MADRID: Defending champions Barcelona will start the defense of their La Liga crown at home to Real Betis over the weekend of August 20 to 21, with Real Madrid visiting Real Sociedad in their opening match.
The Spanish football federation released the fixtures for the 2016-17 season on Friday (Saturday in Manila), with Atletico Madrid hosting promoted Alaves to kick off their campaign.
Barcelona and Real will have to wait until the first weekend of December for the season’s first Clasico, at the Camp Nou, with the arch rivals meeting on April 22-23 for the reverse fixture in the Spanish capital.
Real visit city rivals Atletico over the weekend of November 19-20, before the two sides face off at the Santiago Bernabeu in early April.
The league season will run until May 21 with the final of the Copa del Rey planned for the following weekend.
Barcelona will warm up for their season opener against Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup. The first leg takes place in Seville on August 14 with the second leg three days later in Barcelona.
Europa League winners Sevilla face a particularly hectic August schedule, with Jorge Sampaoli’s men also playing Real in the European Super Cup in Trondheim in Norway on August 9.
Barca’s Umtiti grieves for Nice victims
France defender Samuel Umtiti shared his sorrow with the mourning families of the victims of the Nice terror attack as he was officially presented as a Barcelona player on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
“Even if it’s a happy day for me, I’m full of sadness,” Umtiti said at a press conference, just a day after Thursday’s truck attack on the French riviera city, which killed at least 84 people.
“There were a lot of victims, I’m very sad for all the families who were affected by what happened yesterday.”
The conference was preceded by a minute’s silence at the Camp Nou in honor of the victims, with around 50 more people still fighting for their lives.
Barcelona on Tuesday concluded a deal worth 25 million euros ($27.7 million) to sign Umtiti from Lyon on a five-year deal.
The 22-year-old said it was a “childhood dream” to wear the Barcelona shirt.
“When I knew there was this possibility to come to this great club I had a lot of emotions, I openly shed some tears,” he admitted. “It’s really a dream to be at this club.
“I knew all the players, the style of play. I know almost everything about this club even if I wasn’t around.”
Umtiti made his international debut in France’s quarterfinals victory over Iceland at Euro 2016, retaining his place for the next two games as the hosts lost 1-0 to Portugal in the final.
However, he will face stiff competition for playing time at Barcelona from Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and France teammate Jeremy Mathieu.
But Umtiti insisted the challenge will spur him on.
“I need this competition, I know it, and here there’s a lot more competition,” he said.
“I’m ready for that, I’m here to improve at everything and improve with these players who are more experienced than me. But I have lofty ambitions, I don’t want to hide, I’m a player, I’m a competitor.”