The new La Liga campaign starts today (Friday) when reigning Champions, Barcelona kick off their campaign against Atletico Bilbao, while arch-rivals, Real Madrid kick off a day later when they take on Celta Vigo which is just one of the many matches slated for Saturday.
Champions Barcelona have been practicing in a league of their own in the last two seasons and are favourites to win a third consecutive title after making some smart moves in the summer to replenish their squad of serial winners.
All things being equal, the team will flaunt France’s World Cup-winning forward Antoine Griezmann and fresh-faced Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong, signed for a combined 195 million euros while still expecting to sign one or two players before the summer transfer window closes on August 31st.
Without doubt, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to shoulder the goal-scoring responsibilities that will help the team retain the Spanish title this season.
Messi remains the key engine room of Barcelona’s team due to his mesmerizing talents, strength on the ball, sublime set-pieces, creativity and goal-scoring prowess.
How Will New Acquisition Impact Barcelona
Barca has effectively been pursuing Griezmann for the best part of 18 months, having been turned down by the forward last year, who then informed the world he would be staying at Atletico Madrid via his documentary ‘The Decision’.
Ernesto Valverde would have been forgiven for preferring not to have Griezmann in his side after such a high-profile snubbing of Camp Nou, but a year later – and with his own position under scrutiny after last season’s Champions League failure – it is now imperative he gets the best out of the former Real Sociedad man.
Frenkie de Jong
In Frenkie de Jong, Barcelona have found a versatile football player with Blaugrana DNA and someone who can play in more than one position on the pitch. The 21-year-old enjoys receiving the ball from the defenders and in a box-to-box role, moving forward to the midfield.
He directly attacks the opponents, trying to break the lines of the opposing team, while taking the extra risk that will give a numerical advantage to his teammates up front.
Teams Capable of Stopping Barcelona
This season’s La Liga could see the emergence of a new star on the block, Joa Felix hugging the headlines after an impressive preseason campaign with Atletico Madrid.
If preseason games are used as a yardstick to judge a team, then, Atletico may just be the team to beat in Spain. The team dismantled Real Madrid 7-3 with ease in a preseason game that announced new signing Felix to the world stage before edging MLS All-Stars, Atletic San Luis and star-studed Juventus 2-1.
Atletico have always proved to be a tough side against their eternal rivals, Real Madrid and Barcelona in the league.
Despite losing players such as Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez, Filipe Luis, Juanfran and Diego Godin this summer, team manager, Diego Simeone has bolstered his squad with the signing of Kieran Trippier, Mario Hermoso, Hector Herrera, and Marcos Llorente.
No to forget that they still have the services of Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata in the attack and could still sign some players before the end of the transfer window.
The spotlight will be on João Félix as the media scramble to anoint an heir-apparent to Messi and Ronaldo.
Real Madrid have had a busy transfer season, with coach Zinedine Zidane attempting to build a team that can bounce back from two back-to-back embarrassing domestic campaigns. Even though Zidane’s return as the manager has not been able to ensure the side a decent pre-season, the club has no option but to put their faith in the man who led them to three successive Champions League titles.
The Spanish press have already been piling the pressure on Zinedine Zidane before a ball’s even been kicked, and it’s strange not to see more optimism surrounding a team that’s splashed out over £200m this summer and brought in one of the best players in the world in Eden Hazard.
Luka Jovic, Rodrygo, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy have all arrived, but it is lack of movement in two specific areas that has some fans concerned, notably the failure to complete Gareth Bale’s departure and to bring in Paul Pogba. Pogba was said to be Zidane’s top summer target and the fact they’ve been unable or unwilling to bring to the club is cause for concern in some quarters, with Bale’s situation unsettling too.
Madrid host easy fixtures against Valladolid, Levante, Osasuna, and Granada at the start of the season. Wins in these games could help restore some lost confidence before they start their European campaign, where they have a reputation of upping their game.
Turning their backs on Christian Eriksen looks like a mistake, and what they can do with Bale and Rodriguez could be pivotal to their chances this season. We must remember this is Real Madrid so they have to be respected – but this season is already shaping up to be another soap opera at Santiago Bernabeu.
If Valencia feat in the Copa Del Rey is anything to go by against Barcelona, then the team have the outside chance of causing an upset in the Spanish League this season.
Valencia defeated Barcelona 2-1 to win the Cup last season despite the Catalans featuring Lionel Messi and Suarez in the squad.
They have also shown that they can hold on to their own against any big teams in the Spanish League after successfully qualifying for the UEFA Champions League last season.
Valencia have signed Jorge, Jasper Cillessen, Salva Ruiz, David Remeseiro Salgueiro, Manuel Javier Vallejo Galvan, Denis Cheryshev, Maxi Gomez and Eliaquim Mangala.