LA LIGA

Tricky battles herald new La Liga season as Sadiq Umar welcomes Real Madrid

The 2022/23 LaLiga Santander season is ready for take-off with a captivating Matchday 1 to look forward to this weekend.

Super Eagles duo Sadiq Umar and Samuel Chukwueze face teams from Madrid in the LaLiga opening weekend.

Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid, last season’s top three, will not be able to ease into this new campaign, as they have some tricky tests in this first weekend, meaning the title race is on from the very first minute.

Sevilla FC, another of the top teams in the division, also have a difficult fixture as they visit CA Osasuna for the 2022/23 LaLiga Santander season’s opening match on Friday night.

After making it into the top four for three seasons in a row, Julen Lopetegui’s team will hope for another year in the Champions League spots, but CA Osasuna is a solid and well-drilled outfit, one that usually starts each new season well.

After the game at the Estadio El Sadar, there are three more matches on Saturday. RC Celta host RCD Espanyol in what will be Diego Martínez’s first official game in charge of the Catalan club, so that should be an interesting tactical tussle.

Then, Real Valladolid is the first of the newly promoted sides to take to the pitch, as they welcome Villarreal CF and Super Eagles forward Samuel Chukwueze to the Estadio José Zorrilla.

Nigeria's Chukwueze will be looking to help the Yellow Submarines kick off in the most positive way possible, a win.

Villarreal has had a solid preparation ahead of the new season after going unbeaten in pre-season with six (6) wins and two (2) draws in eight (8) matches.

FC Barcelona begins their pursuit of a first championship in four seasons when they face Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou late on Saturday.

Xavi has several new players in his squad and will hope they come together for not only a winning start but to help the club reclaim the league title after a four-year wait.

However, the Catalans are yet to register most of the newest stars. Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, Raphinha, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie are yet to be registered with just 24 hours to the start of the season.

But despite the cash problems at Camp Nou, it must be said that Rayo Vallecano will prove a stern test for Xavi and his debt-ridden side.

Rayo defeated Barça last season home and away last season and will arrive at Camp Nou confident of repeating the feat.

Sunday brings another round of three fixtures, starting with Cádiz CF vs Real Sociedad.

Mikel Oyarzabal scored both goals as La Real won this fixture last year, but the Basque side must do without their talisman for a few months because of a serious injury, meaning other talents will have to step up.

Valencia CF vs Girona FC follows as Gennaro Gattuso takes charge of his first LaLiga Santander match against one of the newly promoted sides.

Girona FC cannot be underestimated, though, especially as they have recruited well by bringing in players such as MLS top scorer Taty Castellanos to complement the veteran Uruguayan Cristhian Stuani.

Champions Real Madrid begins their title defence on Sunday night on the south coast away at UD Almería. It’ll be a battle of champions, as UD Almería secured promotion as the LaLiga SmartBank winners last season.

Not since 2006/07 and 2007/08 have Los Blancos won two LaLiga Santander titles in a row, so Carlo Ancelotti and co. know how hard it is to retain the most important trophy in the country.

Coming from another title-winning performance after the European Super Cup victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, Los Blancos have another battle on their hands with the La Liga 2 champions and their Nigerian star forward, Umar to contain with.

The 25-year-old Umar, who is a wanted man, scored 18 goals and assisted nine (9) more last season to help Almeria gain promotion back to the LaLiga. The club will be looking up to the Nigerian to help them survive the Champions before he completes his move away from the club.

Some thrilling Monday night football is in store with three matches taking place. Athletic Club vs RCD Mallorca is one of them, with Ernesto Valverde making his return as the Basque side’s coach in front of what will be a buzzing San Mamés.

Then, Atlético de Madrid will kick off their campaign just a few kilometres down the road, as they visit Getafe CF.

Diego Simeone’s side defeated their neighbours twice last term but required last-minute goals on both occasions. So, Atleti knows this will be a battling start to 2022/23.

The opening matchday reaches its conclusion at the Estadio Benito Villamarín, where Real Betis take on Elche CF. After two successful seasons under Manuel Pellegrini, Real Betis want to push on and finish inside the top four this season.

With Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales, Juanmi and Borja Iglesias, they certainly have the front four to achieve this. For them, and all the clubs of LaLiga Santander, getting off to a winning start would be priceless.

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