5 things to look forward to in the new La Liga season
The 2019/2020 La Liga season looks set to be one of the most absorbing in recent history. In the last decade, it has basically been a procession for defending champions, FC Barcelona. The Catalan giants have won 7 of the last 10 league titles while the Madrid giants; Atletico and Real Madrid have shared just three.
This looks to be challenged this season given the work done by teams in the transfer window. After the garbage play of the 2018/2019 season, Los Merengues have gone into the transfer market with a vengeance. Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy, Luka Jovic, and Eder Militao are amongst the new faces in a €303m spree.
City rivals, Atletico have also gone down the same road, shelling out €243.5m on new talent with #PuroTalento Joao Felix the biggest one at €126m.
Sevilla CF has also been very active in the transfer market with €124m on 11 new players so far. Even Barca have been active with Antoine Griezmann finally making his much-awaited €120m move to the Camp Nou.
In all, La Liga teams have been the biggest spenders so far with over €1.62b on new deals. This could increase before the window shuts in September.
Here is a look at 5 things to look forward to in the new season:
#5 The Promoted teams have a big fight on their hands
The new boys; CA Osasuna, Granada CF, and RCD Mallorca know that they have a fight on their hands to retain their La Liga status come the end of the 2019/2020 season.
All three teams came up emphasizing hardwork and the collective over individual flair. This would be expected to continue in the new season.
Given the struggles of teams like Villarreal and Celta Vigo last season, no one will take it for granted that they are guaranteed a place in La Liga.
With this in mind, the promoted teams are expected to slog it out with the likes of Rayo Valladolid (who surprisingly escaped relegation), CD Leganes and Levante to avoid relegation
Osasuna had won Liga 123 handily last season amassing 87 points from 42 matches. Manager, Jagoba Arrasate’s attacking style with Robert Torres and Juan Villar as its main men worked wonders. The team scored 59 goals in the league. That style will need to be tempered with practicality in the more rarified air of La Liga.
Los Rojillos (The Reds) have yo-yoed between La Liga and Liga 123 over the last 6 seasons and will hope to make a more lasting impression this time around.
Granada finished in second-place behind Osasuna and will be eager to avoid the relegation waters this time around. The team from Andalucía took a chance on Diego Martínez after he left Osasuna and were rewarded with a surprise run which ended in automatic promotion.
This was achieved ahead of more fancied teams like Malaga and Albacete. The veteran striker, Roberto Soldado is the eye-catching addition so far to a team that prioritizes teamwork and graft.
RCD Mallorca surprised a lot of people in the Liga 123 playoffs. The Pamplona-side had been La Liga staples in the late 90s and early 2000s before falling off into relegation and financial troubles in the 2012/2013 season.
They shocked Deportivo in the playoffs and will need to do more of the same if they are to survive.
#4 Revival the keyword at Sevilla
It has been a crazy couple of seasons at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. The successes of 2010-2016 ground to a halt as a merry-go-round of coaching changes and player arrival/departure saw the club underachieve greatly.
Following the return of acclaimed sporting director, Carlos Monchi after his failed stint at AS Roma, the club looks to have put its house in order.
Former Spain and Real Madrid manager, Julen Lopetegui has been brought in for the new season. It will be fascinating to see how both he and Monchi bounce back from their recent failures.
The club has been the third-most active team in the transfer window with 11 players brought in at an astonishing cost of €124m. This includes young starlets like Jules Kounde and Maximilian Wober, talented players like Joan Jordan and experienced old heads like Fernando and Luuk de Jong.
It remains to see how Lopetegui will integrate the new players into his preferred passing style while getting the best of the players already at the club.
#3 Barcelona and the drive for perfection
It has been a curious couple of seasons for the Blaugrana. Domestic domination has been overshadowed by capitulation in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.
The 3-0 and 4-0 losses to AS Roma and Liverpool in the quarters and semifinals of the UCL after taking comfortable 3-goal leads in the first leg have become a huge yoke around manager, Ernesto Valverde’s neck.
With this in mind, three-peating La Liga will still count as a huge achievement for the former Athletic Bilbao manager. Lionel Messi continued to lead the way for the team last season.
There were also decent debut seasons for Arthur Melo, Clement Lenglet and others. The arrival of De Jong and Griezmann will add more quality to the side though how they will be set up remains to be seen.
The future of Phillipe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele will be very important as the team seems to have too many attacking players occupying similar positions.
They will begin the season as favourites to retain the title, it is what they do in Europe that will determine how the success of the season will be judged.
#2 New-look Atletico will look to do big things
“The more things change, the more they remain the same” is a cliché that Atleti fans will hope does not apply to their team.
The 2018/2019 season saw the end of perhaps the most successful era in the club’s history as stalwarts Diego Godin, Juanfran and Filipe Luis said their goodbyes to the side.
The big money exits of Greizmann (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich) and Gelson Martins (AS Monaco) have also left holes that needed filling.
To make up for these losses, Los Colchoneros has embarked on its biggest spending spree ever. 8 players including Felix, Miguel Hermoso, Kieran Trippier, Felipe, Renan Lodi, Hector Herrera, and others have arrived to kickstart the Diego Simeone 2.0 era.
All eyes will be on the 19-year-old Felix as he seeks to fill the very large shoes that Griezmann has left behind. The club’s decision to pay the stated €126m release clause shocked the footballing world.
Simeone will be under pressure to deliver another league title as the club now has a good mix of youth and experience. No longer will fans put up with the turgid, unimaginative football of the last two seasons.
It promises to be very exciting in the red & white half of Madrid.
#1 Zidane and the unanswered questions at Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane is condemned to deliver and he knows it. Full control of the team, players he wants to work with and autonomy that not even Jose Mourinho enjoyed, there will be no hiding place for the French legend.
The arrivals have all been with his blessing while the rumoured move for Paul Pogba refuses to die out. His decision to excise Gareth Bale from the team has shown the extent of the influence he currently wields at the Santiago Bernabeu.
For that influence to grow, he will need to deliver results. His second coming was given a free pass as there was little improvement from the Lopetegui/Santiago Solari eras. With the team he currently has almost close to what he wants, Zidane knows he has little margin for error.
Real Madrid is desperate to win La Liga as a run of two titles in 10 years is disgraceful for the biggest club in the world. Pre-season results have shown that there is much work to be done with the Frenchman still too trusting of the aging core which three-peated the UCL.
How he will fashion out a coherent playing style from the many talented players at his disposal remains to be seen but Madridristas will be anxious to see huge improvements from their side especially as it concerns league football.