2017/18 La Liga season tips and preview
FootyOn experts cast their eye over the upcoming Spanish top-flight campaign in our 2017/2018 La Liga season tips and preview.
It’s nearly upon us, a division that boasts each of the last four Champions League winners and four of the previous six Europa League champions, is set to return this weekend.
High-profile names have come and gone this summer, but the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann remain and are ready to lace up their boots for yet another campaign of sensational football.
Will Real Madrid make it consecutive titles, can Barcelona recover after the loss of Neymar and who will fight for a Champions League berth?
They’ll all be answered in our 2017/2018 La Liga season tips and preview…
Madridistas to rejoice after defending title
Over the last few years, it seems less has been more for Real Madrid.
Instead of looking to bring in blockbusting names that have no correlation to the overarching plan of a coach, there is now a clear motive behind each signing the Spanish capital club bring in.
Los Blancos now feel more stable than they have in years, and there are a number of reasons for this.
The profile and popularity of Zinedine Zidane allows him to make decisions his predecessors once shied away from, in fear of fan backlash.
This can be seen in the Frenchman’s use of Brazil dynamo Casemiro.
Rafael Benitez was reluctant to deploy him, even in big games like El Clasico when the need for a counterbalance to Toni Kroos and Luka Modric was abundantly clear to see.
In fact, one of Zidane’s first action as boss was to bring Casemiro back into the starting XI on an almost permanent basis.
The second, to sit down with Ronaldo and discuss the best way forward for the ageing superstar.
Ronaldo no longer plays every minute of every game and the benefit of this can be seen in his acceleration towards to end of the season, peaking just when it matters.
Thanks to Real president Florentino Perez’s stringent rules on challenging him, he is no longer under immense pressure every summer to appease fans with Galacticos. Perez can focus on adding neat pieces to the world’s best football team.
Highly rated 21-year-old Dani Ceballos was added for just £15,300,000, while 19-year-old left back Theo Hernandez was bought for £27,000,000.
And that is all this talented squad needs.
Back Zidane to claim another La Liga title at evens with BetVictor this coming term and be celebrating in the Plaza de Cibeles come summer.
Barca soul-searching after Neymar loss
Losing Neymar for a world record fee is a big blow to Barcelona’s ego.
The release clauses of stars playing for Clasico clubs is meant to be a deterrent, not an achievable fee.
Well, Qatari owned PSG proved a point and now Ernesto Valverde is left in an unenviable predicament.
Fan opinion of the Barca board is at an all-time low, according to recent supporter surveys, with many not trusting the behind the scenes staff to invest wisely, fearing a situation similar to Luis Figo’s departure.
Real president Perez recently claimed signing Figo from Barca was like “ripping the heart” out the club – you get the sense losing Neymar could have the same impact.
Nonetheless, you cannot forget the quality the Nou Camp club still possess the likes of Messi and Luis Suarez, a superb strike pairing arguably unrivalled in football.
Barca have already started to invest the Neymar money too, splashing a reported £36,000,000 on Brazil box-to-box midfielder Paulinho in an effort to sure up an engine room that often lacked steel last term – with moves for Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele also in the works.
As a result, Valverde’s men are evens with Sky Bet to lift the title.
Atletico title challenge could hang on Costa addition
You know what you’re going to get with Diego Simeone’s side heading into the new season.
Atletico Madrid will be hard to beat and punish you up top with excellent set pieces and swift attacking moves from their own half.
Buoyed by Griezmann staying thanks to an otherwise hugely negative transfer ban, El Cholo will be out to repeat his side’s monumental La Liga winning effort of 2013/14.
Unable to register players until January 2018, their £32,400,000 singing Vitolo has gone on loan to Las Palmas until the New Year.
Meanwhile, Diego Costa continues to flirt with a return to Madrid after being told he is not in Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s plans by text.
If Atletico are to mount a title charge, acquiring Costa, getting him up to speed by January and hitting the ground running is a must.
A one-two punch of Costa and Griezmann would have Atleti fans salivating.
However, moving into a new stadium can be problematic for teams.
The Wanda Metropolitano will take time to become the fortress the Vicente Calderon was and fan unrest surrounding the team’s move from the heartbeat of the city remains.
Atletico are outsiders at 33/1 with betway to lift a La Liga crown this term, while Griezmann is the same price to be league top scorer.
Two-way tussle for final Champions League berth?
Sevilla (11/10 with Sky Bet for a top-four finish) snapped up the final CL place last term after an admirable campaign, in which they briefly shocked with a sustained title challenge.
After losing Vitolo, they have invested well, bringing in Luis Muriel, Simon Kjaer and former Manchester City man Nolito.
They may have brought back Ever Banega and Guido Pizarro to replace Vicente Iborra, but losing their captain and leader may produce adverse results on the pitch.
Villarreal are another intriguing prospect and great value at 5/1 to make the top four.
The £16,200,000 sale of centre back Mateo Musacchio to AC Milan has afforded coach Fran Escriba money to play with, and he’s done extremely well.
Ruben Semedo will replace the outgoing Musacchio, talented youngster Pablo Fornals arrived from Malaga and will no doubt be on the shopping lists of Europe’s elite soon; and the Yellow Submarine spent £12,600,000 on Man City striker Enes Unal, who scored 18 Eredivisie goals for Twente last season.
However, it is their most recent signing that should scare defences up and down the country.
Villarreal added Colombia hitman Carlos Bacca on a one-year loan deal with an option to buy, a man that guarantees goals.
Bacca netted 31 in 69 Serie A outings for AC Milan and starred for Sevilla last time he was in Spain – bagging 34 in 72 league games, also lifting the Europa League twice.
Combine Bacca with Cedric Bakambu, and Escriba has an attacking duo capable of firing the club to higher than their fifth place finish last term.