HAMBURG, GERMANY - JULY 24: Daniel Alves (L) of Barcelona celebrates after scoring the opening goal ring the friendly match between Hamburger SV and FC barcelona at Imtech Arena on July 24, 2012 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Barcelona open their season against Real Sociedad, a team that played them very though in two meetings last year.
Most teams wouldn't be too bummed out from finishing in second place, but Barcelona is not most teams. Anything less that a La Liga title is usually not enough for the Blaugrana, so despite winning the Copa del Rey last year, it wasn't the type of success Barcelona are used too. Pep Guardiola is gone and this is now Tito Vilanova's team, though it still looks a lot like Pep's.
The biggest question about Barca today is what lineup Vilanova will utilize. Several regular starters played in international matches in the midweek, and a couple had a pretty heavy travel schedule associated with the friendly. Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta both played in Puerto Rico for Spain but both will likely play. Xavi's status depends on whether or not Vilanova chooses to him back for the looming Spanish Supercopa that just happens to be a two-leg El Clasico match-up.
Sociedad gave Barcelona some problems last season, earning a 2-2 draw at the Anoeta and a hard fought 2-1 loss at the Camp Nou. If anything, Sociedad look to be a better squad going in to the news season. Head coach Philippe Montanier added Gonzalo Castro, Jose Angel and Carlos Vela from Arsenal. Castro moves from Real Mallorca where was dangerous on the attack last year with six goals and 10 assist. Adding a player like that to Sociedad's already formidable attack and this could be a fun team to watch.
Match Date/Time: Sunday, August 19, 3:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
TV: beIN Sport 1 (U.S. - English), beIN Sport en Español (U.S. - Spanish)