Real Madrid have failed to win consecutive La Liga titles for 14 years, but that’s the challenge Spanish champions Carlo Ancelotti will face when they start this season’s campaign away at Almería on the opening weekend. The list of matches for 2022-23 was published on Thursday, with the season starting on the weekend of August 14, with a World Cup break from November 9 to December 29, and ending on the weekend of June 4.

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In addition to Madrid’s trip to Almería, on the first weekend Barcelona, ​​which finished second on the last round 13 points behind after manager Xavi saved their season, will host Rayo Vallecano and Atlético Madrid » Diego Simeone away at Getafe. Andalusian giants Real Betis and Sevilla will start their seasons against Elche and Osasuna respectively, while Real Sociedad, who briefly topped the table last year before Madrid took control , will play Cadiz, while Valencia, now managed by Gennaro Gattuso, will start the playoffs. Girona winners.

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What, besides the first weekend, does the match list tell us about what season we can expect in Spain this year?

Madrid should repeat last year’s strong start

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This time, Real Madrid will certainly not be so easy. Winning the league title last season – top of the table in all but six of 38 matchdays – was never in doubt. Rivals Barcelona and Atlético struggled hard at first, and Ancelotti’s team was stable from the start, apart from minor fluctuations in October and January.

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Like last year, the club has asked for the first three games of this season to be played away so that the renovation work at the Santiago Bernabéu can continue at full speed until August, when many Madrilians are still on the beach. That means they will head to Almeria – back to the first division for the first time in seven years – Celta Vigo and Espanyol before finally playing a home game on the weekend of September 4 against Real Betis. Madrid scored seven out of nine possible points in the first three away matches of last season and are hoping for the same result this time.

Xavi needs to keep Barça’s away form

Barça’s 2021-22 season was driven by a terrible run in October that forced President Joan Laporta to pull the trigger on one club legend, Ronald Koeman, and appoint another, Xavi. They only won one in five league games that month, including losses to Atlético, Real Madrid and Rayo, leaving them ninth in the table and Xavi a mountain to climb.

This time around, Barça’s start at the Camp Nou looks potentially easy – they host Rayo, Real Valladolid and Elche in their first three home games – but challenging away. They will go to Real Sociedad in the second round and Sevilla in the fourth round. Clasico season also goes to the ninth round.

Xavi will be looking to see his team repeat the consistent away form that saw them win six consecutive away games between February and May last season, including a 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid at the Bernabéu.

Atlético title hopes to be tested early

Atlético Madrid went through something of an identity crisis last season, losing their famous defensive solidity as manager Simeone tried to strike a balance between a more expansive, attacking approach and keeping clean sheets. The low point came in December when they lost four league matches in a row, the worst record of the Simeone era. Only a late draw with 10 wins in the last 14 games has given Champions League football its 10th consecutive season.

The 2022-2023 calendar has given Atlético a rocky start. They will play Unai Emery’s Villarreal on matchday 2 and a revamped Valencia Gattuso on matchday 3, both in August, before traveling to Real Sociedad on matchday 4 for a derby against Real Madrid on matchday 6 (weekend September 18). , and then a trip to Sevilla on the seventh round.

Top 4 race looks more competitive than ever

Even if last year’s foursome looked familiar – there were no surprises among Real Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Atlético Madrid and Sevilla – there were moments when a changing of the guard seemed possible, with Real Sociedad, Real Betis and even Rayo Andoni Iraola. Vallecano ended up in the Champions League zone.

This season, Villarreal will look forward to a more serious fight for a top-four finish without being distracted by a serious Champions League performance, while Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis, organized by Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales, should be having fun again.

The Seville derby, as always, will be unpredictable. The first will be played against Betis’ Benito Villamarin on round 13, on the weekend of 6 November, and the second against Sevilla’s Sanchez Pizjuan late on round 35.

Real Sociedad’s first Basque derby against Athletic Club led by Marcelo Bielsa or Ernesto Valverde (depending on which presidential candidate wins this week’s election) will take place on match day 17, the weekend of January 14, at the Real Arena.

Games not to be missed

August 21: Real Sociedad v Barcelona

The first big test for the Xavi team this season, in the second round. San Sebastian used to be a nightmare for Barca away – they went seven league games without a win there between 2011 and 2016 – but their record has improved significantly in recent times, including a 1-0 win last in April . Reality in recent seasons, under coach Imanol Alguasil, they have played one of the most attractive matches in La Liga.

September 18: Atlético Madrid v Real Madrid

Atlético have won the last Madrid derby at the Wanda Metropolitano – Yannick Carrasco scored the only goal in a 1-0 win on May 8 – but Real Madrid have already been confirmed as league winners and Ancelotti is resting. Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior, Thibaut Courtois and Luka Modric, it was like an empty victory. It will be a much bigger deal as Simeone wants to prove that Atlético can be a real title contender again.

October 16: Real Madrid v Barcelona

Classical. You may have heard about it. The most important game in club football needs no introduction, so we’ll be brief: Spanish and European champions Real Madrid will take on Barcelona, ​​who defeated them 4-0 in their previous visit to the Bernabéu on 20 March. For this to happen once upon a time was embarrassing; such a result this time would be truly historic.

November 6: Betis v Sevilla

The last time the two teams met at Benito Villamarin, the Copa del Rey in January, the game descended into chaos when Nabil Fekir’s goal right from a corner followed Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan, who was struck by an object thrown from crowd, and the match was suspended. This time, let’s hope the focus stays where it should be: the most noisy, colorful and competitive derby in Spanish football, between two teams with real ambitions to compete against the big three.

December 31: Barcelona vs. Spanish

The mid-season break ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar adds another surprisingly unpredictable variable this year: how will Real Madrid, Barça, Atlético and the rest deal with a seven-week absence of competitive league play? In particular, how will the international players who participated in the tournament be when they return home? We will get the first hints in the 15th round – the first round of games, which will be held from December 29 to 31 – and the main one is the Catalan derby.

May 28: Sevilla v Real Madrid

If there is still a title race in the penultimate round and Real Madrid are in full swing, their trip to Sanchez Pizjuan in round 37 will be very interesting indeed. Madrid’s 3-2 victory over Sevilla on April 17 – textbook, absurd comeback, recovering from a 2-0 loss in the first half hour when Benzema scored the winning goal in the 90th minute – it seemed in a defining moment in their season’s history. Who said we won’t see a drama like this this time around?