LaLiga preview 2012/2013 season
We are now just a day away from the opening match of the 2012-2013 La Liga season and fans are desperate for the new campaign to start. The transfer window is not closed yet, but already we have seen some major moves around the league.
Malaga’s financial troubles have caused some major sales while Valencia has gotten even stronger despite losing Jordi Alba. Many other clubs will line up very differently from last season while Real Madrid and Barcelona will keep their core the same. Last season, Levante was Europe’s biggest success story in a time where financial powerhouses dominate every league. Will there be a similar team to emerge this season?
During Barcelona’s historic 2008-2009, Xavi set a new standard in La Liga, earning 20 assists in the league. Last season, Mezut Ozil led all of Europe with 17 assists. Even more impressive was his teammate Angel di Maria who managed 15 assists despite starting just 16 matches. With Ozil and di Maria in the best form of their careers and feeding the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Gonzalo Higuain, Xavi’s assist record could be broken by either or both of them. Health will be the only concern for these two.
The Fight for Spots 3-6 Will Be the Best in Europe
Atletico Madrid should challenge Valencia for third place, but we have seen them disappoint with strong squads in recent years. Athletic Bilbao appear to be the other challengers to target third place, but internal problems with Marcelo Bielsa may prove too great a distraction. There are plenty of squads that were very close to the top six last season or have improved enough to make a serious run at Europa League qualification this year.
Valencia, Atletico, Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Mallorca, Getafe, Granada, Malaga, Espanyol, Mallorca and even Deportivo can all challenge for a top six finish. The league title race is the most predictable of all major European leagues, but the fight for the top six is the closest and most unpredictable of all.
Rayo Vallecano Will Finish Last
Rayo avoided relegation in the dying seconds of last season in one of the most emotional moments of the year. After losing their most dynamic player, Michu, to England, they will struggle in the front half. Unfortunately, they not only sold Michu at a bargain rate, they also could not even reinvest that money because of their financial struggles. Now they have only one top class player in Javi Fuego. The Madrid-based side will really struggle this season and will be lucky to stay out of the relegation zone past August.
Valencia and Atletico Should Finish Third and Fourth
Valencia had the best transfer window in La Liga and arguably the best in Europe. Los Che filled every need they had. They reinforced the midfield, added or will add a left back, found a right back and new winger, and sold a few players that were no longer needed. While teams like Chelsea were equally successful, Valencia did it with far less cash and without ever having a billionaire owner to build their squad in the first place. The biggest concern for them will be adjusting to life under new manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
Atletico Madrid are every bit as strong as Valencia. They have perhaps the best pure striker in Spain, two of the best fullbacks in La Liga, and enough depth to handle three competitions. Many players, including Emre, believe the club can even challenge the big two. That may be too high an expectation, but the club should perform well. There are still plenty of questions, though. How will Raul Garcia perform now that Diego has returned to Wolfsburg? Will he disappoint yet again in Madrid? The club also lost yet another academy player when Alvaro Dominguez left for Germany. Cata Diaz is a solid player, but not really a starter. How the central defense holds up could be key to Atletico’s season.
Granada Will Exceed Expectations and Surprise People
This summer Granada was one of the most successful and active clubs in the transfer window. They picked up one of the better midfielders in the league when they signed Irney from Real Betis and also used their shared owner to bring a few Udinese players to Los Carmenes. Having Guilherme Siqueira and Gabriel Torje will ensure that they will be a fun team to watch. Granada will not fight for European qualification, but finishing near the top 10 is a real possibility.
Sevilla Will Make It Back to Europe
Last season Sevilla were extremely inconsistent and fell out of the top six. There were times where it seemed they had forgotten how to score. At one point, they went eight matches without a win—and five matches without a win a month before. Now they look to become one of the most exciting teams in Spain. They had a very successful transfer window despite worries that Alvaro Negredo or Gary Medel could leave—though there is still time. Just based on talent, Sevilla’s starting 11 is good enough to challenge for the top four as they shift to the 4-3-3. They now have one of La Liga’s best keepers in Diego Lopez and did well to sign Botia from Sporting Gijon. Medel and new signing Hedwig Maduro will join Ivan Rakitic to form a great midfield while Jesus Navas and Jose Antonio Reyes should help Negredo bounce back from a slightly disappointing year. If this team can grow to understand each other quickly, they could use a favorable first couple months of fixtures to fire them into the top six
Real Madrid Will Repeat as Champions
They have the best keeper in football, two elite center backs, two top left backs, a top five midfielder, two 20+ goal-scoring threats, and one of the two best players in all of football. If Real Madrid hold on to Nuri Sahin and Kaka—or sign Luka Modric or another midfielder to replace them—they will also be one of the deepest squads in Europe. That is not to say that Barcelona is not equally talented, but there are more concerns going into the season for La Blaugrana.