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Overture, Curtains, Lights.
Act one of the 2016/17 La Liga season commences at 6.15pm CET on Saturday, 19 August when the defending champions Futbol Club Barcelona host Real Betis at Camp Nou.
Dress rehearsals are a thing of the past from here on out as the Catalans, coming off a Spanish Super Cup curtain call on the same stage less than 72 hours earlier, set out from the green room in search of a third straight championship — which would be their seventh in nine seasons — in the 38-act show that is La Liga.
The team wrapped up preparations for the league opener on Friday, when all available players took part in a morning workout at the Ciutat Esportiva.
But manager Luis Enrique already has a number of absences to work around, with Ter Stegen, Andrés Iniesta, Mascherano and Mathieu injured, André Gomes suspended and Neymar Jr and Rafinha about to play the Olympic final against Germany in Rio. That means a place in the first league squad of the season for Barça’s B’s Kaptoum.
The full squad for the game at the Camp Nou is thus as follows: Bravo, Masip, Douglas, Piqué, Rakitic, Busquets, Denis, Arda, Suárez, Messi, Samper, Munir, J. Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, Aleix Vidal, Umtiti and Kaptoum..
On the eve of his third league opener as FC Barcelona’s head coach, Luis Enrique Martínez, at his first pre-league-game press conference of the nascent season, unequivocally professed this season’s prime stimulus.
“As it is something that has rarely been achieved in the Club’s history, we are motivated to win the league title for a third year running,” he relayed to the battery of reporters on hand Friday in the press room at the team’s training centre.
After winning two of three in the pre-season International Champions Cup, Barça vanquished Sevilla this week, 5–0 on aggregate, to hoist the Spanish Super Cup.
Cue the regular season, where Lionel Messi and Co. hope to lengthen their impressive league shutout streak which, dating back to the final five games of last season, saw them wrap up the La Liga title by snuffing out their domestic adversaries by a combined 26–0, an astounding stretch run of mega-efficient football that included a 2–0 triumph at Betis on Match Day 36 in late April.
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