Another modest season for Athletico but still far better than the preceding one when they finished in the 16th place. They played significantly better and ended up in the 8th place, however, that wasn’t enough to qualify for the Europa League so Athletic will play only in Spanish competitions for the second season in a row. That might help them to preserve strength and finally make a better result although it is hard to tell is the team actually capable for something like that. They had a fair deal of problems in the previous season, especially in the first part when they moved down even to the drop zone but in the second part they improved a bit and even came close to the seventh place that could take them to the Europa League qualifiers. Athletic won the same number of points like Espanyol but weaker goal difference left them out of European competitions. Athletic had changed the manager in the course of season and Gaizka Garitano took the helm at the beginning of December with whom they started to play better and he will have chance to lead The Pride of the Basque Country from the very beginning of season.
As it is usual, the club policy shapes bringing new players and given they can be only Basques the choice is narrow. That is why Athletic didn’t buy anyone and instead they returned their players from loans and tried to keep important players. Experienced midfielders Iturraspe and M. Rico have left, who anyway were in background, and after many years M. Susaete is no longer with the team, who is another veteran. Stopper Etxeita left and they returned midfielder Vesga from loan to Leganes and Ganeu from loan to Numanica. Several junior players joined the A team and that would be it. Athletic will mostly rely in the new season on tried and tested players from the previous season and by that it is hard to expect something big from them.
Probable lineups Athletic Bilbao: Herrerin – Capa, Yeray, I. Martinez, Berchiche – Benat, Dani Garcia – Muniain, Raul Garcia, Cordoba – Williams
Forecast: Despite fact that Athletic is famous Spanish team we haven’t accidently listed them in the group of mid-table teams. They will rely on veterans from previous seasons and that wasn’t enough for better position so we see them again around middle of table, although with a bit of luck they might came close to European positions.
The second team from the Basque country also had problems in previous seasons and we are not going to watch Real Sociedad in European competitions this season. They ended up in the 9th place last season, one place higher than their great rival from Bilbao but they had less problems throughout the season and never went down too low. They never populated the drop one and only once came close to it. Although, they occupied the 7th place on couple of occasions and the position could take them to the Europa League if they kept it. They didn’t and have finished in mid-table, which definitely cannot satisfy their fans. Real Sociedad changed the manager in the course of season too and Imanol Alguacil arrived to San Sebasitan in December last year. Right after his arrival Real Sociedad had the best part of the season when they had eight-game unbeaten streak, which is why Alguacil will continue to lead the team.
The team underwent number of changes and they lost their best player Juanmia who moved to Betis. Experienced stopper Moreno also departed, while loans for T. Hernandez and S. Ramirez have expired. New forward is young Isak from Borussia Dortmund and he is supposed to succeed Juanmia, although the biggest reinforcement is offensive midfielder Portu from Girona and he is supposed to improve their attacking capabilities. New stopper is another young player Sangan from Lens, and they brought goalkeeper Remier from their bitter rival Athletico Bilbao who can easily become the first choice of manager Alguacil. They borrowed never proven Norwegian prodigy Odegaard from Real Madrid and have moved several player from their junior team to the A team. It cannot be said that are weaker but also they are not stronger, despite refreshing the team.
Probable lineups Real Sociedad: Remiro – Zaldua, D. Llorente, A. Elustondo, Munoz – Illarramendi, Zubeldia – Januzaj, Portu, Oyarzabal – Willian Jose
Forecast: Real Sociedad disappointed in the previous season with team that had been promising. They simply didn’t play well and only in one period they resembled a team that is ready to qualify for the Europa League. On the paper Real Sociedad still seems impressive, especially the starting line-up, and seems capable to reach Europe. They can definitely hope for that but it is questionable will they achieve that objective.
Villarreal was the biggest disappointment last season. Many predicted that will fight for the Europa League or even perhaps the Champions League but in the end Villarreal fought to survive. They were so bad at one point that seemed beyond salvation and that will be relegated from La Liga for the second time in short period. In the end Villarreal has avoided relegation but when a team which in previous seasons standardly finished in between the fourth and sixth places ends up in the 14th place it is clear how much their fans were disappointed. They spent a larger part of the season in the drop zone but had improved a bit in the finish. Naturally, they changed the manager in the middle of season and Javier Calleja arrived in January with objective to save what can be saved and given that he succeeded he stayed to try returning the Yellow Submarine to the upper half of table.
It is going to be difficult as they sold their best midfielder Fornales, and two stoppers Semedo and V. Ruiz have left as well. Two borrowed players, Sansone and R. Soriano were definitely sold to Italian Bologna, while Cheryshev left too, who was also loaned all the time. Out of more experienced players J. Fuego and A. Gonzales have left Villarreal too and when we add to this less important players it is significant number of departures. New stopper is experienced R. Albiol from Napoli, Ruben Pena came from Eibar on the right flank, and tried and tested A. Moreno from Liverpool on the left one. Anguiss will cover gaps in the midfield and he is borrowed from Fulham, while new forwards are Moi Gomez and Leonardo Suarez. Clearly, most of newcomers will get place in the starting line-up.
Probable lineups Villarreal: Asenjo – Ruben Pena, Funes Mori, R. Albiol, A. Moreno – Anguissa, Caseres, Cazorla, Samuel – Toko Ekambi, G. Moreno
Forecast: It is again a team that shouldn’t dwell in the bottom half of table and especially not in the drop zone, like it was the case last season. They must do better and we believe that will, where the only question is how much better. There are plenty of new players and if they fit in the team on time Villarreal can hope to fight for European positions, but in any case they should be positioned in the upper half of table.
Team that is somehow always predestined for the middle of table had made a step forward last season and finished in the 7th place, with which they reached the Europa League qualifications. Espanyol had a very good start and at one point it occupied the second place in the table. Clearly, they couldn’t maintain such pace for long and then came downfall to the 15th place after losing nine out of 10 matches. After that Espanyol played a bit better and finished the season with nine-game unbeaten streak that includes last three wins thanks to which they reached the Europa League. Weak period didn’t cost manager Rubi his job but on the other hand good results made near the end of season also didn’t allow him to keep it and David Gallego will lead Espanyol in the new season.
Standard stopper Hermoso left for Atletico Madrid and they definitely sold Aaron to Mainz 05. The rest are departures of mostly older and not so fit players like H. Perez, Rosales, legendary Sergio Garcia and O. Duarte. They needed stopper and they brought Espinosa from Girona, and it is pretty much definite that will buy one more goalkeeper, Dimitrovski or Bono. Experienced Iturraspe is new defensive midfielder who came from Athletico, whiele the strongest reinforcement should be midfielder Vargas who comes from Valez Sarsfield and borrowed Benfica’s forward Ferreyra. It seems that Espanyol’s attack is stronger now but its defence is weaker than last season.
Probable lineups Espanyol: Di. Lopez – J. Lopez, Naldo, Espinosa, Didac – Roca, Darder, Melendo, Vargas – Iglesias, Ferreyra
Forecast: Espanyol fans would be satisfied if their team repeat the previous season, or at least to avoid such great drop in performances. There were simply too many oscillations; Espanyol had two good and one weak period but nevertheless they won the 7th place. They will have strong competition for the 7th place this year, while on the other hand they can hardly do any better than that.
Celta didn’t play well in last three seasons but the last one was the worst in last couple of years and it needed just a bit to finish with relegation to the Segunda Division. They spent several rounds in the drop zone but in the end they avoided the worst case scenario, finishing in the 17th place, right above the drop zone. Antonio Mohamed started the season as Celta’a manager, then Miguel Cardoso took the helm, and in the end it was Fran Escriba who led the team in the finish of season and was the most deserving for their survival. He came in March and he didn’t do anything spectacular. Celta won only two away matches last year. Escriba’s task in the new season is to make Celta to play much better.
The team’s first forward Maxi Gomez left for Valencia but it can be said that was kind of trade since Santi Mina arrived in turn from the Mestalla to Vigo. Midfielder Jensen left, just like Emre Mor. Loans for Boufal and Boudebouz have expired and there will be no more midfielder Radoja and experienced stopper Cabral. The biggest reinforcement is Denis Suarez who comes from Barcelona, while second strong reinforcement is stopper Aidoo from Belgian champion Genk. Roncaglia and Beauvue are again there and that would be all what is worth mentioning, although they hope in Vigo to return experienced Nolito who would come very handy to Celta in the new season.
Probable lineups Celta Vigo: Ruben – Hugo Mallo, Araujo, Aidoo, Olaza – Lobotka, Yokuslu, D. Suarez, Mendez – Iago Aspas, Santi Mina
Forecast: It is clear that they don’t want rerun of the previous season that was full of uncertainty. It needed just a bit to get relegated from La Liga despite having team that is worth much more than that. Celta is of similar quality now with few changes that might do good, which is why we believe they should move toward the mid-table leaving the drop zone far behind.
After return to La Liga Getafe played well in two following seasons but the previous one was special. No one saw Getafe that high in the table, in fact many predicted them a survival struggle. They started modestly, or more precisely in accordance with expectations, but then they simply started to play better and rise in the standings. They went up all the way till the 4th place and stayed at it for a long time so it seemed that will qualify even for the Champions League, which would be a huge success. Two rounds before the end Getafe occupied the fourth place but then they lost to Barcelona and moved down to the fifth where they stayed till the end. Still, it was a great success for the small team from Madrid which doesn’t enjoy great support. Getafe won most points at home stadium. Manager Pepe Bordales did a great job and logically he stays the head coach in the new season, which will be especially challenging due to playing in the Europa League.
Interestingly, there was no player exodus which usually happens to small clubs when they make an excellent result. Shiibasaki left and loans for Foulquier, Salza and Cristoforo have expired. It can be said that were not big loses except perhaps Foulquier who was often a starter. Reinforcements are more interesting and the first name among them is Cucurella, who is young left back from Barcelona. On the right flank is Nyom who is borrowed, Moroccan Fajr will refresh the midfield, and there were several new forwards among whom we would single out Gallego from Huesca. This indicates that Getafe is stronger than it was last year, although it doesn’t mean that Getafe is ready to repeat the success.
Probable lineups Getafe: Soria – D. Suarez, Djene, Cabrera, M.Oliveira – Arambarri, Maksimovic, Portillo, Cucurella – J. Mata, J. Molina
Forecast: Although Getafe kept practically all most important players and have brought interesting reinforcements it would be too much to expect to repeat the previous season. They played like in trance and now they have to return to reality, which is in the best case the middle of table, although they might slide down even to the bottom half of table. Still, they shouldn’t worry about survival.
Levante played two previous seasons after return from the Segunda Division in practically the same way. They ended up in the same place and both times it was the 15th, meaning they weren’t far from the drop zone. Beginning of the previous season was bad when they entered the drop zone, than they had a good period when they reached the sixth place in the table, and then came another weak period. Levante was positioned right above the relegation zone but in last three rounds it managed to stay undefeated and in the end they had solid seven points more than teams in the drop zone. It can be noticed that Levante won the same number of times at home and away, although they lost more often outside their stadium. Paco Lopez was the manager from the beginning till the end and the club management has decided to continue cooperation with him in the new season in which they want to avoid oscillations.
Quick glance at their summer trading reveals that are stronger now than the last season. They bought stopper R. Vezo from the city rival Valencia, and new forward is S. Leon who comes from Betis. He will join B. Mayoral as they bought him too from Real Madrid. They brought two players from Huesca; midfielder Melero and right back Miramon. Hernani from Porto is also reinforcement, while O. Duarte and Clerc are refreshments in the defence. We should also mention midfielders Ivi and Prcic. Levante sold Ruben Garcia to Osasuna and that is practically the only true loss, although he was only borrowed. Jason went to Valencia and that is not a big loss, so altogether Levante is stronger at practically all positions.
Probable lineups Levante: Olazabal – Coke, Chema, R. Vezo, Clerc – Bardhi, Campana, Rochina – Hernani, Morales, Roger
Forecast: Levante wants more and better and it can be said that they have team capable for something like that. We listed them in the group of mid-table teams but as the last one, meaning they are on boundary between peace of mind that mid-table offers and dangers of the bottom half of table. There will be again ups and downs but in the end they shouldn’t worry about survival.