With Iker Muniain’s injury and Andoni Iraola’s departure, Athletic fans have reason to view their chances this season negatively. However, there is some hope.
In the second half of last season Inaki Williams showed that he can provide an extra spark to the Basque squad. Williams brings pace and power, drives from the wide areas and poses a threat when in the penalty-box. He still has more to prove when it comes to his decision-making in the final third and composure inside the box. He has a more aggressive pressing approach, his pace makes him dangerous on the counter and he looks capable of playing across the entire attacking-midfield line.
Unlike their rivals, Athletic Bilbao cannot prepare for the campaign by spending big. Their team-building efforts have been severely hampered by the Basque-only recruitment policy. Iraola has departed, Muniain has a long term injury and enough prospects aren’t coming through the ranks to strengthen the first team.
The new signings include Eneko Boveda (from Eibar), Gorka Elustondo (Real Sociedad) and Javi Eraso (Leganes), but none are standouts and nor will they improve Athletic’s best XI from last season. They can only hope for an even better season from Williams.
With La Liga continuing to be extremely competitive Coach Ernesto Valverde will have quite a challenge in his attempt to keep Athletic in the top eight this term.
In the first and last thirds of last season’s campaign Celta Vigo played some exquisite football. Their build-up was good, movement impressive, but poor finishing let them down throughout the year. It was during the middle of the season that they went on a terrible run of scoring just one goal in nine games.It would be unfair place the blame on one player alone, but centre-forward Joaquin Larrivey was far more useful in holding up play than he was when it came to his finishing. New signing, John Guidetti has potential despite his temperamental attitude and inability to settle into a team early on in his career.
If they can sort out the supply line, Celta could be a lot more dangerous inside the box. A transfer target for Barcelona, Nolito’s form over the past 12 months along with the hope of a return to form of Iago Aspas now that he’s returned home, could make Celta a lot more dangerous inside the box.
Guidetti could be a star if he focuses on improving and actually playing regularly and Daniel Wass is an interesting addition, however they are all to some extent gambles. In addition, they have been unable to directly replace the control and reliable ball use of Krohn-Dehli so far this summer—and that has to be the biggest worry of all.
Deportivo La Coruna
Deportivo La Coruna’s problem last season was creating chances and the ability to put them away. There have been a number of summer signings that should add a huge amount of potential, vision, and ingenuity to the attacking-midfield line.
They have received Luis Alberto on loan from Liverpool and Fede Cartabia on loan from Valencia. Both are exciting players. They are capable of picking passes or dribbling to create space. Combined with the experience of Cani, and his good use of the ball in tight spaces; there is potential. Despite the increase in their creativity making them somewhat less predictable in attack, Oriol Riera still looks to be the main threat they will rely on to score the goals. Good luck to them.
Toche and Lucas Perez, their top two scorers last season, are gone. Riera has only really had a single season in the top flight with Osasuna where he scored regularly. Scoring could again be a problem for the club, and if it is, they’ll struggle to avoid being in the bottom group of teams once again.
Eibar must consider themselves lucky. They shouldn’t even be here, making this season a big bonus opportunity. Elche were demoted for financial reasons, granting a reprieve to Eibar who were relegated in 18th place after an awful 2015. As a result, a summer of squad rebuilding has been undertaken as the club looks to take advantage and extend their stay. However, with such a tiny budget it will be just as tough as last year.
If they have learned their lessons from the mistakes made last season, they should have at least a chance. They have brought in new players such as former Aston Villa left-back Antonio Luna, Atletico Madrid striker Borja Baston on loan and Levante’s centre-back Ivan Ramis. With so many changes, it will be a challenge for coach Jose Luis Mendilibar to create a cohesive unit that can be competitive.
The coach will have his work cut out for him. It won’t be easy to get them playing in a way that will earn enough points to stay up this time.
Replacing the influential Sergio Garcia will be next to impossible. Thievy Bifouma’s return from a loan spell could prove to be key. He scored three goals in the last five games on loan for Almeria last term. He also performed well at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the year. A direct runner, Bifouma has pace, power, and a fearsome shot. However it’s not a particularly accurate one.
The striker from Congo is a risk. In order to get the best out of him they need to get him back in training. The player didn’t show up for training at the start of summer and has yet to sort out his future. Unfortunately for Espanyol , without him they don’t have all that much to turn to. The club’s big problem is very evident. Key players who have left this summer haven’t been replaced by players of equal standing.
Goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, has moved to Real Madrid and been replaced by Inter Milan’s Francesco Bardi on loan. Bardi’s potential is undoubted, but this is a big step up for him. Espanyol need him to perform well. Espanyol haven’t signed a striker this summer and the signings of Burgui and Hernan Perez won’t be enough. A lot will be expected of Bifouma placing a great weight on his shoulders.
With their better performers quickly taken away, Getafe have to revamp their squad every summer. For the majority of each season they must rely on a number of loans to boost the quality and depth of the squad this season will be no different.
Real Madrid loanee, Alvaro Medran, could certainly make an impact in the top flight. Medran is a midfielder of immense technical quality. New signing at the Vicente Calderon Bernard Mensah has been loaned out immediately. The athletic Ghana international will be placed in the centre alongside Medran if required. Atletico Madrid’s 21 year old centre-back Emiliano Velazquez has returned for a second successive season. Moi Gomez from Villarreal is a decent loan signing. If they catch fire, Gomez and Medran, with their tremendous quality and potential can help propel Getafe to a different level of playing this season.
Getafe is arguably one of the most impressive sides in La Liga and yet they have been under the radar. Despite being a squad of mediocrity this small club with small ambitions manages to compete and stay in the top flight.
Getafe is always battling to get into the top half, which they will likely never bridge. A 15th-place finish last season suggests they will be near the relegation zone again but they should be safe as it they seem to have figured out a way to stay in the league.
Granada escaped relegation last season. They started well in 2014-15 and finished strongly. They have the chance to do the same again. Granada will face Eibar at home and Getafe away, both games from which they can take points. Of course it will get harder, as their third match will be against Villareal and then Real Madrid.
Right-back Allan Nyom finally departed to Watford and holding midfielder Manuel Iturra to Udinese, while young star Jeison Murillo has gone to Inter Milan. It’s going to be a long season of struggle once again, one they will do well to finish 17th in again.
Newly promoted Las Palmas haven’t made any changes to their squad just yet but they did make sure to sign top-scoring striker Sergio Araujo to a permanent deal.
With other top-flight clubs seemingly interested, Las Palmas had to be swift to secure him permanently. After scoring 26 goals last season in the Segunda Division, he should offer them a real goal threat in La Liga. If he is successful then they will inevitably sell him for a nice sum of money. He might guarantee the club an income of €8 million or more next summer if he decides to move on.
Many are expecting Araujo to make an impact in Spain. Can he prove himself in La Liga? It was only last year that Araujo started to score consistently. What is more worrying is that he isn’t always the composed, clinical finisher they will need him to be against much better defenses. Struggles lie ahead if he fails because they haven’t signed too many other players.
After scoring 34 goals over the course of the campaign Levante needed to make a small investment to fix that problem, with the €2 million capture of Deyverson. One of the most expensive signings in team history, the Brazillian will be expected to lead the attack. This will be interesting to see since he only scored eight goals for Belenenses last season, plus one while briefly on loan with Cologne.
Deyverson is not the only new player as the club have also signed Nabil Ghilas on loan. While on loan at Cordoba last season he scored seven, so they are certainly looking to improve their ability to score goals.
Levante’s biggest worry is making sure they get through the first two months of the season. By late October, Levante will have already faced five of last season’s top six teams. They will play Celta Vigo on the opening day, then Sevilla, Barcelona, Villarreal, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Valencia within the next nine fixtures.
Malaga’s attack doesn’t look to have the depth and range of skills they had last year, but the defensive side of the team certainly looks capable. They were smart to sign Raul Albentosa on loan. Sergi Darder and Ignacio Camacho will remain to anchor the midfield line. Malaga’s style of play was very direct, predictable and very straightforward last season, relying on good team shape and pace in attack.
Nordin Amrabat has signed permanently but Samuel, Samu Castillejo both left for Villarreal and Juanmi has gone to Southampton and that’s a large part of the attack. Restructuring is needed but Charles from Celta Vigo is not enough by himself to replace what has been lost.
They are going to find it tough to establish themselves back in the top eight this year when looking at the squads around them, but they should have enough in defence to push for another top-half finish.
Rayo Vallecano fans must be happy that manager Paco Jemez signed a new contract over the summer and wasn’t lured away by a bigger team. The club was quite impressive last season and they will need their adventurous coach to continue. Keeping Jemez in place is a massive boost for the club.
Even though his all-out-attack approach leads to goals at both ends, Jemez has managed results with players on short-term deals and loans. By the looks of things it will continue on into this season.
Top scorer and key attacker, Alberto Bueno along with Gael Kakuta, Javi Aquino, Leo Baptistao, and others have departed with another batch of mixed players taking their place. Free deals for Patrick Ebert and Jose Dorado look inspiring, but loans for others could go either way. It’s a short space of time for Jemez to try and blend together another new group and achieve some success.
At one time they were one of the more impressive sides in La Liga. As of late, however, Real Betis have been bouncing around between Primera and Segunda.Now that they have returned to the top flight they want to use this opportunity as a platform to grow again and maintain their status. Stability and solidifying a top-league position is the most important aspect this season.
The club’s summer work indicates they expect to be around longer than a single season.
Of course the main attraction is Rafa van der Vaart , but they have depth elsewhere. Francisco Portillo and Foued Kadir have been also been brought in to boost the offensive ranks and while German Pezzella and Didier Digard will bring some defensive solidity.
Despite their ambitions it’s still a big jump from La Segunda so they would be wise to remain patient, realistic and gradual about their progression.
Real Sociedad looked very organised and focused at times last season but lacked a killer threat in the final third. In his first few months at the club David Moyes did reasonably well organising Sociedad’s squad, making them harder to beat. Moyes has had six months in Spain to get used to La Liga; now he will face a full campaign to get the Basque club back into the top half. They can become the ‘Everton’ of La Liga.
La Real deserve respect for their summer of activity in the transfer market. The addition of Bruma on loan from Galatasaray could potentially bring goals to but the signing of Jonathas is one that guarantees a threat up front. With Carlos Vela more likely to play off Jonathas this could form a great partnership. Whether from the left or from deep, Sergio Canales will provide the creativity. The pace and creativity of Jonathas and Bruma could combine with Vela and Canales to impressive effect. The supporters of La Real have a lot to be excited about.
Moyes must now find a game plan that allows his offensive talents to express themselves one hundred percent and at the same time remain hard to beat at the back.
This summer has seen Sevilla’s display excellent work within the transfer market. Now their midfield now looks stacked with options and quality from flank to flank.
The Andalusian team have added Michael Krohn-Dehli and Steve Nzonzi to an already powerful midfield trio of Ever Banega, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Vicente Iborra. In the wider areas, they have acquired Gael Kakuta and Yevhen Konoplyanka , who are pacy, direct and bring a goal threat. Add to that the experience of Jose Antonio Reyes, the pace of Vitolo and the unpredictability of Denis Suarez and Sevilla will have no problem maintaining their position as La Liga’s dark horse. The signing of defenders Sergio Escudero, Adil Rami, and Mariano for less than £8 million combined is another example of the club’s smart business skills.
Carlos Bacca’s departure this summer will need to be resolved and Ciro Immobile is not the solution.Where Bacca was direct, lethal and full of pace, Immobile cannot match him for speed or indeed goal tallies. The Italian scored 22 goals in Serie A in 2013-14, but minus that campaign, his league tallies since 2010-11 are two, seven, five and, last year with Borussia Dortmund, three. How Sevilla saw this signing as a positive one is quite baffling. Sevilla relies on goals from their centre-forward, it is highly doubtful that Immobile will provide enough of those. Striker Kevin Gameiro is more likely to be chosen to start up front with the Italian taking up the role as a super-sub.
For Sporting Gijon, it’s all about taking it one game at a time. They are already picked to be among those teams to be relegated at the end of the season; so why not just enjoy the moment? The squad is lacking in top-flight quality, but maybe Sporting’s players can raise their game and face the challenge of playing against better players. They have a tough start against Real Madrid—but it’s quite likely that they have been looking forward to this day since their promotion was confirmed, so they should be relishing this challenge with confidence.
Carlos Carmona and Sergio Alvarezare the top players in the squad, despite their talent they will not be enough to keep the Sporting’s head above water. In order to have a successful campaign, serious recruits will be needed to be brought in and a lot of luck will be needed.
Valencia, last season, were fantastic to watch tactically, finishing as one of the better teams in the league. After having an excellent campaign that saw them finish fourth and earn a Champions League spot there has been a lot of uncertainty for Valencia this summer.
The club had intentions to secure players who were on loan last season. It seems though that not all of them were wanted or they were not willing to pay the set price. The biggest issue is the departure of Nicolas Otamendi. It was believed that he was staying at the club but Manchester City must have made an offer he couldn’t refuse. He was the standout defender in La Liga last season, and with him in place, the team would have had a great base to continue to build from. Now they are going to have to look towards Lucas Orbán and Antonio Barragán to solidify their defense.
By tying themselves into permanent deals for players who contributed last season Valencia are hampered. This is most evident with striker Alvaro Negredo who has cost them well over €20 million. Santi Mina, Mat Ryan and Zakaria Bakkali are ‘new’ names to the squad but none of them will be automatic starters.
With teams like Sevilla having improved over the summer things could get rough for Nuno Espírito Santo and his squad. As things stand, Los Che have a big task on their hands to fight for fourth again this season.
Villarreal starting this season with three of the four regular attackers from last season having departed: Ikechukwu Uche, Gio dos Santos, and Luciano Vietto. They will be missed. Uche is a direct, pacy and powerful runner who stretched teams and created the spaces for his team mates, Vietto is a schemer and a scorer and Dos Santos is the creator. However Villarreal jumped early into the transfer market to seal a double deal for Malaga’s twin attacking threat of Samu Castillejo and Samuel Garcia. This an important and impressive move by the Yellow Submarine.
These two provide quality on both flanks and Samuel can also be used through the centre as an option to stretch opposing defences. The direct, fleet-footed attackers will give. Villarreal a very different option to the attack compared to the likes of Gio and Jonathan dos Santos. In order to really push for the top six again more additions will be required.
The remaining forwards, Gerard Moreno, Leo Baptistao and Jon Pereira are more likely to drop in and construct rather than help open the pitch and run in behind. This can have a severe impact on Villarreal’s build-up play. If they don’t sign such a striker, then Marcelino will have to utilise Samuel as a No. 9 with his pace and direct play through the centre.