It’s that time of year again: Soccer season is upon us. Now that the summer tournaments and international fundraising showcases are wearing off, it’s time for everyone to get back to business. With the major European leagues slowly springing to life one-by-one, I’ll be previewing each of the big leagues as they open their schedules throughout August. Up next is La Liga.
Armed with new weapons, Lionel Messi and Barcelona may repeat as Spanish champs. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)
As they say, better late than never. That certainly applies to La Liga, which belatedly struck a deal between teams and players to get the season under way a week later than we all expected.
Perhaps waiting a week to experience the onset of one of the most beautiful brands of soccer in the world will make us appreciate the fluid, flowing, attacking virtuosity that the Spanish league brings even more. Maybe the strike will bring a temporary pause to the onslaught of spending by Malaga.
Either way, it’s time to look at what La Liga will have to offer this season. The top of the table, that’s pretty easy to predict. But we’ll see what the bottom has to offer.
It’s not great stretch to name Barcelona as the predicted pace-setter. The two-time fending champions and Champions League holders needed only to make small improvements this offseason. Instead, they ended their long-standing dance with Arsenal to acquire the future of their midfield in Cesc Fabregas and added a dangerous winger in Alexis Sanchez. The departures were minimal and included recouping significant value for Bojan Krkic, Jeffren Suarez, Oriol Romeu and Martin Caceres, all deemed surplus to requirements. Those makeweights netted €25 million, making the over €70 they spent on the two arrivals more palatable. As always, Barca is the best in the world at doing what they want to do, and in Fabregas and Sanchez they have more players able to do that. The only concern is over continuing rumors as the departure of David Villa, their only true center forward. A versatile forward like Villa is important in making their attack work, making it somewhat surprising that they didn’t try to replace Krkic in some capacity. Still with Lionel Messi in the picture, I’m sure the Blaugrana won’t be wanting for goal production in what likely will be a third straight title.
3. Villarreal4. Valencia5. Sevilla6. Atletico Madrid7. Malaga8. Athletic Bilbao9. Osasuna10. Getafe11. Espanyol12. Sporting Gijon13. Real Sociedad14. Mallorca15. Real Betis16. Racing Santander17. Levante18. Rayo Vallecano19. Real Zaragoza20. Granada
|2011-12 La Liga Predictions
||2. Real Madrid
||6. Atletico Madrid
||8. Athletic Bilbao
||12. Sporting Gijon
||13. Real Sociedad
||15. Real Betis
||16. Racing Santander
||18. Rayo Vallecano
||19. Real Zaragoza
Was this actually a transfer window in which Barcelona outspent Real Madrid? It’s the case, though Madrid brought in more players, though not necessarily a better chance at a title. Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo and his 40 goals are still there. To the capital club’s sizeable stable of Turkish-born, German-bred midfielders comes Nuri Sahin and Hamit Altintop, while the defense corps is wisely reinforced by young sensation Raphael Varane (just as former young sensation Ezequiel Garay leaves town) and big-ticket signing Fabio Coentrao. The problem for Jose Mourinho’s men is too many midfield options. With the arrivals and persistence in the squad of somewhat out-of-favor players like Kaka and Lassana Diarra, I count a dozen options for midfield selection when everyone’s healthy to occupy at most four spots. Barcelona relies on a tight nucleus that even last year lacked depth. A Rafael Benitez-like revolving door approach in the midfield isn’t going to foster the type of cohesion needed for Los Galacticos to shed their recent bridesmaid role. Read More…
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Posted in Club Soccer, Spanish La Liga | Tags: Abraham Minero, Achille Emana, Adrian Lopez, Alex Geijo, Alexis Sanchez, Alvaro Negredo, Andoni Iraola, Antonio Amaya, Arda Turan, Aritz Aduriz, Arouna Kone, Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Ayoze Diaz, Barcelona, Bojan Krkic, Borja Valero, Carlos Aranda, Carlos Vela, Cesc Fabregas, Coke, Cristian Zapata, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dani Guiza, Daniel Parejo, David De Geo, David Villa, Derek Boateng, Diego Alves, Diego Castro, Diego Forlan, Edu Oriol, Efrain Juarez, Emiliano Armenteros, Emir Spahic, Espanyol, Ever Banega, Ezequiel Garay, Fabio Coentrao, Falcao, Felipe Caicedo, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Miera, Fernando Soriano, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Frederic Kanoute, Gabriel Fernandez, Getafe, Gianni Zuiverloon, Giuseppe Rossi, Gorka Iraizoz, Granada, Hamit Altintop, Henrique, Javier Arizmendi, Javier Camunas, Javier Chico, Javier Farinos, Javier Matilla, Jefferson Montero, Jeffren Suarez, Jiri Jarosik, Joan Capdevila, Joaquin, Jordi, Jorge Lopez Montana, Jorge Molina, Jose Angel, Jose Callejon, Jose Javier Bakero, Jose Mourinho, Juan Angel Albin, Juan Mata, Juan Rodriguez, Kaka, Kike Sola, La Liga, Lassana Diarra, Lautaro Acosta, Levante, Lionel Messi, Luis Fabiano, Luis Garcia, Mallorca, Manu Del Moral, Marc Bertran, Marco ruben, Marcos Senna, Markus Rosenberg, Martin Caceres, McDonald Mariga, Mehdi Lacen, Mehmet Topal, Michu, Miguel de las Cuevas, Mikel Labaka, Miranda, Nabil El Zhar, Nicolas Bertolo, Nilmar, Nuri Sahin, Oriol Romeu, Osasuna, Oscar Trejo, Pablo Caceres, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, Pablo Piatti, Pablo Sarabia, Pierre Webo, Piotr Trochowski, Racing Santander, Rafel Sastre, Raphael Varane, Raul Tamudo, Rayo Vallecano, Real Betis, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Real Zaragoza, Roberto Soldado, Roberto Trashorras, Roque Santa Cruz, Ruben Castro, Ruben Gonzalez, Santi Cazorla, Sergio Aguero, Sergio Canales, Sevilla, Sporting Gijon, Sueliton, Thibaut Courtois, Tomas Ujfalusi, Tomer Hemed, Valencia, Villarreal, Vladimir Weiss, Wellington Silva, Xavi Prieto