Barcelona’s fixtures for the 2016-17 La Liga season were recently announced. TheHardTackle analyses some of the talking points from the Catalans’ schedule for the upcoming campaign.
The official fixture list for the 2016-17 La Liga season was released on Friday and on first observation, defending champions Barcelona will be quite happy with the way they start their season. The Blaugrana, barring the visit of Atletico Madrid, enjoy a rather pleasant start to their La Liga title defence with visits to newly-promoted Leganes and Deportivo Alaves.
Barcelona enjoyed an impressive 2015-16 campaign, winning the FIFA Club World Cup and Copa Del Rey to go with their La Liga triumph. However, defeat at the hands of fellow Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the quarter-final stage of the Champions League meant that they failed to repeat their treble-winning heroics from an immensely successful 2014-15 season.
The Catalans have made some impressive signings in the transfer window in a bid to bolster their challenge for the new campaign. The arrivals of Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne and Denis Suarez helped address some important problems in Barcelona’s squad and with manager Luis Enrique still looking for more additions to his star-studded line-up, the Camp Nou faithful will be excited to welcome the new season.
TheHardTackle makes three key points regarding Barcelona’s fixture list in what promises to be another exciting La Liga campaign.
1. Good start critical for Luis Enrique’s men
A good start has been the hallmark of Barcelona’s La Liga campaigns in recent years and with the league getting more competitive, there is a stronger case for the Catalans to repeat the same this time around as well. The road en route to a third consecutive La Liga title is a rather tricky one and Barcelona will have to ensure a positive start to get their campaign up and running in the right direction.
Atletico Madrid remain the champions’ biggest challenge in the first eight weeks, when they will be tasked with overcoming the challenges of newcomers Leganes and Deportivo Alaves to go with last season’s relegation strugglers Deportivo La Coruna. Last season before the month of April, Barcelona were nine points clear at the top and looked to be coasting towards the La Liga title in large part due to a run of form that saw them remain unbeaten for a staggering 23 games. However, three weeks in April turned their title charge upside down with three losses during that time giving competitors Atletico and Real Madrid sufficient time to wipe out the Catalans’ lead at the top.
Barcelona did manage to hold on to win the title despite their lapse in form towards the end of the season. A crucial factor that helped them win the league despite their horror show in April was a good start that laid the foundation for a solid mid-season run of form. Therefore, knowing that there is a possibility of such lapses through the course of a long Spanish league season, Barcelona will want to get off to the best possible start.
2. The curse of April
The month of April was a testing period in Barcelona’s 2015-16 season, when they almost relinquished the title to one of their Madrid competitors and even bowed out of the Champions League in the space of three miserable weeks. This time around, they have more reason to worry with as many as seven league games being lined up in April.
The fabled and universally popular El Clasico also features in a tricky month which could see Barcelona fighting in the latter stages of the Champions League. Apart from the marquee clash against Real Madrid, Barcelona also have tricky games against Europa League winners Sevilla and city rivals Espanyol.
The Catalans will also, fortunately for them, face Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou in April. The Catalans have an abysmal record at Anoeta, the home ground of Sociedad, having failed to come away with a victory there for over nine years. While victory has eluded them at the San Sebastien, Barcelona have enjoyed far better encounters against the same opposition back at the Camp Nou and hence will be happy that they could avoid a cursed trip to Anoeta during such a crucial month in their season.
3. Dodgy timing of El Clasico could help decide where La Liga title is headed
The first clash between the two Spanish heavyweights is set to be staged at the Camp Nou in the month of December and for Barcelona, the fixture comes around at a tricky period. The Catalans come into the game on the back of a visit to Real Sociedad, which has never been the happiest of hunting grounds for them. With a trip to Villarreal and a visit from Espanyol in the weeks following El Clasico, Barcelona will have to tread carefully through the course of the month and a victory over their bitter rivals could go some way towards ensuring that.
It is, however, the timing of the return leg that is of a grave cause for concern for Barcelona. A visit to Real Madrid in April couldn’t come at a worse time for the Catalans, who already have seven league matches to attend to in addition to potential Champions League commitments.
There’s no doubt that the fixture could have a bearing on where the Premiership title is headed as it arrives at a crucial juncture towards the business end of the campaign. It was after all a clasico loss in April last season that condemned Lionel Messi & Co to a wretched run of form that almost saw them lose their strong grip of the La Liga title.
They may have faltered in their attempts last season to repeat their treble winning heroics of the 2014-15 campaign, but with shrewd additions to a squad already oozing class, there is no reason why Luis Enrique’s men cannot do so in the upcoming 2016-17 campaign.
La Liga Fixture List 2016-17
|1||Aug. 21||Real Betis (H)|
|2||Aug. 28||Athletic Bilbao (A)|
|3||Sep. 11||Deportivo Alavés (H)|
|4||Sep. 18||Leganés (A)|
|5||Sep. 21||Atlético Madrid (H)|
|6||Sep. 25||Sporting Gijón (A)|
|7||Oct. 2||Celta Vigo (A)|
|8||Oct. 16||Deportivo La Coruña (H)|
|9||Oct. 23||Valencia (A)|
|10||Oct. 30||Granada (H)|
|11||Nov. 6||Sevilla (A)|
|12||Nov. 20||Málaga (H)|
|13||Nov. 27||Real Sociedad (A)|
|14||Dec. 4||Real Madrid (H)|
|15||Dec. 11||Osasuna (A)|
|16||Dec. 18||Espanyol (H)|
|17||Jan. 8||Villarreal (A)|
|18||Jan. 15||Las Palmas (H)|
|19||Jan. 22||Eibar (A)|
|20||Jan. 29||Real Betis (A)|
|21||Feb. 5||Athletic Bilbao (H)|
|22||Feb. 12||Deportivo Alavés (A)|
|23||Feb. 19||Leganés (H)|
|24||Feb. 26||Atlético Madrid (A)|
|25||Mar. 1||Sporting Gijón (H)|
|26||Mar. 5||Celta Vigo (H)|
|27||Mar. 12||Deportivo La Coruña (A)|
|28||Mar. 19||Valencia (H)|
|29||Apr. 2||Granada (A)|
|30||Apr. 5||Sevilla (H)|
|31||Apr. 9||Málaga (A)|
|32||Apr. 16||Real Sociedad (H)|
|33||Apr. 23||Real Madrid (A)|
|34||Apr. 26||Osasuna (H)|
|35||Apr. 30||Espanyol (A)|
|36||May 7||Villarreal (H)|
|37||May 14||Las Palmas (A)|
|38||May 21||Eibar (H)|
*The fixtures could be subject to changes based on TV choices, Champions League and Copa Del Rey matches.