La Liga Season Preview: Barcelona, new-look Real Madrid ready to square off

La Liga Season Preview: Barcelona, new-look Real Madrid ready to square off

European Soccer

La Liga Season Preview: Barcelona, new-look Real Madrid ready to square off

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Barcelona ran away with last season’s La Liga title, and what did the club do? The Blaugrana added star attacker Antoine Griezmann to an attack that already features Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid spent significant money this summer following the return of manager Zinedine Zidane on players like Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy and Eder Militao.

With the league’s two biggest clubs boasting incredibly talented rosters, along with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, can anyone outside the top three make a run at the title in 2019/20?

Here is SBI’s full 2019/20 season preview for Spain’s La Liga:

Alaves

Transfers In: Aleix Vidal (Sevilla), Tachi (Atletico Madrid B), Joselu (Newcastle United), Pere Pons (Girona), Olivier Verdon (Sochaux), Luis Rioja (Almeria), Lucas Perez (West Ham), Jeando Fuchs (Sochaux), Daniel Torres (Albacete), Rafa Navarro (Sochaux), Nando (Extremadura), Javi Munoz (Oviedo), Ermedin Demirovic (Almeria)

Transfers Out: Ramon Mierez (Tenerife), Adrian Dieguez (Alcorcon), Anderson (Fuenlabrada), Carlos Vigaray (Zaragoza), Antonio Cristian (Fuenlabrada), Diego Rolan (Deportivo La Coruna), Jony (Malaga), Takashi Inui (Real Betis), Jonathan Calleri (Deportivo Maldonado), Darko Brasanac (Real Betis), Alex Blanco (Valencia), Borka Baston (Swansea City)

Player to Watch: Aleix Vidal is a proven La Liga player, and adds stability at outside back for Alaves heading into the new season.

Outlook: Alaves finished mid-table last season despite the team’s lack of goalscoring. The team has added former Newcastle striker Joselu, but that might not be enough to give the team the spark it needs up front.

Athletic Bilbao

Transfers In: Jokin Ezkieta (Barcelona B), Mikel Vesga (Leganes), Cristian Ganea (Numancia), Xabier Etxeita (Huesca)

Transfers Out: Ander Iturraspe (Espanyol), Mikel Rico (Huesca), Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad)

Player to Watch: Mikel Vesga is a little-known commodity outside of La Liga, but he played incredibly well for Leganes last season, sitting in front of the back line. He’ll provide more stability to a defensive unit that allowed less goals than Real Madrid and Sevilla in 2018/19.

Outlook: One of the least active teams this summer in La Liga, Bilbao keeps a very strong roster from last season. They won’t contend for a title, but this is a squad built for another top-10 finish and could potentially contend for Europa League.

Atletico Madrid

Transfers In: Mario Hermoso (Espanyol), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Ivan Saponjic (Benfica), Renan Lodi (Athletico Paranaense), Hector Herrera (Porto), Joao Felix (Benfica), Felipe (Porto), Marcos Llorente (Real Madrid), Sime Vrsaljko (Inter Milan),

Transfers Out: Juanfran (Sao Paolo), Hector Hernandez (Fuenlabrada), Filipe Luiz (Flamengo), Andre Moreira (Belenenses), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Nehuen Perez (Famalicao), Rodri (Manchester City), Axel Werner (Atletico San Luis), Luciano Vietto (Sporting CP), Bernard Mensah (Kayerispor), Gelson Martins (Monaco), Nicolas Ibanez (Atletico San Luis), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Diego Godin (Inter Milan)

Player to Watch: It has to be Joao Felix, right? After a stunning preseason for his new club, Simeone and Co. are already catching a glimpse of just how special the former Benfica man can be.

Outlook: The loss of Griezmann was massive, but Felix cushions the blow in a big way for Atletico. Defensively, the team looks just as good as they have been in past seasons despite the loss of Godin and Hernandez. This is a title-contending squad, although Barcelona should still have a leg up.

Barcelona

Transfers In: Junior Firpo (Real Betis), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Neto (Valencia), Emerson (Atletico Mineiro), Frenkie de Jong (Ajax)

Transfers Out: Malcom (Zenit), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe), Douglas (Besiktas), Marc Cucurella (Getafe), Adrian Ortola (Tenerife), Andre Gomes (Everton), Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Jelson Murillo (Valencia), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Sassuolo)

Player to Watch: Although Barca didn’t spend big in an effort to upgrade its aging defense, Frenkie de Jong provides strength for the Blaugrana in the midfield as another line of defense.

Outlook: It’s predictable that Barcelona will be in the title race, and this season, should be the favorites once again. However, this team still has its concerns on the defensive end. Barca lacks depth behind Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti, so that’s an area to watch this season in the event that either miss time.

Celta Vigo

Transfers In: Jorge Saenz (Valencia), Santi Mina (Valencia), Joseph Aidoo (Genk), Denis Suarez (Barcelona), Gabriel Fernandez (Penarol), Dennis Eckert (Excelsior), Claudio Beauvue (Caen)

Transfers Out: Facundo Roncaglia (Osasuna), Emre Mor (Galatasaray), Robert Mazan (Tenerife), Maxi Gomez (Valencia), Andrew Hjulsager (Oostende), Mathias Jensen (Brentford), Gustavo Cabral (Pachuca), Wesley Hoedt (Southampton), Sofiane Boufal (Southampton), Ryad Boudebouz (Real Betis)

Player to Watch: Denis Suarez comes into the fold after being loaned from Barcelona to Arsenal a season ago. He simply fits much better in La Liga, and should provide Celta with an attacking weapon that will give them much assurance going forward.

Outlook: The club made some decent moves in the summer transfer window, but Santi Mina and the defensive unit have to tidy up this season in order to stave off relegation once again.

Eibar

Transfers In: Takashi Inui (Real Betis), Quique (Deportivo La Coruna), Edu Esposito (Deportivo La Coruna), Roberto Olabe (Atletico Madrid B), Rober Correa (Cadiz), Ruben Lobato (Ovideo B), Esteban Burgos (Alcorcon), Alvaro Tejero (Real Madrid Castilla), Pedro Bigas (Las Palmas), Yoel (Villadolid), Nano (Tenerife)

Transfers Out: Jose Antonio Martinez (Granada), Asier Benito (Ponferradina), Roberto Olabe (Albacete), Marc Cucurella (Barcelona), Unai Elgezabal (Alcorcon), Ruben Pena (Villareal), Pere Milla (Elche), Joan Jordan (Sevilla), Pablo Hervias (Valladolid), Marc Cardona (Barcelona B)

Player to Watch: Edu Esposito comes into Eibar having played in Spain’s second division a season ago, and the midfielder provides a stable force in the center of the park for the Gunsmiths.

Outlook: Eibar fared well against the league’s top sides last season, but they’ll need to be more consistent against mid-table opposition in 2019/20 to have a shot at finishing in the top half of the standings.

Espanyol

Transfers In: Fernando Calero (Valladolid), Andrés Prieto (Leganes), Matías Vargas (Velez Sarsfield), Ander Iturraspe (Athletic Bilbao), Bernardo Espinosa (Girona), Pipa (Gimnastic)

Transfers Out: Oscar Duarte (Levante), Hernan Perez (Al Ahli), Mario Hermoso (Atletico Madrid), Álvaro Vázquez (Sporting Gijon), Roberto (West Ham United), Aarón Martín (Mainz 05), Alfa Semedo (Benfica), Roberto Rosales (Malaga)

Player to Watch: Ander Iturraspe is a La Liga veteran, and after finishing in seventh last season, Espanyol could use an infusion of experience in its already-talented midfield.

Outlook: After finishing in Europa League qualification a season ago, Espanyol is poised to see a repeat in 2019/20 after keeping many of the squad’s most crucial pieces.

Getafe

Transfers In: Fayçal Fajr (Caen), Allan Nyom (West Bromwich Albion), Marc Cucurella (Barcelona), Enric Gallego (Huesca), Raul Garcia (Girona), Merveil Ndockyt (Barcelona B), Filip Manojlović (Panionios), Jose Lazo (Lugo), Robert Ibáñez (Osasuna), Chuli (Extremadura), Iván Alejo (Malaga)

Transfers Out: Jack Harper (Alcorcon), Miguel Angel (Fuenlabrada), Gaku Shibasaki (Deportivo La Coruna), Álvaro Jiménez (Albacete), Samuel Sáiz (Leeds United), Dimitri Foulquier (Watford), Sebastián Cristóforo (Watford)

Player to Watch: Enric Gallego dominated the Segunda Division last season, scoring 25 goals for Extremadora before being recalled to Huesca. He offers a legitimate striker option for Getafe, and that could be the difference for the club finishing inside the top four.

Outlook: Getafe boasted the second-best defense in La Liga last season, allowing just 35 goals. If they can get a greater infusion of goals from their attack this season, top five might not be the limit for the squad.

Granada

Transfers In: Darwin Machís (Udinese), Yangel Herrera (Manchester City), Yan Brice Eteki (Sevilla), Roberto Soldado (Fenerbahce), Domingos Duarte (Sporting CP), Fede Vico (Leganes), Neyder Lozano (Elche), Raúl Baena (Melbourne Victory)

Transfers Out: Sergio Pena (Emmen), Pablo Vazquez (Badajoz), José Antonio González (Cordoba), Adri Castellano (Numancia), Fede San Emeterio (Valladolid), Alejandro Pozo (Sevilla Atletico), Dani Ojeda (Leganes), José Antonio Martínez (Eibar)

Player to Watch: Yangel Herrera is a familiar name for MLS fans after spending time with New York City FC, and the Venezuelan midfielder is a legitimate talent. On loan from Manchester City, Herrera is a fierce ball winner in the center of the park.

Outlook: Granada enters La Liga again for the first time since 2016/17, and the club’s biggest aim should be survival. The team has struggled greatly in past trips to the top flight, finishing 15th place or lower every season they’ve been in La Liga since the 1973/74 campaign.

Leganes

Transfers In: Roberto Rosales (Malaga), Marc Navarro (Watford), Martin Braithwaite (Middlesbrough), Alex Martin (Real Madrid Castilla), Juan Soriano (Sevilla), Federico Varela (Porto B), Aitor Ruibal (Real Betis), André Grandi (Internacional Madrid), Jonathan Silva (Sporting CP), Juan Muñoz (Alcorcon), Josua Mejías (Gimnastic), Owusu Kwabena (Salamanca), Facunda Garcia (AEK Larnaca)

Transfers Out: Andrés Prieto (Espanyol), Mamadou Koné (Deportivo La Coruna), Dani Ojeda (Albacete), Fede Vico (Granada), Ezequiel Muñoz (Lanus), Nabil El Zhar (Al Ahli), Mikel Vesga (Athletic Bilbao), Michael Santos (Malaga), Diego Reyes (Fenerbahce), Oscar (Real Madrid Castilla), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea), Allan Nyom (West Bromwich Albion), Sabin Merino (Athletic Bilbao), Andriy Lunin (Real Madrid), Juanfran (Deportivo La Coruna), Guido Carrillo (Southampton)

Player to Watch: Marc Navarro comes on loan from Watford and boasts La Liga experience after spending time with Espanyol.

Outlook: Leganes has added some strong pieces this offseason, which should allow the club to fend off relegation.

Levante

Transfers In: Oscar Duarte (Espanyol), Gonzalo Melero (Huesca), Hernani (Porto), Ruben Vezo (Valencia), Jorge Miramon (Huesca), Sergio Leon (Real Betis), Carlos Clerc (Osasuna), Sanjin Prcić (Strasbourg), Iván López (Gimnastic), Ivi (Sporting Gijon)

Transfers Out: Rober Pier (Deportivo La Coruna), Jason (Valencia), Pedro Lopez (Huesca), Raphael Dwamena (Zaragoza), Koke Vegas (Deportivo La Coruna), Esteban Saveljich (Rayo Vallecano), Chema (Nottingham Forest)

Player to Watch: Ivi was a key figure for Sevilla B for several seasons, and has proven that he can score plenty of goals. If he can transition to the top flight, Ivi could provide another spark in the attack.

Outlook: Levante allowed the second-most goals in La Liga last season (66), and 2019/20 might not see the club’s fortunes allow them to remain in Spain’s top flight.

Mallorca

Transfers In: Aleksandar Trajkovski (Palermo), Igor Zlatanović (Radnik Surdulica), Lumor Agbenyenu (Sporting CP), Aleksandar Sedlar (Piast Gliwice), Aleix Febas (Real Madrid Castilla), Josep Sene (Cultural Leonesa), Pablo Chavarría (Reims), Alex Alegria (Real Betis), Martin Valjent (Chievo), Ante Budimir (Crotone), Pierre Cornud (Linense)

Transfers Out: Pervis Estupinan (Watford), Salva Ruiz (Valencia), Nikola Stojiljkovi (Braga), Leonardo Suarez (Villareal), Leandro Montagud (Cultural Leonesa), Sergio Buencasa (Ponferradina), Franco Russo (Ponferradina), Alvaro Bustos (Ponteverda), Pol Roige (GIF Sundvall), Carlos Castro (Lugo), Pablo Valcarce (Ponferradina), Stoichkov (Alcorcon), Alejandro Faurlín (Marbella), Fernando Cano (Lleida Esportiu), Bryan Reyna (Barakaldo), Alex Lopez (Extremadura)

Player to Watch: Alex Alegria needed a change of scenery after his time at Real Betis and numerous loan deals, and the newly-promoted side could be the right fit.

Outlook: Mallorca was a regular in La Liga up until 2012, and after six seasons away from the top flight, they finally make their return. Expectations won’t be extremely high for the club, but Mallorca has added some seasoned veterans to attempt to make their stay in La Liga an extended one.

Osasuna

Transfers In: Facundo Roncaglia (Celta Vigo), Adrian Lopez (Porto), Darko Brašanac (Real Betis), Pervis Estupiñán (Watford), Chimy Ávila (San Lorenzo), Brandon (Rennes), Marc Cardona (Barcelona B), David Rodriguez (Numancia), Antonio Otegui (Melilla)

Transfers Out: Imanol Garcia (Cordoba), Jaume Grau (Lugo), Miguel Diaz (Tudelano), Carlos Clerc (Levante), Roberto Ibanez (Getafe)

Player to Watch: Chimy Ávila came up in Argentina with San Lorenzo, but his experience at Huesca should give him plenty of confidence to come into La Liga and succeed immediately. Osasuna will need the diminutive attacker in order to sustain attacking success this season.

Outlook: After two seasons down, Osasuna is back in La Liga and they boast a strong roster that won the Segunda Division a season ago. They may not survive to see another season in La Liga, but they’ll be exciting to watch while they’re here.

Real Betis

Transfers In: Yassin Fekir (Lyon II), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Dani Martin (Sporting Gijon), Alfonzo Pedraza (Villareal), Juanmi (Real Sociedad), Juanjo Narváez (Almeria),

Transfers Out: Jese (Paris Saint-Germain), Sergio Leon (Levante), Alex Alegria (Mallorca), Aitor Ruibal (Leganes), Pau Lopez (Roma), Alin Tosca (Gazişehir Gaziantep), Darko Brasanac (Osasuna), Takashi Inui (Eibar), Ryad Boudebouz (Saint-Etienne), Junior Firpo (Barcelona), Victor Camarasa (Crystal Palace), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham Hotspur)

Player to Watch: Nabil Fekir was poised for a move to the English Premier League, but somehow ended up with Betis. That’s a massive get for a mid-table La Liga side. He instantly makes this attack better.

Outlook: Real Betis boasts a strong squad, and the addition of Fekir gives them a legitimate star. He’ll need to adjust immediately to carry over his form from Ligue 1, but if he does, Betis could move into European qualification next season.

Real Madrid

Transfers In: Rodrygo (Santos), Eder Militao (Porto), Ferland Mendy (Lyon), Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Lucas Silva (Cruzeiro), James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich), Andriy Lunin (Leganes)

Transfers Out: Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Raul de Tomas (Benfica), Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad), Sergio Reguilón (Sevilla), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Luca Zidane (Racing Santander), Dani Ceballas (Arsenal), Jesus Vallejo (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Player to Watch: Eden Hazard is the most important player for this team, and not just because of the money that was spent on him. Rumors are already circulating that the club could loan Luka Jovic out after spending big on the former Eintracht Frankfurt player, and Real needs a spark in the attack. Hazard offers that.

Outlook: It’s pretty simple for Real. They’ve spent loads of money, and yet they haven’t gotten it together during preseason. While it’s only preseason, there are clear signs that Madrid hasn’t addressed the areas of deficiency that hindered the club a season ago.

Real Sociedad

Transfers In: Martin Ødegaard (Real Madrid), Portu (Girona), Alex Remiro (Athletic Bilbao), Alexander Isak (Borussia Dortmund), Modibo Sagnan (Lens)

Transfers Out: Theo Hernandez (Real Madrid), Sandro Ramirez (Everton), Juanmi (Real Betis), Jon Bautista (Eupen), Eneko Capilla (Asteras Tripolis), Martín Merquelanz (Albacete), Hector Moreno (Al-Gharafa)

Player to Watch: Martin Odegaard has been living with the Messi/Ronaldo tag for awhile, and another loan move from Real Madrid sees the 20-year-old in La Liga after succeeding in Holland last season.

Outlook: Sociedad lost a few key pieces from last season, but the moves for Odegaard and Isak are massive for the mid-table club. Their attack should be fun to watch, and at least make them a relevant team throughout the season.

Sevilla

Transfers In: Nemanja Gudelj (Guangzhou Evergrande), Óliver Torres (Porto), Fernando (Galatasaray), Sergio Reguilón (Real Madrid), Lucas Ocampos (Marseille), Jules Koundé (Bordeaux), Maximilian Wöber (Ajax), Joan Jordán (Eibar), Luuk de Jong (PSV Eindhoven), Moanes Dabour (Red Bull Salzburg), Diego Carlos (Nantes), Sergio Rico (Fulham), Sébastien Corchia (Benfica)

Transfers Out: Ibrahim Amadou (Norwich City), Aleix Vidal (Alaves), Yan Brice Eteki (Granada), Juan Soriano (Leganes), Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain), Quincy Promes (Ajax), Luis Muriel (Atalanta), Gabriel Mercado (Al-Rayyan), André Silva (AC Milan), Marko Rog (Napoli), Maxime Gonalons (Roma)

Player to Watch: Luuk de Jong comes over from PSV after scoring a ton of goals in the Netherlands. Sevilla lost a bunch of attacking talent this offseason, so they need the veteran to pick up the slack.

Outlook: Sevilla spent a sizable amount this transfer window, and after some of their outgoing transfers the club simply needed to do just that. They could take another step back in 2019/10 with teams like Valencia, Getafe, Espanyol and Sociedad improving.

Valencia

Transfers In: Maxi Gomez (Celta Vigo), Jason (Levante), Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona), Manu Cadejo (Cadiz), Salva Ruiz (Mallorca), Alvaro Medran (Rayo Vallecano)

Transfers Out: Nacho Gil (Ponferradina), Jorge Saenz (Celta Vigo), Santi Mina (Celta Vigo), Jeison Murillo (Sampdoria), Aymen Abdennour (Kayserispor), Alex Blanco (Zaragoza), Toni Lato (PSV Eindhoven), Ruben Vezo (Levante), Neto (Barcelona), Simone Zaza (Torino), Facundo Roncaglia (Celta Vigo)

Player to Watch: Maxi Gomez enters the club after a successful several seasons at Celta Vigo, and provides Valencia with another dangerous member of the attack.

Outlook: After finishing fourth a season ago, Valencia looks to climb its way into the top three. It won’t be easy, or for many, a possibility. However, dysfunction at Real Madrid could leave the door open for Valencia, if they can seize the opportunity.

Real Valladolid

Transfers In: Federico Barba (Chievo Verona), Sandro Ramirez (Everton), Pablo Hervias (Eibar), Jorge de Frutos (Real Madrid Castilla), Fede San Emeterio (Granada), Chris Ramos (Sevilla Atletico), David Mayoral (Alcorcon), Churripi (Albacete), Alvaro Aguado (Cordoba)

Transfers Out: Antonio Dominguez (Algeciras), Moi (Racing Santander), Yoel (Eibar), Daniele Verde (Roma), Keko (Malaga), Borja Fernandez (Retired), Duje Cop (Standard Liege)

Player to Watch: Sandro Ramirez needs to recapture his form from several seasons ago at Malaga because this team simply needs goals. Ramirez was a flop at Everton, and now his full-time return to La Liga offers him a chance to reinvent himself.

Outlook: It’s difficult seeing Valladolid survive another season in La Liga. They scored the fewest goals in the league last season, and it doesn’t seem like they’ve done enough offensively to keep the team afloat.

Villareal

Transfers In: André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Fulham), Moi Gomez (Sporting Gijon), Alberto Moreno (Liverpool), Ruben Pena (Eibar), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Leonardo Suarez (Mallorca), Alfred N’Diaye (Malaga), Ramiro Guerra (Gimnastic), Akram Afif (Al Sadd)

Transfers Out: Alvaro (Marseille), Alfonzo Pedraza (Real Betis), Miguelon (Huesca), Roberto Soriano (Bologna), Ruben Semedo (Olimpiacos), Nicola Sansone (Bologna), Javi Fuego (Sporting Gijon), Pablo Fornais (West Ham), Denis Cheryshev (Valencia)

Player to Watch: Alberto Moreno is an experienced English Premier League defender, and Villareal really needed help at the back after last season’s defensive woes.

Outlook: Villareal tied a lot of games last season, and were fortunate to stay up. They’ll need to find a way to turn those draws into victories because many lower half teams have improved, and that could mean Villareal is that much closer to falling into the Segunda Division.

Who’s your favorite to win La Liga this season? Will Barcelona run away with the title, or will Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid put up a fight? Can someone outside the top three contend with Spain’s biggest sides?

Share your thoughts below.

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