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BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 08:FC Barcelona supporters wearing Lionel Messsi shirts watch the game from the stands during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano de Madrid at Camp Nou on March 8, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

2015 / 2016 La Liga Preview

The Spanish league is set to start this weekend with the inaugural game of Rafa Benitez’s reign in Madrid. The former Liverpool and Inter Milan manager takes charge of his first Real Madrid game with a trip to Sporting Gijón.

The biggest question heading into the new season is who will play in goal for Madrid? With local legend Iker Casillas’ transfer to Porto and Real’s so far unsuccessful pursuit of Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, Keylor Navas is set to make his league debut after joining from Levante on a six-year deal following his impressive displays for Costa Rica at the 2014 World Cup.

Barcelona travel to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to begin their defence of the title, the team who dismantled them 4-0 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the same ground just over a week ago.

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The Spanish giants failed to overturn the deficit in the second leg at the Nou Camp, drawing 1-1 as Lionel Messi got his account for the season up and running. Barcelona will be without Gerard Piqué for the first four games of their season as the central defender saw red for his foul-mouthed tirade on the linesman after a series of questionable offside calls.

Atletico Madrid look to launch another title bid with a trip to newly promoted UD Las Palmas. The spanish minnows won promotion last season through the play-offs. Atletico manager Diego Simeone once again endured a summer in which he saw some of his biggest players depart, most notably the sale of Arda Turan to direct title rivals Barcelona in a twenty-four million pounds deal.

Although Turan cannot feature for his new team until January due to the transfer embargo being served by Barcelona. With the arrivals of Colombian Jackson Martinez and the Argentinian Luciano Vietto to replace the disappointing Mario Mandzukic who was shipped off to Juventus after just one season in the Spanish capital.

Sevilla have been the best of the rest in the Spanish league for the last two seasons. They became the first club to win the Europa League in consecutive years under Unai Emery who is fast becoming one of the hottest managerial properties in world football.

The sale of their talismanic striker Carlos Bacca to Italian giants AC Milan after scoring thirty-four goals in seventy-one appearances. Iago Aspas has been brought in from Liverpool to fill the void as well as Steven N’Zonzi from Stoke to help bolster the midfield. With the winners of the Europa League now automatically entered into the Champions League it will be interesting to see how Sevilla cope with the clustered schedule including European heavyweights.

Valencia look set to be included in the group stage draw for the Champions League after beating Monaco 3-1 in the first leg of their qualification game. The departure of Nicolás Otamendi to Manchester City for thirty-one million pounds will test the Spanish sides depth at the back, although manager Nuno Espírito Santo has already spent over seventy million pounds on new talent. Valencia travel to Rayo Vallecano to begin their campaign for the fourth European spot.

The story of last season in Spain was the unlikely survival of SD Eibar in the league, the tiny club finished in the relegation zone but due to the financial problems of 13th placed Elche CF, were reinstated in place of them. 

Real Betis and Sporting de Gijón join UD Las Palmas as the newly promoted sides. Real Betis were a surprise relegation two seasons ago but have rebuilt in the lower league, they will fancy their chances of survival as much as anyone else. 

Deportivo de La Coruña will look to improve on their season after finishing two places above the relegation zone in their first season back in the top league.

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