Spanish football’s powerhouses reached new heights last season, breaking record after record in La Liga. Real Madrid amassed 100 points and took the league crown from their eternal rivals Barcelona, while the Blaugrana’s own Lionel Messi scored 77 goals in all competitions.

Now, after a brief summer lull and the departure of Josep Guardiola from the Camp Nou dugout, the action is set to begin in La Liga once again. A league winner from outside Barcelona and Real Madrid is an inconceivable thing, but what about the European qualifying berths? Who will be relegated, and who will live to see another day? The 2012/13 La Liga season promises to be even more exciting than the last. Inside Futbol preview it:

Athletic Bilbao

What was a promising season for Athletic Bilbao soon turned sour last year. An impressive run in the Europa League was eventually ended as they were gunned down by Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the final in Bucharest. Domestically, the Basque side struggled towards the end of the season, eventually relinquishing their Champions League dreams as they finished in tenth position, although Europa League participation was guaranteed as Marcelo Bielsa’s men were Copa del Rey finalists.

Usual names Ander Herrera and Iker Muniain will continue to feature this year, although midfielder Javi Martinez and striker Fernando Llorente may go. The Basques should guarantee continental qualification for another season.

Key arrivals: Aritz Aduriz (Valencia); Isma Lopez (Lugo); Ustaritz (Real Betis – loan return); Galder Cerrajeria (Real Murcia – loan return)
Key departures:
Aitor Ocio (released); Igor Gabilondo (AEK Larnaca); Koikili (Mirandes); Iban Zubiaurre (Salamanca – loan); Pablo Orbaiz (Rubin Kazan)

Atletico Madrid

Two Europa League trophies in the past three seasons have helped to put Atletico Madrid back on the European map, but there is no doubt that the Mattress Makers will be hoping to guarantee Champions League action for the 2013/14 season; their last participation was in the 2009/10 campaign.

The arrival of veteran midfielder Emre Belozoglu will add steel to the centre of the park, but the retained talents of striker Radamel Falcao and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will be just as crucial. The side have lost some of their usual faces such as Antonio Lopez and Paulo Assuncao, though could earn the last Champions League ticket.

Key arrivals: Cristian Rodriguez (FC Porto); Daniel Diaz (Getafe); Emre Belozoglu (Fenerbahce); Raul Garcia (Osasuna – loan return)
Key departures:
Antonio Lopez (Mallorca); Luis Perea (Cruz Azul); Diego (Wolfsburg – loan return); Pizzi (Braga – loan return); Ruben Perez (Real Betis – loan); Alvaro Dominguez (Borussia Monchengladbach); Paulo Assuncao (Sao Paolo); Ruben Micael (Braga – loan); Eduardo Salvio (Benfica); Fran Merida (Hercules)


The 2012/13 season will mark the start of a new era for Barcelona. With Josep Guardiola having left the side after four very fruitful campaigns – and 14 trophies – former sidekick Tito Vilanova now takes command, hoping for a fresh start after a disappointing last season for the side, despite winning the Copa del Rey.

Vilanova will have duo David Villa and Carles Puyol back from injury, after the pair missed Spain’s successful Euro 2012 tournament, while the arrival of highly-rated left-back Jordi Alba as a replacement for Eric Abidal is something the club will be looking to see push the team on. However, Real Madrid ended the season on a high note and could upset them once more.

Key arrivals: Jordi Alba (Valencia)
Key departures:
Seydou Keita (Dalian Aerbin)

Celta Vigo

Celta Vigo go into the 2012/13 season with one goal in sight, and that is a guaranteed spot in the 20-team list for the following season. After spending the past five years in the Segunda Division, the team enter the new campaign with high expectations. But in reality, an extended stay in La Liga would be nothing short of a miracle.

Ahead of the new season, Celta’s biggest name is Javi Varas, one of the last term’s best goalkeepers. Besides that, the Galician side’s squad holds no stars capable of truly making their mark. Barring a miracle, they should be returning to the second division next May.

Key arrivals: Daniel Abalo (Gimnastic Tarragona – loan return); Javi Varas (Sevilla – loan); Samuel (Hercules); Gustavo Cabral (Arsenal Sarandi – loan)
Key departures:
Oier (Osasuna – loan return); Fabian Orellana (Granada – loan return); Yoel Rodriguez (Lugo – loan)

Deportivo La Coruna

The relegation of Deportivo La Coruna almost a year ago was hard to swallow, as the team, whose name was synonymous with the Spanish league at the turn of the millennium – they won the 1999/2000 edition – were sentenced to play the 2011/12 season in the second division. Now back, the club will be hoping for this experience to be a distant nightmare. 

In a bid to ensure continuity amongst Spain’s elite, and amidst the country’s huge economic crisis, Deportivo have struck loan deals with a number of Portuguese clubs. As such, players such as Abel Aguilar and Pizzi will be given the chance to help the side in La Liga, while the arrival of experienced centre-back Carlos Marchena will fortify the defence. However, Deportivo have lost Andres Guardado to Valencia and the Mexican was a fixture for the side. Nonetheless, should the club play their cards right, avoiding relegation is possible.

Key arrivals: Abel Aguilar (Hercules – loan); Evaldo (Sporting Lisbon – loan); Diogo Salomao (Sporting Lisbon – loan); Andre Santos (Sporting Lisbon – loan); Pizzi (Braga – loan); Nelson Oliveira (Benfica – loan); Roderick Miranda (Benfica – loan); Carlos Marchena (Villarreal)
Key departures:
Andres Guardado (Valencia); Claudio Morel (Independiente); Borja Fernandez (Getafe – loan return); Pablo Alvarez (Lugo); Diego Colotto (Espanyol); Lassad Nouioui (released); David Rochela (Racing Santander – loan)

RCD Espanyol

With neighbours Barcelona having relinquished their league crown last year, Espanyol will be hoping to grow further out of the shadows of their “bigger brother” and be this season’s revelation. As such, the club have brought back Joan Capdevila after the World Cup-winner endured tough times at Benfica, while veteran centre-back Diego Colotto will be arriving to reinforce a backline that conceded 56 goals last season.

Elsewhere, Juan Albin and Sergio Garcia will carry the attacking burden and their goal-threat will be greatly valued as the point gap between tenth position and relegation may be minimal.

Key arrivals: Diego Colotto (Deportivo La Coruna); Sergio Tejera (Mallorca); Wakaso Mubarak (Villarreal); Joan Capdevila (Benfica)
Key departures:
Romaric (Sevilla – loan return); Didac Vila (AC Milan – loan return); Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City – loan return); Philippe Coutinho (Inter – loan return); Walter Pandiani (released); Javi Marquez (Mallorca); Ben Sahar (Hertha Berlin); Jordi Amat (Rayo Vallecano – loan); Kalu Uche (Kasimpasa)


It seems as if Getafe are growing weaker with each passing season after being a bogey side for a number of teams. Last year, the side occupied mid-to-lower standings, something they will be hoping to avoid this time around. For that, Pedro Leon has been brought on a permanent deal from Real Madrid, while the arrival of highly-rated ex-Masia product Xavi Torres from Malaga will add further creativity to the midfield. The signing of centre-back David Abraham from Swiss side Basel certainly gives the team extra options at the back too. Furthermore, the acqusition of Angel Lafita from Real Zaragoza is something of a coup.

Positive signings all round mean trouble can certainly be avoided.

Key arrivals: Miguel Angel Moya (Valencia); Pedro Leon (Real Madrid); Angel Lafita (Real Zaragoza); David Abraham (FC Basel); Adrian Colunga (Sporting Gijon – loan return); Xavi Torres (Malaga); Alexis (Sevilla – loan)
Key departures:
Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa – loan return); Pedro Rios (Levante); Javier Arizmendi (Mallorca); Javier Casquero (Almeria); Daniel Diaz (Atletico Madrid); Oscar Ustari (Boca Juniors); Pedro Mosquera (Real Madrid – loan)


Granada are disputing their second consecutive season in La Liga. Initially touted to be relegated last season, the little club surprised by keeping their status intact. Now, the challenge will be to repeat that feat and better their 2011/12 finishing rank.

The club’s partnership with Italian side Udinese has seen them land a number of players, most notably Floro Flores, who is expected to be the side’s main attacking threat for the 2012/13 season. However, the presence of midfield boss Carlos Martins will be missed he goes back to Benfica. The club will be hoping that Chile forward Fabian Orellana finds his scoring boots, as Granada boasted the second weakest attack of the last campaign, behind Racing Santander.

Key arrivals: Antonio Floro Flores (Udinese – loan); Gabriel Torje (Udinese – loan); Tono (Racing Santander); Allan Nyom (Udinese – loan); Diego Mainz (Udinese – loan); Odion Ighalo (Udinese – loan); Jaime Romero (Udinese – loan); Daniel Benitez (Udinese – loan); Fabian Orellana (Celta Vigo – loan return); Iriney (Real Betis); Juanma Ortiz (Rangers); Youssef El-Arabi (Al-Hilal)
Key departures:
Carlos Martins (Benfica – loan return); Franco Jara (Benfica – loan return); Julio Cesar (Benfica – loan return); Jose Juan (released); Abel Gomez (released); Alexandre Geijo (Udinese – loan return); Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal – loan return); Yohan Mollo (AS Nancy); Hector Yuste (Racing Santander – loan)


Levante appeared to be the surprise of the 2011/12 season, managing fine results, including a win over Real Madrid, that saw them in the front-running positions for quite some time. However, the small Valencian team could not keep pace and eventually finished in 6th position, guaranteeing Europa League football for this term. The team have seen their attacking options weakened by the loss of Arouna Koune. Elsewhere, the presence of Jose Barkero in midfield and Sergio Ballesteros in defence is added value though; the duo having had a wonderful season last year despite their growing ages.

Key arrivals: Nikolaos Karabelas (AEK Athens); Arouna Kone (Sevilla); Angel (Elche); Michel (Valencia); Pedro Rios (Getafe); Papakouli Diop (Racing Santander)
Key departures:
Abdelkader Ghezzal (Bari – loan return); Javi Venta (Villarreal); Asier del Horno (released); Xavi Torres (Malaga – loan return); Ruben Suarez (Guizhou Renhe); Valdo (Atlante); Arouna Kone (Wigan)


In the blink of an eye, the dynasty that was being built at Malaga is set for demolition, as the club’s owner Qatari sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani put up the club for sale, leaving the future up in the air. As such, men like Santiago Cazorla have left the club, with English side Arsenal the destination, while highly rated youngsters Xavi Torres and Salomon Rondon have also been through the exit door. What is even more worrying for the fans is that the club is yet to fill in the void left by the departed players.

However, Malaga do have some big name performers, such as Joaquin, Jeremy Toulalan and Julio Baptista, and should be able to guarantee European football again – but just barely.

Key arrivals: None
Key departures:
Ruud van Nistelrooy (retired); Helder Rosario (released); Javi Lopez (released); Edinho (Academica – loan); Ivan Gonzalez (released); Sandro Silva (Cruzeiro – loan); Ruben Martinez (Rayo Vallecano – loan); Apono (Real Zaragoza); Xavi Torres (Getafe); Salomon Rondon (Rubin Kazan); Santiago Cazorla (Arsenal)


As with previous seasons, Osasuna will be hoping that their daunting Reyno de Navarra stadium will be their strong point this time around. This Basque fortress has built a reputation for being hard to penetrate and the side will count on a good home run to end the season on a high note. Striker Joseba Llorente has been brought to fortify the attack, while Emiliano Armenteros will try to fill the void left in midfield by Raul Garcia as the player goes back to Atletico Madrid.

Key arrivals: Emiliano Armenteros (Sevilla); Alejandro Arribas (Rayo Vallecano); Sisi (Real Valladolid); Nano (Numancia); Ruper (Elche – loan return); Joseba Llorente (Real Sociedad – loan)
Key departures:
Sergio (Sporting Gijon); Raul Garcia (Atletico Madrid – loan return); Jukka Raitala (Hoffenheim – loan return); Ricardo (released); Roversio (released); Dejan Lekic (Genclerbirligi); Eneko Satrustegui (Numancia – loan); Javad Nekounam (Esteghlal)

Real Betis

After spending two years in the Segunda Division, Real Betis returned last season for another chance to tussle with the big boys. Having been the best side to come out of the Andalucian city of Seville, the Verdiblancos regressed during the recent years in favour of Jose del Nido’s Sevilla. Their first few weeks were eye-catching, but they swiftly descended and kept orbiting in the lower standings before eventually finishing in 13th position, with 47 points.

For this season, the side have welcomed Costa Rica youngster Joel Campbell on loan from Arsenal, but have seen veteran striker Roque Santa Cruz go back to Manchester City as his loan deal expired. The side lost Jefferson Montero too, who has been instrumental under coach Pepe Mel. Betis’ new additions have hardly been convincing, making it difficult for them to enter to top ten.

Key arrivals: Salvador Agra (Olhanense); Paulao (Saint-Etienne); Ruben Perez (Atletico Madrid – loan); Juan Carlos (Braga – loan); Joel Campbell (Arsenal – loan)
Key departures:
Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City – loan return); Isidoro (released); Iriney (Granada); Ustaritz (Athletic Bilbao – loan return); Jefferson Montero (Villarreal – loan return); Inaki Goitia (Mirandes); Ezequiel (Freiburg – loan); Javier Matilla (Murcia – loan)

Real Madrid

Jose Mourinho managed to do what everybody deemed impossible last season and that is beat Barcelona to the league title. On the way to doing so, the team managed 121 league goals and 100 points, sparking praise for being the best Real Madrid side ever.

This time around, after winning the Copa del Rey and La Liga trophies during his first two seasons in the Spanish capital, there is no doubt that the Portuguese tactician will be eyeing a record tenth Champions League for Los Blancos, an accolade that has been absent for quite some time from the club. But this will not overshadow their league campaign. With the possibility of Luka Modric and Axel Witsel also arriving at the Bernabeu, success is written in the stars once again for this side.

Key arrivals:
Key departures:
Pedro Leon (Getafe); Hamit Altintop (Galatasaray); Fernando Gago (Valencia)

Real Mallorca

The 2011/12 season was a great improvement for Mallorca. Having finished the previous campaign just above the relegation zone in 17th position, the islanders managed 8th last season. In a bid to improve on this, left-back Antonio Lopez has been welcomed from capital side Atletico Madrid, but the club have nonetheless lost the likes of Gianni Zuiverloon and the highly-rated Ivan Ramis, severely hurting their chances. Furthermore, the first-team holds just 21 men; a lack of depth that could prove to be costly as the season gets under way. This time around, Mallorca should slip down the table.

Key arrivals: Antonio Lopez (Atletico Madrid); Javi Marquez (Espanyol); Javier Arizmendi (Getafe); Sergi Enrich (Recreativo Huelva – loan return)
Key departures:
Chico (Genoa – loan return); Fernando Tissone (Sampdoria – loan return); Marvin Ogunjimi (Standard Liege – loan); Gonzalo Castro (Real Sociedad); Sergio Tejera (Espanyol); Gianni Zuiverloon (Heerenveen – loan); Ivan Ramis (Wigan Athletic)

Real Sociedad

This season promises to be a good one for Real Sociedad. Carlos Vela has been brought on a permanent deal from Arsenal, the young Mexican having been instrumental in the team’s Liga run last year, while left-back Jose Angel has landed from Italian side Roma. The addition of these players next to a good initial pool containing goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, long standing captain Xabi Prieto and highly-rated Antoine Griezmann are fine omens for the side, but they may still be a little short in their effort to cut inside the league’s top ten.

Key arrivals:
Gonzalo Castro (Mallorca); Carlos Vela (Arsenal); Jeffrey Sarpong (NAC Breda – loan return); Jose Angel (Roma)
Key departures:
Joseba Llorente (Osasuna – loan); Mikel Aranburu (retired); Tono Ramirez (Guadalajara); Borja Viguera (Alaves)

Real Valladolid

Little hope appears to be available for Real Valladolid ahead of the new campaign. Returning to the Spanish top flight after two seasons spent in the second division, the club hosts few impressive performers. Left-winger Marquitos is amongst the team’s most known players and will be looking forward to making his mark in a league where he grabbed headlines a few years ago. Angola and former Manchester United striker Manucho is another man under the spotlight, especially after having failed so far at the club with just seven goals, prompting his loan to Turkey for the last two years. Real Valladolid will find things very hard going and are tipped to be relegated.

Key arrivals: Antonio Rukavina (1860 Munich); Lluis Sastre (Huesca); Patrick Ebert (Hertha Berlin)
Key departures:
Sisi (Osasuna); Nauzet (Las Palmas); Fernando Varela (released); Juanito (released); Mehdi Nafti (Murcia); Jofre (Girona); Sergio Matabuena (released); Daniel Aquino (released)

Rayo Vallecano

Rayo Vallecano’s squad is amongst those that have greatly changed over the summer. Their biggest arrivals have been Jordi Amat from Espanyol and Adrian from Racing Santander, but in return the Madrid-based club have seen Diego Costa and Raul Tamudo leave the side, and more importantly, Michu, who has been snapped by English Premier League club Swansea. Having had 15 goals to his name last season, Michu will be greatly missed at the little Madrid outfit. Rayo Vallecano are expected to struggle, but should avoid the drop.

Key arrivals: Juli (Asteras – loan return); Rafael Garcia (Xerez – loan return); Juan Quero (Cordoba – loan return); Nicki Bille (Villarreal – loan); Adrian (Racing Santander); Jose Carlos (AEK Athens); Jordi Amat (Espanyol – loan); Alejandro Galvez (Sporting Gijon); Ruben Martinez (Malaga – loan)
Key departures:
Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid – loan return); Joel (Atletico Madrid – loan return); Jorge Pulido (Atletico Madrid – loan return); Raul Bravo (released); Emiliano Armenteros (Sevilla – loan return); Raul Tamudo (Pachuca); David Cobeno (Vaslui); Alejandro Arribas (Osasuna); Jose Maria Movilla (released); Michel (retired); Michu (Swansea)

Real Zaragoza

Real Zaragoza endured one of their hardest seasons last term, just avoiding relegation. In a bid to cast away this experience, the side have attracted a number of players, most notably midfield men Romaric from Sevilla and Apono from Malaga. Attack will be a department that the Aragon side will have to address, having managed only 36 strikes throughout last season, making them one of the poorest attacking forces in the league. Main striking man Helder Postiga’s efforts could prove to be too little to help in the end, leaving relegation as a genuine possibility.

Key arrivals: Glenn Loovens (Celtic); Victor Laguardia (Las Palmas); Raul Goni (Cartagena – loan return); Paco Montanes (Alcorcon); Lucas Wilchez (Colo-Colo – loan); Toni Doblas (Xerez – loan return); Alvaro Gonzalez (Racing Santander); Franco Zuculini (Hoffenheim); Romaric (Sevilla); Apono (Malaga); Javi Alamo (Recreativo Huelva); Lucas Porcar (Villarreal)
Key departures:
Paulo da Silva (Pachuca); Angel Lafita (Getafe); Pablo Alvarez (released); Tomislav Dujmovic (Dynamo Moscow); Luis Garcia (Tigres – loan)


Having slipped down the rankings last season, Andalucian side Sevilla will be hoping to get back in the saddle in a bid to force their way up the table as much as possible, after being one of the strongest Liga sides in recent seasons.

The club have managed to lure in highly-rated custodian Diego Lopez from relegated Villarreal and Hedwiges Maduro from Valencia, while Frederic Kanoute and Romaric have left for pastures new. Naturally, more pressure will be on striker Alvaro Negredo in the absence of Kanoute, but should the ex-Almeria man be successful, then Los Rojiblancos will be sure of having a good season.

Key arrivals:
Diego Lopez (Villarreal); Hedwiges Maduro (Valencia); Laurato Acosta (Racing Santander – loan return); Bernardo (Racing Santander – loan return); Geoffrey Kondogbia (Lens); Cicinho (Palmeiras)
Key departures:
Frederic Kanoute (Beijing Guoan); Arouna Kone (Levante); Emiliano Armenteros (Osasuna); Tom De Mul (released); Javi Varas (Celta Vigo – loan); Alexis (Getafe – loan); Romaric (Real Zaragoza)


Year after year, the gap between Valencia and Spain’s big two clubs is widening. Crippled by financial debt, Los Che have been forced to sell their big names in recent seasons. Nonetheless, they have shown that they remain the “best of the rest”.

This summer, Valencia have lost some of their usual big names, such as right-back Bruno, Jordi Alba and Mehmet Topal, but the likes of Fernando Gago, Joao Perreira, Nelson Valdez and Andres Guardado have been lured to try and fill the gaps. Los Che still hold some big names too, such as Roberto Soldado and Adil Rami, two of the best league players last season. Should everything go to plan, they should maintain their status.

Key arrivals: Fernando Gago (Real Madrid); Joao Perreira (Sporting Lisbon); Andres Guardado (Deportivo La Coruna); Jonathan Viera (Las Palmas); Nelson Valdez (Rubin Kazan – loan)
Key departures:
Hedwiges Maduro (Sevilla); Miguel (released); Bruno (Brighton); Angel Dealbert (Kuban Krasnodar); Michel (Levante); Jordi Alba (Barcelona); Mehmet Topal (Fenerbahce); Miguel Angel Moya (Valencia); Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao)

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