Barcelona begin their title defence here against an Alaves side that on paper doesn’t have enough about them to cause an opening weekend upset. They did win at Camp Nou two seasons ago on their return to the top flight but there have been so many changes on and off the pitch at the Basque club since then, that there are relatively few surviving members of that team.
Barcelona have dominated the meetings since and warmed up for the new league season by winning the Super Cup in Morocco last weekend. They were made to work hard by Sevilla but were good value in the end for a 2-1 win despite the Andalusians missing a late penalty. The biggest positive to come out of that one was a wonder goal from Ousmane Dembele and that will have dealt the French youngster, who has been linked with a move away this summer, a huge confidence boost heading into the new season.
Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti and Ivan Rakitic were only on the bench for that game so they should be able to name a stronger starting line-up here and with few injury concerns, it will give us a clearer idea of what Ernesto Valverde sees as his best starting eleven.
As for Alaves, they’ve again been busy in the loan market but won’t be able to count on the services of Munir this term, with the forward back at Barcelona and potentially featuring against them here. Alaves have added John Guidetti though with the Celta forward making his loan switch permanent while Borja Baston is another fresh attacking option following his loan move from Swansea. Throw into the mix €3 million signing Patrick Twumasi and they have genuine competition for places up front.
They did only win 2 of their 8 pre-season games though and were beaten by newly promoted Huesca last weekend. It may take Abelardo some time to determine his strongest eleven for this campaign and they will travel more in hope than expectation here.
Barcelona vs Alaves Predictions
Score Prediction: 4-0 Barcelona
Betting Tips: Barcelona -2.5 Asian Handicap, Dembele to score anytime
The gulf in class is large here and Barcelona will be keen to make an early statement. They are conscious of the fact that although they won the title with ease, they relatively infrequently hit top gear last term. With the competition expected to be stiffer in 2018-19, they will be keen to make a statement and should be sharper this weekend following a useful competitive run-out against Sevilla.
Alaves didn’t travel particularly well last season and their revival under Abelardo was largely due to outstanding home form. After plenty of comings and goings over the summer, they will take time to gel as a team this term and Barcelona could tear them open at will so a comfortable home win looks likely.
It’ll be interesting to see if Dembele can keep his place but if he starts, backing the Frenchman to score anytime looks to offer value. He never totally appeared to settle last term with injury problems clearly not helping but he has come back fresh, hungry and with a point to prove. His goal last weekend came from a shot which he may not have even attempted last term with a tendency to look for the safe option, invariably a pass to Messi, holding him back. That strike may just release the shackles and if Valverde keeps the faith, Dembele could be a big threat here.
- Alaves lost 63% of their away league games last term.
- They only drew 1 of their 19 away matches (0-0 against Espanyol).
- Barcelona averaged 2.79 goals per game at home in La Liga last season, conceding only 0.58.
- They are unbeaten in 36 home league games, since losing to Alaves in September 2016.
- Barca kept a clean sheet in exactly half of their league matches last season.
Head to Head
Alaves were famous 2-1 winners at Camp Nou two seasons ago with Deyverson and Ibai Gómez netting the goals. Barcelona have won every meeting since including a Copa del Rey Final win later in that season.
Barcelona Team News:
Clement Lenglet should make his league debut for Barca with Samuel Umtiti perhaps only fit enough to make the bench. Ousmane Dembele will be hoping to keep his place in what could be a 4-3-3 formation with Coutinho returning in central midfield.
Alaves Team News:
Jony should make his debut on the right flank in what is likely to be a 4-4-2 for the visitors. Adrián Diéguez is suspended.
Featured Image of Camp Nou courtesy of Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, CC BY 2.0
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