Oh it’s my favorite time of year! The 2013-2014 season of La Liga opens in two weeks!! I’ll do a two part preview of the new season to help speed up the time until Aug. 17 arrives. Last season ended in a pretty wild fashion since the bottom group of teams all had about the same chance to fall or survive. At the top, it was a mighty struggle to see who wanted that last Champions league place the most.
By the time the dust had settled on Survival Sunday, Real Sociedad had exuberantly claimed the 4th and final spot in the UEFA Champions League berth. Unfortunately, Mallorca, Deportivo La Coruña, and Real Zaragoza didn’t have quite the same luck and were all relegated to the Segunda División. Tears of joy and pain were shed all over Spain at the end. The teams who won promotion from the Segunda are Elche, Villarreal (who were relegated from the Primera at the end of 2011-12 season), and Almería. Hope they’re ready for a wild season because big changes have occurred over the summer. But before I move on, here’s the schedule for the opening weekend:
Real Sociedad – Getafe
Valladolid – Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona – Levante
Real Madrid – Real Betis
Osasuna – Granada
Sevilla – Atlético Madrid
Rayo Vallecano – Elche
Almería – Villarreal
Celta Vigo – Espanyol
Now if you’re new to La Liga, there are a few things you need to know. First of all, I’m expecting the beginning of this season to be very exciting and entertaining. Unless you’ve been living under a rock this summer, everyone knows Barcelona signed Brazilian starlet Neymar to create what promises to be the most lethal attacking duo…ever. Messi and Neymar. Whoo I cannot wait to see what they can do! Real Madrid have been making some big moves as well. Jose Mourinho left for Chelsea and Carlo Ancelotti replaced him. And now Zinedine Zidane is the new assistant coach! After failing yet again to win la Decima (their 10th Champions League title) and coming in 2nd to Barça, Real Madrid offloaded players who went looking for more playing time and brought in some younger blood. The two youngsters I’m most thrilled about are Isco from Málaga and Illarra from Real Sociedad.
Yes, Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate the league, but there are a few teams who have the strength and talent to challenge the two giants. At the top of that list sits Atlético Madrid. Last season, they beat Real Madrid 2-1 for the Copa del Rey title. And they just signed David Villa from Barcelona. Atleti always have a world class striker no matter what. Diego Simeone had an excellent team last year, and you’d be wrong to expect differently this year. Then there’s Real Sociedad. It took a collective passion, spirit, and desire from both the players and their fans to reach the heights they achieved last season. I only have the highest hopes for them this season. Málaga and Valencia are the other contenders I’d back seriously to challenge the top two. The former needs to makes some transfer market moves to replenish their squad after losing their young talent Isco to Real Madrid and to back up their somewhat aging players.
Both Valencia and Sevilla sold their best players to England during the summer transfer window. Jesus Navas and Álvaro Negredo left Sevilla for Manchester City while Roberto Soldado has recently joined Tottenham from Valencia. If those two teams can find a way to strengthen their squads, both have strong histories they can use to fuel them throughout the new season.
If you’ve never watched a game of La Liga before, don’t just stick to Real Madrid and Barcelona. There are many teams in La Liga worth watching. Definitely check out either Real Sociedad or Málaga. Rayo Vallecano is one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Spain. They usually could care less who they’re playing and they just attack and attack the opposition. It worked well for them last season as they finish in eighth place. Athletic Bilbao are another pretty special team. Last season was a bit shambolic for them, but Marcelo Bielsa has formed them into one of the hardest working teams in Spain.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this not-so-quick preview! Next week, I’ll chat some about continuing transfer rumors, UEFA drama, and other news around the league. Until next time!
Photos courtesy of Liga BBVA and Real Madrid. Follow @AerysSoccer for constant updates on MLS, La Liga, and the EPL.