The new La Liga season sees Real Madrid facing life post Ronaldo and Zidane and trying to catch Barcelona – our Paco Polit makes his big predictions
In a wonderful magic trick, LaLiga is once again upon us but many thanks to the World Cup and an interesting bunch of friendlies filling the void during the summer. As with tradition, Cricketsoccer will once again try to nail our predictions regarding the winner of the La Liga title, the European spots and the three doomed teams at the end of the season… even before the ball starts rolling, but this will not stop soccer fans with predictions or not, they will still place their bets on DraftKings.
Champion – Barcelona
Unfortunately for most teams, the top seed is possibly the easiest one to predict. If we compare to last season, Barcelona have only lost legend Andrés Iniesta (who never had that crucial of a role in the team anyway in the 2017-2018 season) and added powerful and interesting players to their roster. Arthur is going to be very exciting to watch; Malcom, Arturo Vidal, Lenglet… all are going to add their own kind of special flavor to the mix.
However, my crystal ball also points out that Atlético Madrid are going to be their main opponent throughout the season. That’s right: Real Madrid’s gamble of Lopetegui won’t pay off and Los Blancos will be out of the title race pretty soon. Los Colchoneros and their mighty squad will be the only ones able to keep pace with Barça until the very end.
— FC Barcelona (from ?) (@FCBarcelona) August 16, 2018
Champions League spots – Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid, Valencia
The order might bounce around a bit depending on how seriously Real Madrid takes La Liga after getting their chances trounced in the first half of the season (do not discard a Lopetegui sacking and the signing of a star manager who can pursue a fourth Champions League trophy in a row), but the candidates are once again pretty much set in stone: Atlético, Real Madrid and Valencia.
Atlético will cruise to another presence in the top European competition and Real Madrid will have plenty of turmoil to cope with throughout the season. Valencia will be the real star here: their performance won’t be surprising if compared to last season, but The Bats will surely add a fair amount of unexpected wins after enhancing their team pretty much in every single position. Batshuayi and Gameiro in front, Cheryshev in the wing, Daniel Wass in the midfield… Arguably they are one of the two or three sides who made the most of the transfer market this summer.
? Love at first sight
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) August 16, 2018
UEFA Europa League spots – Sevilla, Villarreal
Now this is where things become interesting…many, many sides will have to fight for two spots that are up for grabs.
Sevilla are obvious contenders, especially since they will be playing the Europa League during the season and that will give them that extra competitive edge to have a 18 or 20-player rotation. They’ve lost N’Zonzi, Lenglet and Correa, but added fresh new talent such as Gnagnon or Amadou, with Pablo Machín in his sophomore season as a La Liga manager expected to do very well.
Villarreal are in a similar predicament, with veteran midfielder Santi Cazorla as their most exciting new player. Playing three competitions this season might penalize them, but they have showed resilience and experience in the past; eyeing a fifth or sixth place isn’t a long shot for the ‘Yellow Submarine’.
The man. ? pic.twitter.com/TAKC6ZE1Vj
— Villarreal CF English (@Eng_Villarreal) August 16, 2018
Ditto for Real Betis: after wowing everyone last season, they’re expected to keep surprising in Europe thanks to their Benito Villamarin stronghold with 50,000+ in attendance. However, this might cause some slight slump in La Liga due to their squad not being used to playing two games per week. And that’s were an outsider comes in: will Celta be a contender, or Real Sociedad, or Athletic Club?
Relegation – Huesca, Rayo Vallecano, Real Valladolid
The three obvious candidates are the three teams that won promotion from La Segunda last season. SD Huesca, Rayo Vallecano and Real Valladolid will have to fight tooth and nail to prove they’re worthy of remaining further seasons in top flight.
After last season’s disappointing final rush and with no top-level signings this summer, Leganés are also in for one hell of a ride.
Finally, Alavés and Levante UD will need to amass quite a large number of points early on if they don’t want trouble further along the road…even if the Granotas showed in the last ten games of the 2017-2018 season that they are capable of knocking down any giants they come across.