La Liga’s second tier teams will be competing for pride and European places
Atlético Madrid are the only team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid to win the Spanish league in the past 10 years. Diego Simeone has the task of improving on nine draws and six defeats from the previous league campaign. It has been reported in the Spanish press that Simeone has signed a contract extension to remain with Los Rojiblancos. Atléti kept things tight during the last campaign, boasting the best defence in the league, just 27 goals were conceded in 38 games. Simeone’s men had to be content with a third-place finish and qualification for the Champions League. The highly-rated Frenchman Antoine Griezmann will continue to lead the Atléti line, for now, whether or not he will leave in January is a different matter. Luciano Vietto returns to his parent club from Sevilla and is rumoured to be wanted by English Premier League club, Southampton. Homegrown hero, Fernando Torres recently turned down a lucrative move to the Mexican club, Cruz Azul.
“I am at home. I came back to Atlético after eight years and this is where I feel genuinely happy. My desire is to play for Atlético and retire here while also winning trophies and helping the club to continue to be one of the best in Europe. That is the only option I have in my head at the moment.” Fernando Torres – as.com
Atlético Madrid are the third favourites with the bookies, although odds are being offered as long as 50/1*. Simeone will take his side to face La Liga debutants Girona on the opening day of the season.
Sevilla are buoyed by the arrival of former Celta Vigo head coach, Eduardo Berizzo. La Liga welcomes back Jesús Navas, who returns home to the Ramón Sánchez Piajuán after a spending four years at Manchester City and will be reunited with Nolito. Sevilla have also strengthened at the back, with the arrival of Danish International Simon Kjær from Fenerbahçe. In the last campaign, Sevilla finished six points behind Atletico Madrid in fourth place. Odds of up to 250/1 are being offered for Berizzo’s side to win the Spanish title, they get their La Liga campaign underway with a home game against Espanyol. The same fixture corresponded to the opening weekend of the 2016/17 season, in a 10-goal thriller, Sevilla ran out 6-4 winners.
Villarreal notched up 19 league wins in 2016/17, enough to secure the fifth spot. El Submarino Amarillo has only finished once outside the top-six in the past 10 seasons. Head coach Fran Escribá is in his second season at La Ceramica. Forward, Cédric Bakambu scored 11 goals in 26 league starts last time out. Media reports suggested that West Ham United made a bid for the 26-year-old, who has extended his contract with the Villarreal until 2022. Roberto Soldado, once of Tottenham Hotspur, managed just 10 league appearances in 2016/17, with a return of four goals. Goalkeeper Andrés Fernández will be pushing for a first team place after signing from Porto. Escribá will have to make do without defender Mateo Musacchio, who recently signed for AC Milan. Villarreal had some notable results last season, including doing the league double over Atlêtico Madrid. Their new La Liga season starts with an away trip to newly promoted Levante.
European football returns to the Anoeta. Eusebio Sacristán is heading into his third season with Real Sociedad and guided them to a 6th place finish in 2016/17, but Sacristán will need to work on his defence, who shipped 53 goals in the league. Defender, Iñigo Martínez is a reported target for a number of clubs, including Real Madrid. La Real have lost the services of left back Yuri Berchiche to Paris Saint-Germain. Diego Llorente arrives from Real Madrid, shoring up the back-four and Winger, Adnan Januzaj has signed from Manchester United. The first of the Basque derby games comes when La Real travel to face Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés in December. Cetla Vigo host Real Sociedad on the opening day of the season.
That’s it for Part 2 of the La Liga preview. Don’t forget to check out Part 1.