La Liga | Barcelona continues post-Messi era rebuild


Barcelona faces Athletic Bilbao on Saturday in its first away match since the departure of Lionel Messi, hoping to back up a promising LaLiga opener last weekend, while Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid also look to notch second straight wins.

The Catalan giant is also still without injured winger Ousmane Dembele and close-season arrival Sergio Aguero as it looks to rebuild.

Martin Braithwaite stepped into the six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s shoes last Sunday by grabbing a brace, while Memphis Depay impressed on his debut after joining from Lyon.

Koeman admitted after the win over Sociedad that other players in his team need to step up without Messi. “We no longer have a player who can decide the fate of matches on his own — now it will be a collective effort,” said the Dutchman.

Veteran centre-back Gerard Pique, who scored last weekend, could miss out with a calf problem against Athletic.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico on Sunday welcomes Elche to the Wanda Metropolitano, where fans will be present to celebrate its 2021 title triumph.

Plenty of change

Real has also seen plenty of change in the close-season, with coach Zinedine Zidane departing the club to be replaced by former boss Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti brought Gareth Bale back into the fold for a 4-1 thumping of Alaves last week when Karim Benzema netted a double.


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