Football Article

2011/12 Spanish La Liga Club-by-Club Preview

The new Spanish La Liga season has been delayed by a player strike but finally we’re underway so here’s Sports Pundit’s in-depth preview of the season ahead.

FC Barcelona

Last season: Champions (30 wins, 6 draws, 2 Losses, 95-21)

Topscorer: Lionel Messi (31 goals)

Most assists: Lionel Messi (18 assists)

Manager: Josep Guardiola

Major Signings: Alexis Sanchez (Udinese), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Keirrison (Santos – Loan Return), Aleksandr Hleb (Birmingham City – Loan Return)

Major Departures: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan - €24m Permanent), Martin Caceres (FC Sevilla - €3m), Bojan Krkic (AS Roma), Jeffren (Sporting Lisbon), Gabriel Milito (Independiente)

Barcelona seem to just go from strength to strength and with the addition of Chilean winger Alexi Sanchez and Spanish midfield maestro Cesc Fabregas, they’ve got the depth to comfortably see off Real Madrid’s challenge and win the league crown once again.

Key player: Lionel Messi

Prediction: Champions

Real Madrid

Last season: Runners-up (29 wins, 5 draws, 4 Losses, 102-33)

Topscorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (40 goals)

Most assists: Mesut Ozil (17 assists)

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Major Signings: Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund - €10m), Hamit Altintop (Bayern Munich – Free), Jose Callejon (Espanyol - €5.5m), Raphael Varane (Racing Lens - €10m), Fabio Coentrao (Benfica)

Major Departures: Emmanuel Adebayor (Manchester City – Loan Return), Sergio Canales (Valencia – Loan), David Mateos (Real Zaragoza – Loan), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica)

Unfortunately for the big-spending capital club, Barcelona are an amazing side and will be hard to stop once again. Cristiano Ronaldo may have scored 40 goals last term and the team 102, but Barca’s superiority showed early in the season when they triumphed 5-0. Jose Mourinho will need to come up with something new if Los Merengues are any chance of gaining the ascendancy.

Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Prediction: Runners-up

Valencia

Last season: 3rd (21 wins, 8 draws, 9 Losses, 64-44)

Topscorer: Roberto Soldado (18 goals)

Most assists: Juan Mata (12 assists)

Manager: Unai Emery

Major Signings: Diego Alves (Almeria - €3m), Daniel Parejo (Getafe - €5m), Adil Rami (Lille – Loan Return), Sergio Canales (Real Madrid – Loan), Pablo Piatti (Almeria), Cristiano Pereira (Braga)

Major Departures: Cesar Sanchez (Villarreal – Free), Miguel Angel Moya (Getafe – Loan), Joaquin (Malaga - €4.2m), Marius Stankevicius (Sampdoria – Loan Return), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Asier del Horno (Levante), Nacho Gonzalez (Standard Liege), Isco (Malaga)

There’s some key names leaving Valencia, with Juan Mata and Joaquin the latest two. However, they lost David Silva and David Villa last season and still managed to finish as ‘the best of the rest’. Unai Emery seems to have made some shrewd signings too, with Sergio Canales, Pablo Piatti and Daniel Parejo offering plenty to a side with talent.

Key player: Sergio Canales

Prediction: 3rd

Villarreal

Last season: 4th (18 wins, 8 draws, 12 Losses, 54-44)

Topscorer: Giuseppe Rossi (18 goals)

Most assists: Santi Cazorla (10 assists)

Manager: Juan Carlos Garrido

Major Signings: Cesar Sanchez (Valencia – Free), Cristian Zapata (Udinese), Javier Camunas (Osasuna)

Major Departures: Ivan Marcano (Olympiacos – Loan), Javier Matilla (Real Betis - €1.2m), Jefferson Montero (Real Betis – Loan), Cicinho (AS Roma – Loan Return), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Santi Cazorla (Getafe), Joan Capdevila (Benfica)

Villarreal have lost some key players in Santi Cazorla and Joan Capdevila and it’s hard to see them pushing for third place, let alone the top four. Cesar Sanchez is a good shot-stopper to acquire, while Cristian Zapata adds value in defence, but Juan Carlos Garrido has a tough job keeping this team in the top four. Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar need to really fire.

Key player: Giuseppe Rossi

Prediction: 6th

FC Sevilla

Last season: 5th (17 wins, 7 draws, 14 Losses, 62-61)

Topscorer: Alvaro Negredo (20 goals)

Most assists: Diego Perotti (6 assists)

Manager: Marcelino García Toral

Major Signings: Piotr Trochowski (Hamburg SV – Free), Manu del Moral (Getafe - €4.5m), Martin Caceres (FC Barcelona - €3m), Coke (Rayo Vallecano - €1.7m), Jorge Andujar (Rayo Vallecano), Emir Spahic (Montpellier

Major Departures: Renato (Botafogo – Free), Sergio Sanchez (Malaga - €2.8m), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor – Undisclosed), Luis Fabiano (Sao Paulo – Undisclosed), Diego Capel (Sporting Lisbon), Koffi Romaric (Bursaspor)

The loss of club stalwarts Diego Capel, Luis Fabiano and Renato suggests Sevilla are a team in transition having promised so much four years ago with twin UEFA Cup triumphs. There is hope as the squad still boasts much talent, including Alvaro Negredo, new German signing Piotr Trochowski and youngster Coke, but the top four may be tough to achieve.

Key player: Frederic Kanoute

Prediction: 5th

Atletico Madrid

Last season: 7th (17 wins, 7 draws, 14 Losses, 62-53)

Topscorer: Sergio Aguero (20 goals)

Most assists: Jose Antonio Reyes (7 assists)

Manager: Gregorio Manzano

Major Signings: Silvio Pereira (Sporting Braga - €8m), Gabi (Real Zaragoza - €3m), Joao Mirando (Sao Paulo – Free), Sergio Asenjo (Malaga – Loan Return), Adrian Lopez (Deportivo Coruna), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Arda Turan (Galatasaray), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea - Loan)

Major Departures: Ibrahima Balde (Osasuna – Free), Tomas Ujfalusi (Galatasaray - €2m), David de Gea (Manchester United - €20m), Tiago Mendes (Juventus – Loan Return), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

The loss of goalkeeper David de Gea and key striker Sergio Aguero leaves a gaping hole for the Mattress Makers and with Diego Forlan set to join Inter too, it’s hard to see them challenging for the Champions League. Adrian Lopez has been signed to score the goals following the exits of Aguero and Forlan which will be no easy task. Arda Turan gets a chance in Spain too.

Athletic Bilbao

Last season: 6th (18 wins, 4 draws, 16 Losses, 59-55)

Topscorer: Fernando Llorente (18 goals)

Most assists: Andoni Iraola (7 assists)

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa

Major Signings: Ander Herrera (Real Zaragoza – €7.5m)

Major Departures: Ion Velez (Girona), Mikel Balanziaga (Valladolid), Urko Vera (Hercules), Pablo Orbaiz (Olympiacos – Loan)

Topscorer Fernando Llorente was courted by some top clubs during the European summer but has remained at the Basque outfit much to their benefit. Llorente alongside Javi Martinez and Iker Muniain represents a quality side who can continue to surprise everyone.

Key player: Fernando Llorente

Prediction: 8th

Real Betis

Last season: Segunda Division champions (25 wins, 8 draws, 9 Losses, 85-44)

Topscorer: Ruben Castro (25 goals)

Manager: Pepe Mel

Major Signings: Javier Chica (Espanyol – Free), Mario Alvarez (Getafe – Free), Javier Matilla (Villarreal - €1.2m), Fabricio Agosta (Valladolid – Free), Jefferson Montero (Villarreal – Loan), Antonio Amaya (Wigan), Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City – Loan), Dusko Tosic (Red Star Belgrade)

Major Departures: David Odonkor (Karlsruhe SC – Free), Fran No (Valladolid – Free), Israel (Xerez – Free), Roversio (Osasuna – Loan Return), Miguel Lopes (FC Porto – Loan Return), Achille Emana (Al Hilal)

The departure of midfield talent Achille Emana is a major blow for the club who won a return to the top flight after two seasons in the second tier. The former mighty Betis have lured Paraguayan forward Roque Santa Cruz from Manchester City and he needs to deliver goals if this side can retain their status.

Key player: Roque Santa Cruz

Prediction: 16th

Espanyol

Last season: 8th (15 wins, 4 draws, 19 Losses, 46-55)

Topscorer: Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (13 goals)

Most assists: Verdu (7 assists)

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Major Signings: Didac Vila (AC Milan – Loan), Juan Angel Albin (Getafe - €3m), Adrian Luna (Defensor - €1.5m), Marvin Zeegelaar (Ajax Amsterdam – Free), Hector Moreno (AZ Alkmaar - €4m), Rui Fonte (Sporting Lisbon – Loan), Taufic Guarch (Estudiantes Tecos), Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City – Loan), Koffi Romaric (Sevilla – Loan), Walter Pandiani (Osasuna)

Major Departures: Jose Callejon (Real Madrid - €5.5m), Javier Chica (Real Betis – Free), Ben Sahar (AJ Auxerre – Loan), Manu Molina (Huesca – Loan), Angel Martinez (Blackpool), Pablo Osvaldo (AS Roma - €15m), Luis Garcia (Real Zaragoza), Ferran Corominas (Girona)

Espanyol had a solid 2010-11 campaign but face some challenges already this term with topscorer Pablo Daniel Osvaldo leaving to link up with Luis Enrique’s AS Roma. Talented keeper Carlos Kameni remains despite being linked with a move to Roma too, while they have made a few additions which should ensure they’ll never flirt with relegation.

Key player: Carlos Kameni

Prediction: 12th

Getafe

Last season: 16th (12 wins, 8 draws, 18 Losses, 49-60)

Topscorer: Manu (9 goals)

Most assists: Jaime Gavilan Martinez (7 assists)

Manager: Luis Garcia Plaza

Major Signings: Diego Castro (Sporting Gijon – Free), Mehdi Lacen (Racing Santander – Free), Juan Rodriguez (Deportivo Coruna – Free), Miguel Angel Moya (Valencia – Loan), Michelangelo Albertazzi (AC Milan – Loan), Alberto Lopo (Deportivo Coruna – Loan), Pablo Sarabia (Real Madrid), Juan Valera (Atletico Madrid), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa – Loan), Daniel Guiza (Fenerbahce), Ruben Perez (Atletico Madrid – Loan), Pedro Leon (Real Madrid - Loan)

Major Departures: Manu del Moral (FC Sevilla - €4.5m), Juan Angel Albin (Espanyol - €3m), Daniel Parejo (Valencia - €5m), Mario Alvarez (Real Betis – Free), Ivan Marcano (Villarreal – Loan Return), Derek Boateng (Dnipro - €6m), Victor Sanchez (FC Barcelona – Loan Return), Adrian Sardinero (Hercules - Loan)

After a disappointed 16th-place finish last term there’s been a lot of changes at Getafe, but there hasn’t been the big spending some may have expected following Royal Emirates Group’s takeover. Getafe have signed several players on free transfers, but the additions of Pedro Leon and Daniel Guiza should ensure they can fight off the drop and push for midtable.

Key player: Pedro Leon

Prediction: 11th

Granada

Last season: 5th in Segunda Division, promoted via playoffs (18 wins, 14 draws, 10 Losses, 71-47)

Topscorer: Alexandre Geijo (24 goals)

Manager: Fabri Gonzalez

Major Signings: Guilherme Siqueira (Udinese – Free), Noe Pamarat (Hercules), Yohan Mollo (Monaco), Jaime Romero (Udinese – Loan), Odion Ighalo (Udinese – Loan), Allan Nyom (Udinese – Loan), Carlos Martins (Benfica – Loan), Jorge Ribeiro (Benfica), Hassan Yebda (Benfica), Papa Diakhate (Dynamo Kiev), Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal – Loan), Moises Hurtado (Olympiacos)

Major Departures: Alexandre Geijo (Udinese – Loan Return), Carlos Calvo (Udinese – Loan Return), Jonathan Mensah (Udinese – Loan Return), Juande (Real Betis – Loan Return), Fabian Orellana (Celta Vigo – Loan)

Granada’s partnership with Italian club Udinese has helped them reach this point, but they face some major challenges in La Liga. They’ve lost topscorer Alexandre Geijo and appear short on quality, although they’ve made some good additions with Moises Hurtado and Carlos Martins.

Key player: Papa Diakhate

Prediction: 20th

Levante

Last season: 14th (12 wins, 9 draws, 17 Losses, 41-52)

Topscorer: Felipe Caicedo (13 goals)

Most assists: Valdo (8 assists)

Manager: Juan Ignacio Martinez

Major Signings: Jose Javier Barkero (Numancia – Free), Francisco Farinos (Hercules – Free), Miguel Pallardo (Getafe – Permanent), Wellington Silva (Arsenal – Loan), Keylor Navas (Albacete – Loan), Carlos Aranda (Osasuna), Xavi Torres (Malaga – Loan), Asier del Horno (Valencia), Nabil El Zhar (Liverpool – Free), Arouna Kone (FC Sevilla - Loan)

Major Departures: Manolo Reina (Cartagena – Free), Jefferson Montero (Villarreal – Loan Return), Javi Torres (Malaga – Loan Return), Christian Stuani (Reggina – Loan Return), Asier del Horno (Valencia – Loan Return), Ignacio Gonzalez (Valencia – Loan Return), Felipe Caicedo (Lokomotiv Moscow - €7.5m), Gorka Larrea (Numancia), Cerra (Cordoba)

Levante made a good fight of their first season back last term with Felipe Caicedo providing the goals but his departure to Russia is a big blow and he’ll take some replacing. There’s still quality in this side, but Xavi Torres and Arouna Kone will need to fire to get this side moving.

Key player: Xavi Torres

Prediction: 18th

Malaga

Last season: 11th (13 wins, 7 draws, 18 Losses, 54-68)

Topscorer: Rondon (14 goals)

Most assists: Eliseu (7 assists)

Manager: Manuel Pellegrini

Major Signings: Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich - €3m), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Hamburg SV – Free), Nacho Monreal (Osasuna - €6m), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg SV - €1m), Jeremy Toulalan (Olympique Lyon - €10m), Sergio Sanchez (FC Sevilla - €2.8m), Joaquin (Valencia - €4.2m), Diego Buonanotte (River Plate – Undisclosed), Santi Cazorla (Villarreal), Isco (Valencia)

Major Departures: Manu Torres (Cartagena – Free), Quincy Owusu-Abeyie (Al Sadd – Loan Return), Sergio Asenjo (Atletico Madrid – Loan Return), Patrick Mtiliga (FC Nordsjaelland)

Manuel Pellegrini finds himself in the hotseat again, with big-spending Malaga expecting results this term. Ruud van Nistelrooy and Jeremy Toulalan are huge signings, but the additions of Spanish talent such as Santi Cazorla, Joaquin and Isco suggests this team may not need long to gel and become a strong side. They’ve got the talent, can they get it together quick enough.

Key player: Santi Cazorla

Prediction: 4th

Real Mallorca

Last season: 17th (12 wins, 8 draws, 18 Losses, 41-56)

Topscorer: Pierre Webo (11 goals)

Most assists: Pierre Webo (6 assists)

Manager: Michael Laudrup

Major Signings: Tomer Hemed (Maccabi Haifa – Free), Pablo Caceres (Tigre), Gianni Zuiverloon (West Bromwich), Chico (Genoa – Loan), Fernando Tissone (Sampdoria), Marvin Ogunjimi (Genk)

Major Departures: Ruben Gonzalez (Osasuna – Free), Oscar Trejo (Sporting Gijon – Free), Ayoze Diaz (Deportivo Coruna – Free), Javi Castellano (Las Palmas – Free), Sergi Enrich (Recreativo Huelva – Loan), Pierro Webo (Eskisehirspor), German Lux (Deportivo Coruna), Jonathan de Guzman (Villarreal)

Dane Michael Laudrup has a difficult job on his hands at Mallorca, who lost key forward Pierro Webo over the summer and appear on the decline as a club. Their home form could be the key along with Dudu Aouate’s shot-stopping. If highly-rated Marvin Ogunjimi and Fernando Tissone deliver then they’ll be fine.

Key player: Dudu Aouate

Prediction: 15th

Osasuna

Last season: 9th (13 wins, 8 draws, 17 Losses, 45-46)

Topscorer: Kike Sola (7 goals)

Most assists: Masoud Shojaei (6 assists)

Manager: José Luis Mendilibar

Major Signings: Ibrahima Balde (Atletico Madrid – Free), Ruben Gonzalez (Real Mallorca – Free), Marc Bertran (Tenerife – Free), Nino (Tenerife – Free), Pedro Lopez (Valladolid), Jukka Raitala (Hoffenheim – Loan), Roland Lamah (Le Mans)

Major Departures: Nacho Monreal (Malaga - €6m), Ferran Corominas (Espanyol – Loan Return), Nelson Marcos (Real Betis), Carlos Aranda (Levante), Javier Camunas (Villarreal), Fernando Soriano (Almeria), Walter Pandiani (Espanyol)

The Pamplona-based club have made some shrewd acquisitions which will arguably offset the loss of favourite son Nacho Monreal. Senegalese starlet Ibrahima Balde is a fine signing, while Kike Sola may be able to kick on.

Key player: Ibrahima Balde

Prediction: 9th

Racing Santander

Last season: 12th (12 wins, 10 draws, 16 Losses, 41-56)

Topscorer: Markus Rosenberg (9 goals)

Most assists: Pedro Munitis (5 assists)

Manager: Hector Cuper

Major Signings: Lautaro Acosta (FC Sevilla – Loan), Cristian Stuani (Reggina – Loan), Alexandros Tziolis (Siena – Free), Bernardo Espinosa (FC Sevilla - Loan)

Major Departures: Mehdi Lacen (Getafe – Free), Fabio Coltorti (Lausanne – Free), Henrique (FC Barcelona – Loan Return), Marcus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen – Loan Return), Giovani dos Santos (Tottenham – Loan Return), Ramon Arcas (Recreativo)

Former Inter and Valencia coach Hector Cuper is charged with taking Racing into the top-half this term and there’s some optimism around the club following his arrival. There’s no major additions to the side but with Pedro Munitis, Marc Torrejon and Kennedy Bakircioglu in the side they can build.

Key player: Pedro Munitis

Prediction: 10th

Rayo Vallecano

Last season: 2nd in Segunda Division (23 wins, 10 draws, 9 Losses, 73-48)

Topscorer: Emiliano Armenteros (20 goals)

Manager: Jose Ramon Sandoval

Major Signings: Samuel Llorca (Elche – Free), Michu (Celta Vigo), Raul Bravo (Olympiacos), Raul Tamudo (Real Sociedad), Daniel Pacheco (Atletico Madrid), Mikel Labaka (Real Sociedad)

Major Departures: Coke (FC Sevilla - €1.7m), Oscar Trejo (Real Mallorca – Loan Return), Emiliano Armenteros (FC Sevilla – Loan Return), Antonio Amaya (Wigan – Loan Return), Brayan Angulo (Leixoes – Loan Return), Brayan Angulo (Leixoes), David Aganzo (Hercules)

There’s little to be enthused about for Vallecano, who may have finished second in the Segunda Division last term, but don’t appear capable of staying in the top flight. They have a weak squad with little room for investment, but the additions of experienced pair Raul Bravo and Raul Tamudo could give them much-needed leadership.

Key player: David Cobena

Prediction: 19th

Real Sociedad

Last season: 15th (14 wins, 3 draws, 21 Losses, 49-66)

Topscorer: Xabi Prieto, Antoine Griezmann & Raul Tamudo (7 goals)

Most assists: Xabi Prieto (13 assists)

Manager: Philippe Montanier

There’s some real talent at Sociedad with Antoine Griezmann and Jeffrey Sarpong in attack, while the addition of McDonald Mariga and Carlos Vela over the summer bolsters their artillery. Sociedad are no longer the club they once were, but they look strong enough to stay in La Liga again.

Major Signings: Liassine Cadamuro (Sanse – Undisclosed), Borja Viguera (Gimnastic), Carlos Vela (Arsenal – Loan), McDonald Mariga (Inter Milan - Loan)

Major Departures: Diego Rivas (Hercules – Free), Raul Tamudo (Rayo Vallecano), Mikel Labaka (Rayo Vallecano - Free)

Key player: Xabi Prieto

Prediction: 13th

Sporting Gijon

Last season: 10th (11 wins, 14 draws, 13 Losses, 35-42)

Topscorer: Diego Castro Gimenez (9 goals)

Most assists: Miguel de las Cuevas (4 assists)

Manager: Manuel Preciado

Major Signings: Damien Suarez (Defensor - €430k), Ricardo Leon (Tenerife – Free), Oscar Trejo (Real Mallorca – Free), Andre Castro (FC Porto - Loan)

Major Departures: Diego Castro (Getafe – Free), Rafel Sastre (Huesca – Free), Andre Castro (FC Porto – Loan Return), Jose Angel (AS Roma - €4.5m), Jorge Garcia (Real Murcia)

Mallorca forward Oscar Trejo is a shrewd acquisition by the impressive Manuel Preciado but he may need to invest wisely again in January – the funds made from Jose Angel’s sale may help – with the club set to endure a tough season. They should survive, but it won’t be easy.

Key player: Oscar Trejo

Prediction: 14th

Real Zaragoza

Last season: 13th (12 wins, 9 draws, 17 Losses, 40-53)

Topscorer: Gabi (10 goals)

Most assists: Gabi (6 assists)

Manager: Javier Aguirre

Major Signings: Edu Oriol (FC Barcelona B – Free), Abraham Minero (FC Barcelona B – Free), David Mateos (Real Madrid – Loan), Efrain Juarez (Celtic – Loan), Roberto Jimenez (Benfica - €8.6m), Luis Garcia (Espanyol), Helder Postiga (Sporting Lisbon), Pablo Barrera (West Ham – Loan), Ruben Micael (Atletico Madrid – Loan), Fernando Meira (Zenit St Petersburg – Loan), Franco Zuculini (Hoffenheim – Loan)

Major Departures: Gabi (Atletico Madrid - €3m), Florent Sinama-Pongolle (Sporting Lisbon – Loan Return), Abel Aguilar (Udinese – Loan Return), Marco Perez (Boyaca Chico – Loan Return), Nicolas Bertolo (Palermo – Loan Return), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao – €7.5m), Jiri Jarosik (released), Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal - €4m)

Zaragoza did exceptionally well to survive last term and they face another big challenge to stay up this season. The loss of key players Gabi, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Ikechukwu Uche and Ander Herrera means they’ll find the going tough. New signing Roberto Jimenez, a goalkeeper from Benfica, is likely to be busy.

Key player: Roberto Jimenez

Prediction: 17th

Ben somerford
Sports Pundit staff writer
@bensomerford

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