5 things to know about the Spanish league

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 21, 2014 at 7:53 am •  Published: August 21, 2014
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Spanish league opens this weekend with the three main title contenders - Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and Barcelona- all facing smaller clubs they will be expected to beat.

Defending champion Atletico Madrid has the most challenging matchup, playing at Rayo Vallecano, while the two traditional powerhouses start the competition at home.

The new season features a number of high-profile signings for the top clubs and several coaching debuts.

Here are five things to know about the first round of the Spanish league, which kicks off with Athletic Bilbao at Malaga on Saturday:

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BULLISH BARCELONA

Barcelona can't wait to put this summer behind it and start playing football.

This week, Barcelona lost its appeal against FIFA's one-year transfer ban for violating rules regarding the signing of youth players. It also had the delicate task of presenting Luis Suarez after it signed the hot-headed Uruguay forward despite his latest suspension for biting an opponent, which will sideline him until Oct. 25.

Now the club is eager to erase last season's failure to win a major trophy for the first time in six seasons.

Barcelona hosts Elche on Sunday at Camp Nou. It will be the debut of several other new players, like Ivan Rakitic, and coach Luis Enrique, a former player brought back to get the most out of a highly talented squad that fell short last campaign.

"When you start a season your hope is renewed," said Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano. "Our obligation is to fight for all the titles we can."

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ITTY-BITTY EIBAR

Two years ago Eibar was playing in Spain's third division.

Now, after a spectacular rise inspired by coach Gaizka Garitano, the tiny club is set to play its first game in the top flight in its 74-year-old history.

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