Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two best teams in the world (at least in the eyes of some) will once again head into a Spanish Primera Division season as the clear-cut favorites and opponents ready to turn La Liga into their own punching bag.
There is little mystery as to which teams will be dominating the Spanish League yet again. The only question heading into the new campaign is which team will take the title. Last year, Real Madrid enjoyed a season for the ages, which explains why the club was relatively quiet on the transfer front this summer (though Luka Modric is a very likely acquisition).
Barcelona looks poised to take the title back thanks to the addition of Jordi Alba and the expected return of David Villa. The big loss for Barca was head coach Pep Guardiola, who stepped away and left the job to assistant Tito Vilanova.
If there is a team that could conceivably make a run at the top two, it's Valencia, which loaded up this summer with a handful of quality signings. Sergio Canales and Andres Guardado should help boost the Valencia attack while Fernando Gago should provide some bite to the midfield.
Here is a closer look ahead to the 2012-13 Spanish Primera season:
Real Madrid, Barcelona
The gap between these two teams and the rest of La Liga remains enormous, but the battle between Real Madrid and Barcelona will be worth following the entire season. Barcelona should be stronger this year, but the loss of Pep Guardiola is what could keep Barcelona from closing the distance and beating Real Madrid this year.
Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla
Valencia is a strong bet for third place, while Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao will all be vying to break into the top four.
Atletico still has a team capable of challenging Valencia, especially with Falcao still a supreme scoring threat, while Sevilla remains a good bet to get back into the top four mix.
Last year's surprises, Levante and Malaga, will be hard-pressed to duplicate last season's success. Lack of funds kept Levante from really strengthening their team, while Malaga saw plenty of their stars bolt after last season.
Athletic Bilbao should be a fun team to watch again, and another year under Marcelo Bielsa should only help. Losing Javi Martinez and potentially losing Fernando Llorente will be tough to overcome, but Bilbao will still have plenty of firepower, including the dynamic Iker Muniain.
Sevilla endured a disappointing ninth-place finish last season, but appear primed for a bounceback campaign. Some sharp signings, including goalkeeper Diego Lopez and Dutch midfielder Hedwiges Maduro should bring the club back to the fringes of the Top Four.
Jordi Alba from Valencia to Barcelona
Andres Guardado from Deportivo La Coruna to Valencia
Cristian Rodriguez from Porto to Atletico Madrid
Emre from Fenerbahce to Atletico Madrid
Aritz Aduriz from Valencia to Athletic Bilbao
Sergio Canales from Real Madrid to Valencia
Fernando Gago from Roma to Valencia
Joan Capdevila from Benfica to Espanyol
Joao Perreira from Sporting Lisbon to Valencia
Diego Lopez from Villarreal to Sevilla
Hedwiges Maduro from Valencia to Sevilla
Carlos Marchena from Villarreal to Deportivo La Coruna
How will Barcelona adjust to new head coach Tito Vilanova?
Pep Guardiola brought Barcelona to an incredible run of success, but we won't know just how much of that success was a credit to him until we see that same team under a new boss. Enter Vilanova, who is respected by the team and was a close ally of Guardiola. Trying to match, or even come close to matching, the success of his predecessor could be a burden that makes things even more difficult as Vilanova tries to catch Real Madrid.
Can Real Madrid improve on last season's incredible run?
The race for first place was such an intense one last season that it was easy to miss just what an incredible season Real Madrid put together. Jose Mourinho even acknowledged that surpassing the league success of last season might be a bit too ambitious.
Is Valencia capable of closing the gap on the top two?
Yes, I will admit that the answer to this is no, but it does make you wonder just what it would take for Valencia to pose a real threat to the top two. The additions of Andres Guardado, Sergio Canales and Fernando Gago to a squad that already featured Roberto Soldado, Ever Banega and David Albelda should help Valencia stay some distance ahead of the pack for third place.
Will Marcelo Bielsa make Athletic a true force despite losing stars?
Bilbao's excellent showing in the Europa League last season gave us a glimpse of what sort of excellent soccer mad genius Bielsa could spin with outstanding young talent. The question now is how will the team adjust to the inevitable loss of that generation of starlets. Javi Martinez will be the first to go, while Fernando Llorente is a target for several clubs in Europe. If Bielsa can invest wisely with the transfer revenue generated by those players, Bilbao could make a charge at the Top Four.
Which team do you think will win La Liga? Do you see any team being able to break the grip on the top two spots held by Barcelona and Real Madrid? Which promoted team do you think has the best shot of making a home in the top flight? What are you looking forward to the most this La Liga season?
Share your thoughts below.
Matches; Brazilian league – first class; MLS – excellent; Argentina – Primera; FA Cup; World Cup qualifier – Europe ..
So true. But you can watch Nottingham Forrest play nobody that matters every weekend. Yeah.
Disagree. Our salary cap is bogus with three DPs. And the playoff system rewards mediocrity in the regular season, Colorado won the cup. Really? It is exciting but it is not the best system in my eyes.
Reminds me of how we are doing things right with salary cap and playoffs.
Outside of Portland and Toronto, any MLS team has a chance at the title. Fans want to see the best teams playing each other at the end of the season.
Competition is good.
From what I’m hearing Valencia is going to try and take the same approach with Guardado that they did with Alba, who also started further up the field. Also, The Capdevila transfer is hardly big news, considering he’s going on thirty-five. That just smells of Espanyol panicking over left back after Didac went back to A.C. Javi Marquez to Mallorca is a pretty interesting signing.
The gap between these two teams and the rest of La Liga remains enormous… forget the rest of La Liga. The gap between these two teams any any other collection of players, real team or fantasy squad, is enormous.
You could take the best player in the world at every position outside of these two teams and place them on one team, and Barca/Madrid would most likely still steam roll them.
I mean think about it… C. Ronaldo had the greatest season ever for a Real Madrid player on route to breaking the freaking 100 point mark for the season. He was outscored by 10 goals by Messi who broke the world record by like 7 goals.
It’s just unfair. Only chance of beating them is extreme luck or fatigue on their part for playing too many games.
I thought Marcelo Bielsa resigned from Athletic Bilbao?
The story I recall was due to some odd circumstances of a confrontation with the stadium construction staff and the club not supporting his side of the situation.
La Liga is dead to me.
On a serious note, really hoping their new channel affiliation gets sorted out for those us without Dish/Direct TV.
While the big names will be on the usual network (ESPN), I always enjoy watching the mid to low table spanish sides.
I’m really disappointed that there will be no online La Liga coverage for us here in the US.
I’m really hoping Valencia can make a run for the top of la liga. Wishful thinking, I know.