Barcelona dominates the Spanish football scene for years and it won the title in previous two, while in last seven seasons they won five titles. There is more to add and in last 14 years they weren’t the champions only three times, and they were never been positioned lower than the 2nd place since 2008. There is number of Cup titles, which they didn’t win last year. However, all this had happened in the past and the Catalans start each new season with an objective to become champions. They won the champion’s title last year probably in the easiest way and they didn’t occupy the leading place for only four rounds. Their biggest rival Real Madrid had totally underperformed and that eased Barcelona’s job as Atletico wasn’t strong enough to follow Barcelona. In the end they had 11 points more than Atletico and even 19 more than Real Madrid, and lost just three matches in the entire championship. It was the second season for E. Valverde in the manager role but he was criticised for failure in the Champions League and the Cup. Still, he kept his job and his goal is to rectify this.
For years sports press talk about Barcelona “atomic attack” which was strengthened last year for Coutinho and Debele, but the two of them didn’t exactly make a name for themselves. They added excellent French Griezmann to Messi and L. Suarez this year and now this is definitely attack capable of scoring over 100 goals in the championship. Barcelona is not stronger only in attack but it is in the midfield too, where they brought talented F. de Jong, who was one of Ajax key players last year. Problem in the previous season was position of left back where J. Alba was overstressed and now they brought Junior Firpo from Betis as a reserve. New goalkeeper is Neto who is replacement for Cillessen but he will be only reserve for ter Stegen. For the time being no important player has left, and most of players who left were those who were constantly loaned.
Probable lineups Barcelona: ter Stegen – S. Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, J. Alba – Busquets, de Jong, Arthur – Messi, L. Suarez, Griezmann
Forcast: Barcelona absolutely dominated La Liga; they practically had an easy stroll through it and now are even stronger. Undoubtedly, they are ready to win another title and definitely they will be determined to do so but many things will depend from Real Madrid and perhaps even Atletico. Still, Barcelona is the strongest favourite to win the new champion title.
When we take a closer look how Real Madrid fared in the previous season we can conclude that it couldn’t be worse. Besides losing the title they couldn’t even win the 2nd place, while backlog behind Barcelona was indeed huge. In previous seasons they managed to improve the overall picture with winning the European champion title but they failed in the Champions League being eliminated already in the round of 16. Barcelona eliminated them from the Copa del Rey in a very painful way. After such season the club management decided to change many things and near the end of the previous season they put back Zinedine Zidane at the manager position after Lopetegui didn’t achieve what he was supposed to and Solari proved incapable to lead the team. Ronaldo departure was felt very much, and it was visible that the team stars that stayed at the Bernabeu stadium are visible fatigued.
Fresh blood and reinforcements were definitely needed, although they had to bring one mega-reinforcement to all that makes sense. Eden Hazard was the choice and if the Belgian plays like he did in Chelsea and Belgian national team than Real Madrid has indeed got an extraordinary reinforcement who should make a significant change. He is not of Ronaldo’s calibre but anyway there are no such players on the market and it is to be seen how Hazard will fit in anyway. They refresh the attack with young Jovic and the same goes for him as for Hazard, since he played excellently in Eintracht Frankfurt but this is Real Madrid. Militao from Porto is new stopper, left back Mendy arrived from Lyon, and there is young Brazilian Rodrygo. Real sold players who weren’t in the foreground or were loaned. Out of them are worth mentioning Reguillon, Ceballos, J. Valley and M. Llorente. It will be interesting if Zidane opts to play with three stoppers.
Probable lineups Real Madrid: Courtois – Militao, Varane, Ramos – Carvajal, Casemiro, Modric, Marcelo – E. Hazard – Benzema, Jovic
Forcast: Catastrophe from the previous season simply mustn’t repeat. Real has brought several very good players and we should see a totally different team, with more élan and motive even among old-timers. They have a team capable to win the title or at least to fight on equal footing with Barcelona. So, Real will be the first or second but the second place is a failure for Real.
When Atletico finishes a season in a better positioned than the city rival Real it immediately makes the season successful. That was the case last season, and on top of it they defeated the city rival at the very beginning of season in the UEFA Super Cup. Still, they finished the championship as runners-up and this is only a moral victory over Real since the third place brings virtually the same reward, which is qualification for the Champions League. The first place was far and away, where Barcelona was untouchable but Atletico seems determined to attack that position this season. They underperformed in the Champions League last season as they were eliminated in the round of 16, although they had a lead of 2-0 against Juventus after the 1st leg. Atletico traditionally plays much better at home than away and had lost only once at it stadium, right to Real Madrid. Diego Simeone is the manager since 2011 and he stays for one more season to try to win the second championship title with the Mattress Makers.
They lost the team’s first star French Griezmann and it is especially bad that he moved to Barcelona, to strengthen their direct competitor. L. Hernandez left as well but he didn’t play much unlike Rodri whom they sold to Manchester City. There are no more experienced wingers Juanfran and F. Luis, and perhaps the biggest loss is departure of stopper Godin, without whom the best defence in La Liga will be definitely more vulnerable. Having in mind who has left we start to question Atletico’s optimism but they have brought Joao Felix, Portuguese star who will replace Griezmann. Hermose from Espanyol is replacement for Godin, and they brought M. Llorente from the city rival Real Madrid. Two new wingers are Trippier and Lodi. Herrera from Porto should be significant reinforcement for the midfield and replacement for Rodri. This was an interesting transfer window and Atletico has brought interesting reinforcement with whom they plan to attack the throne.
Probable lineups Atletico Madrid: Oblak – Trippier, Gimenez, Savic, Lodi – Thomas, Herrera – J. Felix, Koke, Saul Niguez – Morata
Forcast: Many changes and interesting reinforcement promise a spectacle at Wanda Metropolitano, but also at other stadiums. Atletico has team capable to parry Barcelona and Real Madrid, but many other things must fit together. Whatever happens they shouldn’t be positioned below the 3rd place but they want to finish in the 1st one.
The previous season was bad for Seville and they want to do much better in the new one. They even underperformed in the Europa League, the competition they won five times in the recent past. They were eliminated in the round of 16 by Slavia Prague, which was a huge surprise. They lost the Super Cup to Barcelona at the very beginning of the season and the same rival eliminated them in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. They did well in the first part of the championship and even twice had occupied the first place in the table, however, they lost steam later and finished in the sixth place. This means they haven’t qualified for Champions League and will have to settle for the Europa League. They changed the manager last season and in the end it was Joaquin Caparros, but Julen Lopetegui will lead Sevilla in the new season. The former manager of Spain U -21 team didn’t exactly make a name for himself on Real bench, and now he will try to be better with the Andalusians.
Many things changed in Sevilla. Pablo Sarabia left, who was one of better and more consistent players in previous seasons. Two forwards left as well, Promes and Muriel, just like stopper Mercado. Loan for striker An. Silvu has expired, and they loaned goalkeeper Sorian and midfielder Amadou. Shopping was far more interesting and now they have two new stoppers, Kounde from Bordeaux and D. Carlos from Nantes. Two new forwards are L. de Jong from PSV and Dabbur from Salzburg, while Ocampos, O. Torres, Jordan and Fernando will strengthen the midfield. They borrowed left back Reguilon from Real and when we put all this together they really strengthened the entire team and Sevilla now has a very respectable squad that is capable to play a significant role in the new season.
Probable lineups FC Sevilla: Vaclik – J. Navas, Kounde, D. Carlos, Reguilon – Fernando, Banega, Jordan – Ocampos, L. de Jong, Ben Yedder
Forcast: Sevilla has definitely reinforced its ranks this summer and it means it should play a more prominent role in La Liga. They probably want to again win the Europa League, while in La Liga that is going to be quite difficult as the competition is very strong and three teams are stronger on paper than they. It means that the 4th place is the least what they should win, and everything better than that would be a great success.
The previous season was very successful for Valencia on all fronts. In the Europa League they reached the semi-finals and were stopped by Arsenal, but before that Valencia did nothing in Europe for a long time so the semi-finals was a good result. They did even better in the Copa del Rey, which they won after defeating Barcelona in the final. Winning the title made the season a whole lot better and they played quite well in La Liga too. Valencia didn’t excel at the beginning and were positioned mostly in the bottom half of the table, but in the second part they kicked into higher gear and made their way to the 4th place. They often drew in the first part, even 16 times in the whole season, out of which 10 times at their Mestalla. They lost only two league matches in front of their fans, while none of the Big 3; Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, was able to defeat them. Manager Marcelino endured the hard time when Valencia was in crisis and later on he became a hero. He will expectedly lead Valencia in the new season.
Valencia didn’t trade much but they've made several changes. Goalkeeper Net went to Barcelona while Cillessen moved in the opposite direction and now he will be the first goalkeeper. Three stoppers have left too; Vezo, Murillo and Abdennour. Forward Zaza, whom Valenica used to borrow, is definitely gone, while perhaps the biggest loss is departure of Santi Mina to Celta. Valencia made a sort of trade here and brought forward Maxi Gomez from Vigo. Cheryshev is again in the midfield, and Jason and Vallejo have arrived to that part of the team. It is hard to say are they better and stronger than last season but they did bring several interesting players and, more importantly, have kept the majority of key ones.
Probable lineups Valencia: Cillessen – Piccini, Garay, G. Paulista, Gaya – Parejo, Kondogbia, Soler, Guedes – Rodrigo, Maxi Gomez
Forcast: It won’t be easy to make better result, or more precisely to qualify for the Champions League, as Barcelona and Real Madrid are standardly stronger, while Atletico Madrid and Sevilla have significantly reinforced their ranks, who are the first two teams that Valenica wants to overtake. If we take an objective look at Valenica’s team and bench it is more realistic to finish in the 5th or 6th place, while everything better than that would be a huge success.
We have put Betis in this group as they might surprise in the coming season. A lot was expected from Betis in the previous season but they disappointed. There were several good periods during the season and several times they managed to reach the 5th place. They were positioned mostly in the middle of table and they ended up in the 10th place. They disappointed in the Europa League and after good results in the group stage they were eliminated by Rennes in the round of 32. In the Copa del Rey they did well and reached the semi-finals when they were eliminated by later winner Valencia. They expected a lot from manager Quique Setien but he didn’t make a name for himself and he made poor results with a good team, so he is the former manager now. Ruby will lead Betis in the new season, who has already led several Spanish clubs.
Midfielder Lo Celso moved to Tottenham near the end of the transfer window and this is a huge loss and the main reason why Betis is downgraded this season. They also sold left back Junior Firp to Barcelona, while the first goalkeeper Pau Lopez is no longer with the team. These were big losses, while on top of it several other players who were borrowed have also left. New goalkeeper is Dani Martin from Sporting, Pedraza will cover the left flank instead of Firp, and Emerson from Barcelona will play at the right one. The two biggest reinforcements are forwards; Juanmi arrived from Real Sociedad and Fekir from Lyon, and because of two of them Betis seems capable to go high in the table.
Probable lineups Real Betis: Robles – Emerson, Bartra, Sidnei, Pedraza – W. Carvalho, Guardado – Fekir, Canales, Tello – Juanmi
Forcast: Real Betis can definitely better than it did last season. We expect to see Betis in the race for European positions and it is realistic to fight for the Europa League. They are not strong enough to reach the Champions League, especially as some other teams have strengthened their ranks as well and Betis won’t be able to follow their pace, but the 5th or 6th place are definitely within their reach.