Football Season Guide

Alaves

In


Lucas Perez (att) West Ham; Joselu (att) Newcastle; Luis Rioja (mid) Almeria; Pere Pons (mid) Girona; Tachi (def) Atletico Madrid; Saul Garcia (def) Deportivo; Jeando Fuchs (mid) Sochaux; Olivier Verdon (def) Sochaux; Aleix Vidal (def) Sevilla; Javi Munoz (mid) Real Oviedo; Rafa Navarro (def) Sochaux; Nando (mid) Sochaux; Daniel Torres (mid) Albacete; Ermedin Demirovic (att) Almeria

Out


Jony (k) (mid) Malaga; Carlos Vigaray (sp) (def) Real Zaragoza; Takashi Inui (sp) (att) Real Betis; Jonathan Calleri (r) (att) Maldonado; Diego Rolan (sp) (att) Deportivo; Borja Baston (r) (att) Swansea; Darko Brasanac (sp) (mid) Real Betis

Alaves started really well last season and were as high as fifth at the midway point. However, they had a very poor second half and there was conflict between Abelardo, the coach, and those in charge at the club. They ultimately finished in 11th. The conflict with Abelardo led to the coach leaving. To replace him, Alaves hired former Leganes coach Asier Garitano, who didn’t have success in his most recent role at Real Sociedad. He is a defensive-minded coach and Alaves could be a very conservative team this year. Although they’ve lost a lot of good players, their summer recruitment has been pretty good, as they’ve strengthened the full-back positions with Saul Garcia and Aleix Vidal, while Joselu and Lucas Perez are risky bets but could pay off and improve the attack. They’ve assembled a fairly complete squad, even if there isn’t too much creativity in midfield, apart from in the form of wingers. It looks like they’ll be the kind of team that use the wings to try to get crosses into the box. A major strength for Alaves is their defending, especially at home. They’ve long been tough to score against, due to impressive centre-backs and Fernando Pacheco, one of the better goalkeepers in the division. Their main weakness might be in attack. Even though they had a good season last year, they still scored the fourth fewest goals. There isn’t much creativity up front and the strikers they have can be inconsistent.

Target


Avoiding relegation. With a significant downgrade in the dugout and with negative momentum due to the poor finish to last season, Alaves will consider survival to be a good season.

Athletic Bilbao

In


Cristian Ganea (def) Numancia; Mikel Vesga (mid) Leganes

Out


Alex Remiro (sp) (gk) Real Sociedad; Mikel Rico (sp) (mid) Huesca; Ander Iturraspe (sp) (mid) Espanyol; Markel Susaeta (sp) (mid) Released; Xabier Etxeita (sp) (def) Released

Last year, Athletic Club had a season of two halves. Under Eduardo Berizzo they were battling relegation at the bottom, but the arrival of Gaizka Garitano in December turned their fortunes around. Had the season started when Garitano took over as coach then Athletic Club would have finished fifth. It has been a very quiet summer at Athletic Club. As they have a policy of only signing Basque players, they never make much of a noise in the transfer market and have yet to bring in any players from the outside except from Cristian Ganea and Mikel Vesga returning from loans. Instead, they’ll promote youth from their prestigious academy. There have been some departures, but they’ve really only lost veteran players who were past their prime anyway. The squad isn’t, therefore, much different to what it was last season. There are some really good players throughout this squad and fans are optimistic now that they have Garitano as coach from the start of the season. One of their main strengths is their ability to counter-attack as Inaki Williams is so quick and so devastating on the break. They have a solid defence too, one able to win the ball back and launch these quick attacks from the back. One potential weakness is at the centre-forward position. Natural centre-forward Aritz Aduriz is now 38 and isn’t the player he once was, while Williams isn’t a natural No.9 even if he is often asked to play there.

Target


Europa League qualification. Athletic Club just missed out on the final Europa League spot last season. This year, with Garitano in charge from the start, they’ll expect to return to Europe.

Atletico Madrid

In


Joao Felix (att) Benfica; Marcos Llorente (mid) Real Madrid; Mario Hermoso (def) Espanyol; Kieran Trippier (def) Tottenham; Felipe (def) Porto; Renan Lodi (def) Athletico Paranaense; Ivan Saponjic (att) Benfica; Hector Herrera (mid) Porto; Sime Vrsaljko (def) Inter

Out


Antoine Griezmann (k) (att) Barcelona; Diego Godin (k) (def) Inter; Lucas Hernandez (r) (def) Bayern Munich; Rodri (r) (mid) Manchester City; Juanfran (sp) (def) Sao Paulo; Filipe Luis (sp) (def) Flamengo

Atletico Madrid have finished second for two years in a row, which is still a major achievement for this club. This summer has probably been the most turbulent in Diego Simeone’s eight years as coach, as they lost so many important players like Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez, Rodri and Antoine Griezmann, plus veteran full-backs Juanfran and Filipe Luis. They’ve done a good job of reshaping the squad. Joao Felix, the 19-year-old potential superstar, has been brought in from Benfica as a long-term replacement for Griezmann, while they’ve almost completely rebuilt the defence with players like Kieran Trippier, Felipe, Mario Hermoso and Renan Lodi. As much as many Atletico fans are pleased with the way the club has dealt with the numerous departures, the quality of this season’s squad is probably still lower than last year’s. You just can’t lose a player Griezmann and expect to become better. The good news for Atletico is that Simeone and his coaching staff are still there. That’s always their biggest asset. In terms of weaknesses, their famously stingy defence might be slightly more porous this year as the defensive personnel has almost completely changed. But they do still have Jan Oblak to bail them out at the back.

Target


Top three. After such a turbulent summer, the target for Atletico Madrid will be to maintain their top-three status and perhaps fight for the Copa del Rey.

Celta Vigo

In


Denis Suarez (mid) Barcelona; Joseph Aidoo (def) Genk; Santi Mina (att) Valencia; Jorge Saenz (def) Valencia; Juan Hernandez (mid) Cadiz; Claudio Beauvue (mid) Caen; Gabriel Fernandez (att) Penarol

Out


Maxi Gomez (k) (att) Valencia; Mathias Jensen (sp) (mid) Brentford; Sofiane Boufal (r) (mid) Southampton; Wesley Hoedt (sp) (def) Southampton; Emre Mor (sp) (att) Galatasaray; Andrew Hjulsager (sp) (mid) Oostende; Gustavo Cabral (sp) (def) Pachuca; Nemanja Radoja (sp) (mid) Released; Dennis Eckert (sp) (att) Released

Celta Vigo underachieved last season. There was a point when it really looked like they’d be relegated, but coach Fran Escriba came in for the final 12 matches and, along with brilliance of the back-from-injury Iago Aspas, helped the team finish 17th. Escriba has been kept on as coach. Although the jury is still out on just how good a coach he is, he should be a net positive for Celta Vigo. In the transfer market, they’ve added Denis Suarez from Barcelona and there is major excitement about him due to the fact he is from Vigo. Santi Mina has also returned to the club, but the fact they’ve lost starting centre-forward Maxi Gomez, who had 31 goals in 75 appearances for the club, is a significant blow. It’s difficult to tell if this squad is better than it was last season. They’ve added some quality, but lost some of it too. When it comes to Celta’s strength, their main strength is clearly Aspas. He is the leader in attack and so often carries the team on his shoulders. They really missed him when he missed a couple of months with injury last season, but when he came back he scored 10 goals and provided four assists across the final nine games. Their weakness is related to their strength, as their weakness is their overreliance on Aspas. When he’s not there, they are not nearly the same, and it’ll be a worry if the 32-year-old misses time with injury again.

Target


Top-half finish. It would be a stretch to expect Celta Vigo to qualify for Europe, but they’ll hope to avoid relegation much more comfortably than they did last year.

Eibar

In


Edu Exposito (mid) Deportivo; Quique (att) Deportivo; Takashi Inui (mid) Real Betis; Roberto Correa (def) Cadiz; Ruben Lobato (def) Real Oviedo; Esteban Burgos (def) Alcorcon; Alvaro Tejero (def) Real Madrid; Dani Junior Ltaif (gk) Olimpik Donetsk; Yoel (gk) Real Valladolid; Nano (att) Tenerife; Jose Antonio Martinez (def) Granada

Out


Joan Jordan (r) (mid) Sevilla; Ruben Pena (r) (def) Villarreal; Marc Cucurella (r) (mid) Barcelona; Pere Milla (sp) (att) Elche; Marc Cardona (sp) (att) Barcelona; Asier Riesgo (sp) (gk) Released

As the smallest club in LaLiga, every season in which Eibar avoid relegation is an achievement. Last year, they survived comfortably in midtable and finished 12th. Every summer Eibar lose some of their best players to bigger clubs and have to replace them and this has been the case once again. Starters Joan Jordan, Ruben Pena and Marc Cucurella are all gone, which is a blow. But they almost always recruit well and have brought in some exciting prospects from the second division, especially the Deportivo duo Edu Exposito and Quique, as well as securing the return of their former star winger Takashi Inui. In the dugout, there has been continuity as Jose Luis Mendilibar is still there. After Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, Mendilibar is the LaLiga coach to have been at his current club the longest. Eibar’s situation is an encouraging one, then. The level of quality in the squad might not have changed too much and the key will be developing chemistry between the new players, something which Mendilibar is good at achieving. One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that Eibar still enjoy a significant home advantage. Their tiny little stadium of Ipurua is one of the most difficult away days for most teams, with fans close up to the pitch and with the long journey to get to the valley town. A weakness for Eibar could be injuries. They have several players in this year’s squad who are injury prone and that’s a worry.

Target


Avoiding relegation. The objective is always the same for this tiny club. It’s simply to stay in the division.

Espanyol

In


Matias Vargas (mid) Velez Sarsfield; Ander Iturraspe (mid) Athletic Club; Andres Prieto (gk) Leganes; Bernardo Espinosa (def) Girona; Pipa (def) Gimnastic; Fernando Calero (def) Real Valladolid

Out


Mario Hermoso (r) (def) Atletico Madrid; Roberto Rosales (r) (def) Malaga; Roberto (sp) (gk) West Ham; Hernan Perez (sp) (att) Al Ahli; Oscar Duarte (sp) (def) Levante; Alfa Semedo (sp) (def) Benfica; Sergio Garcia (sp) (att) Released

The 2018/19 season was a major success for Espanyol as they managed to qualify for the Europa League on the final day, their first European qualification in over a decade. Rubi, the coach who steered Espanyol into Europe, then left during the summer, so that was a major blow and it’ll make it difficult for the club to repeat the feat of last season. David Gallego, a man who knows the club so well and who has been caretaker in the past with four wins from five, has come in and he is viewed as a fairly safe pair of hands. The goal for Espanyol was to keep the squad largely the same. They lost starting centre-back Mario Hermoso and starting right-back Roberto Rosales, which is a blow, but otherwise there haven’t been any departures that look too detrimental. They’ve quietly added some good players too, in addition to the very talented January signing from China Wu Lei. With a strong squad and with a very good youth academy to fall back on, Espanyol are in a good situation. It’d have been good if they could have kept their coach, but they should still be competitive. A strength for Espanyol is in attack, where they have the ability to score goals from few chances. A weakness is the fact that they can be very hot or cold. Even last season on their way to European qualification, they had runs of excellent form and then runs of terrible form.

Target


Europa League qualification. Espanyol’s chances of re-qualifying for Europe are slimmer based on what has happened during the off-season, as well as the fact they’ll now have midweek fixtures to contend with. But their ambition should still be to take part in the fight for European qualification.

FC Barcelona

In


Antoine Griezmann (att) Atletico Madrid; Frenkie de Jong (mid) Ajax; Neto (gk) Valencia; Junior Firpo (def) Real Betis

Out


Malcom (sp) (att) Zenit; Jasper Cillessen (sp) (gk) Valencia; Thomas Vermaelen (sp) (def) Vissel Kobe; Jeison Murillo (sp) (def) Valencia; Kevin-Prince Boateng (sp) (att) Sassuolo.

Barcelona won the league title last season, their second in a row. They did finish the campaign on a downer, though, as they lost the Copa del Rey final to Valencia and were eliminated in painful fashion against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals. Although there was some speculation over the future of coach Ernesto Valverde, he has stayed on at the Camp Nou. In the transfer market, Barcelona have added some really exciting players by acquiring Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann, both of whom should be considered starters. Junior Firpo has also come in to provide a backup to Jordi Alba at left-back, solving one of last season’s main issues. The outlook at Barcelona for the new campaign is positive. Their squad is even better than it was last season, when they basically strolled to the league title. Their strength will be in attack, as it so often is. Lionel Messi may now be 32, but is still performing like the superstar that he is. To have added Griezmann to the attacking ranks makes Barcelona even more dangerous. Although Luis Suarez is getting on a bit and Ousmane Dembele is still inexperienced, these two players can also cause damage to most defences. The weakness for Barcelona last season was the fact that Sergio Busquets wasn’t playing like he had been over the previous decade. The holding midfielder suffered a lot and this could be a weakness again, although the arrival of De Jong maybe makes it less so.

Target


To win every competition. Barcelona will rightly expect to compete in every competition once again.

Getafe

In


Enric Gallego (att) Huesca; Jack Harper (mid) Malaga; Faycal Fajr (mid) Caen; Raul Garcia (def) Girona; Marc Cucurella (mid) Barcelona; Allan Nyom (def) West Brom; Filip Manojlovic (gk) Panionios; Merveil Ndockyt (mid) Barcelona; Robert Ibanez (mid) Osasuna; Ivan Alejo (mid) Malaga; Jose Carlos Lazo (mid) Lugo

Out


Dimitri Foulquier (r) (mid) Watford; Gaku Shibasaki (sp) (mid) Deportivo; Sebastian Cristoforo (sp) (mid) Fiorentina; Sergi Guardiola (sp) (att) Cordoba; Samu Saiz (sp) (mid) Leeds; Chuli (sp) (att) Released; Mathieu Flamini (sp) (mid) Released

The 2018/19 campaign was the best in Getafe’s history as they finished fifth and nearly qualified for the Champions League. They shocked the entire league with their performances. The mastermind behind all of this is Jose Bordalas. When he took over at Getafe in 2016/17, they were second-bottom of the second division. He led them to promotion that season, helped them stay in the league and then took them to Europe. Keeping him has been the best piece of business of Getafe’s entire summer. There have also been some eye-catching moves in the transfer market. Marc Cucurella comes in after impressing on loan at Eibar last year, while Enric Gallego is another exciting addition after scoring 20 goals total last season – 15 in the second division for Extremadura and five in the first division for Huesca. Right-back Allan Nyom’s arrival is another good deal. This squad is arguably even stronger than it was last year. With the exception of Dimitri Foulquier, all of the players to leave in the summer were backups anyway. Getafe look like they’ll be a competitive side again. The biggest asset Getafe have is their toughness. They are very physical, perhaps sometimes too much so, but it’s this mentality that has got them to where they are. No opposition side relishes a trip to Getafe. Their weakness is surely the fact that this is an aging squad. With midweek European fixtures to contend with, they’ll need to be careful to avoid burnout.

Target


Europa League qualification. Maintaining their European status will be the objective at Getafe this season. It’ll be tough to repeat what they achieved last season, but they’ll give it a go.

Granada CF

In


Roberto Soldado (att) Fenerbahce; Domingos Duarte (def) Sporting CP; Darwin Machis (mid) Udinese; Yan Brice (mid) Sevilla; Neyder Lozano (def) Elche; Yangel Herrera (mid) Manchester City

Out


Fede San Emeterio (r) (mid) Real Valladolid; Jose Antonio Martinez (r) (def) Eibar; Alejandro Pozo (r) (mid) Sevilla; Adrian Castellano (sp) (def) Numancia; Jose Antonio Gonzalez (sp) (mid) Cordoba; Nicolas Aguirre (sp) (mid) Released; Fran Rico (sp) (mid) Released

Granada secured promotion into LaLiga last season by finishing second in the division. It was their first year with Diego Martinez as coach and it worked perfectly. Granada’s main aim in the summer was to keep the best players in their squad together. There were some talents like Fede San Emeterio, Jose Antonio Martinez and Alejandro Pozo who they couldn’t help but lose because they were on loan from other clubs, but largely they did manage to keep the band together. When it came to signing players, they went out and brought in some quality in every position, with veteran Spanish striker Roberto Soldado coming in to bolster the attack, Yangel Herrera arriving to make central midfield more solid, Darwin Machis coming to add another experienced option on the wing and Domingos Duarte being signed to improve the centre-back contingent. For most outside observers, Granada are probably the least exciting of the newly promoted clubs, but the reality is that they’ve done a decent job this summer. Of course, it’ll be difficult because they don’t have budgets of other clubs, but they’ve done about as well as they could. As is the case with all newly promoted clubs, their strength will be their momentum. This is a winning team and they’ll hope to take that mentality into this tougher division. In terms of weaknesses, there’s the fact that their budget is simply much smaller than other teams. Apart from that, they could really do with another left-back.

Target


Avoiding relegation. They’ve just come up and their season will be about trying to stay up.

Leganes

In


Juan Munoz (att) Alcorcon; Roberto Rosales (def) Malaga; Andre Grande (gk) Inter Madrid; Juan Soriano (gk) Sevilla; Alex Martin (def) Real Madrid; Fede Varela (mid) Porto; Aitor Ruibal (mid) Real Betis; Josua Mejias (def) Cartagena; Owusu (def) Salamanca; Facundo Garcia (mid) AEK Larnaca

Out


Guido Carrillo (r) (att) Southampton; Allan Nyom (r) (def) West Brom; Andrii Lunin (sp) (gk) Real Madrid; Nabil El Zhar (sp) (mid) Al Ahli; Michael Santos (sp) (att) Malaga; Mikel Vesga (sp) (mid) Athletic Club; Diego Reyes (sp) (def) Fenerbahce; Ezequiel Munoz (sp) (def) Lanus; Andres Prieto (sp) (gk) Espanyol; Juanfran (sp) (def) Deportivo

The 2018/19 season was the best in Leganes’ history as they finished 13th. It was the first season under Mauricio Pellegrino and expectations weren’t high, but by the end of the year the coach had his team playing a tough-to-beat brand of football and Leganes comfortably finished in midtable. Pellegrino has stayed on, which is good news for Leganes. Consolidating what they had has been the theme of the summer. Their squad was very large and they had lots of loan players, so they’ve worked to sign some of the best loanees to permanent deals, while shipping out those on the fringes of the squad. In terms of players they didn’t really want to lose but who did go, they’ve lost striker Guido Carillo and right-back Allan Nyom. But they’ve been replaced by Juan Munoz and Roberto Rosales. Overall, the Leganes squad appears to be in good health and they have a coach who the players believe in. Leganes were an especially tough team to beat when they played at home last season, losing just four times all season and avoiding defeat when Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid came to town. They always have good deals on tickets, leading to a regularly full stadium, and this should spur the team on again. On the other hand, their weakness is their away form. They managed just four away wins in the league last season and three them came at clubs within a two-hour drive. When they have to travel further, they struggle.

Target


Avoiding relegation. As much as Leganes finished in midtable last season, they’re still a small club and their objective each year is to stay in the division.

Levante

In


Sergio Leon (att) Real Betis; Gonzalo Melero (mid) Huesca; Carlos Clerc (def) Osasuna; Jorge Miramon (def) Huesca; Hernani (mid) Porto; Oscar Duarte (def) Espanyol; Ivan Lopez (def) Gimnastic; Ivi (mid) Sporting Gijon; Sanjin Prcic (mid) Strasbourg; Armando Sadiku (att) Lugano

Out


Rober Pier (r) (def) Deportivo; Jason (sp) (mid) Valencia; Pedro Lopez (sp) (def) Huesca; Raphael Dwamena (sp) (mid) Real Zaragoza

Levante finished 15th last season and were in danger of slipping into relegation trouble towards the end of the year. They were spectacularly fun to watch as they scored the fourth-most goals in the division at the same time as they conceded the second-most. For coach Paco Lopez, he’ll remain confident in his attack. But the defence has to improve and it’s no coincidence that half of the club’s summer signings have been defenders. Jorge Miramon and Oscar Duarte will be contenders to start, while Carlos Clerc adds depth too. They also managed to tie Ruben Vezo, who joined on loan in January of last season and who played well at cente-back, down to a permanent deal. The overall outlook for Levante is a fairly positive one. They haven’t lost many players and the ones who have departed were generally fringe players anyway. Their obvious strength going into the season is their ability to score goals and Jose Luis Morales is such a special talent that they’ll be a danger to all defences. Clearly, the defence is the weakness, but this shouldn’t be as big of an issue as it was last year based on the signings they’ve made. If Lopez can come up with a system that works and stick with it, instead of tinkering with his tactics too much like he has done in the past, then Levante might be able to stop the leaking of goals at the back.

Target


Avoiding relegation. It’d be a bit of a stretch to expect Levante to push on for a top-half finish. Their goal will be avoiding relegation, and they’ll be confident of achieving it.

Osasuna

In


Adrian Lopez (att) Porto; Ezequiel Avila (att) San Lorenzo; Marc Cardona (att) Barcelona; Facundo Roncaglia (def) Celta Vigo; Darko Brasanac (mid) Real Betis; Antonio Otegui (att) Melilla

Out


Carlos Clerc (r) (def); Robert Ibanez (r) (mid) Getafe; Miguel Olavide (sp) (mid) Released; Xisco (sp) (att) Released

Osasuna are the champions of the second division and are back in LaLiga. They had a wonderful 2018/19 campaign, in their first year with Jagoba Arrasate coach. Osasuna’s aim this summer has been to keep the squad together as much as possible and to also inject some LaLiga experience. They managed to sign some of last year’s star loanees like Brandon and Ruben Garcia to permanent deals. Then, when you look at who’ve they’ve brought in you see that four of the six new faces were playing in LaLiga last season, while there’s also Adrian Lopez who has arrived from Porto but who has played hundreds of LaLiga games over his career and who won the competition with Atletico Madrid back in the day. This squad, then, looks excellent. It’s a mix of the players who got the team promoted and some new arrivals with top-flight experience. Add all of this to the fact that Osasuna are so strong at home and you have a really strong team. Last year they won 19 and drew two of their 21 home games, conceding just seven goals in front of their home fans. So they’ll be in a good position if they can make El Sadar a fortress again. There aren’t many weaknesses with this Osasuna team, apart from the obvious fact that they have one of the league’s smallest budgets and can’t afford the talent of some other clubs.

Target


Avoiding relegation. Osasuna look stronger than most newly promoted sides do when they come up. However, their goal for this season will logically be to simply stay up.

Real Betis

In


Nabil Fekir (att) Lyon; Juanmi (att) Real Sociedad; Alfonso Pedraza (def) Villarreal; Dani Martin (gk) Sporting Gijon; Juanjo Narvaez (mid) Almeria

Out


Giovani Lo Celso (k) (att) Tottenham; Pau Lopez (r) (gk) Roma; Junior Firpo (r) (def) Barcelona; Ryad Boudebouz (sp) (mid) Saint-Etienne; Sergio Leon (sp) (att) Levante; Aitor Rubial (sp) (att) Leganes; Jese (sp) (att) PSG

After finishing sixth in 2017/18, Real Betis took a step back in 2018/19 by finishing 10th. The style of football grew frustrating too as they became too obsessed with keeping possession. All of this led to the sacking of Quique Setien. Real Betis didn’t want to tear the whole project up and start again. They did want to keep something of a possession-based approach, but wanted someone a little more pragmatic and found him in Rubi, who had just led Espanyol to Europa League qualification. Although Real Betis believe they have an improvement in the dugout, there has been a drop-off in the quality of the squad. They’ve lost a number of starters. Although they’ve gone out and signed replacements in each case, it could be argued that the replacement in each case is a slight downgrade, for example Alfonso Pedraza coming in for Junior Firpo or Nabil Fekier coming in for Giovani Lo Celso. It’s an interesting situation for Real Betis, then. They’ll want to improve on their 10th placed finish, but the squad might be worse even if the coaching change is expected to be a positive. The strength of Real Betis’ academy is a strength for the whole club. They always have gems coming through and always have options when an injury crisis hits. Their weakness under Setien was turning their possession into goals. They had the second-most possession last season, but just the 13th-most goals. The hope, though, is that this will balance out more under Rubi.

Target


Europa League qualification. They qualified for the Europa League two seasons ago and the squad is largely the same. There’s no reason why Real Betis shouldn’t be in the battle for Europa League qualification, even if they might not be one of the favourites to secure it.

Real Madrid

In


Eden Hazard (att) Chelsea; Luka Jovic (att) Eintracht Frankfurt; Eder Militao (def) Porto; Ferland Mendy (def) Lyon; Rodrygo Goes (att) Santos; Andriy Lunin (gk) Leganes, James Rodriguez (mid) Bayern Munich

Out


Marcos Llorente (sp) (mid) Atletico Madrid; Sergio Reguilon (sp) (def) Sevilla; Dani Ceballos (sp) (mid) Arsenal; Jesus Vallejo (sp) (def) Wolves; Luca Zidane (sp) (gk) Racing Santander

The 2018/19 campaign was so disappointing for Real Madrid. They finished 19 points behind Barcelona in third, while they were knocked out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage. Towards the end of last season, Zinedine Zidane returned as coach and he’ll be in charge as they go into the new season. There are some question marks over Zidane, as he didn’t really turn anything around when he arrived in the spring. Real Madrid didn’t replace Cristiano Ronaldo last summer and they didn’t even try to. This year, though, they have spent big in the market. Their most significant signing has been that of Eden Hazard, who can take some of the goalscoring burden off Karim Benzema. Elsewhere, they added depth with the likes of Luka Jovic, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy. The squad looks better than it did last season and Zidane brings an aura of success with him too. So Real Madrid should be better than last year. Whether they’re improved enough to challenge Barcelona remains to be seen. There are a lot of strengths to this squad, not least their abundance of attacking talent. Even with Marco Asensio being ruled out for most of the season with a knee injury, they still have so many quality forwards. A weakness, though, is at the back. On paper, they have top-class defenders but they’ve not functioned well for a few years now. Plus, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was quite unconvincing in his first season at the club.

Target


To win every competition. Despite their struggles last season, Real Madrid are a club that will go into every season believing they can win the lot. And rightfully so, as they should be strong enough to compete for silverware.

Real Mallorca

In


Igor Zlatanovic (att) Radnik; Pablo Chavarria (att) Reims; Alex Alegria (att) Real Betis; Aleksandar Trajkovski (att) Palermo; Aleix Febas (mid) Real Madrid; Josep Sene (mid) Cultural Leonesa; Aleksandar Sedlar (def) Piast Gliwice; Lumor (def) Sporting CP; Sergio Moyita (mid) Cartagena; Enzo Lombardo (mid) Racing Santander; Pierre Cornud (def) R. B. Linense

Out


Pervis Estupinan (r) (def) Watford; Salva Ruiz (sp) (def) Valencia; Leandro Montagud (sp) (gk) Cultural Leonesa; Franco Russo (sp) (def) Ponferradina; Stoichkov (sp) (mid) Alcorcon; Pablo Valcarce (sp) (mid) Ponferradina; Sergio Buenacasa (sp) (att) Ponferradina; Alex Lopez (sp) (att) Extremadura; #Nikola Stojiljkovic (sp) (att) Braga

Real Mallorca won promotion through the second division’s play-offs, which was a great achievement as it was their second consecutive promotion. Coming up through the play-offs, though, comes with complications. Real Mallorca didn’t even know they were going to be in the top flight until June 23rd, the day of their play-off victory over Deportivo. So they have had a much shorter time to plan their squad than every other team. They’ve done a decent job of building a squad for the first division. Only one player from last season’s main starting XI has left, with left-back Pervis Estupinan’s loan coming to an end. Then they’ve been able to bring in several new faces to freshen up the squad and to add competition. They’ve been especially keen to sign attacking options, bringing in four good-quality strikers to mean they have six centre-forwards in the squad. It remains to be seen, though, if this scattergun approach to finding a centre-forward will work. The best news for Real Mallorca is that they have confidence in their coach Vicente Moreno and there is hope that he can get the best out of this squad, a squad that is probably the weakest in the division. Moreno is a strength, as is Real Mallorca’s home form. As an island club, a visit to their ground is always a tough journey for visiting teams and they lost just twice at home last season in the second division. Their main weakness, meanwhile, is just the talent level of this squad.

Target


Avoiding relegation. Real Mallorca have one goal and that’s to stay up.

Real Sociedad

In


Portu (att) Girona; Alexander Isak (att) Borussia Dortmund; Martin Odegaard (mid) Real Madrid; Alex Remiro (gk) Athletic Club

Out


Theo Hernandez (sp) (def) Real Madrid; Sandro (sp) (att) Everton; Juanmi (sp) (att) Real Betis; Hector Moreno (sp) (def) Al Gharafa; Jon Bautista (sp) (att) KAS Eupen

The 2018/19 campaign was quite a boring one for Real Sociedad. They were never really in much danger of being relegated and were never really fighting for European qualification. They spent the majority of the campaign in midtable. In the second half of the season, they never went higher than seventh and never lower than 11th. This year, though, there is excitement around this club and they expect to compete for a Europa League spot after the summer recruitment they’ve pulled off. By bringing in Alexander Isak and Martin Odegaard, they’ve acquired two of the most exciting young creative prospects in European football, which is even more impressive as they’ve combined this with the more experienced former Girona man Portu. There have been some exits, but most of those to have departed were fringe players anyway. In the dugout, there has been some consistency as they’re keeping Imanol Alguacil on as coach after he did such a good job during his previous stints as a caretaker. Given the attacking signings mentioned, who join existing talents like Willian Jose and Adnan Januzaj, Real Sociedad should score a lot of goals this season. However, they look very thin at the back. The defenders they have are generally young and inexperienced, while several of their defenders are injury-prone. They should be fun to watch as they’ll score a lot, but they’ll surely concede a lot too.

Target


Europa League qualification. The objective is to get back into Europe. They weren’t too far away last season when they finished ninth and they’ll hope their attacking signings can fire them up the table.

Real Valladolid

In


Javi Sanchez (def) Real Madrid; Jorge de Frutos (mid) Real Madrid; Sandro (att) Everton; Federico Barba (def) Chievo; Marcos de Sousa (att) Guaratingueta; David Mayoral (mid) Alcorcon; Chris Ramos (att) Sevilla; Jose Antonio Caro (gk) Albacete; Fede San Emeterio (mid) Granada; Alvaro Aguado (mid) Cordoba

Out


Fernando Calero (r) (def) Espanyol; Moises Delgado (sp) (def) Racing Santander; Borja Fernandez (sp) (mid) Retired; Yoel (sp) (gk) Eibar; Leo Suarez (sp) (mid) Villarreal; Daniele Verde (sp) (mid) Roma; Keko (r) (mid) Malaga

Real Valladolid managed to stay up last season, which was impressive given that they’d been promoted through the play-offs, which gave them just a few weeks to prepare for life in the first division. They didn’t sign much talent last summer, but then Brazilian legend Ronaldo Nazario took over the club last autumn. So it was expected that they’d make a splash in this transfer market, his first summer window, but that hasn’t really been the case. The transfer business this summer has been underwhelming. They’ve been able to bring in a couple of promising talents from Real Madrid using Ronaldo’s contacts, with Javi Sanchez and Jorge De Frutos arriving. But, in general, there haven’t been many notable or experienced names. They’ve lost some important players too, like centre-back Fernando Calero and veteran midfielder and leader Borja Fernandez. So it could be argued that this squad is even weaker than last year’s. There’s still time for Ronaldo to use his contacts and bring in some talent, but time is running out. There are some reasons for optimism, as Real Valladolid were consistently tough to beat and coach Sergio Gonzalez has proven that he knows how to lead this team. However, there are far more reasons for pessimism. They scored the fewest goals in the division last year and haven’t added much firepower up front. They also had the second-worst home record last season, so can’t even fall back on a strong home record to pick up a few extra points. It’ll be a tough year for Real Valladolid.

Target


Avoiding relegation. Real Valladolid were in the relegation scrap last season and everything points to them fighting down at the bottom again. For many, they’re one of the favourites to go down.

Sevilla

In


Jules Kounde (def) Bordeaux; Munas Dabbur (att) RB Salzburg; Diego Carlos (def) Nantes; Lucas Ocampos (mid) Marseille; Joan Jordan (mid) Eibar; Luuk de Jong (att) PSV Eindhoven; Oliver Torres (mid) Porto; Fernando (mid) Galatasaray; Nemanja Gudelj (mid) GZ Evergrande; Sergio Reguilon (def) Real Madrid; Carlos Fernandez (att) Deportivo; Alejandro Pozo (mid) Granada; Sergio Rico (gk) Fulham; Sebastien Corchia (def) Benfica

Out


Pablo Sarabia (k) (att) PSG; Gabriel Mercado (r) (def) Al Rayyan; Quincy Promes (sp) (att) Ajax; Aleix Vidal (sp) (def) Alaves; Juan Soriano (sp) (gk) Leganes; Ibrahim Amadou (sp) (mid) Norwich

Sevilla’s 2018/19 season was strange. They led the league in weeks eight and 13, but the summer of Europa League qualifying matches eventually took its toll on the fitness and their form fell off a cliff at the start of 2019, leading to Pablo Machin’s sacking. Joaquin Caparros came in, but there wasn’t much improvement. This summer Sevilla have shaken things up as they look to better last year’s sixth place. Former Spain and Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui has been hired and renowned sporting director Monchi is back, after a brief stint at Roma. Monchi is known for his transfer market dealings and he has been very busy. In terms of new players for the first-team squad, he’s already hit double figures. There are some really exciting signings too, such as up-and-coming left-back Sergio Reguilon, creative midfielder Oliver Torres and strikers Luuk de Jong and Munas Dabbur. Sevilla’s problem this summer, though, has been selling players. They haven’t moved on all those they’d like to and they have a very bloated squad as the season approaches. It’ll be tough for Lopetegui, or for any coach, to manage this. The strength of this Sevilla side is the sheer level of talent that they’ve acquired, both in this window and in previous ones. However, making it all fit together will be a problem. It’s never easy to incorporate 10 or so signings into a squad straight away, even more so when Lopetegui’s methods are known to take time to fully understand.

Target


Champions League qualification. Sevilla will feel they have a squad capable of competing with Valencia for fourth place and for Champions League qualification. At the very least, Sevilla will expect Europa League qualification.

Valencia

In


Jasper Cillessen (gk) Barcelona; Maxi Gomez (att) Celta Vigo; Manu Vallejo (mid) Cadiz; Salva Ruiz (def) Real Mallorca; Jason (mid) Levante; Alvaro Medran (mid) Rayo Vallecano

Out


Neto (r) (gk) Barcelona; Santi Mina (r) (att) Celta Vigo; Antonio Lato (sp) (def) PSV Eindhoven; Facundo Roncaglia (sp) (def) Celta Vigo

By winning the Copa del Rey and by finishing fourth, Valencia just had a season to remember. They were very difficult to beat and only lost seven matches in LaLiga all season, so would have finished higher if they’d been able to turn some of their many draws into wins. The aim for this season will be to consolidate their Champions League status. There hasn’t been much change at Valencia this summer as they planned for the new campaign, with coach Marcelino staying on and with only a few minor tweaks to the squad. The high-profile transfers of Valencia’s summer have essentially been swap deals, with some cash and other players thrown in, with the club swapping goalkeepers with Barcelona by trading Neto for Jasper Cillessenn and swapping strikers with Celta Vigo by trading Santi Mina for Maxi Gomez. They believe they’ve made slight improvements at these positions, but that remains to be seen. Valencia would’ve liked to have made more signings this summer, but their transfer planning was disrupted by boardroom politics and a major fallout in the offices. That seems to have been solved now, but they’re playing catch-up in the market. There should be serious optimism at the club as they do still have a strong squad and they have a coach who has built a style and made Valencia so difficult to score against and to defeat. That said, Marcelino’s methods often become tiresome for his players and the third season is often a bumpy one.

Target


Champions League qualification. While some at Valencia would like to see the club kick on and push for a top-three finish, the reality is that they’ll probably be battling with the likes of Sevilla for fourth.

Villarreal

In


Ruben Pena (def) Eibar; Raul Albiol (def) Napoli, Alberto Moreno (def) Liverpool; Moi Gomez (mid) Sporting Gijon; Andre Zambo Anguissa (def) Fulham; Leo Suarez (mid) Real Valladolid; Ramiro Guerra (mid) Gimnastic

Out


Pablo Fornals (r) (mid) West Ham; Victor Ruiz (r) (def) Besiktas; Alfonso Pedraza (r) (def) Real Betis; Javi Fuego (sp) (mid) Sporting Gijon; Alvaro Gonzales (sp) (def) Marseille; Dani Raba (sp) (mid) Huesca; Miguelon (sp) (def) Huesca; Daniele Bonera (sp) (def) Retired

Villarreal were expected to challenge for European qualification last season, but almost ended up being relegated. They started with Javi Calleja as coach, then replaced him with Luis Garcia Plaza and then brought back Calleja for the final stretch to secure survival. Calleja has stayed on, but there is clearly not much confidence in him since he was literally sacked during last season. Calleja showed serious flaws, as he had a super talented squad and was unable to find a tactical system that suited the players. While the doubts over Calleja remain, Villarreal have worked hard this summer to strengthen their squad in certain areas. Defence was a major problem last season and their three most significant summer signings of Ruben Pena, Raul Albiol and Alberto Moreno are all defenders. This squad should be better than last year’s. Many of the fringe players have been moved on, while there have also been a few unavoidable exits of starters in the cases of Pablo Fornals, Victor Ruiz and Alfonso Pedraza. But recruitment seems to have been smarter. There are also many young players coming through at Villarreal and this should spur them on to great things. 20-year-old Samuel Chukwueze, 20-year-old Manu Moralanes, 22-year-old Santiago Casares and 22-year-old Xavi Quintilla should all take steps forward. In terms of their main weakness, it has to be the coaching as was alluded to above. Calleja knows the club and the players well, but has struggled before and could struggle again.

Target


Europa League qualification. Villarreal have a squad that should be capable of fighting for Europa League qualification. It would require a major improvement compared to last year, but they should at least find themselves in the top half of the table this time around.