Rakitic made his official debut against Elche. PHOTO: GERMÁN PARGA-FCB.

Luis Enrique recognised in his pre-match press conference that the game at El Madrigal will be a great chance to show just where Barça stand as he goes into his first season in charge. A convincing 3-0 win against Elche on the opening day put the Catalans into an early lead in La Liga. Despite playing much of the game with only ten men, they were able to demonstrate how tactically and physically ready they are. And now they need to consolidate that performance with a good showing on their first away trip of the campaign, but El Madrigal is never an easy place to go.

Luis Enrique has named Neymar in his 18-strong squad after the Brazilian was declared fully recovered from his ankle problem, while Piqué returns from suspension. However, Andrés Iniesta will miss the trip after picking up knee trouble, while this time it’s Mascherano who’s suspended. None of Adriano, Ter Stegen or Vermaelen are in the side either, and new recruit Douglas also stays in Barcelona, meaning there are places for Munir and Sandro of Barça B.

The win would set Barça up nicely for the international break that immediately follows. And at a ground where they have not lost since 2007/08, there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic.

Good start

Villarreal’s squad is almost the same as it was last season. Marcelino García Toral is in charge, and the team includes players of such quality as Musacchio, Cani, Bruno and Giovani dos Santos. The new additions are Cheryshev, Rukavina and two former FCB men in Espinosa and Jonathan dos Santos. The ‘Yellow Submarine’ got their Liga campaign off to a fine start with a 2-0 win at Levante, and they also qualified for the group stage of the Europa League by beating Astana of Kazakhstan.

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