Preview: La Liga to kick off on Saturday – 24 hours late and with no big guns

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MADRID, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) — One day later than expected and with several big names missing, the first round of games of La Liga kicks off in Spain this weekend.

The matches between La Liga champions, Real Madrid and Getafe, Barcelona and newly promoted Elche and Atletico Madrid and Europa League winners, Sevilla have been postponed due to the European and play-off commitments of most of those teams eating into pre-season. Meanwhile, the game between Granada and Athletic Club Bilbao, which was due to open on Friday night was put back to Saturday after a judge ruled late on Wednesday that matches can’t be played on either Fridays or Mondays.

With the match in Los Carmenes rescheduled for 18:30 local time on Saturday, it now falls to Eibar and Celta Vigo to kick off the new season.

Both sides struggled to avoid relegation last season and neither look stronger after a summer in which Eibar have lost players such as Fabian Orellana, De Blasis and Gorka Escalante while Rafinha, Jeison Murillo, Fiodor Smolov and Pione Sisto have all left Celta.

The opening game in Ipurua is followed by the delayed match in Granada, which is a repeat of the last game of last season. That match saw Granada beat an Athletic side with nothing to play for 4-0 in order to qualify for Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

Athletic’s pre-season has been hampered by six players testing positive for COVID-19 and injuries to others such as Yuri Berchiche, Inigo Martinez and Mikel Vesga and coach Gaizka Garitano could give minutes to impressive youngsters Unai Vencedor and Jon Morcilla, while COVID-19 also deprives Granada of veteran signing Jorge Molina.

Saturday ends with newly-promoted Cadiz, who on Wednesday drew their last friendly of the summer 1-1 with Almeria, at home to Osasuna.

Osasuna were rocked on Wednesday with the news that key striker Chimy Avila tore his cruciate knee ligaments in training and he could miss most of the season.

Sunday kicks off with Alaves starting their centenary season at home to Betis in another game which had its kick-off changed late on Wednesday night. The match was due to start at 9 pm on Monday but has been brought forward to 14:00 on Sunday in a move which will have ruined the final preparations of coaches Pablo Machin and Manuel Pellegrini, both of whom are debuting with their respective clubs.

Real Sociedad are another side affected by COVID-19 in the run into the new campaign, with striker Willian Jose testing positive on Wednesday to become the third player at the club, (along with new signing, David Silva and Spain international Mikel Oyarzabal) to be affected by the virus. Adnan Januzaj will also miss out through injury leaving Alexander Isak to lead the visitors’ attack, which for the moment looks weaker than last season.

A Villarreal side with Unai Emery making his debut as coach and with Dani Parejo, Francis Coquelin and Take Kubo arriving over the summer, looks as if it will be too strong for second division champions Huesca on their return to the elite before the day ends with a Valencia derby.

It has been a difficult summer for Valencia with new coach Javi Garcia seeing key players such as Parejo, Coquelin, Ferran Torres, Garay and Rodrigo Moreno leave the club amid an atmosphere of hostility towards owner Peter Lim. Garcia needs a positive start against local rivals, Levante, who despite losing Borja Mayoral, remain a compact and tough to beat side. Enditem

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