The new La Liga season begins today and it promises to be an eventful one.
The two top club teams in the world will be major European contenders again this season as Real Madrid’s players, with new coach Carlo Ancelotti, will be let lose after too many restrained years under prior coach Jose Mourinho. It will be up to Ancelotti to figure out how to use this barely contained torrent of talent and energy best. Expect Real (if their undefeated preseason turns out to presage good things to come--http://bit.ly/1cNuYo3) to have a very strong showing this year in La Liga and in the Champions League.
Last year’s champions, Barcelona FC, signed the third best player in the world, Neymar, to join Lionel Messi, the world’s best, and the team to beat at home and abroad. Barcelona, even under little known new coach Gerardo Martino, would have been the favorite to repeat as La Liga Champions, but with the addition of Neymar—and if the preseason was any indication (http://bit.ly/1aeFWRv) —they will be tough to beat in 2013-14.
Atletico Madrid, with new signing David Villa, the former Barca benchwarmer and the top scorer for the Spanish National Team, will have another banner year despite the departure of talisman and super star Radamel Falcao, now at Monaco. The core of the team remains and coach Diego Simeone seems intent on maintaining the torrid pace of the past couple of years. The team’s offensive alignment might change given the difference between Falcao and Villa and their midfield might also look somewhat different given the off season signings, but the team will play the same ball and will have a great opening day test against Sevilla tomorrow.
Real Sociedad, who finished fourth last season, behind the three teams mentioned above, will have a lot to build upon after their great 2012-13 season and despite the loss of key starter Asier Illarramendi. Making good on their first Champions League slot in over a decade, will be a team priority this season, but they will also be a contender for the same table slot come the end of this year, and thus will be a wild card every weekend.
Coastal Valencia and Malaga round off the top six on the table at the end of last season. The former squad is playing under a new coach and club president and will be working under a continuing economic strain, but given a strong roster, they should again contend for the upper third of the table. Malaga will spend this year restructuring after cashing in on the transfer of a large part of their former squad. They will not be as competitive and will be lucky to make it to mid table this season. The two teams will meet tomorrow to open their new campaign and all eyes will be on them as they set the tone for what can be expected from the rest of the clubs in this new La Liga year.
Though it is early to predict anything it would seem the rich keep getting richer and Real and Barca will once again contend for the domestic and continental hardware to be had. But, what will make this year eventful is the added incentive of players vying for roles in next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Watch for younger players trying to impress, aging ones striving for a last shot at glory and established ones to play as if to prove it is truly their time to shine.