Why Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is missing La Liga clash vs Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona are launching their bid to win La Liga for the second time in a row after a dominant campaign last year.
Los Cules finished 11 points ahead of nearest rivals Atletico Madrid and 19 over their arch-nemesis Real Madrid.
And Ernesto Valverde will have his men drilled for another year with a tough opener.
They travel to the Spaniard’s old stomping ground at the San Mames Stadium to face Athletic Bilbao – though they will be without one key man.
The Catalan club have not got the services of talisman Messi at their disposal after he was not named in the match-day squad.
The Argentine is still recovering from a calf injury and Valverde has urged caution over the 32-year-old’s condition.
“We won’t take risks, let alone with Messi,” Valverde said before the squad was announced.
“He has still not trained with the team and he hasn’t played.
“We will have to see how he is. Training alone is not the same as participating in a match. But his recovery is going well.”
It will be the first time in 10 years that Barca open their league campaign without the superstar talent.
Messi usually hits the ground running, scoring 14 goals in seven of those previous opening games.
But it gives an opportunity to Antoine Griezmann, who will be making his competitive debut, to star.
The Frenchman looks likely to start with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele up front.
Arturo Vidal and Arthur are also not in the squad, meaning another new boy in Frenkie de Jong will be giving a first start.