The new La Liga season kicks off on the 24th of August. Champions Atlético Madrid will be looking to defend their title. It will be difficult for Simeone’s men as Barcelona and Real Madrid will be ready to hit back after finishing in second and third last term writes Jamie Currie.
All three of the title contenders have strengthened their squads in preparation for the league next season.
Real Madrid have signed James Rodríguez from AS Monaco on the back of his impressive World Cup display. Toni Kroos has signed from Bayern and Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas has also joined Los Blancos from Levante.
Barcelona, now with Luis Enrique in charge have also been busy in the market. After losing Víctor Valdés on a Bosman, they moved quickly to sign Marc-André ter Stegen from Gladbach and Claudio Bravo from Real Sociedad. They also replaced Fàbregas with the signing of Ivan Rakitić from Sevilla. The biggest signing of their summer was that of Luis Suárez who joined from Liverpool, forcing Alexis Sánchez’s sale to Arsenal. They finally signed some defenders as Jérémy Mathieu joined from Valencia and Thomas Vermalaen joined from Arsenal.
The reigning champions Atlético have used the money from the double sale to Chelsea of Diego Costa and Filipe Luís and re-invested it. Antoine Griezmann has come in along with Jan Oblak from Benfica, Mario Mandžukić from Bayern, Guilherme Siqueira from Granada, and a loan deal for Christian Ansaldi from Zenit. They have also added Mexican hitman Raúl Jiménez in attack from Club América to provide some depth in the forward position.
Valencia have also been busy in the market as they look to break into the top four. They sacked Pizzi at the end of last season and he has been replaced by former Rio Ave coach Nuno Santo. They also have been in the mix concerning the transfer market, mainly selling young left-back Juan Bernat to Bayern and Jérémy Mathieu to Barcelona. A few players are coming back from loan deals such as, Andrés Guardado, Nicolás Otamendi, Éver Banega, and Aly Cissokho—though the latter two have been now sold to Sevilla and Aston Villa respectively. They have added Benfica duo Rodrigo and André Gomes to the ranks, along with Yoel as the back-up keeper and young Argentine attacking midfielder Rodrigo de Paul from Racing Club and his fellow Argentine, Bruno Zuculini on loan from Manchester City.
Replacing Real Betis, Valladolid, and Osasuna in the division this season will be tiny Basque club Eibar along with Córdoba and former Champions League participants Deportivo La Coruña, who make their return to the top flight.
James Rodríguez to Real Madrid – £70.4m
Toni Kroos to Real Madrid -£26.4m
Luis Suárez to Barcelona – £71.28m
Ivan Rakitić to Barcelona – £15.84m
Rodrigo to Valencia – Season-long loan
André Gomes to Valencia – £13.2m
Jan Oblak to Atlético Madrid – £14.08m
Antoine Griezmann to Atlético Madrid – £26.4m
Mario Mandžukić to Atlético Madrid – £19.36m
Alfreð Finnbogason to Real Sociedad – £7.04m
YOUNGSTERS TO WATCH
Denis Suárez – Sevilla: The Barcelona loanee has already caught the eye with his performance in the European Super Cup against Real Madrid. His eye for a pass and somewhat cockiness in possession will be a real asset to Unai Emery this coming season.
Moi Gómez – Villarreal: The young attacking midfielder will be looking to establish himself in the first team. After his 21 league appearances last term, he will be looking to add to his goal tally of 2. His quick feet and ability to cause the full-back problems, means he will be one to watch as Villarreal look to join the top 4 this season.
Rubén Pardo – Real Sociedad: The midfielder, like the previous two nominations will be looking to nail down that place as the deep-lying playmaker in La Real’s side. He’s already been in good form in the Europa League qualifying matches against Aberdeen and will be looking to carry it into the first league fixture and beyond.
Paco Alcácer – Valencia: The 20-year-old will have still competition in order for him to be the main striker in Valencia’s team. He will be hoping his 14 goals in all competitions will give him a head start over new signing Rodrigo. He will more than likely be used as an impact sub, but his goalscoring instincts means he will be one to keep an eye on when he is entered into the action.
PREDICTIONS (all odds from Bet Victor)
Winners – Real Madrid (4/5)
Runners-up – Atlético Madrid (14/1)
Copa del Rey – Barcelona
Overachievers – Málaga
Underachievers – Athletic Bilbao
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