1. Alba back for Barcelona’s La Liga opener at Bilbao

Alba back for Barcelona’s La Liga opener at Bilbao

Barcelona have a fit-again Jordi Alba available for Sunday's opening La Liga match of the campaign at Athletic Bilbao, the Spanish and European champions said on Saturday.

By: | Published: August 22, 2015 10:01 PM

Barcelona have a fit-again Jordi Alba available for Sunday’s opening La Liga match of the campaign at Athletic Bilbao, the Spanish and European champions said on Saturday.

The Spain fullback, who damaged a thigh muscle in this month’s Gamper trophy invitational match against AS Roma and missed the Spanish and European Super Cups, has been given the all-clear by club medical staff, Barca said on their website (www.fcbarcelona.es).

Neymar is still recovering after a bout of mumps and was not included in the squad for the match at the San Mames, although he returned to training on Saturday and coach Luis Enrique told a news conference the Brazil forward would be back soon.

Barca, chasing a sixth La Liga title in eight years having won a treble of Champions League and Spanish league and Cup last term, are looking to bounce back after they lost the Spanish Super Cup to Bilbao 5-1 on aggregate.

Spain centre back Gerard Pique was sent off in Monday’s second leg for insulting a linesman and banned for four matches and Luis Enrique confirmed the club had appealed the sanction.

The Bilbao game will be Barca’s first outing since the exit of forward Pedro, who joined English Premier League champions Chelsea this week.

The Spain’s international’s departure has prompted suggestions Luis Enrique might be short of attacking options, especially if Lionel Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez pick up an injury.

The situation has been compounded by the fact that Barca cannot register any purchases, including Turkey playmaker Arda Turan and versatile Spain fullback Aleix Vidal, until January because of a FIFA ban for breaking rules on the transfer of foreign under-18 players.

“We knew it was a tough and strong punishment,” Luis Enrique told reporters.

“We can overcome many things and we are ready to compete,” added the former Barca and Spain international.

“We are the champions and we have to defend the title and we are favourites because of that.

“It’s going to be a hard-fought league, with three or four teams capable of leading the championship.”

Barca’s great rivals Real Madrid begin their campaign at promoted Sporting Gijon on Sunday and Atletico Madrid, the 2013-14 champions, host another promoted side, Las Palmas, later on Saturday.

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