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Rafa-Real-Madrid1Real Madrid will be looking to put a disappointing start to Rafael Benitez’s reign in charge behind them when Real Betis visit the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Benitez’s men could only manage a 0-0 draw away to newly promoted Sporting Gijon to start their league campaign last weekend, which already leaves them trailing Barcelona and Atletico Madrid by two points. A good start was seen as key to Madrid’s bid to win just a second La Liga title in eight years with Barcelona and Atletico facing on paper a much harder start to the campaign.

europa-league-drawVillarreal and Athletic Bilbao have both been dealt favourable hands in the Europa League group stage following Friday’s draw in Monaco.

The Yellow Submarine have been paired with Viktoria Plzen, Rapid Vienna and Dinamo Minsk in Group E, while Los Leones will face AZ, Augsburg and Partizan Belgrade in Group L.

As La Liga’s two representatives were among the top seeds, they avoided the likes of Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur, Ajax, Sporting CP and Michel’s new club Marseille.

Spain_national_football_team_Euro_2012_trophy_03Couple of surprises in Vicente del Bosque’s latest Spain squad for the Euro qualifiers against Slovakia (September 5 in Oviedo) and Macedonia (September 8) for Euro 2016.

Del Bosque recalled Diego Costa and Juan Mata while Azpilicueta is also back in, as Morata is left out despite being called to the previous squad. Neither Aleix Vidal, who can’t play for Barça this year, nor Nolito or San José have been included.

In a new trend, 10 of the twenty-three now play outside the Spanish Liga.

Fernando-LlorenteSevilla have confirmed the signing of striker Fernando Llorente on a free transfer from Juventus.

“Sevilla FC have signed Fernando Llorente on Thursday, who arrives in Nervion as a free agent after having reached an agreement for the recision of his contract with Juventus,” read a statement from the UEFA Europa League holders. “The Spanish international striker will be tied to the club for the next three seasons and has a 20 million euro buyout clause.”

pique-fcbBarcelona defender Gerard Pique will miss his side’s trip to Atletico Madrid next month after his appeal against a four-game ban was dismissed.

Pique was shown a straight red card for verbally abusing the linesman as Barça lost the Spanish Super Cup 5-1 on aggregate to Athletic Bilbao last week.

Competition Committee judge Francisco Rubio handed down the ban to the Barça defender on 19th August, after Velasco Carballo sent him off with a direct red card in the 55th minute of the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Bilbao, as reflected in the referee’s match report, for screaming “you f****** son of a bitch” in the linesman’s face when the latter didn’t give Aritz Aduriz offside.

Spain-CLThe five Spanish clubs involved in this year’s Champions League now know the teams they will be facing in the group stage. The tournament gets underway on 15 September.

The Champions League 2015/2016 draw at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco sees Real Madrid in Group A together with French side PSG, the Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk and Sweden’s Malmo, while Barcelona was paired with Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and Belarus’s BATE Borisov in Group E.

Not a big surprise to see Barcelona’s Lionel Messi be named the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award on Thursday ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suárez. This is the second time that Messi has won the award.

Messi, speaking after the UEFA Champions League group stage draw, said:

“We’re a unified squad who worked very hard to achieve the goals we did. I’m very happy and I would like to thank my team-mates – without them I wouldn’t have achieved this.”

camp-nou-new2Barcelona have for the most part thumbed their noses at FIFA over their transfer ban,signing both Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal this summer, despite them not being able to play until the new year.

While these are two quality signings that will undoubtably help the European Champions in the second half of the season, there is a lot of football to be played between now and then and the lack of depth in the Barca squad has to worry Luis Enrique.

dani-alvesBarcelona have announced that Dani Alves has suffered a groin strain but Sergio Busquets escaped any significant damage to his ankle during Sunday’s victory at Athletic Bilbao.

Alves and Busquets were both substituted during the 1-0 win at San Mames and underwent tests on Monday morning.

The club announced in a statement on their official website that Alves had suffered a groin injury but gave no indication of how long the Brazilian is likely to be sidelined.

The statement also said that Busquets

“suffered a slight ankle injury but nothing important,”

Rafa-Real-Madrid2The Rafael Benitez era in Madrid got off to a poor start on Sunday as as his side of star names were held 0-0 by newly-promoted Sporting Gijon.

Los Blancos are already two points behind Barcelona as the champions exacted revenge for their Spanish Super Cup defeat to Athletic Bilbao thanks to Luis Suarez’s solitary second-half strike.

Sporting were playing their first game back in the top flight for three years, but roared on by a vociferous home support they matched the visitors. They could even had taken a famous three points had Antonio Sanabria’s first-half header been deemed to have crossed the line.