The Best of the Coming La Liga Season…

mike_goodman_la_liga_madrid_barcelona_getty_ringer.0The controversy of Friday and Monday fixtures have been solved as the most entertaining football league kicks off on Friday. Defending champions Barcelona signed Antoine Griezmann and are battling to bring back Neymar. Real Madrid are out to dethrone the Catalans with Eden Hazard and Zinedine Zidane on a mission, while Atletico have made impressive signings to challenge for the 2019/2020 Spanish La Liga title, writes BOLUWATIFENISOLA OMONIYI

The title contenders: Just like every other season, two teams come to mind when you think of the Spanish League – Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Catalans are aiming for another title, and with the addition of Antoine Griezmann, they have a good chance of defending the trophy. Real Madrid are on a mission to win back the La Liga, a trophy which they have won just twice in the last 10 years, and with marquee signings like Hazard, Zidane is hopeful of getting his second title. Atletico Madrid on other hand have done well in the transfer market, and still look strong, despite losing Rodri and Griezmann, the capital club are well equipped to win the league for the first time since 2014.

Other teams that can make the top 4: Barcelona, Real and Atletico are the teams likely to finish in top 3, but there are four slots for the UEFA Champions League. The team likely to earn that final spot will be found among Valencia, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao. Valencia snuck into the fourth position on the final day at the expense of underdog Getafe last season, while they also upset Barcelona to win the Copa Del Rey. Valencia have enough to repeat that incredible feat . Big things are expected at Sevilla this season, with a new manager Julen Lopetegui, and over €100m worth of shiny new talent. Athletic Bilbao were saved from the humiliation of a relegation scrap by local hero Gaizka Garitano, who lifted the club to an eighth-place finish after a dismal start to the 2018/19 season, the Basque side will want to make the European spot this season.

The new managerial boys: Four teams appointed new managers. Sevilla got former Real Madrid coach, Julen Lopetegui, who will want to confirm he still has what the Los Blancos saw before appointing him. Lopetegui’s move and sack was full of controversy and he will want to write a new chapter in his career. Espanyol also got a new leader in David Gallego, who was promoted from the B team, following the resignation of former manager, Rubi, who joined Real Betis. The last team to appoint a new manager is Deportivo Alaves, who appointed Asier Garitano at the end of last season, following his sack by Real Sociedad.

Top summer transfers: The biggest transfer in the Spanish La Liga this summer was Antoine Griezmann who swapped Barcelona for Atletico for €120m. The Frenchman is a proven and tested star in the league and he is expected to continue his exploits with the Catalans. Real Madrid also got their long term transfer target, Eden Hazard, who joined from Chelsea for €100m. The Belgian has been heavily criticized for his weight, but he will be ready. Atletico Madrid also got young star Joao Felix for €126m, to become the most expensive signing in the summer, and the teenage sensation was an instant hit in the pre-season. Other major signings are Frenkie de Jong, who joined Barcelona from Ajax, Luka Jovic joined Real Madrid from Frankfurt, Kieran Trippier moved to Atleti from Tottenham, Nabil Fekir left France to join Real Betis.

Players with much to prove: First on the list here is Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale. The Welshman has to enter the good books of the manager again after lots of transfer drama. Teammate, James Rodriguez will also have to convince Zinedine Zidane that he still has what it takes to play for the Blancos. Next is Ousman Dembele. The young Frenchman’s first two seasons have been blighted with injuries and below per performances. He will want to live up to the price tag.  Philipe Coutinho, if he remains with Barcelona, will also need to show why the Catalans paid that much for him. Jasper Cillessen left Barcelona in a swap deal with Neto to be Valencia’s number one goalkeeper, he will need to show Barca what they missed.

Breakthrough talents to look out for: Joao Felix, maybe not much of a breakthrough talent, but he is still a teenager and will want to continue where he left off last season, and following a great pre-season. The Real Madrid duo of Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo. The Brazil young stars will feature for the first team, despite being on the books of Castilla (Real Madrid B team), with the former going into his second season, after his debut campaign ended with a terrible injury. Summer signing Junior Firpo showed his talent at Real Betis last season and has the ability to slot right in on Barça left-hand side, should Jordi Alba be left out. Brahim Diaz has seen little game time since his January arrival but will be counted as one of Madrid’s four first-team wingers for the season given Marco Asensio’s injury.

The newly promoted teams: Granada rejoined the big boys after two seasons in the second tier. The Andalusians enjoyed a perfect record in pre-season and have signed former Real Madrid and Tottenham forward Roberto Soldado for the new campaign. Real Mallorca qualified via the playoffs, the Balearic Islanders secured back-to-back promotions to reach La Liga for the first time since 2013 with a win over Deportivo La Coruña. Ivorian winger Lago Junior will probably be key to Mallorca hopes for survival. Osasuna were promoted after winning the Segunda Division. Key men Roberto Torres and Juan Villar will be ones to watch next season, while the club have shrewdly opted for experience in their summer signings.

Picture courtesy: Getty Images/Ringer Illustration

 

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