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LaLiga schedule 2022-23: How Madrid, Barca, Atletico & Co. will navigate the new season’s fixture list

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Real Madrid haven’t managed back-to-back LaLiga title wins in 14 years, but that’s the challenge facing Carlo Ancelotti’s Spanish champions when they kick off this season’s campaign away at Almeria on opening weekend. The fixture list for 2022-23 was released on Thursday, with the season beginning on the weekend of Aug. 14, taking a break for the World Cup from Nov. 9 to Dec. 29, and ending on the weekend of June 4.

As well as Madrid’s trip to Almeria, the opening weekend will see Barcelona — who finished second last time out, 13 points behind, after coach Xavi salvaged their season — host Rayo Vallecano,

and Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid away at Getafe. Andalusian giants Real Betis and Sevilla will begin their seasons against Elche and Osasuna,

respectively, while Real Sociedad, who briefly topped the table last year before Madrid took control, will play Cadiz and Valencia, now managed by Gennaro Gattuso, kick off against playoff winners Girona.

Beyond that opening weekend, what does the fixture list tell us about the kind of season we can expect to see in Spain this year?

Madrid must repeat last year’s strong start
It surely won’t be so easy for Real Madrid this time around. Last season’s title win — topping the table for all but six of the 38 matchdays — never felt in doubt.

Rivals Barcelona and Atletico struggled badly early on, and Ancelotti’s team were consistent from the off, barring minor wobbles in October and January.

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Just like last year, the club asked to play the first three games of this season away to allow work on the Santiago Bernabeu redevelopment to continue at full speed through August, when many Madrilenos are on the beach anyway.

That means they’ll travel to Almeria — back in the first division for the first time in seven years — Celta Vigo and Espanyol, before finally playing a home game on the weekend of Sept. 4

against Real Betis. Madrid took seven of a possible nine points from their opening three away fixtures last season and will be looking for a similar return this time.

Xavi needs to keep Barca’s away form going
Barca’s 2021-22 was conditioned by the dreadful October run that forced president Joan Laporta to pull the trigger on one club legend,

Ronald Koeman, and appoint another, Xavi. They won just one of five league games that month — including losses to Atletico, Real Madrid and Rayo — leaving them ninth in the table and Xavi with a mountain to climb.

This time, Barca’s start looks potentially straightforward at Camp Nou — they host Rayo, Real Valladolid and Elche in their first three home games — but tricky on the road.

They’ll travel to Real Sociedad on matchday two and Sevilla on matchday four, while the first Clasico of the season also comes away on matchday nine.

Xavi will be looking for his team to replicate the solid away form that saw them win six consecutive league games on the road between February and May last season, including their 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Atletico’s title hopes will be tested early on
Atletico Madrid suffered 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 games in a row,

the worst run of the Simeone era. Only a late rally, with 10 wins from their last 14 games, secured Champions League football for the 10th consecutive season.

The 2022-23 calendar has handed Atletico a difficult start. They’ll play Unai Emery’s Villarreal on matchday two and Gattuso’s new-look Valencia on matchday three, both in August, before travelling to Real Sociedad on matchday four,

facing the derby with Real Madrid on matchday six (the weekend of Sept. 18), and then a trip to Sevilla on matchday seven.

Top-four race looks more competitive than ever
Even if last year’s top four ended up looking familiar — there were no surprises among Real Madrid,

Barcelona, Atletico and Sevilla — there were moments when a changing of the guard looked possible,

with Real Sociedad, Real Betis and even Andoni Iraola’s Rayo Vallecano finding themselves in the Champions League spots.

This season, Villarreal will expect to mount a more serious top-four challenge, without the serious distraction of a Champions League run, while Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis, orchestrated by Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales, should entertain again.

The Seville derbies will, as ever, be unpredictable. The first will be played at Betis’ Benito Villamarin on matchday 13, the weekend of Nov. 6, while the second at Sevilla’s Sanchez Pizjuan comes late, on matchday 35.

Real Sociedad’s first Basque derby with an Athletic Club led by either Marcelo Bielsa or Ernesto Valverde — depending on which presidential candidate wins this week’s elections — will come on matchday 17, the weekend of Jan. 14, at the Reale Arena.

The games you can’t miss
Aug. 21: Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona

The first big test for Xavi’s team this season, on matchday two. San Sebastian used to be a nightmare away trip for Barca — they went seven league games without winning there between 2011 and 2016 — but their record has improved significantly lately,

including a 1-0 win last time back in April. La Real have played some of the most attractive football in LaLiga in recent seasons under coach Imanol Alguacil.

Sept. 18: Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid

Atletico emerged victorious in the last Madrid derby at the Wanda Metropolitano — Yannick Carrasco scored the only goal in a 1-0 win on May 8 — but with Real Madrid already confirmed as league winners and Ancelotti resting Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior, Thibaut Courtois and Luka Modric, it felt like a hollow victory.

This will be a much more serious affair, with Simeone wanting to prove that Atletico can become genuine title contenders once more.

Oct. 16: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

El Clasico. You might have heard of it. The biggest game in club football needs little introduction,

so we’ll keep it brief: Spanish and European champions Real Madrid up against a Barcelona side that demolished them 4-0 in their previous visit to the Bernabeu on March 20.

For that to happen once was embarrassing; a similar result this time would be truly historic.

Nov. 6: Real Betis vs. Sevilla

The last time these two teams met at the Benito Villamarin — in the Copa del Rey in January — the game descended into chaos when Nabil Fekir’s

goal direct from a corner kick was followed by Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan being struck by an object thrown from the crowd, and the match was suspended. This time let’s hope the focus can remain where it should be:

on the noisiest, most colourful and competitive derby in Spanish football, between two teams with real ambitions of competing with the big three.

The mid-season break for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar throws another fascinatingly unpredictable variable into the mix this year:

how will Madrid, Barca, Atletico and the rest deal with going seven weeks without a competitive league game? In particular,

what kind of state will the international players who’ve been involved in the tournament be in when they return home? We’ll get our first clues on matchday 15 — the first round of games back, to be played from Dec. 29 through 31 — and the pick of them is the Catalan derby.

May 28: Sevilla vs. Real Madrid

If there’s still a title race come the penultimate round of games and Real Madrid are in the thick of it, their trip to the Sanchez Pizjuan on matchday 37 will be very interesting indeed. Madrid’s 3-2 win at Sevilla on April 17 — a textbook, absurd comeback,

recovering from 2-0 down inside the opening half hour with Benzema scoring a 90th-minute winner — felt like the decisive moment in the story of their season. Who’s to say we won’t see similar drama this time around?

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Report: Arsenal now really Keen to sign ‘Astonishing’ attacker who scored more goals than Gabriel Jesus last season

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According to But Football Club, Arsenal want to sign Bayer Leverkusen and France winger Moussa Diaby before the transfer window shuts.

The Gunners are looking for a new wide player. Raphinha was high on their wish list and Mikel Arteta tried really hard to bring him in. The Brazilian, however, joined Barcelona for £55 million (Sky Sports) instead, and Arsenal have now apparently turned their attention to Diaby.

Arsenal really keen to sign Moussa Diaby from Bayer Leverkusen

Diaby is one of the finest players in the Bundesliga.

The 23-year-old France international scored 17 goals and provided 14 assists in all competitions, which is a truly sensational return for a wide player.

His performances have caught the eye of a number of clubs, including Arteta’s Arsenal. The report claims that Diaby ‘strongly appeals’ to the Gunners boss, who is really keen to bring in a new winger before the window shuts.

The ‘astonishing‘ winger has come out and claimed that he wants to stay at Leverkusen this season, while the German outfit are keen to retain his services too.

However, the report claims that if an offer in the region of £59.2 million arrives, they will let him go.

Arsenal don’t intend to pay that figure, but the report claims they will try to negotiate a deal for a lower fee.

Diaby still has three years left on his contract at Leverkusen.

Diaby really is a sensational player.

31 goal involvements in a single campaign for a 23-year-old wide player is a truly sensational return.

Even Gabriel Jesus, who is viewed as the answer to Arsenal’s goalscoring woes, didn’t score as many goals as Frenchman last season.

Arsenal’s backup winger at the moment is Nicolas Pepe. The Ivorian, on his day, is unplayable, but sadly for Arsenal supporters, those days have rarely ever occurred over the last three years.

Diaby would be a massive upgrade over Pepe, but whether Arsenal can lure him in remains to be seen.

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Report: Star ready to join Man United now wants £33.7million contract

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The latest reports in the media are anything to go by and Adrien Rabiot’s mother-agent, Veronique, is proving to be a difficult negotiator.

Last night, we covered a story (via La Gazzetta Dello Sport) claiming that the French international has demanded a three-year deal worth £25.4million to move to Old Trafford.

This morning, as per Corriere dello Sport (news image provided below), the Red Devils have agreed a fee worth 17-18 million euros with Juventus but the dilemma is that the agreement with the player is still missing.

Ten Hag contacted Rabiot to convince him to join Man Utd which is why the midfielder became willing to negotiate personal terms.

However, Veronique now wants a four-year contract worth 40 million euros (£33.7million) for his son and the negotiations have slowed down.

Manchester United’s midfield department is in desperate need of reinforcements and Ten Hag may end up losing out on signing Frenkie de Jong to Chelsea.

The last big signing for the central midfield was done back in 2018 when Mourinho splashed the cash to lure Fred from Shakhtar. The Red Devils must act fast to strengthen things in the center of the park.

Rabiot is neither as creative as Pogba nor as versatile as De Jong. However, he has experience of winning big titles with PSG and Juventus and even with France. So, in all fairness, he would be an upgrade to McFred.

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Man United pushing for Pogba replacement in more ways than one

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Manchester United may be about to take on another troublesome Frenchman, having just gotten rid of one.

The departures of Paul Pogba and others this summer have left new manager Erik ten Hag with a bare cupboard in terms of midfield options.

United have turned to Juventus outcast Adrien Rabiot, who is available for £15 million, after failing to secure Frenkie de Jong, the Ten Hag’s top transfer target, from Barcelona.

Rabiot, 27, isn’t particularly popular at Juventus and hasn’t replicated the form that established his reputation during the seven years he spent at PSG before that.

But it isn’t just on-field sluggishness that has harmed the reputation of a player who was once regarded as France’s golden boy.

Off-field squabbles and indiscretions, not only by Rabiot but also by his formidable mother and agent Veronique, have earned him a reputation as a difficult customer in the game.

However, Ten Hag and United are becoming increasingly desperate. Despite the club’s insistence that their interest in Rabiot was firm prior to Sunday’s season-opening loss to Brighton, the timing appears to be a reactionary move.

And Rabiot’s rap sheet contains numerous items that could cause United to live to regret their decision.

Rabiot was on the verge of breaking into the PSG senior squad after graduating from their academy in 2012.

Rabiot was supposed to travel to Qatar with the team for a mid-season tour, but his mother insisted on accompanying him.

Veronique, Rabiot’s uncompromising agent, enters the picture. After his father, Michel Provost, suffered a stroke in 2007 that left him with locked-in syndrome, she took over his career. Michel is paralysed but fully aware.

Her insistence on accompanying the tour caused friction, and Rabiot was eventually loaned out to Toulouse.

Even stranger, she allegedly insisted on attending all of their training sessions while there.

Two years later, Rabiot was on the verge of leaving PSG after Laurent Blanc demoted him to the reserves.

Veronique was waiting for Blanc as he left PSG’s Camp des Loges training facility one evening.

‘You can’t treat him like that. ‘I’m not going to agree to that,’ Blanc was told, presumably forcefully.

PSG had no choice but to call in security, but the confrontation appeared to work.

Rabiot’s contract with PSG was renewed – and on better terms – not long after he failed to secure a move to Roma.

France’s hopes of adding the European Championship to their World Cup glory last year ended when they lost on penalties to Switzerland in the last-16.

Afterwards, an extraordinary video emerged of Veronique confronting Mbappe’s father, Wilfried, after the PSG striker missed the decisive spot-kick.

It is thought she said: ‘It is embarrassing how he struck that, for a player of his level. He hit it too lightly, I hope you are going to scold him.’

Apparently during an earlier discussion, Veronique told Wilfried his son was ‘arrogant’, has a ‘big head’ and gets ‘too much protection from the press.’

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