MATCHDAY: England, Spain, Germany kick off league seasons

National Sports

A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Friday:

ENGLAND

The Premier League season begins with Arsenal visiting promoted team Brentford, which is playing its first top-flight match in 74 years. Arsenal heads into a season with no European competition for the first time in 25 years and is set to give a competitive debut to England defender Ben White, who has joined from Brighton for a fee widely reported as 50 million pounds ($69.5 million). Brentford came up via the Championship playoffs and will rely heavily on striker Ivan Toney, the top scorer in the second tier last season.

SPAIN

The post-Lionel Messi era begins in the Spanish league with Valencia playing against Getafe at Mestalla Stadium. The hosts are trying to rebound from a 13th-place finish last season, while Getafe was 15th. Up to 40% of Mestalla will be filled, accounting to about 20,000 fans. Some 5,000 were allowed at the venue at the end of last season amid the coronavirus pandemic. The league will be without Messi for the first time after 17 seasons as Barcelona couldn’t give him a new contract because of its financial struggles. The Catalan club plays against Real Sociedad at home on Sunday. Real Madrid visits Alaves on Saturday and defending champion Atletico Madrid plays at Celta Vigo on Sunday.

GERMANY

Bayern Munich gets the Bundesliga underway and starts its bid for a record 10th consecutive league title with what should be tough opening game at Borussia Monchengladbach. It will be new Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann’s first competitive game in charge after his team’s German Cup game was postponed last week due to coronavirus infections among the opponents. Nagelsmann’s preparations have been far from ideal with international players away and a number of injuries. Defender Benjamin Pavard is the latest, out for several weeks with a left ankle injury. Bayern routed Gladbach 6-0 at home toward the end of last season, but lost on its last visit 3-2. It lost on its previous visit, too. It’s the first time since 2002 that the league’s opening game isn’t played in the defending champion’s stadium. Bayern failed to score on both previous occasions it played Gladbach for the opening game. Gladbach also has a new coach, Adi Hutter. His team won his first game in charge in the German Cup last weekend.

FRANCE

Lorient and Monaco both look for their first win of the season when they meet in the opening match of the second round. They each drew their opening game 1-1.

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