Sports

Fabregas eyes La Liga debut after strike ends

MADRID, Aug 26 — Cesc Fabregas is itching to make his La Liga debut for Barcelona now a strike over unpaid player wages has been resolved and the season can get underway.

The Spain midfielder (picture), who has returned to his boyhood club after eight years with English Premier League side Arsenal, has a chance to make his first league appearance at the Nou Camp on Monday when the champions host Villarreal.

They were due to begin their title defence at Malaga last weekend but the players’ union (AFE) called a strike to force the football league (LFP) to stump up more cash to cover wages not paid by clubs in financial difficulty.

The two sides finally sealed an agreement yesterday, meaning the second round of matches can take place starting tomorrow with Sporting Gijon against Real Sociedad. The first round matches will be played in January.

“We just want everything to get going now so that we can get back to playing matches,” Fabregas, 24, told a news conference before today’s European Super Cup clash with Porto in Monaco.

Too much attention had also been paid to an ugly brawl that marred Barca’s Spanish Super Cup victory over Real Madrid this month, Fabregas’s first silverware with the Catalan giants, he added.

“There has been too much talk,” he said. “The matter is closed.”

BARREN RUN

As well as Fabregas, coach Pep Guardiola has added Chile forward Alexis Sanchez to his squad as the European champions aim for a club record-equalling fourth straight domestic title.

Barca’s bitter rivals Real Madrid, meanwhile, have bolstered their roster with Spanish forward Jose Callejon, Turkish midfielders Hamit Altintop and Nuri Sahin, Portuguese left back Fabio Coentrao and French central defender Raphael Varane.

Coach Jose Mourinho, who has come under fire for jabbing a finger into the eye of Guardiola’s assistant during the Super Cup fracas, has also been handed more power by president Florentino Perez as he seeks to end a relatively barren run for the nine-times European champions.

Real begin their bid to end Barca’s stranglehold on the Spanish title at Real Zaragoza on Sunday.

Wealthy and ambitious Malaga, who were bought by a member of the Qatar royal family at the end of the 2009-10 season, have been the most active in the transfer market during the close season and may surprise some of the more established clubs if coach Manuel Pellegrini can get the players to gel.

The south-coast side has splashed out on big names including Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla and winger Joaquin.

The club’s Brazil striker Julio Baptista, who had stints at Arsenal and AS Roma, has set a top-six finish and a place in Europe next season as the campaign’s objective.

“With a lot of hard work we can get there,” he told the club’s website. “If we don’t manage that then we won’t have reached our goal.”

Valencia, third last season, host Racing Santander tomorrow, while Granada entertain fellow promoted side Real Betis in tomorrow’s late kickoff.

Rayo Vallecano, whose promotion at the end of last season means there are four Madrid-based clubs in the top flight, play at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. — Reuters