August 29, 2009

La Liga Season Forecast

With the heavily anticipated start to the Spanish first division’s season around the corner, it is time for some incredibly premature predictions. Barcelona will look to retain a few titles as they come off their incredible run of winning the triple last season (La Liga, Champions, Copa del Rey); however, the heavily equipped squad of Real Madrid will be quite poised to intervene in any repeat plans. But I do not believe it will be the two-teamed race that many are predicting. Sevilla’s signing of Negredo adds a goal scorer to a team in need, while Valencia (amidst bankruptcy issues), Villarreal (attempting to repeat their successful second place finish during the 07-08 campaign), and Atletico de Madrid will all be competitive with the two Spanish powerhouses.
When the dust settles, who will be left standing at the top and who will be doomed for a season in the segunda? Real Madrid, whose summer spending spree made them not only quick favorites for La Liga but for Europe as well, will be sitting at the top of the table. Xabi Alonso (not Kaka, not Ronaldo) will prove to be the most important piece from this summer’s transfers. While there is more than one issue at Anfield right now, it is very clear early on that the loss of Alonso has greatly hurt Liverpool. Sevilla only scored fifty-four times last season while the rest of the top four in Spain scored at least eighty times, which is of concern for the Andalusian club. Can their offense keep them in contention for a title run? A Real Madrid, FC Barcelona one-two finish seems to be the popular public consensus after Barca’s season and Madrid’s summer spending; however, I envision a different scenario. And yes, there is some logic behind said verdict. Atletico Madrid, who have finished fourth the past two seasons, have one of the best young strikers, an Argentine who was the envy of many premier league clubs, in Kun Aguero. Barcelona did score an unconscious amount of goals (103) last season, but Eto’o was a crucial part of that and Ibrahimovic has yet to prove he can show up in big games. Therefore, it will be Atletico Madrid in the second position followed by Barcelona. Finishing fourth, I have Valenica making a return to the top four and the top flight of European football. Rounding out the top six and the final European spots will be Villareal and Espanyol (as the surprise of the year). Sevilla’s scoring issues from last season as well as more games against top European competition in the Champions league will pave the way for the Catalan club’s chance at a place in the Europa League (after last years flirt with relegation).
Sporting Gijon, whose -32 goal differential was the worst in La Liga last season, will be the only veteran club relegated while Xerez and Tenerife will have short tenure’s in the top flight of Spanish football.

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