Savage gives us his thoughts on the pick of the matches in Spain’s Primera División and as the league gets up and running for another year.
Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano – Sat 13th Aug 20:00 BST
Camp Nou, Sat 13 Aug 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)
It is easy to forget just how calamitous Barcelona were last year given that they managed to ease their way into second place. However, the fact that they were not even vaguely in contention for the league and ultimately finished 13 points behind their bitter rivals will not soon be forgotten by the Camp Nou faithful. Rather than trusting the wealth of young talent being produced from La Masia, Barca president Laporte has gone on a cross Europe spending spree to reset the squad in just one transfer window. As with the Messi debacle at the start of last season, the host of new players can not be registered until the club finances have been rectified. Their visitors are no strangers to board room mismanagement but Rayo exceeded all expectations with a 12th placed finish. Their early season home form was largely responsible for their placing. However, their vulnerability on the road is ultimately what cost them a top 10 finish. An away trip to Barcelona will not have been what they wanted to get their season underway. If the Blaugrana can get their new faces registered in time expect Lewandowski to hit the ground running and to cause significant problems to a rusty Vallecano defense.
Almería v Real Madrid – Sun 14th Aug 21:00 BST
Estadio Mediterráneo, Sun 14 Aug 21:00 (Ireland/UK), 22:00 (Spain)
Almería will face a baptism of fire as they are welcomed back to the top table of Spanish football after 7 years away. The visit of the reigning European and La Liga champions will provide the sternest possible test as they look to open their Primera account. The hosts clearly do not have the financial firepower of the opponents and have largely relied on a host of free transfers to flesh out their ranks. Los Blancos have been relatively quiet in buying terms but Ancelotti has an incredibly talented and most importantly settled squad that lay waste to all before them last season. The additions of Tchouaméni and Rudiger look to be excellent additions to the squad. The disappointment of losing out on Mbappe will surely stick in Florention Pérez’s craw for some time to come. However, the vast war chest that was amassed to bring him to the club will be ready and waiting should they need a mid-season restock. Madrid added yet another title to their burgeoning trophy cabinet as they comfortably dispatched with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Super Cup. Carletto fielded the same starting XI from the Champions League final in May so these players should be perfectly primed to take apart the newcomers. Almería won 14 of 21 home games last season but it is extremely unlikely that they will start this campaign with a W on home soil.
Getafe v Atlético Madrid – Mon 15th Aug 18:30 BST
Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, Mon 15 Aug 18:30 (Ireland/UK), 19:30 (Spain)
Two teams that finished at opposite ends of the table will both look to make a strong start to the new campaign. Getafe were extremely fortunate to escape regulation last season. They ultimately finished 15th but just one point clear of the drop zone. Given that they did not win any of their last 5 matches (D4 L1) their survival was by no means guaranteed until very late in the day. Enes Unal was the source of everything good about the hosts last season. Without his 16 goal haul Azulones would certainly not be playing top-flight football this year. His continued good form will be vital to Getafe surviving for another 12 months. Atleti suffered one of their worst seasons during the tenure of Simeone. Their 3rd placed finish belies the disjointed performances that plagued them in 2021-22. The trademark cohesion and dogged determination that has been a hallmark of recent years almost entirely evaporated last season. With no major influx of new faces at the Metropolitano they will be relying on their manager to provide a little of that Argenitinian magic to spark another title push that does not disintegrate so rapidly this time around.
Robert Lewandoski 2+ SOT @ 1/2
Real Madrid -1 @ 11/10
Getafe to win @ 4/1
The above in a treble at 14/1
And the rest…
Osasuna v Sevilla, Fri 12 Aug 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)
Celta Vigo v Espanyol, Sat 13 Aug 16:00 (Ireland/UK), 17:00 (Spain)
Valladolid v Villarreal, Sat 13 Aug 18:00 (Ireland/UK), 19:00 (Spain)
Cádiz v Real Sociedad, Sun 14 Aug 16:30 (Ireland/UK), 17:30 (Spain)
Valencia v Girona, Sun 14 Aug 18:30 (Ireland/UK), 19:30 (Spain)
Athletic Bilbao, Mon 15 Aug 16:30 (Ireland/UK), 17:30 (Spain)
Real Betis v Elche, Mon 15 Aug 20:30 (Ireland/UK), 21:30 (Spain)