FOOTBALL IS BACK!
The Premier League has gotten off to a bang of a start and fans are definitely in for a treat if the season were to carry on in this manner.
This weekend marks the beginning of both La Liga and the Bundesliga. Let’s take a look at La Liga and try to figure out what to expect for the season ahead.
Kicks off: Friday 16th August 2019
First game: Athletic Club v Barcelona
The first game of the La Liga season will be kicked off at Athletic Club when they host champions Barcelona. Barcelona go into the new season having strengthened their squad in every department. They signed Antoine Griezmann in attack, Frenkie de Jong in midfield, Junior Firpo in defence and also Neto in goal. Despite not being able to prise Neymar away from PSG back to the Nou Camp, it would be tough to find any reason to believe that they will not be the most formidable force in La Liga once again especially after looking at the transfer dealings and pre-season results of their closest competitors. Barcelona are definitely planning for life after Messi, with the Argentinian having turned 32 in June. The capture of Griezmann and the plan to bring Neymar back is testament that they are aware that Messi and Suarez (also 32) are reaching the tail-end of their careers in the Catalonia. The only noteworthy departure for them was Malcom who despite showing glimpses of potential, was deemed surplus to requirements.
Real Madrid kick off their season on the 17th of August with a trip to Celta Vigo with plenty curious as to how Zidane’s second stint will truly kick off after re-joining them midway through last season. Despite doing plenty of business in the transfer market, it is arguable that Real did not have the best of pre-seasons. They lost 4 of their 7 pre-season games (one of them being a 7-3 demolition at the hands of their local rivals Atletico), they did not manage to bring either of their midfield targets in Pogba & Eriksen and to top it all off, were unable to unload the unwanted Gareth Bale. The atmosphere surrounding the team now cannot possibly be positive, despite the captures of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo as the negativity surrounding the Bale situation coupled with last and pre-season results seem to have overshadowed a team that could give Barcelona a run for their money.
With plenty still placing money on Barcelona to win the league again, it is up to Zidane and Co to prove that this has been money well spent.
Valencia also kick off their season on the 17th with last season’s 4th placed team hosting Real Sociedad. They will look to carry on their fine form from last season, where they managed to claw their way to 4th after a dismal start to the campaign. They haven’t managed to do much in the transfer window, bringing in Jasper Cillessen from Barcelona (while Neto went the other way) and Maxi Gomez from Celta Vigo. Manager Marcelino will be hoping that they have a much finer start than last season.
Last season’s runner-ups Atletico start their season on the 18th of August when they host Getafe. Atletico never really challenged Barcelona for the title last season, despite retaining 2nd spot and widening the gap from Real in 3rd. With the departures of most of their top players in Griezmann, Godin, Filipe Luis, Juanfran, Rodri, Gelson Martins and Lucas Hernandez, everyone was curious as to how Diego Simeone would go about rebuilding Atletico.
They have done so by breaking their transfer record after purchasing the second most expensive teenager in Joao Felix from Benfica. Despite completing one of the marquee signings of this transfer window whilst also plugging the gaps left by the departures with Marcos Llorente in midfield; Mario Hermoso, Kieran Trippier, Felipe and Renan Lodi in defence, the jury is still out on whether Felix is up to the task of filling Griezmann’s boots especially since he is only 19 and if any of the other signings can truly replace the stalwarts that have now left the club.
Whatever the case might be, we sure hope that the title race will be a lot tighter this season than last.