La Liga

Barca starts season against Levante

Barcelona
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol (C) hands the league trophy to coach Tito Vilanova (L).
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DOUBTS LINGER

Despite an unprecedented La Liga title, Barca faces a long summer.

La Liga champions Barcelona will begin their title defence at home to Levante, while their closest rivals and last year's runners-up, Real Madrid, will start their campaign by hosting Real Betis.

Therefore Brazil striker Neymar will make his league debut for Barcelona in front of the club's home fans, while new Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will also begin his tenure on home turf.

In the new fixtures which were announced on Tuesday, it was revealed the first Clasico of the season will be held on the weekend of 27 October, with the Catalans hosting Madrid at the Camp Nou, while the return game at the Santiago Bernabeu will be held on the weekend of 23 March.

In the other matches on the opening weekend of the season, which begins on August 17, Sevilla host Copa del Rey holders Atletico Madrid, who finished third in the league last season, while Valencia play Malaga at home. Real Sociedad host Getafe, Valladolid take on Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna meet Granada.

Celta Vigo play Espanyol at home in a repeat of the final day of the season - where the Galicians secured survival in the top flight with a narrow win over the Catalans - while newly-promoted Elche travel to Rayo Vallecano, and Almeria host Villarreal, in a battle of the two other teams that won promotion from the Segunda Division A last season.

Opening day fixtures, to be played on weekend 17/18 August: Barcelona vs Levante, Real Madrid vs Real Betis, Sevilla vs Atletico Madrid, Valencia vs Malaga, Real Sociedad vs Getafe, Valladolid vs Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna vs Granada, Celta Vigo vs Espanyol, Rayo vs Elche, Almeria vs Villarreal.

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