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History repeats itself in several grounds as new La Liga season kicks off
Madrid, Aug 17: The new season in the La Liga kicks off on Friday night with two games, but fans will have to wait until Sunday before Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are in action.
The first game of the new campaign sees Leganes, who just clung on to their top flight spot last season, entertain Alaves, who have a new coach and a radically altered squad after last season's successes, reports Xinhua news agency.
Valencia's Mestalla Stadium will see a repeat of last season's opening game as the home side take on Las Palmas. Last season saw Las Palmas run out shock 4-2 winners to hint at problems in Mestalla and new Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia will hope for better despite a quiet summer in the transfer market.
The date and the expected hot weather means the earliest kick off on Saturday is at 18:15 local time and it is a repeat of the last game of last season as Celta Vigo, now with Carlos Unzue at the helm, entertain Real Sociedad, who earned a top six finish with an injury time goal in Balaidos back in May.
Two hours later Girona make their Primera Liga debut as they entertain Atletico Madrid. Atletico have no new faces because of a FIFA transfer ban, but coach Diego Simeone will have faith in the 'old guard' having enough firepower for the newcomers.
There is also a repeat of last season's opening game in the Sanchez Pizjuan where Sevilla entertain Espanyol. Last season's meeting opened the campaign with a 6-4 thriller and neutrals will no doubt be happy to see that repeated this time around.
FC Barcelona need to shake off their depression following the loss of Neymar and their Supercup hammering to Real Madrid when Betis visit the Camp Nou on Sunday night, but although Barca will kick off as favorites, they can expect problems against a rival who have a new coach in Quique Setien and who appear to have done good business over the summer.
If Betis can hit the ground running they can take advantage of Barca's fragile mental state and the anxiety among the fans in the Camp Nou, most of whom are critical of president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Real Madrid, meanwhile will be without Cristiano Ronaldo as they visit Deportivo la Coruna, but as they showed against Barca on Wednesday, they have the depth of squad and the talent to live without the Portuguese star, who is serving a five-match ban.
Last season Madrid won 6-2 in La Coruna and are clear favorites for an easy win this time around as well.
Sunday also sees Athletic Club Bilbao, who play an Europa League qualifying game in Athens on Thursday, entertain Getafe in San Mames.
The last two games of an extended weekend are to be played on Monday with Levante making their return to the La Liga at home to local rivals, Villarreal, who could hand a debut to striker Carlos Bacca, while Malaga will look to put a difficult pre-season behind them when Eibar visit the La Rosaleda Stadium.