The first Clasico of the 2014-15 season will fall on the same weekend that Luis Suarez completes his four-month ban for biting, offering him an outside chance of making the most dramatic of Barcelona debuts.
The biggest fixture in European football has been scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 24-26. If the game is played on the 26th, Suarez could realistically feature, although he would likely lack game sharpness as his FIFA ban prevents him from training with his teammates.
Fixtures for the 2014-15 season were released on Thursday, per the LFP's official website, allowing La Liga fans to get an early look at when the big showdowns will occur this season. Here is how the opening day looks:
|La Liga 2014-15 Opening Day Fixtures|
|Rayo Vallecano||vs.||Atletico Madrid|
Atletico Madrid put together a dream campaign to win La Liga and reach the Champions League final last season, a combination few thought possible when the first ball was kicked. It marked the first time in a decade the Primera Division trophy did not boast the name of Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Now they face an even greater task to retain their title, after Barca and Madrid added the likes of Suarez, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez to their already stellar squads this summer.
Diego Simeone's champions had to travel to the Camp Nou to clinch the title on the final day last season, and Sky Sports passed along comments from the Atletico boss about the belief that was so vital to their success:
It was the work-rate, which was never negotiable. We always aimed to have no debt to anyone but ourselves.
I think the team always knew what was possible and I think today is sure to be one of the most important days in the history of the club.
Defending the title will likely prove difficult for a Colchoneros side that will look very different once the dust settles after the summer transfer window. Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis will all be missing from last year's lineup.
With that in mind, the official set of fixtures for the new campaign were awaited with much anticipation.
2014 La Liga Schedule
For the full fixture list, click here.
Top Matches to Watch
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
The rivals from Madrid faced off in multiple memorable encounters during the 2013-14 season, highlighted by the Champions League final. Atletico took the lead in the first half courtesy of Diego Godin and held it until stoppage-time of the second before Sergio Ramos levelled the score.
Real eventually took control in extra-time to raise the trophy. But it was a match that showed Atletico's season-long success was legitimate. They came within a couple minutes of pulling off a remarkable double and winning a huge grudge clash at the same time.
If Atletico are going to contend again, the matches against the Blancos will once again prove vital. Beating Real at home and getting a draw away would be deemed a great success, but there is little doubt that Atletico's squad is currently weaker than last year, while Real's has only grown stronger.
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
There are few rivalries in sport that can match El Clasico. It's one of those matches that is more of an event than simply another game. And the intensity both sides show every time they face off makes for a unique, intriguing spectacle.
A lot of the interest in recent years has been driven by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The two best players in the world know one factor in their lasting legacy will be how they performed against each other. In turn, these matches feature plenty of highlight-reel individual efforts.
However, two major names from the World Cup will likely overshadow that pairing this time. James Rodriguez was the star of the tournament in Brazil, while Luis Suarez proved the villain. Suarez's ability to keep his questionable temperament in check—and keep his teeth to himself—will be a key storyline in the atmosphere of a Clasico.
In terms of the La Liga campaign, these two sides could once again pull away from the pack and battle each other to the wire for the trophy. They have fewer questions and more star power than Atletico, but nothing is guaranteed, as last season showed.
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid
Atletico finished their title-winning campaign with a major test. They headed to the Camp Nou needing a result to hold off Barcelona in the championship race. Despite injury issues and the tough environment, they were able to secure a 1-1 draw.
Although clashes between the two sides don't generate the same amount of attention as the aforementioned matchups, they are still vital to the title chase. In this case, the season finale allowed Atletico to capture their first league title in nearly two decades, as noted by SuperSport Blitz:
If the Colchoneros can exceed expectations again, these matches will once again be important pieces of the title puzzle. Barcelona will likely have revenge on their mind after a lackluster campaign that yielded no major trophy.