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Simon Heptinstall On August - 15 - 2011

What Can We Expect From The Season Ahead In La Liga?

Barcelona will win the league table, Real Madrid will cry about it and Malaga will finish in the top four. This is just one of the possible outcomes at the end of the 2011/12 season and would seem one that is very plausible and even likely considering the current state of Spanish football. Certainly how far Malaga can go with their new team and Qatari owners will be one of the most interesting stories in European football this season. As for the battle for the title, well that looks already to be a two horse race before the season has even started

.The battle just below the top two will be more exciting than possibly ever before with Valenica, Villareal and Malaga all sure to be contenders. Valencia have so far this summer managed to hold on to Mata and have added Pablo Piatto, Diego Alves and Sergio Canales (on loan) to their side that finished 3rd last season. They will be a danger as always and don’t count them out as being a major threat despite their continued financial problems. Villareal finished fourth last season despite suffering in La Liga after a long campaign in the Europa League. And while keeping hold of Giuseppe Rossi is very important for them, the loss of Carzola to Malaga will be a big blow and may harm their chances of finishing in the top four again this season. And that top four place could very well be taken by the big spending Malaga who have invested heavily in their bid to get into the Champions League next season. This summer has seen big names such as Cazorla, Van Nistelrooy, Toulalan, Mathijsen and Isco (signed from Valencia) arrive at La Rosaleda  and If Pellegrini can form a good team from this group of players then they have every chance of achieving their aim of a top four finish What is more likely is that Valencia and Villareal will continue to play nice football and it will be up to the likes of Malaga to try and match that level and prove they are simply not just a collection of expensive individual players but a cohesive team that can challenge at the top end of Spanish football.

Last season Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla finished in the Europa League places and strangely all finished on 58 points. Atletico Madrid have had the biggest transformation this summer by losing star player Auguero, goalkeeper De Gea and manager Quique Sánchez Flores. Much has been made about the future of Diego Forlan this summer but it looks likely that he will be staying with the club for the forthcoming season. For Madrid much depends on how new manager Gregorio Manzano can shape this squad after the loss of their star players. It’s pretty much as you were for Atheltic Bilbao as far as the squad goes, with the only major signing being Ander Herrera from Real Zaragoza. However it is on the sidelines that sees the real change for Bilbao with Marcelo Bielsa replacing Joaquin Caparros. Bielsa is best known as the Argentinian manager who was in charge of Chile and transformed them into one of the most entertaining and well coached teams in world football. How he does with Bilbao only time will tell. Sevilla have had an interesting summer once again with several players and their manager leaving. The new man in charge of things at Sevilla is Marcelino Garcia Toral and takes charge of a squad that is going through something of a revamp. There had been much talk that Negrado would follow ex manager Manzano to Atletico Madrid but for now Negrado remains at Sevilla. Diego Capel has left however, moving to Sporting Lisbon. This summer has seen five signings including Manu del Moral from Getafe and Piotr Trochowski from Hamburg. What this team is capable is of is still to be seen but Toral is a tough man who won’t accept failure from his squad and will see no reason why his team can’t push on and challenge the likes of Malaga, Valencia and Villarreal for Champions League football.

The rest of the league will be hoping for mid table safety and hope for another season in La Liga. Of the three promoted teams the most interesting story is probably little old Granada. The team from Andalusia are making their first appearance in the Spanish top flight for thirty five years and will hope not to simply be a one hit wonder. Rayo Vallencano and Betis were also promoted and will look to avoid relegation this season too, though with little cash to spend neither team will be able to “do a Malaga” in January and reinvest in quality players. Both clubs face uncertain futures and will do well to avoid the drop this time around.

And finally the big two. We know Barcelona and Real Madrid will once again battle it out for the championship and we know at times things will get nasty, they normally do with Jose Mourinho involved. Nothing has drastically changed this summer to make football fans think that Real Madrid can overturn the might of Barcelona. And with Barcelona adding strength in depth with Alexis Sanchez and the arrival of Cesc Fabregas they will once again be favourites to be Spanish Champions once again. This season will be the big test for Mourinho, his capture of The Copa del Ray trophy and his use of diversion tactics after their loss in the Champions League semi final last season bought him time as he watched Barcelona lift the major trophies. But failure to halt Barcelona on their quest for yet more silverware will surely end badly for The Special One. This season must see a switch in power from Barcelona to Madrid or once again the axe will fall on a head coach at Real Madrid.

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