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By ESPN Staff

Barcelona start against Malaga

Barcelona face a testing start to the defence of their Primera Division crown after being paired away to big-spending Malaga on the opening weekend.

Malaga finished just three points above the relegation zone last term, but the Andalusian side have been busy building a squad that should be challenging for the European places next season.

The club have already brought in eight new faces, including Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joaquin Sanchez, Jeremy Toulalan and Diego Buonanotte, and they will be keen to send out a statement of intent when they host reigning Spanish champions Barca on the weekend of August 20-21.

Segunda Division champions Real Betis play host to bitter city rivals Sevilla while Real Madrid are at home to Athletic Bilbao.

Madrid finished second to Barca last season but have been busy strengthening this summer, with €30 million signing Fabio Coentrao joining Nuri Sahin, Hamit Altintop, Jose Maria Callejon and Raphael Varane as new faces in Jose Mourinho's squad.

The other two promoted teams, Rayo Vallecano and Granada, face Real Mallorca and Espanyol, respectively.

The remaining first-round fixtures are Osasuna-Valencia, Real Sociedad-Atletico Madrid, Villarreal-Sporting Gijon, Racing Santander-Getafe and Levante-Real Zaragoza. The season is scheduled to end on May 12-13.

Meanwhile, the first clasico of the league campaign between Madrid and Barca is scheduled to take place at the Bernabeu on the weekend of December 10-11 with the return at the Nou Camp being played on April 21-22. The arch rivals, whose four meetings in 18 days last season saw relations between the two plummet, will also meet in the two-legged Spanish Super Cup prior to the start of the season, on August 14 and 17.

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