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The 2019/20 league campaign begins this Friday (9.00pm CEST) with a historic Spanish football match: Athletic Club - Barça. In fact, Los Leones and the culers are the only teams, along with Real Madrid, who have never been relegated. Ernesto Valverde's side will visit San Mamés on the first day of domestic competition looking for the first three points of the season.
Homework done in pre-season
The Blaugrana returned from pre-season with a good feeling. First they traveled to Japan to play the Rakuten Cup against Chelsea and against the Vissel Kobe of Andrés Iniesta, Sergi Samper and David Villa. Against the team from London they suffered their only defeat this summer (1-2). Against the Japanese team, Carles Pérez was the author of both goals of the game (0-2).
The team then returned to Barcelona to play the 54th Joan Gamper Trophy against Arsenal in front of 98,812 spectators. A Maitland-Niles own goal and one from Luis Suárez at the end of the game saw Barça turn around a one-goal deficit (1-2).
To finish pre-season, the squad traveled to America to play a double-header against Napoli. The Blaugrana won the first game (2-1), thanks to goals from Busquets and Rakitic, and took the second 0-4 thanks to a Suárez double and goals from Griezmann and Dembélé.
10 seasons of opening day wins
Barça have won their first league games in each of the last 10 seasons. The last time that they didn't manage to secure three points was in the 2008/09 season, losing 1-0 against Numancia.
10th Athletic - Barça to open a league season
It will be the tenth time that an Athletic-Barça game has opened a league season. The first precedent was the 1930/31 season, when Barça won 6-3. In total, six wins, two draws and one defeat is a favourable balance for the Catalans. The last precedent came only four seasons ago. The Blaugrana won on the first day of the 2015/16 season 0-1, thanks to a goal from Luis Suárez.
First time the new signings will play an official match
Ernesto Valverde could give the new signings their first official minutes against Athletic. Junior Firpo, Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann can officially debut on Friday, but goalkeeper Neto will have to wait for his turn due to the fracture to his left hand, which will keep him out for between six and eight weeks.
Ernesto Valverde has called up 19 players for the match:
Ter Stegen, N. Semedo, Piqué, I. Rakitic, Sergio, Coutinho, Suárez, O. Dembélé, Rafinha, Lenglet, Griezmann, Jordi Alba, Aleñá, S. Roberto, F. De Jong, Umtiti, Junior, Iñaki Peña and C. Pérez.
Todibo, Arthur, M. Wague and Vidal have been left out by the coach, with Lionel Messi and Neto injured and unavailable for selection.
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