Published August 17, 2012
| Sports Network
Madrid, Spain – Real Madrid opens defense of its La Liga title at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday against a new-look Valencia side.
Jose Mourinho's men will once again be expected to battle Barcelona for the league title, but Valencia brings a strong side to Madrid for Sunday's clash led by new manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
After finishing third last term Valencia added a trio of new players that should find their way into the starting lineup in Portugal's Joao Pereira, Argentina's Fernando Gago and Mexico's Andres Guardado.
Add to that the fact that leading scorer Roberto Soldado has recovered from a muscle injury and will likely start, giving Valencia a potent squad capable of giving Madrid problems.
Mourinho will be able to call on a full squad outside of a small ankle issue for defender Pepe, which could prevent his inclusion in the team.
Barcelona will be breaking in a new manager on Sunday when the club opens its campaign at home against Real Sociedad.
Tito Vilanova takes the reigns after the departure of Pep Guardiola, and he will be charged with regaining the title that Barcelona lost to Madrid last season as the club finished nine points adrift.
Striker David Villa is still trying to return to full fitness and will be out for Sunday's game, but Vilanova still has a handful of quality options with Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro each vying to take his place.
Malaga made big strides last season by finishing fourth and the club will begin the new campaign at promoted side Celta Vigo.
However, Malaga must find a way to replace its top two scorers from last season as both Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon were sold.
Europa League winners Atletico Madrid visit Levante on Sunday with both teams having finished in the top six last term, while Sevilla will be hoping to bounce back from a ninth-place finish last season as the club opens up at home against Getafe on Saturday.
Mallorca is coming off of an eighth-place finish and entertains an Espanyol side that ended last season five points above the drop zone.
La Liga's opening weekend closes out on Monday with three games as Osasuna travels to Deportivo, Rayo Vallecano plays host to Granada and Valladolid invades Real Zaragoza.