Thursday , November 23 2017

Real vs Barca El Clasico set for December – Nani looks to spark success at new club Valencia

Barcelona’s new French defender Samuel Umtiti
Barcelona’s new French defender Samuel Umtiti

MADRID, July 15, (Agencies): Spanish soccer’s ‘El Clasico’ encounters between Barcelona and Real Madrid will happen in December and April, two of the most anticipated games of the 2016-17 Primera Division season whose fixtures were announced on Friday. Defending champions Barca host Real on Dec 4 at the Camp Nou. The reverse fixture will take place on April 23, at the Bernabeu stadium, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed after the draw.

As the La Liga season kicks off, Barca will begin their title defence at home to Real Betis on Aug 21. Prior to that, the Catalan giants take on Sevilla in the two-legged final of the Spanish Super Cup. That trophy pits the league champions against the King’s Cup winners, or in this case the runnersup, since Barca won that title, too. The opening leg will be played on Aug 14 at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium while the return match will happen three days later in Barcelona.

League runners-up Real Madrid kick off their campaign, in what will be Zinedine Zidane’s first full season in charge, away to Real Sociedad. Deportivo Alaves will mark their return to Spain’s top fl ight after a 10-year absence with a clash against Atletico Madrid at the Calderon stadium. Atletico visit Barcelona in round five, on Sept 21, and Barca will travel to the Calderon stadium on Feb 26.

The first Madrid derby will take place on Nov 20 at Atletico while Real will host their city rivals on April 9. CD Leganes , runners-up to Deportivo Alaves in the Segunda Division, will play their first ever La Liga game at Celta Vigo on Aug 21 while Osasuna, the last team to be promoted, visit Malaga in the opening weekend. The last round of La Liga games will be on May 21, 2016. Nani, who was recently crowned European champion with Portugal, wants to help bring the good times back to new club Valencia. The Spanish side struggled this past season and ended the La Liga campaign with just 44 points and in 12th place, their worst finish in three decades. Valencia have paid Fenerbahce Nani’s 8.5 million euro ($9.47 million) buyout clause and he has moved to Spain on a three-year deal, just 12 months after leaving Manchester United. “People think that when you win an important championship, you relax,” Nani said at his unveiling at the Mestalla stadium, which was attended by 12,000 fans. “But that is not my thinking. I’m very eager. This is a big club, with great fans. I want to be a part of this great club. “My aim is to contribute in the best possible way, to help in every game I play and try to achieve our aims.” Valencia are accustomed to finishing high in the standings and playing in Europe, with back-to-back appearances in the Champions League final in 1999 and 2000 and a 2004 UEFA Cup success, among their notable achievements.

Their disappointing 2015-16 campaign has meant they will not play in a continental competition this season. “It’s normal that big clubs in the world go through bad years, the same thing happened to Manchester United and now they are better,” said Nani. “The same has happened to Valencia. We hope to return the club to the level it deserves as soon as possible.” Portugal’s Euro 2016 final triumph over hosts France was still at the front of Nani’s thoughts. “The European Championship was a unique experience, we made history,” he said. “It was a dream come true and now I’m delighted because I have a new chapter to look forward to, with new aims to achieve. “I’m going to try to be happy like I was with my country and in the other clubs that I’ve played at. “Valencia is the best option for me. It has been at world level. It’s an ideal club for me to be happy and prove my level. I wanted to play in La Liga.” Atletico Madrid forward Borja “Baston” Gonzalez has had an operation on his left arm after breaking a bone in a freak training ground accident.

The 23-year-old suffered a left ulna fracture during a power-training exercise on Thursday. The accident occurred after a rubber band anchored to the fl oor got dislodged and hit Baston’s arm. The surgery involved inserting a plate with screws into the arm. “I want to thank everyone for the support and affection I have received,” Baston told the club’s official website. “The surgery went well and now I am only thinking of recovering in order to return to work with the rest of my team mates as on soon as possible.” Atletico did not specify the estimated recovery time for Baston, who spent the 2015-16 campaign on loan with Eibar where he scored 18 goals in 32 league appearances. Meanwhile, France international Lucas Digne hailed the start of a “big adventure” at his unveiling as Barcelona’s latest signing on Thursday. The 22-year-old defender joined the club on Wednesday from Paris Saint- Germain on a 16.5 million, $18.26m (plus bonuses) five-year deal after a successful loan spell at Serie A’s Roma. “This is the greatest club in the world, it’s the start of a big adventure for me,” the stylish Lille-trained player told a press conference.

Digne was part of Didier Deschamps’ 23-strong France squad for Euro 2016. But he didn’t play a single minute, with the experienced Patrice Evra preferred in the Les Bleus’ starting XI. Digne, sporting bandages on his face after nose surgery, added: “I think this is the perfect club to evolve and to stay for a long time.” At the prospect of playing alongside the likes of Neymar and Lionel Messi he said: “It’s an extra motivation and it’ll help me make enormous progress”. Digne’s arrival comes on the same week as another French defender, Samuel Umtiti, joined The Catalans from Lyon in a deal worth 25 million euros ($27.7 million).

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