Spanish La Liga Club-By-Club Preview
>The Spanish La Liga begins this weekend, with kickoff on Saturday the 29th August, so naturally it is time to preview the new campaign.
And following the reformation of Florentino Perez’s Galacticos at Real Madrid in the wake of Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona becoming European champions with near-perfect football, the Spanish top flight becomes all the more intriguing.
Throw in the race to be best of the rest and claim the Champions League spots, as well as the battle down the other end to avoid the drop, and it makes for must-see viewing.
Last season; 11th (13 wins, 7 draws, 18 losses) Top scorer; Álvaro Negredo (19 goals)
Key losses; Álvaro Negredo, Bruno, Mané Ortiz Key additions; Henok Goitom, Fabián Vargas, Hernán Bernardello
Almeria boss Hugo Sanchez had the unenviable task of replacing prolific goalscorer Álvaro Negredo in the off-season and it seems the Mexican has placed his faith in Swedish hitman Henok Goitom, who hit 10 last term for Valladolid.
But Negredo leaves a huge hole which Almeria may find difficult to fill. Impressive players like Pablo Piatti and José Ortiz should ensure they stay away from the drop zone, but it won’t be an easy year for Almeria.
Fantasy Gun; Pablo Piatti
Last season; 13th (12-8-18) Top scorer; Fernando Llorente (14)
Key losses; Joseba Garmendia Key additions; Xabier Castillo, Mikel San José
Last season, Bilbao were the 3rd worst team in La Liga defensively, yet manager Joaquín Caparrós has retained his faith in those same players for this season with no major additions in the backline.
But *Los Leones *have decent attacking options with Francisco Yeste and Pablo Orbaiz supplying Spanish international Fernando Llorente and club veteran Joseba Etxeberria. Bilbao therefore should expect a solid yet unspectacular midtable finish.
Fantasy Gun; Andoni Iraola
Last season; 4th (20-7-11) Top scorer; Diego Forlán> (32)
Atletico Madrid conceded far too many goals last season but the only major change to that backline is new €5.5m goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, who has been hailed as the natural successor to Iker Casillas in the Spanish national team. No doubt Asenjo is a good addition, but he’ll have a lot of pressure on his young shoulders.
Los Colchoneros have managed to hold onto their best assets, their forward pairing of Diego Forlán and Sergio Agüero, plus they’ve added José Antonio Reyes so there’s no doubt Abel Resino’s men have got enough to make the top four again.
Fantasy Gun; Diego Forlán>
> Last season; Champions (27-6-5) Top scorer; Samuel Eto’o (30)
Last campaign’s perfect treble sets the bar pretty high for Josep Guardiola’s men but a team enjoying the services of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol> will always be very hard to beat. The departure of Samuel Eto’o to Inter and subsequent arrival of Ibra, means Barca’s attack will take on a different dimension this season and the Swede’s integration into that system will be important.
Also Guardiola has strengthened a problem spot by adding Maxwell in defence. Maintaining much of the same and adding Ibrahimović suggests Barcelona will be extremely strong again and anything less than the title would be a big failure.
Fantasy Gun; Lionel Messi
Last season; 7th (16-10-12) Top scorer; Angel Lafita (8)
Key losses; Joan Verdu Key additions; Roberto Juca
The Riazor faithful will be hoping Deportivo’s continual flirtation with automatic European qualification will be turned into reality this season. Unfortunately, Depor lacked a regular goalscorer last term yet hasn’t been remedied with few additions to the squad, plus they’ve lost influential midfielder Joan Verdu to Espanyol.
But Daniel Aranzubia, Filipe Kasmirski and Alberto Lopo ensured Depor’s defence was solid last season, so that’s the foundation. Now they need someone out of Riki, Adrian or Lassad to step up and score double figures.
Fantasy Gun; Daniel Aranzubia
Last season; 10th (12-11-15) Top scorer; Román Martínez & Raúl Tamudo (6)
Key losses; Sergio Sánchez, Nene Key additions; Shunsuke Nakamura, Juan Forlin
Mauricio Pochettino proved to be a sharp manager last season but in the wake of the tragic sudden death of club skipper Daniel Jarque, the Espanyol boss may have a difficult job to get his team up.
But perhaps the Periquitos, who finished last season so well, will be inspired by Jarque’s memory. Adding Japanese star Shunsuke Nakamura to an impressive squad led well by stopper Carlos Kameni, Espanyol may be able to challenge for a place in the Europa League.
Fantasy Gun; Nicolas Pareja
> Last season; 17th (10-12-16) Top scorer; Roberto Soldado (13)
Getafe’s survival last season was too close for comfort and the pressure is firmly on boss Michel to get the team back up into the top-half. But it isn’t likely to happen for the Azulones, who following the loss of creative star Esteban Granero, have one of the weaker squads in La Liga.
New signing Dani Parejo and striker Roberto Soldado have a lot to do to keep Getafe in the top division. Goalkeeper Oscar Ustari return from injury will help, but Getafe could struggle to avoid the drop this time round.
Fantasy Gun; Juan Albín
Last season; 8th (15-10-13) Top scorer; Apoño & Nabil Baha (9)
Key losses; Eliseu, Duda, Lolo, Javier Calleja Key additions; Xavi Torres, Milan Stepanov, Edinho
Having enjoyed a dream return to La Liga, Malaga will be hoping to avoid a case of second season syndrome. Juan Ramón López Muñiz returns to the club having been in charge when they won promotion, but going in the other direction as the new boss are a number of key players.
Malaga’s loan stars including Duda, Lolo, Nacho Perez and Adrian have all returned to their parent clubs, while Albert Luque is one who made his stay at La Rosaleda permanent. Adding Barcelona product Xavi Torres helps the midfield but Malaga will struggle to replicate last season.
Fantasy Gun; Apoño
> Last season; 9th (14-9-15) Top scorer; Aritz Aduriz (11)
The loss of influential midfielder Juan Arango is an underestimated huge blow for Gregorio Manzano’s Real Mallorca. Arango was the creator behind the success of Jurado and Aritz Aduriz last season and his move to Germany will leave problems at the ONO Estadi. Chelsea product Sergio Tejera could be the answer, but that is uncertain.
Also, the Island club’s defence is a worry but Dudu Aouate’s January arrival seemed to resolve that. Arango’s departure though leaves a big question mark on Mallorca and battling the drop isn’t out of the question.
Fantasy Gun; Martí
Last season; 15th (10-13-15) Top scorer; Walter Pandiani (11)
Key losses; Jaroslav Plašil Key additions; Carlos Aranda, Javier Calleja
Successive end of season wins over Barcelona and Real Madrid kept Osasuna in La Liga last campaign. It was quite the incredible finish for José Antonio Camacho’s side, but it also suggests they’ll need more miracles next time round.
Defensively, Osasuna were solid last term but they need to become more potent in attack and Iranian star Javed Nekounam will be asked to step up after the loss of Jaroslav Plašil. Carlos Aranda arrives to hopefully score the goals but Camacho hasn’t been able to had many new faces and has a big ask keeping Osasuna afloat.
Fantasy Gun; Miguel Flaño
Last season; 12th (12-10-16) Top scorer; Nikola Žigic (13)
New Santander manager Juan Carlos Mandiá looks to have a difficult task on his hands after several key departures from his inherited squad. Big Serbian hitman Nikola Žigic is the major loss with much of the side’s attacking play centred around him.
Pedro Munitis worked well with Žigic, but Mandiá will hope exciting Argentinean youngster Brian Sarmiento can strike up a partnership with the number 10. Iván Marcano and Ezequiel Garay leaving also means Santander must reconstruct their defence which won’t be easy. This could be an awkward season for Racing.
Fantasy Gun; Óscar Serrano
> Last season; 2nd (25-3-10) Top scorer; Gonzalo Higuaín (22)
The second *Galacticos *era has got everybody’s attention as Real Madrid president Florentino Perez attempts to bring down the mighty Barcelona. Manuel Pellegrini has been charged with the unenviable task of ensuring the Perez’s stars can somehow bring down the European champions and win the Spanish title, otherwise risk his job.
But there’s no doubt Real suddenly have exceptional quality all over the park, even in defence, showing they’ve learned from previous mistakes. Pellegrini’s big challenge is to ensure that side can gather some consistency and that’ll mean keeping the egos in check. Toppling Barcelona may prove difficult, but Real should give them a shake.
Fantasy Gun; Cristiano Ronaldo
Last season; 3rd (21-7-10) Top scorer; Frédéric Kanouté (18)
Manolo Jiménez has managed to keep a steady ship at the Sanchez Pizjuan ahead of the new season, with Sevilla sure to be amongst the best of the rest. Sevilla are always difficult to break down and with a few new attacking options, headlined by Álvaro Negredo, qualification for the Champions League should occur.
Jiménez did some good business in the summer, by not only signing Negredo, but rejected AC Milan’s advances on Luis Fabiano. He’s also shrewdly replaced Aquivaldo Mosquera with Espanyol’s Sergio Sánchez in defence. There’s no doubt Sevilla will be heading the race for third spot.
Fantasy Gun; Renato
Last season; 14th (14-1-23) Top scorer; Mate Bilic (12)
Key losses; Iñaki Lafuente, Neru Key additions; Miguel, Gregory Arnolin
Manuel Preciado’s *Rojiblancos *from Gijon somehow survived last season despite losing 23 La Liga matches. Their bizarre season, which saw just one draw all campaign, won’t be repeated suggesting improvements need to be badly made.
But Gijon haven’t been able to sufficiently bolster their squad with a few new faces in defence the best they’ve been able to do, although French defender Gregory Arnolin might prove a handy free transfer. Up front David Barral and Mate Bilic look a good pairing, but in a side which conceded 79 goals last season, it’ll be tough to keep up. And indeed, Preciado has a tough job ahead keeping Gijon up, in La Liga.
Fantasy Gun; Diego Castro
Last season; 3rd in Segunda Division (24-9-9) Top scorer; Nino (29)
Key losses; Oscar Perez, Pablo Cendros Key additions; Roman Martinez
La Liga’s new boys from the Canary Islands come into the top flight after a seven-year hiatus but Tenerife will know they’ve got a hard season ahead to ensure their stay isn’t as brief as eight years ago.
Manager José Luis Oltra has kept the bulk of the squad which took Tete, up including Alejandro Alfaro after it seemed his loan from Sevilla was over, until an agreement on an extension was reached in mid-August. Alfaro along with the prolific Nino will be central to Tenerife’s ambitions of survival.
Fantasy Gun; Nino
Last season; 6th (18-8-12) Top scorer; David Villa (28)
Valencia’s money problems have been widely reported yetLos Che have somehow managed to hold onto plenty of their stars. Despite the loss of Raúl Albiol to Real Madrid, David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata all remain at the Mestalla.
Manager Unai Emery therefore, still retains a decent squad with plenty of quality and the signing of goalkeeper Moyà was required. But question marks remain on the class of Valencia’s midfield and perhaps the quality isn’t there for a push for Champions League football.
Fantasy Gun; David Villa
> Last season; 16th (12-7-19) Top scorer; Henok Goitom (10)
Key losses; Henok Goitom, Sergio Asenjo, Pedro León Key additions; Pelé, Alberto Bueno
José Luis Mendilibar has lost a few stars in the summer so he elected to inject plenty of cover. But there have been claims Valladolid’s off-season recruitment has been a case of quantity over quality.
Indeed, replacing stopper Sergio Asenjo was surely top of the list for Mendilibar, yet it seems deputy keeper Justo Villar will have to step up. But more positively, following Swedish striker Henok Goitom’s departure, *Pucela *have lured ex-Real Madrid forward Alberto Bueno and ex-Manchester United man Manucho. Whilst there’s plenty more arrivals, perhaps the quality required isn’t there leaving Valladolid with a worrying season ahead.
Fantasy Gun; Jonathan Sesma
Last season; 5th (18-11-9) Top scorer; Joseba Llorente (15)
Key losses; Matías Fernández, Nihat Kahveci Key additions; Nilmar, Iván Marcano
Following the departure of Villarreal’s greatest ever manager, Manuel Pellegrini, new boss Ernesto Valverde has a pretty difficult job on his hands. The Yellow Submarine missed out on Champions League football this season, so failure again is almost unacceptable.
The former Olympiacos boss will be buoyed by the return from injury of Spanish international midfielder Santi Cazorla, while the signing of youtube favourite Nilmar is a boost too. And if forwards Giuseppe Rossi and Joseba Llorente can continue their development, then Villarreal’s Champions League ambitions should be on track. But Valverde undoubtedly has big shoes to fill.
Fantasy Gun; Joan Capdevila
Last season; Segunda Division Champions (24-10-8) Top scorer; Momo (17)
Key losses; Martí Crespi, Brian Sarmiento, Pedro Ríos Key additions; Leandro Gioda
José Ángel Ziganda’s plucky Segunda Division champions Xerez have been openly ambitious about their hopes in their debut season in La Liga. And with a few decent signings arriving in Andalusia, Xerez have reason for optimism.
Led by reliable stopper Chema, Xerez look capable of making an impact in La Liga, having retained on-loan stars such as Aythemi and Alex Bergantiños along with their own guns such as goalscorers Momo, Mario Bermeja and Antoñito. Surviving La Liga might seem the goal for Ziganda’s men, but their plucky attitude suggests they might be up for more.
Fantasy Gun; Momo
Last season; 2nd in Segunda Division (23-12-7) Top scorer; Ewerthon (28)
Despite finances being tight at La Romoreda, Zaragoza manager Marcelino García Toral has managed some nice work in the transfer market, which bodes well for the newly promoted club.
The Spanish boss has brought in experienced La Liga striker Ikechukwu Uche along with Croatian international Marko Babic. The loss of skipper Alberto Zapater to Italy hurts Zaragoza, but adding options to ease the burden on Ewerthon is the key and Uche’s arrival does just that. Last term, Zaragoza lost just once at home in the league and if they can make La Romoreda a fortress again, they should survive.
Fantasy Gun; Jorge López
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