The ‘Europeans’ Villarreal, Betis and Osasuna calibrate their official start of the season


CA Osasuna will officially open its 2023/24 campaign by visiting RC Celta this Sunday (5:00 p.m.) on matchday 1 of LaLiga EA Sports, gauging their state of mind after weeks of uncertainty due to the go-ahead to play in the Conference League, while Villarreal CF and Real Betis will face each other (7:30 pm) on the eve of starting another adventure in the Europa League.

At the ABANCA Balaídos Stadium, Osasuna visits a rival with the desire to sign a good year and delight their fans in full centenary. The hiring of Rafa Benítez for the bench and the choice of C. Tangana to compose the commemorative hymn have stimulated Celta, who in recent years suffered to avoid relegation.

But their good preseason, with only one loss (2-0 against SL Benfica) in five friendlies, has fueled the project from Vigo. The continuity of Carles Pérez and the arrival of Jonathan Bamba have provided alternatives for a forward where the veteran captain Iago Aspas will continue to carry almost all the scoring responsibility.

Among the new faces of Celta, the left-back Manu Sánchez stands out, a regular in the lower categories of the Spanish team but without a place at Atlético de Madrid, which included him as a ‘barter’ in the operation for Javi Galán. Sánchez’s first official match as a Celtic player could be, precisely, against the club that wrapped him up.

The young left-back played in Osasuna for three seasons, being a key player in the rojillo growth until becoming runner-up in the Copa del Rey (2023) and qualifying for the Conference League. It was thanks to his seventh place in the last League, ahead of rivals who put up a fight until the 38th and last day.

However, the presence of the team from Pamplona in that European competition was on edge for days. In the first instance, UEFA excluded him due to corruption cases that occurred a decade ago in the Osasuna board of directors. But the judicial appeal of the rojillos prospered, recovering the place that had been earned on the field to play the third competition of the ‘Old Continent’.


A step above at the European level, Villarreal and Betis will participate this year, after having been respectively fifth and sixth in the 2022/23 League. Real Sociedad escaped both of them in the final moments of their fight to occupy fourth position, which gave direct access to a much more succulent Champions League in terms of money and cachet.

Despite everything, the Europa League is an attraction for people from Castellón and Seville, with different dynamics in their summer transfer plan. The ‘Yellow Submarine’ has sold essential players, such as central defender Pau Torres or forwards Samu Chukwueze and Nico Jackson, while it has hired the lanky striker Alexander Sorloth.

In the Betic ranks, above all, the arrival of playmaker Isco Alarcón has caused a stir, after almost a year without playing official matches due to his complicated departure from neighboring Sevilla FC. If he returns to his best level, the former Real Madrid player would be a carat reinforcement for Manuel Pellegrini, who will also have Álex Collado, Marc Bartra, Héctor Bellerín, Marc Roca and Chadi Riad under his command.

The inscriptions ‘in extremis’ in LaLiga, fulfilling its financial criteria, will condition the ideas of the Chilean coach in the face of a demanding league premiere. On the pitch of the Estadio de la Cerámica, Betis will have to improve their image of the summer, with a single victory for their baggage (0-1 over Middlesbrough) in six friendlies.


Celtic – Osasuna. Gonzalez Forts (C.Asturian)

Villarreal – Betis. Ortiz Arias (C.Madrileño) 19.30.

Getafe – FC Barcelona. Soto Grado (C. Riojano) 21.30.