Football

Published on August 19th, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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The Great La Liga Season Preview – Part Two

Will a mini-Manchester City survive a Primera debut? Can Valencia and Betis become great again and were Getafe too late to the top-flight party in La Liga?

Málaga

Málaga’s transfer market has seen a host of key players leave and the newcomers will have to prove their worth in an all-new line-up.

Keep an eye on… Borja Bastón. A silver lining to all the changes experienced – they secured Bastón’s loan from Swansea, providing a stepping stone for the brilliant striker to once again become a feared scorer.

Goal – Either be in for a wild fight to avoid relegation this year or, in turn, have a placid season in mid-table.

Valencia CF

A mess of a club in recent years, supporters have patiently waited for owner Peter Lim to appoint a manager to mould the players into a team. The new coach asked for expensive and useless footballers to be sold and, in the last stretch of the transfer market, Valencia is reshaping its defense and its midfield. An extreme makeover to make VCF great again.

Keep an eye on… Marcelino García Toral. Making the manager the biggest transfer news speaks volumes about how slow Valencia have been, but they desperately needed an experienced boss.

Goal – Breaking into the top-six and snatching a place in European competitions next year will be a daunting task, but Valencia fans deserve that.

Celta de Vigo

No ‘Toto’ Berizzo in sight after he left for Sevilla, and only a few new faces here and there. Celta’s summer has been unexciting, but keeping most of their backbone intact (with almighty Iago Aspas at his prime on front) should guarantee a decent level of points… right?

Keep an eye on… Juan Carlos Unzué. He is, after all, the biggest new signing this season. After four years with Luis Enrique at Barça, he now steps into La Liga’s spotlight at a club that will demand a fast-paced, well-developed football style.

Goal – No worthy additions to the roster might make Celta struggle if Unzue doesn’t strike a chord with his new playbook.

UD Las Palmas

Much of their flair and style are gone with Quique Setién’s departure, but new coach Manolo Márquez will push for a similar approach this year. However, the loss of a few key players such as Kevin Prince Boateng or Roque Mesa is a tough blow.

Keep an eye on… Vitolo Machín. The undoubted main attraction this season, or we should say, ‘half-season’, as his Atlético loan will only be until January. A riot of a player and an absolute pleasure to watch on the pitch.

Goal – If the new additions click and Vitolo’s leadership is strong, they have the technical quality and skill to aim for European spots. There are serious doubts about their defense, though.


Real Betis

Real Betis fans are very excited this season. With 50,000 season ticket holders, it’s amazing to see how loyal their fanbase can be after a year where they struggled. A clear plan and a few strong signings in the transfer market and a confident new boss (Quique Setién) did the rest.

Keep an eye on… Sergio León. Easily one of the best strikers last season, he was up for grabs after Osasuna’s demise. Now, he will be a Betis beacon of hope.

Goal – The squad has been enhanced enough to be considered European challengers, but Setien’s offensive playbook may make them struggle at the back.

Deportivo de la Coruña

Deportivo fans have grown used to suffering a lot of late, always navigating that fine line that separates success from failure. With Pepe Mel on the bench, over two dozen moves this summer seeks to improve their chances of enjoying a quiet season.

Keep an eye on… Adrián López. Six years after his departure, the striker returns to the team where he performed best to allow him to make the transition to Atlético de Madrid.

Goal – Keeping their place in La Primera while pleasing fans especially in home games.

Leganés

The ‘Cucumberers’ were one of the most enjoyable teams to silently support last year due to their passionate fanbase and philosophy – unafraid of poking fun of themselves. However, competition has made the challenge even harder this year, and many changes in their roster (11 signings to date) will need to come together quickly.

Keep an eye on… Rubén Pérez.  After becoming an important player last year, midfielder Pérez decided to renew his loan from Granada because he wanted to play in La Primera. Granada agreed: showcasing their asset will allow them to sell him at a high price next summer.

Goal – Avoiding relegation

Levante UD

Last year, the Granotas were just unstoppable in Segunda, rolling over their opponents and capturing a historical promotion almost two months before the season had finished. A dozen moves within their squad and some smart signings, added to their 20,000 strong fanbase on their turf, are their best bet towards staying in La Liga this season

Keep an eye on… Enis Bardhi. The Macedonian striker has delighted fans this preseason with his goals, smooth positioning near the box and amazing free-kick skills.

Goal – After an excellent run in a lower division last year, fans expect both making the Ciutat de Valencia a stronghold where the team avoid relegation as quickly as possible.

Girona

In a huge season for a team that has never played in the top-flight. Montilivi has become an excellent testing site for Manchester City’s young and promising players due to the connections between the ownership of both clubs. Pep Guardiola’s brother Pere is the link that binds them together, and that has provided plenty of loans this summer

Keep an eye on… Larry Kayode. Girona’s latest attacker had an absolute bonkers season last year, scoring 24-goals in all competitions in Austria.

Goal – Anything that doesn’t mean getting relegated would be delightful for the Catalan fans, who will thoroughly enjoy their first trip in the cream of the crop of Spanish football.


Getafe

A whopping seventeen signings and eleven players leaving show that this summer has been particularly busy. After a late promotion that was official in June, there was little time to plan but Quique Bordalás will have plenty of raw materials he must shape into something that resembles a team.

Keep an eye on… Amath Ndiaye. After a great season in Tenerife, the Atlético striker has been loaned yet again to a smaller team in order to keep building up his stats, confidence and experience.

Goal – As the last team to come to the party, they are expected to struggle in the fight to avoid relegation.

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante’s news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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