Dem­bele de­buts, Atletico face Va­len­cia

Observer on Saturday - - Sport -

BARCELONA - The most ex­pen­sive player in Barcelona's his­tory will take to the field for the first time to­day as Ous­mane Dem­bele de­buts in a Cata­lan derby against Es­panyol.

Atletico Madrid travel to a re­vi­talised Va­len­cia in the head­line clash of the week­end, while there is an early start for cham­pi­ons Real Madrid.

Here, we look at five things to watch from the La Liga week­end.

DEM­BELE A CURE FOR FIFA VIRUS?

The ar­rival of the 105-mil­lion-euro French­man is a much-needed tonic for Barca in the midst of con­tin­u­ing in­sti­tu­tional chaos with on­go­ing pub­lic clashes be­tween the board and lead­ing play­ers.

Pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu claimed new con­tracts for Li­onel Messi and An­dres Ini­esta, whose deals ex­pire next sum­mer, were a mat­ter of time on Tues­day, only for Ini­esta to flatly deny that claim a day later.

On the field, Barca need to en­sure they don't suf­fer their ha­bit­ual hang­over from in­ter­na­tional breaks known lo­cally as the "Fifa virus".

This time last year Barca suf­fered a shock 2-1 home de­feat to Alaves as Li­onel Messi and Luis Suarez started on the bench fol­low­ing their in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments.

With Messi and Suarez only ar­riv­ing back in the Cata­lan cap­i­tal on Thurs­day after two cru­cial World Cup qual­i­fiers in South Amer­ica, Es­panyol will rarely have a bet­ter chance for a first win at the Camp Nou since 2009.

ACID TEST FOR ATLETICO

It has been a highly promis­ing week for Atletico as in­spi­ra­tional coach Diego Sime­one ex­tended his con­tract till 2020, while the pitch was laid among fin­ish­ing touches to the club's new 68 000 ca­pac­ity sta­dium.

Since Sime­one took charge in 2011, Va­len­cia have had 11 coaches. How­ever, their lat­est hire in Marcelino fi­nally ap­pears to put Los Che back on the right track. Va­len­cia took a point from a thrilling 2-2 draw away to Real Madrid be­fore the in­ter­na­tional break and have since been fur­ther boosted by the ar­rivals of Goncalo Guedes and An­dreas Pereira on loan from PSG and Manch­ester United.

Should Atletico emerge un­scathed from the Mestalla not hav­ing lost ground on Real after three away games to start their sea­son, a se­ri­ous ti­tle chal­lenge is re­al­is­tic.

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