Preview: Barcelona v Alaves

Barcelona begin their Primera Division title defence on Saturday night at Camp Nou when they take on an Alaves side who are likely to be underdogs in the contest.

La Liga
18 August 2018
Gameweek 1
Kick-off: 22:15 (GMT+2)
Venue: Camp Nou

Referee: J. Sanchez
Assistants: R. Cabanero, J. Gallego
Fourth official: J. Campos

Head-to-head summary

Barcelona 21 15 2 4
Alaves 21 4 2 15

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Previous encounter

Barcelona 2-1 Alaves (La Liga) 28/01/2018

Barcelona goalscorers: L. Suarez (72′), L. Messi (84′)
Alaves goalscorers: J. Guidetti (23′)

Players to watch

Following a disappointing World Cup with Argentina as well the departure of major rival Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus, all eyes could be on Lionel Messi to see how he performs without the prospect of trying to out-perform the Portuguese forward. Against a unheralded Alaves defence, he is likely to have plenty of opportunities to score.

Borja Baston, who is on loan from Swansea, has the chance to show he is capable of scoring goals. Though the striker struggled in the Premier League, he has a good record in Spain having scored 18 in 36 appearances for Eibar in 2015/16. A good start against Barca could be a huge boost.

Team form and manager quotes

Barca are the defending champions and have a dominant record against the visitors from the autonomous community of the Basque Country.

The Blaugrana come into the contest on the back of a 3-0 victory over Boca Juniors in the Gamper Trophy. With a new signing like Malcom getting on the scoresheet, manager Ernesto Valverde appears to be still building his team around Lionel Messi.

He said: “If the opponent doesn’t know if Leo is going to start inside or outside, that’s an advantage for us. Around Leo there is always a lot of noise, but here we try to give him a favourable environment so he can develop all of his talent.”

Meanwhile, Alaves are likely to be facing steep odds and a draw would likely feel like a victory for them. Last season they finished 14th in the league and seem to be facing another tough campaign.

Nonetheless, Babazorros head coach Abelardo Fernandez says his side are hungry to play and will give everything they have available in their locker.

He said: “Here is a desire to start the competition as it is what we all like, above all the players, who put an end to more than a month with a lot of physical load. The team is very excited, we will try to make a great game, play our weapons and why not, take a great result.”

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Team news

Barca will wear a distinctive kit for the contest to recognise them as Spanish champions. The Spanish giants are without Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Vermaelen, while Denis Suarez has reportedly been left out of the squad.

For the visitors, Rodrigo Ely and Tomas Pina are out through suspension, while Hector Hernandez and Burgui are injured.