La Liga preview
CD TENERIFE fans have to wait a little longer as top-flight football gets underway in Spain this weekend.
La Liga is back and, for Spanish football, it’s very much the best of times. Victory in Euro 2012 meansSpainare the best national side ever (the only nation to win three consecutive international tournaments).
They have the two best players in the league, and the two greatest club sides inBarcelonaand Real Madrid. But scratch at the surface and you will see an abyss that threatens everything.
For a few years now, La Liga has been like the Scottish Premier League – Flip a coin to see who wins the title.
If you go back 16 seasons, you will see sides like Deportivo La Coruña, AtleticoMadridandValencialifting the trophy while Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad finished second.
Those days are long gone and will never be seen again. Of all the TV revenue, 75% goes to the big two clubs and the rest are left to fight over the scraps.
Both giants have spent as though money is no object, racking up monster debts which were, miraculously, written off.
Rangers fans must look at Real Madrid and ask how did THEY get away with it. This season, like last, will be decided on who draws the least amount of matches. Real and Barca don’t lose games!
It’s bordering on the ridiculous, yet no one seems willing or able to rectify the problem. The crowds will flock to watch Messi, Ronaldo and all.
Television viewing figures will be sky-high, and the goals will flow. Entertainment? Sure. A competition? Don’t make me laugh.
Both sides have been quiet in the transfer market so far, but that will change. Barca have snapped up Jordi Alba (pictured) fromValencia, a move which shows again why La Liga is so ridiculous.
The third-placed side need to strengthen – not sell to the big two. Alba should be joined by Arsenal’s Alex Song. They are still chasing a centre-back, andLiverpool’s Dani Agger is the main target.
If they can sort that out, they hold the edge over Real. Jose Mourinho seems happy with his squad, and he has some fine kids to fall back on. They are currently in a stand-off with Spurs over Luca Modric, but he will soon sign on.
The rest of the clubs will be happy to get within 30 points of the big two and, in fact, they are weakening rather than improving. Apart from losingAlba,Valenciacould also lose star striker Roberto Soldado.
FormerLiverpooldefender Mauricio Pellegrino is the new boss and has a lot of work to do. They have signed Sergio Canales and Fernando Gago from Real Madrid, while exciting youngster Jonathan Viera joins fromLas Palmas. They should again finish third.
Malagaare in deep trouble. They will embark on their first-ever Champions League campaign in turmoil. They were unable to pay the wage bill for four months and had to fire-sale to cover a 30-million-euro debt.
Owner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani is selling up, the star players are leaving and the rumoured debt figures are frightening. Rondon has moved toRussia, while Santi Cazorla fled to Arsenal.
Others will follow, with hot prospect Isco having the pick of a dozen clubs. They will do well to survive the season.
AtleticoMadridagain look to have a solid squad, but they always seem to drop stupid points. They should look to kick on from their Europa League success, and they have bought well.
Chelseakeeper Courtois is mustard and his re-signing on loan is a masterstroke. They should finish fourth, while it will be interesting to see how new-look Sevilla get on.
Legend Freddie Kanoute has left for a Chinese retirement, while Maduro and Cicinho will tighten up the defence.
AthleticBilbaofinished last season on their knees. They knocked Manchester United out on route to the Europa Cup final, which they lost.
Ditto the Spanish Cup final, and the fixture congestion cost them a Champions League charge. But the great run has come at a price.
All their star names are on the radar ofEurope’s finest. Fernando Llorente as good as handed in a transfer request when he confirmed he would not sign a new deal.
Spurs, Roma, PSG andManCitystarted rubbing their hands instantly. Javi Martinez, Fernando Amorebieta, Ander Herrera and even stalwart Andoni Iraola could also leave.
I like the progress Espanyol are making. Wakaso came from nowhere last year to star for relegated Villarreal and he is a shrewd signing, as is Sergio Tejera fromMallorca.
The Islanders have also strengthened. Former Tenerife favourite Alejandro Alfaro is still there and has been joined by Antonio Lopez and Javi Marquez.Talking of formerTenerifeheroes, Nino and Marc Betran will have their second season at Osasuna. They finished ninth last year and should improve on that this campaign.
Top-flight football is back in thenorth westofSpainfollowing the promotion of Galician rivals Celta Vigo and Deportivo La Coruña.
The former return after five years away. They play smart football and should survive, as will Deportivo, managed by Jose Luis Oltra. The man who guided Tenerife into La Liga did it at the first time of asking withLa Coruna.
He has signed seven new players and has admitted they are looking for a top 10 finish. Why did we ever let him go?
The rest of the sides will all be battling to avoid relegation, and it’s hard to say with conviction who the bottom three will be.
Rayo Vallecano had an amazing adventure last year but will do well to avoid the drop. They are still in a deep, financial hole and their amazing fans will only get them so far.
Granada, in theory, should have enough contacts to find a side to stay up. But theory isn’t points!
And after performing the greatest Houdini escape ever, Real Zaragoza’s fans deserve a better season. They won’t get it, mind!
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