A brand new season of Spanish football kicks off on Friday night with Almeria and Rayo Vallecano taking part in the opening LaLiga game at the Power Horse Stadium. There are some cracking fixtures across the weekend including Real Madrid’s trip to Bilbao while European hopefuls Villarreal and Real Betis meet. We’ve a full LaLiga matchday 1 preview below featuring win probabilities, analysis and predicted lineups for every fixture. There are also LaLiga fantasy football picks at the bottom.
LaLiga Matchday 1 Preview
Game of the Weekend: Athletic Club vs Real Madrid
|Athletic Club||Real Madrid|
Athletic Club entertain Real Madrid in the standout fixture of matchday one in LaLiga 2023/24. This is always a big game with Los Blancos never popular visitors to Bilbao and it should be a cracking atmosphere at San Mames come Saturday evening.
The home team will be targeting Europe this season having narrowly missed out on a Conference League place on the final day of last season when they also faced Real Madrid. Restricted as always by their transfer policy which only allows Athletic to sign players whose footballing education came in the Basque Country, there has been little change to the squad, although Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta could prove a useful midfield addition having joined from Mallorca.
They start the season with defensive issues to contend with though. First choice left back Yuri Berchiche and central defensive regular Yeray are both absent through injury. With Iñigo Martinez having departed to join Barcelona, this will be a big test for young centre-backs Dani Vivian and Aitor Paredes as they seek to keep Vini Junior and Rodrygo quiet.
The assumption is that the two Brazilians will start up front for Real Madrid to begin this season with no more movement on the potential signing of Kylian Mbappe. However it’s at the other end of the pitch that Carlo Ancelotti suddenly has a big problem with Thibaut Courtois suffering a serious ACL injury just three days before the start of the new campaign.
The Belgian will now miss most of the season and Los Blancos have little choice but to dive into the transfer market. Andriy Lunin will start this match as a result in what could be quite a youthful side with the transition to a new generation in midfield stepping up a gear. Ancelotti could even opt to make something of a statement by leaving both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric on the bench and place his faith in a young midfield quartet.
Possible Athletic Club Lineup: Simon – Lekue, Vivian, Paredes, De Marcos – Vesga, Ruiz de Galarreta – Berenguer, Sancet, Nico Williams – Iñaki Williams (4-2-3-1)
Possible Real Madrid Lineup: Lunin – Fran Garcia, Alaba, Militao, Carvajal – Camavinga, Kroos, Valverde – Bellingham – Vini Jr, Rodrygo (4-3-1-2)
Featured Game Prediction: Athletic Club 1-1 Real Madrid
San Mames is always a tough place to go and Real Madrid haven’t really set the world on fire in pre-season. It may take some before all the pieces click together with Karim Benzema no longer around and a shift in structure in midfield. They may have to be content with an opening weekend draw here.
Almeria vs Rayo Vallecano
Almeria and Rayo both start the new season under new management with Vicente Moreno replacing Rubi in Almeria while Francisco is in for Andoni Iraola at Rayo. Both clubs have also lost key players with El Bilal Toure a big money departure for the hosts while Rayo have been significantly weakened with Fran Garcia, Alejandro Catena and Santi Comesana all departing. Their problems are compounded with star striker Raul De Tomas injured on the opening weekend.
Possible Almeria Lineup: Fernando – Akieme, Babic, Kaiky, Pozo – Robertone, Edgar – Ramazani, Embarba, Lazaro – Luis Suarez (4-2-3-1)
Possible Rayo Lineup: Dimitrievski – Espino, Aridane, Lejeune, Balliu – Valentin, Unai Lopez – Alvaro Garcia, Trejo, Isi – Nteka (4-2-3-1)
Sevilla vs Valencia
Valencia only guaranteed survival on the final weekend last term and they look to have gone backwards over the summer so far. The likes of Samuel Lino and Justin Kluivert are no longer around and they look really light in attack with academy graduates Diego Lopez and Fran Perez potentially operating either side of Hugo Duro here. Sevilla will be confident of making a winning start to carry on the momentum from a stunning end to last season under now permanent boss Jose Luis Mendilibar.
Possible Sevilla Lineup: Dmitrovic – Acuña, Gudelj, Bade, Navas – Rakitic, Fernando – Lamela, Oliver, Ocampos – En Nesyri (4-2-3-1)
Possible Valencia Lineup: Mamardashvili – Gaya, Diakhaby, Gabriel Paulista, Correia – Almeida, Pepelu, Guerra – Diego Lopez, Duro, Fran Perez (4-3-3)
Real Sociedad vs Girona
Real Sociedad have Champions League football this season but they’ve suffered a big pre-season blow with veteran David Silva being forced to retire due to a serious injury. That undoubtedly reduces their creative threat but we should see more from the likes of Mikel Oyarzabal and Umar Sadiq this term after their own injury woes. For Girona, last season’s surprise package, some important players have left but they’ve brought in a fresh batch of youngsters with Barca loanee Pablo Torre and Brazil U20 forward Savio both in with a good chance of starting this game.
Possible Real Sociedad Lineup: Remiro – Aihen, Le Normand, Zubeldia, Traore – Merino, Zubimendi, Brais Mendez – Oyarzabal, Sadiq, Kubo (4-3-3)
Possible Girona Lineup: Gazzaniga – Miguel Gutierrez, Blind, David Lopez, Arnau Martinez – Herrera, Aleix Garcia – Savio, Torre, Tsygankov – Stuani (4-2-3-1)
Las Palmas vs Mallorca
Las Palmas play their first top flight match in more than five years, with a Mallorca side that travelled poorly last term the visitors to Gran Canaria. It’s a meeting of LaLiga’s two island clubs and an early chance to see whether Las Palmas are cut out for life at this level. They like to control possession as much as possible and had success in the Segunda Division doing that, but it’ll be very interesting to see how that translates at a higher level. They’ll fancy their chances here with Mallorca still trying to find new additions to compensate for the big money sale of Kang-in Lee to PSG while new boy Cyle Larin may not be ready to go straight into the eleven.
Possible Las Palmas Lineup: Valles – Sinkgraven, Coco, Alex Suarez, Curbelo – Kirian Rodriguez, Loiodice, Munoz – Viera, Sandro, Munir (4-3-3)
Possible Mallorca Lineup: Rajkovic – Copete, Raillo, Valjent – Lato, Morlanes, Mascarell, Maffeo – Amath, Dani Rodriguez – Muriqi (3-4-2-1)
Celta Vigo vs Osasuna
A new era commences at Balaidos with Rafa Benitez the high profile new boss of Celta Vigo. Better things will be expected after the Galicians avoided the drop on the final weekend last term, but their current plans are somewhat up in the air due to potential sale of Gabri Veiga who has reportedly already agreed personal terms with Napoli. The 21 year old may not feature here as a result which certainly will limit Celta’s attacking threat although Jonathan Bamba is an exciting signing on the left flank. A relatively settled Osasuna side that is gearing up for European football will be hoping to burst Benitez’s bubble on his return to LaLiga.
Possible Celta Vigo Lineup: Villar – Sanchez, Nuñez, Aidoo, Mingueza – Bamba, Tapia, Beltran, Perez – Strand Larsen, Aspas (4-4-2)
Possible Osasuna Lineup: Aitor Fernandez – Mojica, David Garcia, Catena, Peña – Torro, Moncayola – Moi Gomez, Oroz, Chimy – Budimir (4-2-3-1)
Villarreal vs Real Betis
This could be the most entertaining game of matchday one with Villarreal and Real Betis usually pretty easy on the eye. The visitors are one of a number of LaLiga sides with registration issues heading into the weekend with a host of new signings still not eligible to play at the time of writing. Assuming they get those issues ironed out, they’ll fancy their chances against a Villarreal eleven that looks notably weaker following the exits of Pau Torres, Samu Chukwueze and Nicolas Jackson. The Yellow Submarine also still haven’t signed a goalkeeper which will see either veteran Pepe Reina or youngster Filip Jorgensen start.
Possible Villarreal Lineup: Reina – Pedraza, Cuenca, Mandi, Foyth – Baena, Parejo, Terrats – Morales, Sorloth, Gerard Moreno (4-3-3)
Possible Real Betis Lineup: Rui Silva – Miranda, Pezzella, Luiz Felipe, Sabaly – Guido Rodriguez, Roca – Ayoze Perez, Rodri, Henrique – Iglesias (4-2-3-1)
Getafe vs Barcelona
Barcelona’s title defence begins at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez where Pepe Bordalas is back in the dugout on a permanent basis. He’ll relish this kind of game and it’s fair to say we’ve a good idea of what to expect from Getafe here. It’s unlikely to be pretty but they should be defensively sound and are capable of making this a frustrating encounter for Xavi’s team. The visitors have Ilkay Gundogan and Oriol Romeu hoping to make their debuts, as long as they can be registered in time.
Possible Getafe Lineup: Soria – Duarte, Mitrovic, Alderete – Gaston, Maksimovic, Djene, Alena, Damian Suarez – Mata, Latasa (3-5-2)
Possible Barcelona Lineup: Ter Stegen – Balde, Christensen, Araujo, Kounde – De Jong, Romeu, Pedri – Gavi, Lewandowski, Raphinha (4-3-3)
Cadiz vs Alaves
Two of the clear relegation favourites meet on the opening weekend with Cadiz and Alaves both looking like near certainties to be in the scrap at the bottom this term. The hosts will be the slight favourites but neither side look like they will be particularly threatening in the final third. Cadiz have lost dangerman Theo Bongonda this summer while newly promoted Alaves have been dealt a cruel blow with new loan signing Giuliano Simeone suffering a horrendous leg and ankle break that makes you question whether we will even get to see him in an Alaves shirt in a competitive setting.
Possible Cadiz Lineup: Ledesma – Javi Hernandez, Momo, Fali, Iza – Machis, Alcaraz, Escalante, Sobrino – Roger Marti, Ramos (4-4-2)
Possible Alaves Lineup: Sivera – Duarte, Abqar, Sedlar, Marin – Blanco, Guevara – Rioja, Guridi, Alkain – De la Fuente (4-2-3-1)
Atletico Madrid vs Granada
Atletico Madrid host Granada in the final match of matchday one and Diego Simeone’s team will be hoping to make some kind of statement. They improved considerably in the second half of last season with Antoine Griezmann the undisputed star. They’ll be big favourites against Granada who came up as Segunda Division champions despite losing more than half of their away fixtures last term. Any kind of result would be a big bonus here for the visitors but they may see weakness in an Atleti defence that is missing the likes of Reinildo, Jose Maria Gimenez and Nahuel Molina.
Possible Atletico Madrid Lineup: Oblak – Hermoso, Savic, Soyuncu – Carrasco, De Paul, Koke, Llorente, Azpilicueta – Morata, Griezmann (3-5-2)
Possible Granada Lineup: Ferreira – Neva, Miquel, Rubio, Ricard – Puertas, Sergio Ruiz, Gumbau, Melendo – Uzuni, Callejon (4-4-2)
LaLiga Matchday 1 Fantasy Picks
Sorare Cap 240 Picks via @SorareLALIGA
Our Sorare Cap 240 team has a total cost of 238 points and it should hopefully perform considerably better than that.
Ruben Blanco’s departure leaves Ivan Villar as the certain starter (for now at least) in Vigo and he stands a chance of grabbing a clean sheet in what feels like it will be a low scoring game against Osasuna. In defence, Sevilla’s Loic Bade ought to score well against a Valencia side that has seen their attack significantly weakened over the summer.
Midfielders Mikel Merino and Koke both have pretty good fixtures too and the absence of David Silva could see more responsibility fall on Merino in terms of building attacks and creating chances for La Real. Up front, we’ve gone with Luis Suarez who looks set to be the main striker in an Almeria side that was strong and often free-scoring at home last term.
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Atletico Madrid are the obvious choice for a full team stack on the opening weekend with a home game against newly promoted Granada. A combination of injuries and first matchday selection doubts makes it a little bit trickier though so we’ve gone with five safe looking picks in the shape of Jan Oblak, Mario Hermoso, Koke, Rodrigo De Paul and Antoine Griezmann who is the obvious choice for a LaLiga captain this weekend.
If you want to roll the dice, you could potentially opt for another forward instead of Koke but it’s unclear whether Alvaro Morata or Memphis Depay will get the nod alongside Griezmann in attack.