La Liga got off to a historic start this weekend following the departure of possibly the greatest player ever- Lionel Messi. For the first time in over 15 years, Spain’s top-flight league will not feature the Argentine great. How does that affect the international audience for a league that has hoped to challenge the English Premier League, especially after the debacle of the failed European Super League?
Real Madrid and Barcelona were key players in the creation of the European Super League but have both lost arguably their best players in Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi. La Liga has boasted some technical players over the years, but the two Spanish giants are recognized globally because of their stars instead of their historic rivalry. Footballing fans will still look forward to the big games- the Madrid derby, the Clasico as well as Barca vs Atletico Madrid, however, dozens of fans might not be as intrigued to follow the league as closely anymore.
Despite these gigantic losses, we are here to highlight why La Liga will prevail and still prove to be a match for the English Premier League (even if Real Madrid wants to join the EPL). There are stars and emerging stars and as ever, there will be drama in one of the most technical leagues in European football.
Teams To Watch
Real Madrid appointed former head coach and Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti following Zinedine Zidane’s second departure at the helm. Ancelotti is quite popular among the Galacticos and will no doubt bring out the best in the players he has, Madrid is also yet to dive into their transfer budget following key departures of Sergio Ramos and Rafael Varane. They will no doubt look to the flair and talents of Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema, as well as Gareth Bale to provide the attacking threat with a number of young stars coming through to the first team at the end of Zidane’s era. No doubt Real will be in the battle for yet another La Liga title.
Barcelona lost their best-ever player and got off to a win in their first match, post-Messi. They have a talented young squad with incredible talents such as Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele who will be wanting to play regularly following a number of disruptive injuries, and Pedri who shone throughout the entire European Championships. Barca has a number of young stars and veterans in a well-balanced squad, but manager Ronal Koeman has his work cut out for him. Despite suffering severe financial losses, Barca managed to bring in the likes of Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia, Emerson, and Sergio Aguero. Expect them to keep up the pace with Real and Atletico in what should be an interesting title race.
Atletico Madrid is defending champions and will want to avoid a post title drought after such an impressive season last year. Atletico has also been quiet this summer in the transfer market but has a number of key targets in sight. They also need to sort out the future of midfielder Saul who has been linked with moves to Barcelona and Liverpool. Boosted by the incredible Luis Suarez and the young and talented Joao Felix, Atletico is blistering in attack, and defensive solidity will be key as manager Diego Simeone continues to evolve his team and his own managing style. Felix will need to start putting that 70m Euro fee to good use and start taking the lead in this Atletico team if he is to pay respects to the hype he has been given. No doubt Atletico will be keen to push for another La Liga title and be in the mix with the big Spanish teams.
Sevilla finished fourth last season, but their entire play and tactical setup were impressive. With stars like Ciro Immobile, Eric Lamela, Suso, and Ocampos, Sevilla will be looking to build on their success with manager Julen Lepotegui. A title run isn’t completely impossible but unexpected, they are however expected to be in the battle for that final Champions League spot along with Real Sociedad and Valencia. Sevilla will not dive too much in the transfer market, but the window is still open and we could see new faces in the Andalusian club this season.
Real Sociedad was the surprise package last season and fought tooth-and-nail to finish in that Champions League spot, but settled for a Europa League spot instead. This season they won’t want to repeat the same mistakes as last year and look to build on that impressive campaign, an opening day defeat to Barcelona will not have completely derailed their goals for the season, but they would need their stars to show up in the big games. Names like David Silva and Asier Illarramendi will be providing the leadership, whilst Alexander Isak, Mikel Oyarzabal, Adnan Januzaj, and Mikel Merino will be looking to combine their creative prowess and assist in the attacking front. Sociedad no doubt has a capable team and the future is bright for them.
Players to Watch
Sergio Arribas– Real Madrid
Yunus Musah- Valencia
Ander Barrenetxea – Real Sociedad
Yeremi Pino– Villareal
Eric Garcia– Barcelona
Pedri – Barcelona
Ansu Fati – Barcelona
Potential Surprise Packages
Real Betis could definitely surprise a few and push for those European spots this season, buoisted by their incredibly gifted manager, and technically sound midfield, Betis would no doubt be a threat for any team this season.
Athletic Bilbao haven’t lived to their reputation over the previous 5 years but have since shown improvement and ambition, their goal is to return to the top 5 on the table and they have the potential to achieve that. However, consistency has always been their downfall and they will need to rectify this in order to make a push for the top 5.
Celta Vigo are another team that has made great progress since being in Spains top-flight league, they have shown ambition and guile and prove to be a force for any team. Desperate to break into the top half of the Spanish league, Celta will be pushing to improve significantly and gain the edge over their rivals.
Potential Player of the Season
Last season’s POTS went to Atletico’s Jan Oblak for his outstanding performances in goal, that helped them secure the title. Oblak has cemented himself as one of Europe’s great goalkeepers and will want to keep improving to help them go further in the Champions League this year.
Ansu Fati- Barcelona
Joao Felix – Atletico Madrid
Karim Benzema – Real Madrid
Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid
Mikel Oyarzabal – Real Sociedad
Potential Top Scorers
Karim Benzema – Real Madrid
Luis Suarez – Atletico Madrid
Iago Aspas – Celta Vigo
Gerard Moreno – Villareal
Alexander Isak – Real Sociedad
Joao Felix – Atletico Madrid
Are you excited for La Liga this season? Join the conversation below and engage with us on Twitter! Let us know your predictions for the season ahead.
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