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Victory at Athletic Bilbao can pad Barcelona's lead over rivals

Barcelona produced a promotional video this week to celebrate the start of the new season (a bit late, you may be thinking, for a season that is already a month old), but the message is a renewed one of hope after a bright start.

"It all begins again" is the strap line over the image of a defiant-looking Luis Enrique, after we are shown the faces and then skills of five of the club's most exciting players.

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It may have been an afterthought by the club's marketing department, and five players may have appeared because that is what is legally required to overcome any rights issues with each individual, but the sentiment is the most important thing as new belief emanates from the club after last year's trophyless season.

The reason for this new hope is a change in personnel and a solid start by Enrique as first team coach, and if that was to continue against Athletic Bilbao -- who proved real test for Barca in their two games last season -- then things will really begin to look up at the Camp Nou.

A home win for Barca will bring more joy for the Blaugrana at the top of La Liga on the same day as their two main rivals from the capital battle out a Madrid derby, where points are guaranteed to be dropped.

With an early two- and three-point advantage over Atletico and Real, a draw in that game would produce quite a gap already, provided Barca can get past a rejuvenated Athletic side.

That may not be straightforward given that Athletic are Barca's closest current rivals after the twosome from Madrid. With a Champions League group to look forward to, the famous red-and-whites from the Basque Country are enjoying one of the sweetest moments in their recent history and will provide Barca with a good workout before European competition kicks off next week.

Last season, Barca suffered their first domestic defeat in Bilbao in December with a 1-0 defeat before struggling to come back late on from a goal down to win 2-1 in Camp Nou in April.

The reasons for so much hope at such an early stage for Barca are multiple: First is the play of some of the veteran players, and second, the immediate impact of the club's new players, plus the team's youth who are looking to burst into an already competitive squad.

From the seniors, Dani Alves has started well and shown his intent to enjoy what could be his last season at the club. His performance at Villarreal was encouraging and he may have saved Barca some large investment in the transfer market while his replacements Martín Montoya and new signing Douglas mature.

Xavi Hernandez appeared to be content with his new role from the bench at Villarreal and offered the balance that the side will need in tight games in the final minutes.

There was also some good news this week for Alves' compatriot Adriano. The left back spoke on Wednesday about the heart scare that kept him out at the start of the season, but that appears to no longer be an issue, something that is giving him a reason to smile about his future.

"It was a big shock for me, and lots of things go round your head, but I know I am in good hands here and everything would turn out fine," he said in his Wednesday news conference as he confirmed that he would be available again soon after returning to full training.

If, as they say, the kids are the future, then Barca have got a bright one after the starts of Rafinha, Munir and Sandro Ramirez. All three have featured brightly -- and more than anyone could possibly have imagined -- in Barca's start to the season.

Munir topped off an amazing summer by being called into the senior Spanish squad due to the injury to Diego Costa -- after starting last week in the under-21s -- and made his debut on Monday night, after just two La Liga appearances, in the win over Macedonia.

It would be no surprise to see any of the three used again at some stage against Athletic, although those chances will diminish if either Neymar or Andres Iniesta -- both missing from the starting line-up in Villarreal -- are deemed ready to play.

With Luis Suarez to come next month for the first clasico of the season, all is well ahead of what should be an entertaining game between two clubs with lots of respect for each other both on and off the pitch.

With Catalans everywhere celebrating their national day on Thursday, Barca have asked their friends in Bilbao special permission to wear their second choice shirt -- based on the colours of the Catalan flag -- in the home game on Saturday. So the celebrations are set to continue right up until kick-off, and only anything less than another Barca win will dampen them before the final whistle.