It’s been a summer saturated by football, and with the Olympic Games having only just finished, we are set to be plummeted into another season of La Liga action before we have so much as caught our breath.
Last season we saw Real Madrid finally overthrow Barcelona at the top to reclaim the title for the first time in three years. Elsewhere, Malaga used their financial muscle to qualify for the Champions League, before a complete summer collapse, while the minnows of Levante qualified for a maiden European adventure.
The yellow submarine of Villarreal sunk to a surprise relegation, but their demise allows us to welcome back former Primera stalwarts Deportivo La Coruna and Celta Vigo.
As I type this, Athletic have once again managed to hold onto their star players (and manager), although this will last a maximum of one season following Fernando Llorente’s decision to not renew his contract.
Last season was fantastic for Athletic, as they marched into the Copa Del Rey and Europa league finals, which despite defeat, displayed the amazing talent of this young team, packed with potential future stars.
Javi Martinez has proved a revelation since being converted to central defence by Marcelo Bielsa, while Iker Muniain is fulfilling the high hopes had of him upon his breakthrough. The addition of Aritz Aduriz gives them more options in attack, even if Llorente departs before the end of the window and Athletic should be hopeful of qualifying for Europe once again.
Last Season – 10th
Signings – Aritz Aduriz (Valencia), Ismael Lopez (Lugo), Iago Herrerin (Atletico B)
Star Man – Iker Muniain
Prediction – Strong enough to make the top six, barring any distractions.
It’s so hard to predict which direction the Atletico rollercoaster will go, but Diego Simeone has installed a bit more grit into this Atletico side and is stamping his tenacity into the squad.
Europa League success could be just the start for Atletico and one should expect them to jump ahead of Valencia into the category of best of the rest.
The signings of Cristian Rodriguez and Emre add a bit more depth to the squad, while the deadwood that was Luis Perea and Eduardo Salvio have been shipped out. Retaining Thibaut Courtois for a further season is an important bit of business as Atletico look to build on a successful season, as opposed to imploding.
Last Season – 5th
Signings – Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea/Loan), Cristian Rodriguez (Porto), Emre (Fenerbache) Cata Diaz (Getafe)
Star Man – Radamel Falcao
Prediction – Stronger than anyone outside the top two. Third.
Barca must aim to bounce back from a disappointing season by their standards, as they only lifted the Copa Del Rey, after suffering disappointment in the league and Champions League.
Tito Vilanova is the man entrusted with recapturing the crown following Pep Guardiola’s resignation and he has opted against any irrational overhaul, with the only weak area of the squad having been addressed with the signing of Jordi Alba.
Lionel Messi will once again be the man to watch, after his incredible 72 goal haul last season, but Barca will be able to welcome back David Villa in order to assist him in front goal, with Barca at times too reliant on the mercurial Argentine last season.
Last Season – 2nd
Signings – Jordi Alba (Valencia)
Star Man – Who do you think? Lionel Messi
Prediction – Too much to expect Tito to overthrow Mourinho in his first season. Runners up again.
Isn’t it a pleasure to welcome Celta back into the big time? In addition to Depor we can watch the Galician derby once more, but these past giant killers and apple-cart upsetters will be a great addition to the league once more.
Curiously they have refrained from attacking the transfer market however, with minimal additions suggesting they have the faith in the current crop to achieve survival.
Javi Varas however is an excellent capture from Sevilla, as the decision to allow him to leave seems strange following some superb displays between the sticks last season. His ability could be vital in keeping out the goals that could send Celta back down again.
Last Season – 2nd (Segunda)
Signings – Javi Varas (Sevilla/loan), Gustavo Cabral (Arsenal de Sarandi), Augusto Fernandez (Velez Sarsfield)
Star Man – Javi Varas
Prediction – Willing to believe they could survive. Just.
DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA
They will be given a second chance to reassert themselves, having disappeared with a whimper, playing some miserable football that ensured nobody was sorry to see them go.
But they bounced back with a bit of style (having disposed of Miguel Angel Lotina) by winning the Segunda division and have sought to strengthen that squad with a raft of players from Portugal.
Sporting Lisbon in particular has been ransacked by Jose Luis Oltra as they have looked to paper over the loss of star player Andres Guardado to Valencia and ensure that relegation is not repeated.
Last Season – 1st (Segunda)
Signings – Andre Santos, Evaldo Fabiano, Diego Salomao (Sporting Lisbon/Loan), Pizzi (Braga), Alberto Rodriguez (Sporting Lisbon), Abel Aguilar (Hercules/Loan), Roderick Miranda, Nelson Oliveira (Benfica/Loan), Carlos Marchena (Villarreal) Javier Camunas (Villarreal/Loan).
Star Man – Nelson Oliveira
Prediction – Far too strong to go down. Could push Europe, but most likely to be safely in mid-table.
Espanyol never seem good enough to trouble the top, but often spend the first half of the season there or thereabouts, meaning relegation is unlikely, but slip away into mid-table obscurity.
And there is no suggestion that this season will be any different for Barcelona’s second team, as they simply do not look equipped to trouble the bigger teams scrapping for those European qualification places.
They have made some astute signings on a very limited budget, but nothing has the wow factor that would suggest they can go much better than last season.
Last Season – 14th
Signings – Diego Colotto (Deportivo), Sergio Tejera (Mallorca), Wakaso Muburak (Villarreal), Joan Capdevila (Benfica)
Star Man – Joan Verdu
Prediction – Never going to be in trouble, never going to trouble the top. Another comfortable mid-table finish lies in wait.
It’s hard of what to make of Getafe. There was a point last season where they looked like relegation fodder, before going on an impressive run that almost saw them crash the Europa League party.
They have financial security, despite not splashing out any large fees or wages and mid-table security looks to be a reasonable ask, in order to avoid any relegation drama.
They have been busy in the transfer market however, and the captures of the likes of Angel Lafita and Alexis looks like some shrewd dealings, giving them hope of capitalising on any inconsistencies in the pack above them.
Last Season – 11th
Signings – Angel Lafita (Zaragoza), David Abraham (Basel), Alexis (Sevilla/Loan), Pedro Leon (Real Madrid/Loan), Xavi Torres (Levante)
Star Man – Miku
Prediction – Might be just short of Europa League places, but should aim for top half.
They stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season, though that was more than what was expected of them.
And again this season, their squad has had a complete overhaul, as their partnership with Udinese bears its fruits, with another selection of outcasts and youngsters arriving in Andalusia.
Some more accomplished players, like forward Antonio Floro Flores, have arrived this time round however, so one would expect Granada to have safety secured before the 90 minute mark on the final day this time round.
Last Season – 17th
Signings – Gabriel Torje, Allan Nyom, Dani Benitez, Diego Mainz, Antonio Floro Flores, Darwin Machis (Udinese/Loan), Borja Gomez (Karpaty Lviv), Tono (Racing Santander), Iriney, Alex Bernal (Real Betis), Youssef El-Arabi (Al-Hilal), Bryan Angulo (Atletico Baleares), Juanma Ortiz (Glasgow Rangers)
Star Man – Antonio Floro Flores
Prediction – Safe. A little further up the table, about 14th/15th.
They achieved a minor miracle last season to finish sixth and qualify for Europe, even topping the table for a two week spell early on for the first time in their history.
It was the classic tale of the underdog, and despite all expectations for their form to slip away, they clung on and will embark on a European competition for the first time ever.
But that might prove a big distraction for them in what is likely to be another relegation battle, as they will struggle to repeat last season’s performances. The likely loss of Arouna Kone will be a major blow to a side that still find Segunda sides to be a more attractive proposition for players searching for new clubs.
Last Season – 6th
Signings – Angel Rodriguez (Elche), Michel (Valencia), Pedro Rios (Getafe), Papa Diop (Racing Santander), Nikolaos Karabelas (AEK Athens), Christian Lell (Hertha Berlin)
Star Man – Jose Barkero
Prediction – A season of struggle awaits, but one I believe they will ultimately win. About 15th/16th.
I should be sitting here writing about how Malaga have muscled their way into the Champions League and can start to build a credible challenge to the top two.
Instead it turns out their wealthy Middle-Eastern backing was a mere mirage, with the owner having failed to even pay for the club in full. It has meant that key players have had to be offloaded, with Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon already having used the exit door.
No money has been spent and no new players have come into the club, so their squad is far weaker than last season. There are still players of some quality to ensure they won’t be in a relegation battle once more, but hope of extending their stay in the Champions League is wishful thinking.
Last Season – 4th
Signings – N/A
Star Man – Isco
Prediction - A sharp fall from grace, back into mid-table
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Tags: Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo, La Liga, Real Madrid