Temperatures are rising in Spain and the fixture list for the 2023-24 season is hot off the press too. Barcelona are looking to retain their title but they will have to do it without Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba both of whom have recently left the club. Real Madrid are chasing them having lost Karim Benzema but they signed Jude Bellingham and Joselu, the old-school big man, to soften the blow.
There will be plenty of economic lever-pulling by the club’s president Joan Laporta this year to ensure Xavi’s side have the squad to compete on all fronts with recent reports suggesting an İlkay Gündoğan deal could be wrapped up soon. Atlético Madrid played some of the best football of the season after the World Cup last year and will try to improve on that again next season. Their poor form pre-World Cup left them out of the running for La Liga early doors and they’ll try to avoid a similar fate next season.
When Is the First Clásico?
All eyes automatically scan to the biggest game in world football – El Clásico – when looking at the La Liga fixture list. They play each other at the end of October in Matchweek 11 at the Montjuïc with Camp Nou closed for renovations. Barcelona have the ninth most difficult schedule prior to that. Real Madrid have the 11th most difficult schedule before they travel to take on Xavi’s side.
How Difficult Are Each Team’s Opening Fixtures?
So, how kind is the opening schedule to each team? Using the Opta Power Rankings, we can answer that question objectively.
As a reminder, these Power Rankings rate a frankly enormous number of teams (19,008 from 391 domestic leagues) across the globe based on a system that scores the current strongest side 100 and the weakest zero.
Those scores are then used to rank the teams in order of strongest to weakest. Here’s how things shake up.
Amongst Barcelona’s toughest games during their opening 10, sees them travel to take on Villarreal. Quique Setien has improved the side from Valencia and they have made a number of summer moves which makes them one of the most interesting teams in Spain at the moment although they could lose Nicolas Jackson to Chelsea and Samuel Chukwueze is also garnering Premier League attention. Barcelona also play Betis, Sevilla and Athletic Club in their opening 10 games.
Real Madrid kick off the season away to Athletic Bilbao. They play Real Sociedad before a Madrid derby against Atlético Madrid in their sixth game of the season. Carlo Ancelotti has been repeatedly linked with the Brazil job but he’ll be back at the Bernabeu in August barring something unusual happening. Jude Bellingham will be there too. The midfielder will join David Beckham, Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate in donning Real Madrid’s famous white jersey and he will earn his fair share of Galactico attention during his time at the club too.
José Luis Mendilibar won the Europa League with Sevilla last season, turning around a truly awful season. It wasn’t just in Europe where they improved as the Basque coach also pushed the team up the table once he arrived. The fixture gods have been kind to them to start the season. In their opening five games, they play two newly-promoted teams in Alaves and Las Palmas. They also play Atlético Madrid, Girona and Valencia.
Real Sociedad are back in the Champions League after a spectacular season under Imanol Alguacil. David Silva is back for another year and they are gearing up for a big season. They have a chance to get it off to a good start in games against newly-promoted Las Palmas and Granada. A game against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu awaits them in their fifth game but they won’t fear Carlo Ancelotti’s side having beaten them (and Barcelona) at the end of last season.
What have Real Betis done to deserve such dire luck? They lost out on a place in the Champions League last season despite looking like front-runners for the fourth spot for a long time. And now, they have to play Villarreal, Atlético Madrid, Athletic Club, Rayo Vallecano and Barcelona. They’ll want to keep their heads above water in August and September for fear of letting the season be derailed by poor early results. Or maybe it’s better to get the good teams out of the way early. Who knows?
Granada, Las Palmas and Alavés are all back in La Liga with Alavés securing promotion last weekend thanks to an extra-time penalty.
The first game back at the Nuevo de los Carmenas for Granada will be against Rayo Vallecano in Matchweek 2. But prior to that, they will play Atlético Madrid in their first game back in La Liga.
Las Palmas welcome fellow islanders, Mallorca, to the Estadio Gran Canaria in their opening game of the season after achieving automatic promotion from Segunda last season. As far as away days go, a trip to Las Palmas in August doesn’t sound bad. Las Palmas, under former Barcelona B coach Francisco Javier García Pimienta will knock any idea Mallorca have of cervezas and sunshine out of their minds with their stylish brand of football. Las Palmas also play Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in their opening 10 games.
Alavés avoid some of the bigger names with none of last season’s top four amongst their opening 10 fixtures. They travel to the south of Spain to play Cádiz in their opening game of the season.