La Liga, arguably the world’s most interesting league, enters into its 87th season campaign with Real Madrid as defending champions. As the new season offers new hopes and aspirations for all the participating teams and league stars, much would be set on ground by teams and individuals. Write BAAJI SAMSON and OTUNG GABRIEL
Real Madrid chances of retaining the league?
After enjoying the last La Liga campaign, the defending champions, Real Madrid, look set to retain their league title as much has been done by the club to ensure that they have a promising campaign this season. The club, which looks set to maintain their transition by using their youth players while vastly mingling them with their experienced players, have importantly tied down their current coach Zinedine Yazid Zidane to a three-year extension deal which would see him earning close to €8 million/year Thanks to his ability to deliver the Champions League twice in a row, coupled with successes both in La Liga and the UEFA Super Cup respectively, he has earned the trust of the Real Madrid faithful.
The chances of Real Madrid holding unto the league title will be seen on how well the team can put together an outstanding performance this season and so far, they have looked like doing that especially with their recent victory against their bitter rivals, Barcelona in the first leg of the Supercopa de España which saw Barcelona demolished 3-1. Real Madrid won the Supercopa de España 5–1 on aggregate for their 10th title after defeating Barcelona 2-0 in the second leg. Real could however retain the league title if they can continue to showcase such a wonderful display throughout the new La Liga season to come.
The Chances of Barcelona reclaiming the title
Despite having a poor campaign last season, the Blaugranas would be looking to impress. Trying to reclaim the league this season might have been slowed down for Barcelona especially with their recent loss of Neymar; the current most expensive player in the world, to PSG this summer. The ugly displace put out by Barcelona during their defeat to Real Madrid makes it even hard to comprehend how Barcelona will be able to challenge Real Madrid to win the league title. In an attempt to close up any leakage at their defence, Barcelona purchased Nelson Semedo from Benfica while also acquiring the services of Paulinho for €40million from Guangzhou Evergrande. But however, with many people criticising the transfer policy of Barcelona in the ongoing market, little is yet to be seen of how the new players can offer to improve Barcelona while trying to recover from the transfer shock of Neymar to PSG. After a shameful outing in the Spanish Super Cup, the chances of Barcelona reclaiming the league title looks to be on a low, considering the fact that they were outclassed by Real Madrid 5-1 on aggregate on Wednesday night. The current transfer window is also making it impossible for Barcelona to be considered as La Liga favourites as they have struggled to make good signing especially in their search for Neymar’s replacement.
Can Atletico beat all odds to win the title?
Atlético Madrid will be playing at their new stadium, Wanda Metropolitano, replacing their former stadium, Vicente Calderón Stadium, where they played since its opening in 1967. It was at the Vincente Calderón that Atletico won their record 10th La Liga title in the 2013/2014 season. Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona traded the lead several times throughout the season. Entering the final weekend of play, Atlético Madrid were three points ahead of 2013 champions Barcelona. However, with the two teams facing off, Barcelona could claim the title with a win. The game ended in a draw, giving the Colchoneros their first league title in 18 years, and their tenth overall. It was the first time since the 2003–04 La Liga that a club other than Barcelona or Real Madrid, who finished tied for second, have won the title. With the moving to its new stadium to the Wanda Metropolitano, the hopes are high that they crown the transition with the La Liga santander championship but the odds seem not to be in their favour as the team incurred the wrath of FIFA for breaching financial fair play rules, which has barred them from going into the summer transfer market to beef up the squad.
The emergence of Diego Costa and Koke was a large part of Atlético Madrid’s success. Costa scored 28 goals on the season (27 in league play), including the winner in Atlético’s first victory over Real Madrid since 1999. Koke had 18 assists on the year (13 in league play), to go with seven goals. With the spainard forward currents fate undecided at Chelsea considering his performance in the club last season finishing with a total of 20 goals and winning the English premier league though the club seems to have frozen him out of the current season, with the ban his dream to go back to the Spanish La Liga is somewhat crushed and this is a major blow to the Atleti team.
New and uprising teams offer to the La Liga Santander
A total of 20 teams will contest the league, including 17 sides from the 2016–17 season and three promoted from the 2016–17 Segunda División. This will include the two top teams from the Segunda División, and the winners of the play-offs. Levante was the first team from Segunda División to achieve promotion, after a one-year absence from La Liga, on 29 April 2017 after winning 1–0 against Oviedo. Girona was promoted as the runners-up after drawing 0–0 against Zaragoza on 4 June 2017; this was their first promotion to the top division. They will be the 62nd team to participate to Spanish top level league. Getafe was the last to be promoted after beating Huesca and Tenerife in the play-offs, one year after their relegation. The three promoted clubs will replace Sporting Gijón, Osasuna and Granada who were relegated at the end of the previous season. Could this be this season of magic for the new and uprising teams in league? Could smaller teams rise up to the occasion to challenge for the La Liga trophy? Or could it then be the turn of Sevilla, Valencia, or Bilbao to cause a major shakeup in La Liga?
Much hope is however expected from the just promoted teams to fight for spots in the la liga Santader top flight and for teams who have witnessed glory days in La Liga to impress, and this new campaign promises to bring a whole lot more.
La Liga top five signings
New and quality players have been added to the league for the new La liga Campaign as the 2017/18 La Liga season kicks off on Friday, but could the latest signings be desperate to shine? The determination of clubs to bring new players to their respective clubs could prove to make or mar their season but hopes would be high for the new faces on show.
One of La Liga’s most promising prospects, Dani Ceballos was signed off by Real Madrid after tussling with Barcelona to get the youngster’s signature. The Player of the Tournament at the European U21 Championship final in June was sold by Real Betis for a transfer fee of £15m (€16m).
In a deal worth £9m (€10m), the Belgian who failed to leave up to the expectation of becoming Manchester United’s next star joined Real Sociedad following disappointing loan stints at Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland respectively. Januzaj will be replacing Carlos Vela who is expected to join new franchise Los Angeles FC in January.
After having a successful spell in China, where Paulinho won an Asian Champions League and two league titles, Paulinho became Ernesto Valverde’s most expensive addition to the Barcelona squad. Despite having a disappointing impact in the Premier League, the ex Tottenham midfielder was purchased for a transfer fee of £36.4m (€40m) from Guangzhou Evergrande. The new Barcelona player’s addition has sparked criticism among many people as some see the signing as something of a gamble.
Switching to a rival club would probably not seem right to many people, but Theo Hernandez made his decision to Leave Atletico Madrid to Real Madrid in a deal worth£25m (€27m). Despite never playing a competitive match for Atleti, the 19 year old French player despite being a teenager will compete with Marcelo for the left-back spot at the Bernabeu. After getting the attention of Real Madrid while on loan at Copa del Rey finalists Alaves, he will be the first player to make the switch between the city rivals.
Despite losing Theo Hernandez to their Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s inability to sign players during this current transfer window, the club in the Canary Islands went for Vitolo who enjoyed a strong season at Sevilla last term, scoring six and assisting six in 30 league appearances. The deal however is undisclosed as he must spend the first half of this season on loan at Las Palmas due to Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban.
Other signings to look up to include; Enes Unal from Man City to Villarreal for a fee of £12m (€13.2m), Nelson Semedo from Benfica to Barcelona for a fee of £26m (€28.6m), Gerard Deulofeu from Everton to Barcelona for a fee of £10.5m (€12m), Luis Muriel from Sampdoria to Sevilla for a fee of £18m (€20m), Ryan Boudebouz from Montpellier to Real Betis for an undisclosed fee, Cristian Tello from Barcelona to Real Betis and a host of many others.