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Madrid's galacticos begin Spanish league chase

Madrid's galacticos begin Spanish league chase

Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and the rest of Real Madrid's high-priced superstars finally get a chance to show their stuff when the revamped club opens the Spanish league season Saturday against Deportivo La Coruna.
Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso are all expected to start at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, while new coach Manuel Pellegrini has the task of leaving other high profile players out of the lineup, including veteran captain Raul Gonzalez.
Pellegrini has no doubts that former Manchester United winger Ronaldo will adapt to the Spanish league following a low-key preseason.
"Cristiano has been put through a change of football and country and he needs a little more time to know the league," the Chilean coach said.
Striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and midfielder Mahamadou Diarra also return from long-term injuries.
"The team is set," said Pellegrini, who will lead the squad in front of a packed stadium that will include 100-meter world-record holder Usain Bolt.
Barcelona, which became the first Spanish team to win the league, Champions League and domestic cup last season, opens Monday against Sporting Gijon. The defending champions are in Monaco on Friday to play Shakhtar Donetsk for the European Supercup.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to start with forward Lionel Messi absent after Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola allowed him to travel to Argentina to prepare for a World Cup qualifier against Brazil.
Barcelona bought Ibrahimovic, the Serie A's top scorer last season, from Inter Milan and also included striker Samuel Eto'o in the swap.
"Of course there is pressure, you play for Barcelona," Ibrahimovic said. "But the most pressure comes from myself because I want to do good, I want to demonstrate. I want to give results back."
Madrid's spending was also on Barcelona's mind.
"Definitely that is a motivation because now we know that Madrid is a big team to beat and they are our major rival and we will try to win again," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said.
Midfielder Andres Iniesta and defender Rafael Marquez remain sidelined by injury for Barcelona.
Sevilla plays Valencia on Sunday in a matchup of teams who will be looking to stay in touch with the favorites.
"(Barcelona and Real Madrid) are two great teams. But I also think that the more open the league gets the better for all of us," Valencia coach Unai Emery said. "We want to be able to put up a competition to them."
Both clubs are among a group of four _ also including Atletico Madrid and Villarreal _ that will be fighting for a top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League next season.
"We need to occupy the position that Valencia deserves. And that is to be among the top four teams in the league," Emery said. "We formed a team with players that we think have our same philosophy."
Valencia hung on to Spain forwards David Villa and David Silva for that, while Sevilla bought striker Alvaro Negredo to bolster its prospects.
Espanyol, which begins its season following the unexpected death of captain Daniel Jarque, plays Athletic Bilbao. Midfielder Ivan de la Pena will wear the captain's armband.
Also Sunday, it's: Malaga vs. Atletico Madrid; Mallorca vs. Xerez; Osasuna vs. Villarreal; Racing Santander vs. Getafe; and Almeria vs. Valladolid.
Zaragoza plays Tenerife on Saturday in a matchup of newly promoted teams.


Updated : 2021-05-19 05:16 GMT+08:00