Barca to begin at Santander

MADRID - Barcelona will begin their bid for a third consecutive La Liga title at Racing Santander on the final weekend of August, the Spanish football federation (RFEF) said on Tuesday.

Barca's arch rivals Real Madrid, who finished three points behind the Catalans in second last season, and new coach Jose Mourinho face a potentially tricky trip to Real Mallorca, fifth last campaign and beaten only three times at their Ono Estadi.

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The opening "Clasico" between Barca and Real will be at Barca's Nou Camp stadium on the weekend of November 27/28 and they face each other again at Real's Bernabeu arena the weekend of April 16/17.

The gulf between wealthy Real and Barca, first and second in the latest ranking of the world's richest clubs by accounting firm Deloitte, and their financially struggling La Liga rivals is likely to remain at least as wide in the 2010/11 season.

Valencia, who finished third last campaign, 25 points behind Real and 28 behind Barca, have sold their two best players, striker David Villa joining Barca and midfielder David Silva moving to English club Manchester City.

Barca have also snapped up versatile Brazilian midfielder Adriano Correia from Sevilla, who finished fourth, and are chasing Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, a former Barca youth player.

Real are some way from matching their unprecedented outlay of around a quarter of a billion euros in last year's close season but have strengthened their squad with Argentina winger Angel Di Maria, promising teenage midfielder Sergio Canales and Getafe midfielder Pedro Leon.

Mourinho, who joined Real after leading Inter Milan to a treble of European Champions League and domestic cup and league, is also hoping to bring Inter's Brazilian fullback Maicon to the Spanish capital, according to local media.

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