LA LIGA PREVIEW: Atletico Madrid and Barcelona are in a legal battle, Real Madrid may have wasted MILLIONS in a bid to bridge the gap and Valencia survive a turbulent summer to keep hold of their boss… here’s how every side is shaping up for the new season
- La Liga gets back underway on Friday night as Athletic Bilbao host Barcelona
- There has been plenty of drama in Spain’s top-flight off the pitch this summer
- Sportsmail takes an in-depth look at how each of the top flight’s 20 sides are set
La Liga may have suffered a problematic time off the pitch having struggled to sell the UK TV rights and to establish a full fixture list, but the action on it returns tonight.
The summer window in Spain has also thrown up all sorts of bizarre narratives and unexpected twists and there is still a few weeks to go with deadline day not until September 2.
The main talking points have been Atletico Madrid and Barcelona’s legal dispute over Antoine Griezmann’s transfer, Eden Hazard’s eventual move to Real Madrid, Nabil Fekir’s shock decision to join Real Betis and Valencia managing to keep hold of their boss Marcelino Garcia Toral after a turbulent summer.
Despite the window remaining open, the focus now switches back to the football and it promises to be one of the most intriguing seasons in recent years.
The race for the title will be anyone’s call with Atletico and Real spending big in a bid to close the gap on Barcelona, while the battle for European places could be between any of six or seven teams.
There are also some familiar faces with the return of Osasuna, Mallorca and Granada, who will all be hoping to beat the drop having experienced several relegations in recent years.
Ahead of the season opener on Friday night when Athletic Bilbao host defending champions Barcelona, which ITV announced they would be broadcasting in the United Kingdom on Thursday, Sportsmail give you with an in-depth look at how each of the top flight’s 20 sides are set and everything you need to know ahead of the new campaign.
La Liga returns on Friday – will Barcelona be able to retain the title this campaign?
ITV4 are showing matches from the opening three weeks of the new season, starting on Friday night:
Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona – 8pm Friday, August 16
Barcelona v Real Betis – 8pm, Sunday, August 25
Villarreal v Real Madrid – 8pm, Sunday, September 1
Head coach: Gaizka Garitano
Transfers In: Peru Nolaskoain (Bilbao Athletic, promotion), Inigo Vicente (Bilbao Athletic, promotion), Asier Villalibre (Bilbao Athletic, promotion), Gaizka Larrazabal (Bilbao Athletic, promotion)
Transfers out: Mikel Rico (Huesca, free), Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad, free), Xabi Etxieta (Getafe, free), Sabin Merino (Leganes, free), Ander Iturraspe (Espanyol, free), Peru Nolaskoain (Deportivo, loan), Andoni Lopez (Elche, free), Inigo Vicente (Mirandes, loan), Markel Susaeta (released)
Last season: 8th
With such restrictions in the transfer market, Athletic Bilbao always face an uphill battle when it comes to trying to improve on last season’s performance.
Inaki Williams impressed last season and will be out to repeat his exploits this campaign
Gaizka Garitano recently defended the club’s policy of only signing Basque players, saying: ‘It is different when you play not just for money, not just to win titles but we play for our jersey, for our values, for our families, friends, it is something special in the world.’
Bilbao have somehow managed to get by and actually possess a talented squad. After nailing down Inaki Williams’ future, who was linked to Manchester United this summer, Garitano will hope to try and deliver European football for a club that has been starved of it in recent seasons.
Last term’s eighth-placed finish was a huge improvement on the previous campaign which saw them almost get relegated and Gartiano will be eager to keep pushing Bilbao in the right direction.
Key Man: Inaki Williams
The Spaniard will be Bilbao’s main scoring threat and will look to emulate his form in front of goal last campaign after posting a season best of 13 La Liga goals.
Head coach: Diego Simeone
Transfers In: Hector Herrera (Porto, free), Ivan Saponjic (Benfica B, £450k), Renan Lodi (Club Athletico Paranaense, £18m), Felipe (Porto, £18m), Kieran Trippier (£20m, Tottenham), Mario Hermoso (Espanyol, £22.5m), Marcos Llorente (Real Madrid, £27m), Joao Felix (Benfica, £114m)
Transfers Out: Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona, £108m), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich £72m), Rodri (Manchester City, £63), Gelson Martins (Monaco, £27m), Luciano Vietto (Sporting Lisbon, £6.75m), Bernard Mensah (Kayserispor, £3.25), Felipe Luis (Flamengo, free), Diego Godin (Inter Milan, free), Andre Moreira (Belenenses SAD, free), Juanfran (Sao Paulo, free), Hector Hernandez (CF Fuenlabrada, loan), Nehuen Perez (FC Famalicao, loan), Axel Werner (San Luis, loan), Nicolas Ibanez (San Luis, loan)
Last season: 2nd
Diego Simeone has spent big this summer and expectations will be high. Joao Felix has particularly caught the eye during pre-season and Atletico will want him to play a big role this campaign to fill the void Antoine Griezmann has left.
Despite bringing in eight new faces, a concern for Atletico will be that they also lost a number of experienced members of their squad this summer with the likes of Diego Godin, Juanfran and Felipe Luis leaving on frees.
Traditionally a well-oiled machine that prides itself on clean sheets, you can expect more of the same from Atletico, who have strengthened at the back more than anywhere else this summer.
£114m man Joao Felix has had a brilliant pre-season and will be Atleitco’s key player this term
They could welcome one more addition through the door too should James Rodriguez’s protracted move from Real Madrid be finalised before September 2’s deadline.
Atletico only had the only trophy to celebrate last term, having lifted the European Super Cup but the goal this season will undoubtedly to win one of the major ones on offer.
Key Man: Joao Felix
You can’t sign for £114m and not expect to be the club’s top dog.
Following the departure of Griezmann, the onus will be on the young Portugal international to step into his shoes. If pre-season is anything to go by, he shouldn’t have any problems.
Head coach: Ernesto Valverde
Transfers in: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid, £108m), Frenkie de Jong (Ajax, £67m), Neto (Valencia, £23m), Junior Firpo (Real Betis, £16m), Emerson (Atletico Mineiro, £10m), Marc Cucurella (Eibar, £3m), Moussa Wague (Barcelona B, free)
Transfers out: Malcom (Zenit, £36m), Jasper Cillessen (Valencia, £31m), Andre Gomes (Everton, £22m), Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund, £19m), Denis Suarez (Celta Vigo, £11m), Emerson (Real Betis, £5m), Marc Cardona (Osasuna, £2m), Segi Palencia (Saint-Etienne, £1.8m), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe, free), Douglas (Besiktas, free), Adrian Ortola (Tenerife, free), Marc Cucurella (Getafe, loan)
Last season: 1st
It’s fair to say that Barcelona have been front and centre when it has come to the transfer window’s biggest stories this summer. After finally capturing Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid in a controversial £108m deal, the Catalan giants don’t look like stopping just yet as they look to conclude Neymar’s sensational return to the Nou Camp.
Who else would be Barcelona’s key man other than the irrepressible Lionel Messi
But if you look past the drama, Ernesto Valverde has quietly enjoyed a good window. The Barcelona boss has added depth at full-back with the addition of Junior Firpo from Real Betis while Neto replaces Jasper Cillessen as Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s understudy in goal.
In the friendlies we’ve seen of him so far, Frenkie de Jong looks like he’s played at Barcelona his whole career and has fitted in seamlessly. However, their pre-season preparations took a knock when Lionel Messi picked up a small injury during training just days after returning, so Valverde will be hoping he can get his talisman back as soon as possible.
Key man: Lionel Messi
Even if Neymar returned this summer, Barcelona will continue to rely on the little Argentine who will ridiculously still bag you 30-50 goals in all competitions.
Head coach: Fran Escriba
Transfers In: Ivan Villar (Celta Vigo B, promotion), Jorge Saenz (Valencia, loan), Santi Mina (Valencia, free), Joseph Aidoo (Genk, £7.2m), Denis Suarez (Barcelona, £11.6m)
Transfers Out: Dennis Eckert (released), Nemanja Radoja (released), Robert Mazan (CD Tenerife, loan), Gustavo Cabral (Pachucha, free), Facundo Roncaglia (Osasuna, £225k), Andrew Hjulsager (KV Oostende, £450k), Emre Mor (Galatasaray, loan fee £540k), Mathias Jensen (Brentford, £3.42m), Maxi Gomez (Valencia, £13m)
Last season: 17th
Celta Vigo came perilously close to the drop last season and only averted disaster after an inspiring second half of the season.
They may not be one of the favourites to go down, but Vigo could struggle again this term. Maxi Gomez, who netted 13 important goals in La Liga last season, will be a big miss.
The Uruguayan played a significant role in them beating the drop but departed earlier this summer for Valencia for just £13m. Denis Suarez is a solid acquisition but the Spaniard has found it tough to find his best form and remain fit in recent years.
If he can return the level he’s capable of, there’s no doubt he will be a big player for them. But it is in attack where you fear Vigo could be exposed. They lack firepower and the pressure will be on the aging Iago Aspas to deliver another glut of goals this time around.
Key Man: Iago Aspas
Yes, he is still around and still banging in goals for Celta Vigo. Just the 20 goals for him last season. There’s no doubting that Vigo’s hopes will be pinned on the Spaniard. But at the age of 32, whether he can remain fit or not will prove key.
Iago Aspas is Celta Vigo’s go-to man while they will hope Denis Suarez can have a real impact
Head coach: Asier Garitano
Transfers In: Lucas Perez (West Ham, £2.07m), Joselu (Newcastle, £2.02m), Ramon Mierez (Tigre, £2.01m), Luis Rioja (Almeria, £1.8m), Saul Garcia (Deportivo La Coruna, free), Tachi (Atletico Madrid B, free), Aleix Vidal (Sevilla, loan)
Transfers Out: Antonio Cristian (Fuenlabrada, free), Carlos Vigaray (Real Zaragoza, free)
Last season: 11th
For a time last season it appeared that Alaves would cause a shock by finishing in the top four.
However, a disappointing conclusion to the campaign meant that they ended up finishing in mid-table, and they now have a new coach at the helm in Asier Garitano, who replaces Abelardo.
Many of Alaves’ key players last campaign were only at the club on loan, and the likes of Takashi Inui, Borja Baston and Jonathan Calleri have all departed.
Alaves have responded by bringing in two forwards who struggled to make much of an impact in the Premier League – Lucas Perez and Joselu. They have also signed Aleix Vidal, previously of Barcelona, on loan from Sevilla.
It could well prove to be a difficult season for Alaves, with much depending on whether their new strikers can hit the ground running.
Key Man: Lucas Perez
Perez mustered just four league goals across his spells in England with Arsenal and West Ham.
However, there will be much expectation on the 30-year-old to impress for Alaves as he makes his return to La Liga.
During a loan spell at Deportivo La Coruna two seasons ago, Perez scored nine times in La Liga, and he will be aiming to better that tally as he looks to play a major part for Alaves.
Lucas Perez struggled at West Ham but is determined to make a major impact for Alaves
Head coach: Jose Luis Mendilibar
Transfers In: Edu Exposito (Deportivo La Coruna, £3.6m), Quique (Deportivo La Coruna, £2.97m), Pedro Bigas (Las Palmas, £2.7m), Roberto Alabe (Atletico Madrid B, £2.52m), Takashi Inui (Real Betis, £1.8m), Esteban Burgos (Alcorcon, free), Roberto Correa (Cadiz, free), Alvaro Tejero (Real Madrid Castilla, free), Asier Benito (Bilbao Athletic, free), Ruben Lobato (Oviedo Vetusta, free)
Transfers Out: Joan Jordan (Sevilla, £12.6m), Ruben Pena (Villarreal, £7.2m), Marc Cucurella (Barcelona, £3.6m), Pablo Hervias (Real Valladolid, £900,000), Pere Milla (Elche, free), Unai Elgezabal (Alcorcon, free), Jose Antonio Martinez (Granada, loan), Asier Benito (Ponferradina, loan), Roberto Olabe (Albacete, loan), Nano (Cadiz, loan).
Last season: 12th
Eibar have become somewhat predictable, with last season seeing them finish in midtable again.
A 12th place finish followed on from them finishing 9th and 10th in the previous two campaigns, with it anticipated that they will end up in a similar position again this time around.
The departure of midfielder Joan Jordan is a blow, but Edu Exposito, who joined from Deportivo La Coruna, should be able to slot in quickly.
Experienced coach Jose Luis Mendilibar remains in charge and his side should be able to comfortably avoid relegation.
Key Man: Charles
He may be 35 years old, but Charles was hugely impressive for Eibar last season as he scored 14 goals in La Liga.
Eibar will hope that the forward will be able to continue finding the net with regularity for at least one more campaign.
Charles may not be getting any younger but he still knows where the back of the net is
Head coach: David Gallego
Transfers In: Matias Vargas (Velez Sarsfield, £9.45m), Fernando Calero (Real Valladolid, £7.2m), Ander Iturraspe (Athletic Bilbao, free), Andres Prieto (Leganes, free), Bernardo Espinosa (Girona, loan)
Transfers Out: Mario Hermoso (Atletico Madrid, £22.5m), Aaron Martin (Mainz, £5.4m), Hernan Perez (Al Ahli, free), Roberto (West Ham, free), Alvaro Vazquez (Sporting Gijon, free), Oscar Duarte (free)
Last season: 7th
Espanyol fared rather well last season as they finished in seventh place in La Liga, earning a place in the Europa League qualifiers.
However, the departures of some significant players during the summer could end up hitting the club hard.
Mario Hermoso, for instance, joined Atletico Madrid, and as a consequence Espanyol may be considerably less resilient at the back.
In addition, if they do end up progressing in the Europa League, it could prove to be something of a hindrance as far as their domestic form is concerned, with manager David Gallego, who has replaced Rubi, facing a tough task.
Key Man: Marc Roca
A product of Espanyol’s academy, Roca produced some consistent performances last season.
This campaign, with several players having moved on, the defensive midfielder may find himself tasked with more responsibility as Espanyol look to enjoy an impressive campaign.
Roca was linked with Bayern Munich earlier this summer, but elected to remain at Espanyol. If he continues to perform to such a high standard, it surely won’t be long until there is more speculation about his future.
Highly regarded midfielder Marc Roca could be a crucial figure for Espanyol this campaign
Head coach: Jose Bordalas
Transfers In: Enric Gallego (Huesca, £5.4m), Faycal Fajr (Caen, £1.35m), Jack Harper (Malaga, £1.35m), Raul Garcia (Girona, free), Xabi Etxeita (Athletic Bilbao, free), Marc Cucurella (Barcelona, loan), Allan Nyom (West Bromwich Albion, undisclosed)
Transfers Out: Roberto Ibanez (Osasuna, £1.8m), Jack Harper (Alcorcon, loan), Gaku Shibasaki (Deportivo La Coruna, free), Alvaro Jimenez (Albacete, loan), Miguel Rubio (Fuenlabrada, loan), Ignasi Miquel (Girona, loan), Mathieu Flamini (released), Chuli (released)
Last season: 5th
Getafe earned a place in the Europa League group stages having finished in fifth place in La Liga last season.
This campaign they will be seeking to push on even further and will have designs on getting into the top four.
Coach Jose Bordalas will have to manage his squad carefully so that his key players aren’t too exhausted by the Europa League.
However, Getafe have a talented squad and are unlikely to be pushovers when they face La Liga’s leading lights.
Key Man: Jorge Molina
Molina was a key factor behind many of Getafe’s impressive displays last season, as evidenced by the fact that he scored 14 goals in La Liga.
The sharp shooter managed to get 62 per cent of his efforts on target as he caused numerous problems for opposing defences.
Even at the age of 37, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and will be looking to be prolific again this campaign.
37-year-old Jorge Molina was impressive last season and will aim to catch the eye again
Head coach: Diego Martinez
Transfers In: Darwin Machis (Udinese, £2.7m), Domingos Duarte (Sporting Lisbon, £2.7m), Yan Brice (Sevilla, £900,000), Fede Vico (Leganes, £225,000), Roberto Soldado (Fenerbahce, free), Neyder Lozano (Elche, free), Yangel Herrera (Manchester City, loan), Jose Antonio Martinez (Eibar, loan)
Transfers Out: Adrian Castellano (Numancia, £270,000), Sergio Pena (FC Emmen, free), Pablo Vazquez (CD Badajoz, free), Jose Antonio Gonzalez (Cordoba, loan), Alberto Martin (released), Fran Rico (released), Nicolas Aguirre (released), Raul Baena (released)
Last season: 2nd, Segunda Division
One of the newly promoted sides, Granada have returned to La Liga after two seasons away.
They will be hoping to fare rather better than in their last top flight campaign, when they finished bottom of the table.
Notably, there haven’t been many major departures from Granada this summer, and coach Diego Martinez earned much praise.
It will still be very difficult, though, for his side to avoid going straight back down again.
Key Man: Roberto Soldado
Former Spain striker Soldado joined Granada on a free transfer this summer following his departure from Fenerbahce.
Boasting plenty of La Liga experience, the 34-year-old will be heavily relied upon by Granada this season.
Last season Soldado scored six league goals in 21 games for Fenerbahce, but it is hoped that he will be able to score more often for Granada.
Roberto Soldado will be eager to impress for Granada after joining the club on a free transfer
Head coach: Mauricio Pellegrino
Transfers in: Martin Braithwaite (Middlesbrough, undisclosed), Juan Soriano (Sevilla, loan), Aitor Ruibal (Real Betis, loan), Aitor Ruibal (Porto B, undisclosed), Andre Grandi (Internacional de Madrid, free), Sabin Merino (Athletic Bilbao, free), Alex Martin (Real Madrid Castilla, free), Roberto Rosales (Malaga, £1.08 m), Juan Munoz (AD Alcorcon, £1.35m), Jonathan Silva (Sporting Lisbon, £2.7m), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea, £4.5m)
Transfers out: Mamadou Kone (Deportivo de La Coruna, loan), Dani Ojeda (Albacete, loan), Andres Prieto (Espanyol, free), Ezequiel Munoz (Lanus, free), Nabil El Zhar (Al Ahli Sports Club, free), Fede Vico (Granada CF, £225k), Gerard Gumbau (Girona, £450k), Luciano (Gremio, 900k)
Last season: 13th
Now entering their fourth consecutive campaign in La Liga, Leganes will be looking to build upon last season, when they finished 13th – their highest ever position.
They made headlines last September by beating Barcelona 3-1 and have moved to bring in Martin Braithwaite permanently from Middlesbrough after he impressed during a loan spell.
This season it wouldn’t be surprising if Leganes were to finish in mid table again. They have a tough start, though, as they host Atletico Madrid.
Key man: Youssef En-Nesyri
He played a pivotal part for Leganes last season, scoring nine goals in La Liga.
That led to interest in the Moroccan from a host of clubs, including Brighton.
Leganes rejected an £18million offer from the Seagulls, leaving En-Nesyri frustrated, and if he stays it will be interesting to see whether the 22-year-old’s commitment levels remain the same.
Youssef En-Nesyri was the subject of interest from Brighton after an impressive season
Head coach: Paco Lopez
Transfers in: Ruben Vezo (Valencia, £4.5m), Sergio Leon (Real Betis, £3.6m), Gonzalo Melero (SD Huesca, £3.2m), Carlos Clerc (Osasuna, free), Oscar Duarte (Espanyol, free), Jorge Miramon (SD Huesca, free), Hernani (Porto, free), Borja Mayoral (Real Madrid, loan)
Transfers out: Ruben Garcia (Osasuna, £2.7m), Chema (Nottingham Forest, £450k), Esteban Saveljich (Rayo Vallecano, £270k), Pedro Lopez (SD Huesca, free), Jason (Valencia, free), Pepulu (Tondela, loan), Ivi Lopez (SD Huesca, loan), Raphael Dwamena (Real Zaragoza, loan), Koke (Deportivo, loan)
Last season: 15th
Levante have had a mixed bag pre-season but will take some confidence into the season, having beaten relegation rivals Mallorca in their final friendly.
Up first is last season’s surprise package Alaves. It will be important that they get off to a fast start with games against Real Madrid and Real Betis to come inside the first month.
They beat the drop comfortably last season, keeping afloat by seven points and will be out to retain their position in the top-flight again.
They have some exciting talent, particularly at the top end of the pitch and should have enough to repeat last season’s achievement of staying up.
Key man: Roger Marti
13 La Liga goals is a decent return for anybody, but the fact Marti managed to find the back of the net this many times in a struggling team makes it even more impressive.
Levante have enough about them to pick up points even Marti isn’t firing, but if the 28-year-old can find form like last season, they should be safe again.
Roger Marti is considered Levante’s most important player after his glut of goals last term
Head coach: Vicente Moreno
Transfers in: Lumor (Sporting Lisbon, loan), Aleksandar Sedlar (Piast Gliwice, free), Josep Sene (Cultural Leonesa, free), Alex Alegria (Real Betis, free), Aleksandar Trajkovski (Palermo, free), Aleix Febas (Real Madrid Castilla, free), Pablo Chavarria (Stade Reims, free), Igor Zlatanovic (Radnik, £1.17m), Martin Valjent (Chievo, £1.35m), Ante Budimir (Crotone, £1.98m)
Transfers out: Carlos Castro (CD Lugo, loan), Sergio Buenacasa (SD Ponferradina, loan), Enzo Lombardo (Racing Santander, loan), Pablo Valcarce (SD Ponferradina, loan), Bryan Reyna (Barakaldo CF, loan), Stoichkov (Alcorcon, loan), Franco Russo (SD Ponferradina, loan), Alex Lopez (Extremadura, loan), Salva Ruiz (Valencia, free), Fernando Cano (Lleida Esportiu, free), Alvaro Bustos (Pontevedra, free), Leandro Montagud (Cultural Leonesa, free), Pol Roige (GIF Sundsvall, free), Alejandro Faurlin (Marbella FC, free)
Last season: 5th, Segunda Division
Anywhere above the bottom three will do for Mallorca this season just to restore some normality.
Lago Junior will be La Liga new boys Mallorca’s biggest scoring threat
In the last three seasons they have been relegated, then promoted and promoted again.
They came up via the play-offs, but unlike in the Championship, it is far from the richest game in football, so Mallorca have had to operate on a shoestring budget this summer.
It’s going to be a real struggle for them, but the fact they lost the first play-off leg 2-0 and won the second leg 3-0 to secure promotion suggests they have the mettle to at least put up a good fight.
Key man: Lago Junior
Any side that has just gone up into a new league has to rely on a striker grabbing them enough goals to win matches.
That responsibility for Mallorca falls firmly on the shoulders of Lago Junior this season. He was their top scorer last term, netting 11 times in the league.
The jump to La Liga is a big one, but Mallorca will hope Junior is up for the test and can come close to his tally last campaign.
Head coach: Jagoba Arrasate
Transfers in: Pervis Estupinan (Watford U23s, loan), Raul Navas (Real Sociedad, loan), Jaume Grau (Real Madrid Castilla, free), Adrian Lopez (FC Porto, free), Facundo Roncaglia (Celta Vigo, £225k), Darko Brasanac (Real Betis, £900k), Brandon (Stade Rennais FC, £1.8m), Robert Ibanez (Getafe, £1.8m), Marc Cardona (Barcelona, £2.25m), Chimy Avila (San Lorenzo, £2.43m), Ruben Garcia (Levante, £2.7m)
Transfers out: David Rodriguez (released), Xisco (released), Miguel Olavide (released), Jaume Grau (CD Lugo, loan), Miguel Diaz (CD Tudelano, free), Carlos Clerc (Levante, free), Imanol Garcia (Cordoba, free)
Last season: 1st, Segunda Division
Osasuna raced away to win the Spanish second division and bounce back to La Liga at the first time of asking.
But this season will be very different. They will not experience the winning feeling as often as they did in the Segunda and they must be prepared for that.
Osasuna have been a yo-yo club since their relegation from the top-flight in the 2013-14 season and will be eager to take this opportunity to re-establish themselves as a La Liga club.
First season, just stay up by any means necessary, that will be the goal.
Chimy Avila has a big role to play for Osasuna after proving himself in La Liga last season
Key man: Chimy Avila
Avila was a very smart buy by the La Liga new boys.
The midfielder scored some eye-catching goals last season during his loan spell at Huesca and his overall play is neat and tidy.
He bagged an impressive 10 goals last time around and will be key to Osasuna’s chances of survival.
Head coach: Rubi
Transfers in: Borja Iglesias (Espanyol, £25m), Giovani Lo Celso (PSG, £20m), Nabil Fekir (Lyon, £20m), Juanmi (Real Sociedad, £7m), Emerson (Barcelona, £5m), Dani Martin (Sporting Gijon, £4.5m), Alfonso Pedraza (Villarreal, loan)
Transfers out: Pau Lopez (Roma, £21m), Junior Firpo (Barcelona, £16m), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham, loan fee: £14.5m), Sergio Leon (Levante, £3.5m), Ryad Boudebouz (Saint Etienne, £3m), Takashi Inui (Eibar, £2m), Victor Camarasa (Crystal Palace, loan), Darko Brasanac (Osasuna, £900,000), Alin Tosca (Gazisehir, free), Alex Alegria (Mallorca, free), Aitor Ruibal (Leganes, loan), Julio Gracia (Badajoz, loan), Liberto Beltran (Lleida Esportiu, loan)
Last season: 10th
A side with real potential that at times showed just what they were capable of last season.
Betis had a care-free and attractive style of playing but the core of their side has been cut up this summer.
Pau Lopez, Junior Firpo and Giovani Lo Celso, who was instrumental in midfield last term, have all gone on to bigger and brighter things, but you can’t help but wonder had Betis kept hold of them that they could have made a real push to break the top six.
As it happens, that is not the case. Fans will be however be delighted by the capture of Nabil Fekir, who decided to join from Lyon despite seemingly having a number of more appealing offers.
Borja Iglesias was prolific for Espanyol last season too, so his signing will add further firepower to their goalscoring threat. The ambition will be to finish in those European places. Whether they can do it or not is another thing entirely.
Key man: Nabil Fekir
It will be interesting to see how the Frenchman takes to La Liga.
Fekir has only ever played in France, so it will be a challenge for him to adapt to his new surroundings. If he can be even half the player he was at Lyon then Betis have got a gem.
He scored a shed load during his time at Lyon and assisted almost just as much for his team-mates. The 26-year-old is Betis’ most talented player and will revel in being the star man and their focal point of attack.
The arrivals of Nabil Fekir (L) and Borja Iglesias (R) adds significant firepower to Betis’ attack
Head coach: Zinedine Zidane
Transfers in: Eden Hazard (Chelsea, £150m), Luka Jovic (Frankfurt, £54m), Eder Militao (Porto, £45m), Ferland Mendy (Lyon, £49m), Rodrygo (Santos, £40m), Alberto Soro (Real Zaragoza, £2m), Luca Zidane (Real Madrid Castilla, free), Javi Sanchez (Real Madrid Castilla, free), Jorge de Frutos (Real Madrid Castilla, free)
Transfers out: Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea, £40m), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid, £27m), Raul de Tomas (Benfica, £18m), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan, £18m), Jesus Vallejo (Wolves, loan), Alberto Soro (Real Zaragoza, loan), Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad, loan), Dani Ceballos (Arsenal, loan), Borja Mayoral (Levante, loan), Jorge de Frutos (Real Valladolid, loan), Sergio Reguilon (Sevilla, loan), Javi Sanchez (Real Valladolid, loan), Andriy Lunin (Real Valladolid, loan), Luca Zidane (Racing, loan)
Last season: 3rd
It all looked so promising for Real Madrid at the start of the summer window as Zinedine Zidane looked to get all of his transfer business done and dusted ahead of the new campaign. Real brought in Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy in what looked to be the new era of Galaticos.
However, their pre-season came tumbling down in an instant when they were truly humbled by a new-look Atletico Madrid side in America. There were complaints that Hazard had packed on the pounds while Real’s aging midfield continued to be a thorn in Zidane’s side.
The Frenchman is still desperate to bring in Paul Pogba but Manchester United’s valuation of the World Cup winner looks to have killed any potential move.
The Spanish giants have often looked disjointed and out of sorts during pre-season and even Marca have stated that the idea of Real winning a trophy this season is ‘farcical’. While keeping that in mind, you’d expect Real to challenge Barcelona and Atletico for the league this season given the amount they’ve shelled out this summer.
Key man: Eden Hazard
Brought in for a deal worth up to £150million, Hazard will be that go-to player whether he starts out on the left or in the No 10 position behind Benzema. Zidane will need to drum out that ‘unselfish’ characteristic Hazard possesses if he’s going to become a goal-machine for Los Blancos.
Real Madrid will expect a lot from Eden Hazard this season after becoming their record signing
Head coach: Imanol Alguacil
Transfers In: Alex Sola (Real Sociedad B, promotion), Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad B, promotion), Aihen Munoz (Real Sociedad B, promotion), Andoni Zubiaurre (Real Sociedad B, promotion), Ander Barrenetxea (Real Sociedad B, promotion), Ander Guevara (Real Sociedad B, promotion), Martin Odegaard (Real Madrid, loan), Alex Remiro (Athletic Bilbao, free) Modibo Sagnan (Lens, £4.05m), Alexander Isak (Borussia Dortmund, £5.85m), Portu (Girona, £9m)
Transfers Out: Alex Sola (Numancia, loan), Jon Guridi (Mirandes, loan), Martin Merquelanz (Mirandes, loan), Jon Bautista (KAS Eupen, loan), Hector Moreno (Al Gharafa Sports Club, free), Eneko Capilla (Asteras Tripolis, free), Geronimo Rulli (Montpellier, £1.35m loan fee), Juanmi (Real Betis, £7.2m)
Last season: 9th
There will be a notable change for Sociedad this season, with the renovation of their Anoeta Stadium set to be completed.
A major plus for the club this summer was retaining the services of wingers Mikel Oyarzabal.
However, the departure of defender Hector Moreno, among others, could prove to be problematic.
Key man: Mikel Oyarzabal
There was much speculation about Oyarzabal’s future this summer, with Manchester City among the clubs to have been linked with him.
However, the winger ended up staying at Sociedad and will be seeking to build upon a hugely impressive 2018-19 campaign, when he scored 14 goals and provided four assists in La Liga.
This season Sociedad are set to again be heavily reliant upon the 22-year-old.
Mikel Oyarzabal ended up staying at Real Sociedad despite much speculation over his future
Head coach: Sergio
Transfers in: Javi Sanchez (Real Madrid, loan), Jorge de Frutos (Real Madrid, loan), Pedro Porro (Manchester City, loan), Sandro Ramirez (Everton, loan), Andriy Lunin (Real Madrid, loan), Federico Barba (Chievo, loan), Pablo Hervias (Eibar, £900k)
Transfers out: Moises Delgado (Racing Santander, loan), Antonio Dominguez (Algeciras CF, free), Fernando Calero (Espanyol, £7.2m)
Last season: 16th
Ronaldo may have splashed out to purchase a majority share in the club last season, but the former Brazil star’s wallet has remained firmly shut this summer.
Despite last season’s struggles to beat the drop, Pablo Herbvias has been the club’s only permanent signing, moving from Eibar for £900k.
The loan signing of Sandro Ramirez however could prove to be a great piece of business. He may have flopped at Everton and failed at Real Sociedad last season, but the Barcelona academy product has proven he can score regularly in La Liga, having netted 14 times for Malaga in the 2016-17 campaign.
Having scored the least amount of goals last season (32), Sandro’s acquisition provides Valladolid’s attack with the firepower it has so desperately been lacking. Fernando Calero will be a big loss for them though after the talented defender joined Espanyol. Just staying up will be the goal this season.
Key man: Sandro Ramirez
The pressure will fully be on Sandro Ramirez to score goals this season.
His confidence will be at an all-time low after failing to score a single league goal in 24 games at Real Sociedad last season, but if he can recapture his best form, he could have a sole impact on where Vallodolid end up this term.
Sandro Ramirez has struggled for form but can play a big part in Real Vallodolid’s survival bid
Head coach: Julen Lopetegui
Transfers in: Rony Lopes (Monaco, £22.5m), Jules Kounde (Bordeaux, £22.5m), Lucas Ocampos (Marseille, £13.5M), Diego Carlos (Nantes, £13.5m), Munas Dabbur (RB Salzburg, (£13.5m), Joan Jordan (Eibar, £12.6m), Luuk de Jong (PSV, £11.25m), Oliver Torres (Porto, £10.8m), Fernando (Galatasaray, £4.05m), Nemanja Gudelj (Evergrande, free), Sergio Reguilon (Real Madrid, loan).
Transfers out: Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco, £36m), Pablo Sarabia (PSG, £16.2m), Quincy Promes (Ajax, £14.13m), Luis Muriel (Atalanta, £13.5m), Yan Brice (Granada, £900k), Gabriel Mercado (Al Rayyan, free), Marc Gual (Girona, loan), Giorgi Aburjania (Twente, loan), Ibrahim Amadou (Norwich, loan), Carlos Fernandez (Granada, loan), Juan Soriano (Leganes, loan), Aleix Vidal (Alaves, loan).
Last season: 6th
Big things are expected at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium this season with a new manager in place and £100m spent on new talent.
Sevilla’s biggest summer signing Rony Lopes can shine for them in La Liga this season
Returning director Monchi has got straight down to work with 11 new signings to help Julen Lopetegui rebuild his reputation after quitting as Spain manager on the eve of the World Cup for a disastrous spell with Real Madrid.
The Spaniard faces the task of getting the new-look side to gel together as quickly as possible but improving on last year’s sixth-placed finish should be achievable.
Key man: Rony Lopes
The attacking midfielder will be desperate to banish the thoughts of last season’s nightmare with Monaco and begin a new chapter at Sevilla.
Two years ago, Lopes was linked with just about every major club in Europe after banging in 15 goals. Last season he managed just the four as Monaco narrowly escaped relegation.
Sevilla have clearly seen something in Lopes to splash out £22.5m off the back of such a disappointing campaign and will look to him to be their creative spark this term. A cultured midfielder who is great on the ball, can pick out a pass and has an eye for an goal, he possesses all the attributes to shine in this league.
Head coach: Marcelino García Toral
Transfers in: Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona, £31m), Maxi Gomez (Celta Vigo, £13m), Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal, £5m), Manu Vallejo (Cadiz, £5m), Jorge Saenz (Tenerife, £2m), Salva Ruiz (Mallorca, free), Alex Carbonell (Cordoba, free), Jason (Levante, free), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City, free), Jaume Costa (Villarreal, loan)
Transfers out: Neto (Barcelona, £23m), Simone Zaza (Torino, £11m), Ruben Vezo (Levante, £4.5m), Jeison Murillo (Sampdoria, loan), Nacho Gil (Ponferradina, free), Aymen Abdennour (Kayserispor, free), Jorge Saenz (Celta Vigo, loan), Santi Mina (Celta Vigo, free), Alex Blanco (Real Zaragoza, loan), Toni Lato (PSV, loan), Uros Racic (Famalicao, loan), Alex Carbonell (Fortuna Sittard, loan)
Last season: 4th
Valencia survived a turbulent summer which saw the futures of general manager Mateu Alemany and head coach Marcelino Garcia Toral almost leave the club.
Alemany appeared ready to walk away from Valencia and Marcelino vowed he would follow him through the exit doors if he did, but the latter had a change of heart and the two have remained.
Keeping hold of Marcelino was a huge coup for Valencia, considering he led them to a Champions League spot and Copa del Rey glory last term – the club’s first trophy since 2008.
Having achieved so much, it will be difficult for Valencia to maintain the high standard, but they have invested well, bringing in the likes of Jasper Cillessen, Maxi Gomez and Denis Cheryshev. A top-four finish will be the expectation.
Keeping hold of their head coach Marcelino was a huge coup for Valencia this summer
Key man: Goncalo Guedes
There’s no doubt that Guedes possesses the potential to be a big hitter in La Liga. Since joining Valencia from Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, he has shown glimpses of a world class player but has not performed on a consistent basis.
You can’t help but think that this could be the season he finally announces himself as a top player in the league.
There will be less pressure on him to score goals regularly following Gomez’s arrival and he is expected to be given a new licence of freedom in an attacking role behind the main striker, which he could really flourish in.
Goncalo Guedes has shown glimpses of class but has not performed on a consistent basis
Head coach: Javier Calleja
Transfers in: Ruben Pena (Eibar, £7.2m), Raul Albiol (Napoli, £4.5m), Moi Gomez (Sporting Gijon, £1.2m), Alberto Moreno (Liverpool, free), Andre Zambo Anguissa (Fulham, loan), Enric Franquesa (Villarreal B, promotion), Xavi Quintilla (Villarreal B, promotion), Simon Moreno (Villarreal B, promotion)
Transfers out: Pablo Fornals (West Ham, £24m), Nicola Sansone (Bologna, £6.75m), Roberto Soriano (Bologna, £6.75m), Denis Cheryshev (Valencia, £5.4m), Ruben Semedo (£4m, Olympiacos), Victor Ruiz (Besiktas, £2.25m), Javi Fuego (Sporting Gijon, free), Juan Ibiza (UD Almeria, free), Alvaro Gonzalez (Marseille, loan), Simon Moreno (UD Almeria, loan), Miguelon (SD Huesca, loan), Enric Franquesa (CD Mirandes, loan), Jaume Costa (Valencia, loan), Alfonso Pedraza (Real Betis, loan), Daniel Raba (SD Huesca, loan)
Last season: 14th
Given the talent in the squad, there can be no arguments that last season fell way below expectations.
Although it could have been much worse with Villarreal staring relegation in the face at one point. A strong finish to the season saw them finish comfortably in 14th in the end.
It will be tall ask for them to better that this time around after losing key players such as Pablo Fornals and Denis Cheryshev in the summer window but it would be foolish to label them as mid-table languishers just yet.
They have some highly-rated prospects in Samuel Chukwueze and Santiago Caseres and will have genuine ambitions to crack the top 10.
Key man: Santi Cazorla
You’ve seen all the videos on social media, he may be 34-years-old and only recently recovered from an injury that kept him out of action for two years, but Cazorla still has plenty to offer.
He pulled the strings in midfield last season and has retained all the flair and technical skills that made him one of the best exports the Premier League has seen.
He even earned a recall to the Spain squad for his performances last season. Cazorla has that rare ability to pull a big moment out of the bag when needed and with another tough season expected, he will have a significant role to play.
Santi Cazorla is Villarreal’s maestro in midfield while Samuel Chukwueze could be important
LA LIGA BETTING ODDS
La Liga winner
Barcelona – 4/9
Real Madrid – 7/4
Atletico Madrid – 12/1
Valencia – 100//1
Sevilla – 150/1
La Liga relegated
Mallorca – 5/7
Granada CF – 5/4
Valladolid – 7/5
Osasuna – 9/5
Alaves – 2/1
Levante – 3/1
La Liga top goalscorer
Lionel Messi: 4/6
Eden Hazard: 9/1
Luis Suarez: 10/1
Antoine Griezmann: 14/1
Karim Benzema: 16/1
*Odds provided by SportNation.bet
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