manchester City on penalties at promoted Alaves.
Former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez is also hoping to fare better against Real Sociedad on Saturday after losing his first game in charge of Celta Vigo.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
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