Barcelona will have to cope without the availability of attacking star Neymar in their season opener as the Brazilian aims for Olympic gold at Rio.
Barcelona kick off their campaign against a revamped Real Betis, who have a new manager in Gus Poyet and have seen the arrival of as many as 12 new signings at the club in the summer. Luis Enrique will be without the Brazilian duo of Neymar and Rafinha, with both the players representing hosts Brazil at the Rio Olympics. While Rafinha’s absence doesn’t affect the Spaniard’s team shape in a drastic way, the unavailability of Neymar is likely to put more pressure on the shoulders of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Chilean international Claudio Bravo would have to start in goal despite being linked with a move away from Camp Nou as his German counterpart Marc-Andre ter Stegen is out with a knee injury. Luis Enrique, though, has the star power to cope with the injuries to Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu with new signings Lucas Digne and Samuel Umtiti on course for their La Liga debut. There are doubts as to the fitness of Jordi Alba, who has a stomach issue, but some of the fears were allayed as he came on for the final 30 minutes of the Spanish Super Cup tie against Sevilla.
Andres Iniesta has been ruled out with an injury while new signing Andre Gomes is serving a one-game suspension and is unavailable for selection. Denis Suarez is likely to deputise in midfield after the player impressed in his pre-season and Spanish Super Cup outings thus far.
Neymar’s absence could just prove to be a boon for seemingly out-of-favour attacker Arda Turan, who is in line to start Barcelona’s first game of the new campaign and would be more than happy to prove to the hierarchy at Camp Nou that he still has something to add to the squad. The onus, though, will be on the Latin American duo of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to provide the goals and contribute to a victorious start to Barcelona’s defence of the Spanish league title.