Season Preview (Part 1) – European Places/Relegation

The Spanish league has been pilfered for talent this summer and virtually all of the teams challenging for the European places have lost players to the top teams in Spain and around Europe. Atletico Madrid were impressive in La Liga and their cup forays last season. They maintained a challenge for to Real Madrid for the second place in the league for a large part of the season and won the Copa del Rey against their arch city rivals in May. The transfer of Radamel Falcao to Monaco is a huge loss yet they remain the favourites to secure the third automatic Champions League qualifying spot. Los Rojiblancos will be hopeful that the signings of the experienced David Villa, in a cutprice €5m deal, and the young Brazilian Leo Baptistao can fill the void left by the departure of the prolific Colombian.

 

Their main challenge could come from Valencia who like many Spanish teams have had to operate in a restrictive financial environment. They have lost their main goal poacher Roberto Soldado to Spurs for €30m and Argentinean midfielder Tino Costa has moved to Spartak Moscow. The signings of Javi Fuego, Oriol Romeu are Helder Postiga are not entirely inspiring but they should have enough quality and experience with Banega, Jonas and Feghouli to challenge for a European spot. Expectations are always high for Valencia and Miroslav Dukic will have a tricky task to finish in the top 4.

Real Sociedad had an incredible fourth place finish last season to qualify for the playoff round of the Champions league. Their impressive young midfielder, Asier Illaramendi, has moved to Real Madrid and this is a significant loss. There have been no major arrivals but with the goals of Mexican stiker Carlos Vela, the probing of Xabi Prieto and Antoine Griezmann in midfield and the defensive solidity of Inigo Martinez and Carlos Matinez the Basques should be competitive again in the upcoming campaign.

Sevilla have been devastated in the transfer market. They have brought in strikers’s Kevin Gameiro from PSG and Colombian Carlos Bacca from Club Brugge to replace Spanish international Alvaro Negredo who has joined Manchester city as has the excellent winger Jesus Navas. The Chilean international Gary Medel has also moved to the English league with Cardiff City. Add in the departures of promising young players such as Luis Alberto, Jose Campana and Antonio Luna and the unenviable task facing Unai Emery becomes apparent. Marco Marin has arrived on loan from Chelsea to add to the attacking midfield options and if they can hold onto French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia there is enough quality with Diego Perotti, Ivan Rakitic and Jose Antonio Reyes to challenge for an improvement on last’s years ninth place finish.

Athletic Bilbao has a torrid run last season and were involved in a relegation fight right to the end of the season. There were problems on and off the pitch and the club were relieved to eventually finish in fourteenth position. Fernando Llorente has finally left the club and moves to Juventus while Fernando Amorebieta has left on a free transfer to Fulham. Midfielder Benat from Real Betis and stiker Kike Sola from Osasuna are the main arrivals along with new manager Ernesto Valverde. He has a tough task to ensure that the club are competitive in the upper half of the league.

Real Betis had a productive campaign has year despite their financial situation. Jose Canas and Alejandro Pozuela have joined Swansea City and Benat has left for Athletic Bilbao as discussed above. Joel Campbell has returned on loan from Arsenal and Didac, Joan Verdu and Xavi Torres look like shrewd signings to ensure that the club are again competing for European places.

Malaga too have had their financial turmoil despite their run to the Champions League semi final last year. They are barred from European completion this year due to this financial situation. They have continued to lose key players this summer. Jaoquin, Julio Baptista, Jeremy Toulalan, Martin Demichelis and Isco have all left and the side is looking threadbare. Roque Santa Cruz has returned along with some other bargain basement signings but it appears that a long 12 months is in store for the Costa del Sol side.

At the bottom of the league one would expect that survival will be beyond Ameria and Elche. Villareal are back in the top flight after their surprise relegation and should have enough to stay up with the signings of Geo Dos Santos and Tomas Pina. Granada, Osasuna and Celta Vigo under Luis Enrique will also be scrapping at the bottom but may accumulate sufficient points to maintain their league status. Rayo Vallecano have lost key players from last season including Pitti, Javi Fuego and  Leo Baptistao and are also expected to struggle. Of the bigger teams Malaga may be closer to the bottom than the top of the league after their recent high finishes.

European Place Prediction

3) Athletico Madrid

4) Valencia

5) Real Sociedad

6) Sevilla

Relegation

18) Rayo Vallecano

19) Almeria

20) Elche

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