Barcelona won La Liga in style last season, with Real Madrid stumbling out of the blocks and failing to ever really provide a serious challenge to their fierce rivals. Indeed, for much of the season it seemed that Atletico Madrid might finish second.
The title race is sure to be between Barcelona and Real Madrid this season, but there will be no end of other interesting storylines. Can Atletico Madrid repeat last term's heroics? Which other teams will compete for the top four? And will the relegation battle suck in one of La Liga's established forces? It is sure to be nothing if not exciting. We look at every team involved in 2013/14's La Liga.
No big names have made the transition to Almeria this season and the team will fight for every point in the hope of extending their first division stay beyond the 2013/14 season. For that, veteran goalkeeper Oscar Ustari has been brought from Boca Juniors, while elsewhere, the trio of Marcos Tebar, Suso and Fernando Soriano will be the team’s backbone heading into the season, and will hold the hopes and dreams of the small Andalucian side. However, they look doomed to drop down back to the Segunda Division.
Key arrivals: Sebastian Dubarbier (Cordoba); Oscar Diaz (Lugo); Suso (Liverpool, loan); Marcos Tebar (Girona); Oscar Ustari (Boca Juniors); Nelson (Palermo)
Key departures: Charles (Celta Vigo); Michel Macedo (Atletico Mineiro); Carlos Calvo; Diego Garcia (Ponferradina); Mejia; Miguel Pallardo (Levante); Falque (Tottenham); Gunino; Edgar (Jaen)
A new era ushers in at Athletic Bilbao as the Basque side prepare to meet this new season without the guidance of renowned coach Marcelo Bielsa, with Ernesto Valverde taking over from the Argentine. Both Bielsa and Valverde employ different systems and it will be interesting to see how Los Leones make the transition from give-and-take one touch football to a more traditional style.
The 2012 Copa del Rey runners-up have seen influential man Fernando Llorente leave the club to start a new journey with Italian champions Juventus, after having fallen out with Bielsa last season. On the other hand, Benat comes in after having arguably been Real Betis’ best player last term, and will be looking to add steel to the midfield, while Kike Sola makes the jump from Osasuna in the hopes of following in Llorente’s footsteps. Having finished in a disappointing 12th position last year, improvements will be made now that the team have moved on wantaway stars.
Key arrivals: Xabi Etxeita (Elche); Iago Herrerin (Numancia); Benat (Real Betis); Mikel Balenziaga (Real Valladolid); Kike Sola (Osasuna)
Key departures: Fernando Llorente (Juventus); Fernando Amorebieta (Fulham); Castillo (Las Palmas); Igor Martinez (Mirandes); Raul Fernandez (Numancia)
The inevitable happened as Radamel Falcao joined newly-promoted Ligue 1 side AS Monaco, depleting last season’s Copa del Rey winners of their most important man. Much of the success that the team recently found had been in many ways due to the Colombian’s efforts, and it remains to be seen how Leo Baptistao and David Villa will manage to replace him at the Vicente Calderon.
However, Diego Simeone’s side should survive in his absence. Thibaut Courtois remains for another season at the club, while the likes of Arda Turan and Diego Costa look set to stay. Atletico Madrid should reinforce their position as the best of the rest.
Key arrivals: Leo Baptistao (Rayo Vallecano); Pizzi (Deportivo La Coruna); David Villa (Barcelona); Martin Demichelis (Malaga)
Key departures: Ruben Perez (Elche); Radamel Falcao (Monaco); Silvio (Benfica); Cata Diaz (Boca Juniors); Joel Robles (Everton); Sergio Asenjo (Villarreal)
Similar to their tradition, Barcelona brought few players once again this summer, with Neymar’s addition being the only significant one – albeit at a hefty price. On the other hand, other fan-favourites such as Thiago Alcantara and David Villa exited the Camp Nou for new pastures, and most importantly, Argentine manager Gerardo Martino took the helm following Tito Vilanova’s abrupt resignation as his health issues resurfaced.
A native of Rosario – Lionel Messi’s hometown – the Argentine superstar is thought to have had a say in Martino’s appointment. The way the players respond to Martino’s style, as well as Neymar’s overcoming of anemia – the player lost a hefty amount of weight – will be influential in this season’s outcome.
Key arrivals: Neymar (Santos)
Key departures: Rafinha (Celta Vigo); Andreu Fontas (Barcelona); David Villa (Atletico Madrid); Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich); Eric Abidal (Monaco); Marc Muniesa (Stoke City); Bojan Krkic (Ajax, loan)
Real Betis were one of last season’s surprises, sticking in the race for the top four spot until the latter stages of the season. Under Pepe Mel, Los Verdiblancos promise another good season ahead of the 2013/14 campaign. However, they will find things a bit more difficult having lost the efforts of playmaker Benat to Athletic Bilbao, as well as those of Jose Canas to English side Swansea. But much of the core remains intact with Salva Sevilla and striker Ruben Castro staying put at the club, the latter of which will promise the team goals.
Key arrivals: Cedric (Numancia); Chuli (Recreativo Huelva); Lorenzo Reyes (Huachipato); Joan Verdu (Espanyol); Guillermo Sara (Atletico Rafaela); Juan Carlos (Braga); Markus Steinhofer (Basel); Didac Vila (AC Milan); Xavi Torres (Getafe)
Key departures: Benat (Athletic Bilbao); Adrian (West Ham); Jose Canas (Swansea); Dorlan Pabon (Monterrey); Alejandro Pozuelo (Swansea); Joel Campbell (Arsenal); Ezequiel Calvente (Recreativo Huelva); Mario (Elche); Salvador Agra (Braga)
Celta Vigo have reinforced themselves with quality players, snapping up youngsters Andreu Fontas and Rafinha from Barcelona as the duo were deemed surplus to requirements. However, they have been hit hard in the outgoing department with some of their key players, notably goalkeeper Javi Varas – who was one of the best custodians in La Liga for the past two seasons – and talent Iago Aspas, snapped by English side Liverpool. New coach Luis Enrique will have a hard season ahead as he prepares his side, and the chances of him surprising the Spanish football world remain slim. Expect the side to just avoid relegation.
Key arrivals: Christian Bustos (Sporting Gijon); David Rodriguez (Sporting Gijon); Yoel (Lugo); Andreu Fontas (Barcelona); Charles (Almeria); Nolito (Benfica); Rafinha (Barcelona)
Key departures: Iago Aspas (Liverpool); Roberto Lago (Getafe); Javi Varas (Sevilla); Daniel Pranjic (Sporting Lisbon); Park Chu-Young (Arsenal)
Some of La Liga’s better known names have jumped ship in order to help Elche fight the relegation battle, with goalkeeper Tono from Granada and Sevilla pair Miroslav Stevanovic and Manu del Moral joining. Elsewhere, new manager Fran Escriba will be under the microscope as he makes the transition from Atletico Madrid assistant coach. This will be the first time Escriba takes full control of a team and there is much fanfare surrounding his upcoming term. However, his squad lacks quality and it will be difficult for the side to survive relegation.
Key arrivals: Tono (Granada); Mario (Real Betis); Ruben Perez (Atletico Madrid); Miroslav Stevanovic (Sevilla, loan); Manu del Moral (Sevilla); Cristian Sapunaru (Real Zaragoza); Carlos Sanchez (Valenciennes)
Key departures: Xabi Etxeita (Athletic Bilbao); Jordi Xumetra (Levante); Miguel Palanca (Numancia); Linares (Recreativo Huelva)
Juan Albin returns for another spell in Spain after spending last season in Uruguay, while Pizzi will aid him in attack as he joins from Benfica. Elsewhere, the backbone looks likely to be led by Joan Capdevila, Diego Colotto and Javi Lopez, while Wakaso Mubarak is another player that is keen to impress for the Catalan side. Under Javier Aguirre, there will be every hope for Espanyol to make a significant impact, but a position amongst the top ten sides still looks unlikely.
Key arrivals: David Lopez (Huesca); Manu Lanzarote (Sabadell); Abraham (Alcorcon); Fuentes (Cordoba); Juan Albin (Nacional Montevideo); Thievy (Las Palmas); Pizzi (Benfica); Sidnei (Porto Alegre)
Key departures: Joan Verdu (Real Betis); Juan Forlin (Al-Rayyan); Samuele Longo (Inter); Cristian Alvarez; Raul Baena (Rayo Vallecano); Jordi Amat (Swansea); Martin Petrov (released)
Getafe prepare for another season in the hope of making the jump to a higher standing after finishing in tenth position last term. The arrival of Miku will boast goalscoring, while Pedro Mosquera will be hoping for another fighting chance with the Madrid suburban outfit after being discarded last season. Furthermore, the presence of familiar faces such as Adrian Colunga, Pablo Sarabia and Pedro Leon will make this side a capable one.
Key arrivals: Roberto Lago (Celta Vigo); Miku (Celtic); Pedro Mosquera (Real Madrid Castilla); Alex Perez (Huesca); Sergio Escudero (Schalke)
Key departures: Mane (Maccabi Tel Aviv); Fede (Napoli); Paco Alacer (Valencia); Abdel Barrada (Al-Jazira); Daniel Guiza (Cerro Porteno); Javier Arizmendi (Deportivo La Coruna); Xavi Torres (Getafe); Miguel Torres (Olympiacos)
Ever since their return to the top flight, Granada have been successful in their fight against the relegation ghost. Finishing 17th and 15th in their last two seasons, the team have reinforced their ranks with goalscorer Riki from relegated side Deportivo La Coruna, while former Barcelona wonderkid Gai Assulin looks set to start a fresh journey with the side. With other good players such as Guilherme Siqueira, Mikel Rico and Hassan Yebda in situ, Granada should stay safe from relegation.
Key arrivals: Yacine Brahimi (Rennes); Manuel Iturra (Malaga); Gai Assulin (Racing Santander); Piti (Rayo Vallecano); Riki (Deportivo La Coruna); Alexandre Coeff (Udinese)
Key departures: Recio (Malaga); Inigo Lopez (PAOK); Tono (Elche); Gabriel Torje (Udinese); Odion Ighalo (Udinese); Nolito (Celta Vigo); Iriney (Watford)
The match-fixing scandal that rocked Levante at the end of last season saw some of their most important names leave the club, such as Jose Barkero and Sergio Ballesteros; men who defied their respective age and were at the very centre of the club’s run, despite dropping five places from their 2011/12 finishing position. Joaquin Caparros will try to steer the side into a different direction having taken over after a spell with Mallorca, but the chances of him producing something special remain slim.
Key arrivals: Andreas Ivanschitz (Mainz); Jordi Xumetra (Elche); Javier Jimenez (Murcia); Issam El-Adoua (Guimaraes); David Barral (Orduspor); Sergio Pinto (Hannover); Miguel Pallardo (Almeria)
Key departures: Gustavo Munua (Fiorentina); Michel (Valencia); Jose Barkero (Real Zaragoza); Juanlu; Sergio Ballesteros; Pedro Rios; Dariusz Dudka; Valdo; Robert Acquafresca (Bologna)
Malaga have seen many familiar faces leave the club. Players such as Joaquin, Jeremy Toulalan and Martin Demichelis have been part of the general scheme for so long that fans will surely miss them, but none will be missed more so than Isco, who upon joining Real Madrid leaves a big gap in the team’s midfield. New manager Bernd Schuster will have some work ahead in the new season, but the lack of suitable replacements will leave them out of the Champions League this time around.
Key arrivals: Recio (Granada); Juanmi (Racing Santander); Bobley Anderson (Wydad Athletic Club); Fernando Tissone (Sampdoria); Flavio Ferreira (Academica); Marcos Angeleri (Estudiantes)
Key departures: Martin Demichelis (Atletico Madrid); Manuel Iturra (Granada); Joaquin (Fiorentina); Diego Lugano (Paris Saint-Germain); Isco (Real Madrid); Oguchi Onyewu; Julio Baptista (Cruzeiro); Jeremy Toulalan (Paris Saint-Germain)
The players leaving Osasuna this summer have all left a mark on the small club from Navarre, as the presence of Kike Sola up front and that of veteran Ricardo in goal had helped matters. The club will be happy that they have managed to keep hold of the services of goalkeeper Andres Fernandez, one of the country’s most promising custodians. Under Jose Luis Mendilibar, they will try to push for the upper standings, but should stay in the same position as last term.
Key arrivals: Francisco Silva (Universidad Catolica); Joan Oriol (Villarreal); Enego Satrustegui (Numancia); Ruper (Mirandes); Jordan Loties (Nancy); Oriol Riera (Alcorcon); Ariel Nunez (Libertad)
Key departures: Kike Sola (Athletic Bilbao); Ricardo; Masoud Shojaei; Anthony Annan (Schalke); Xavi Annunziata; Ruben; Roland Lamah (Swansea, loan)
Real Madrid CF
Los Blancos enter the new campaign having conceded the league title last season to Barcelona and endured a tumultuous time under Jose Mourinho. With Carlo Ancelotti taking the helm and the arrival of interesting prospects such as Isco and Asier Illarramendi, as well as the probable influx of Gareth Bale before the end of the summer window, the Italian finds himself in an enviable position, having the chance to deploy Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo side by side. Such a team will be hard to beat, and Real Madrid should find themselves on the silverware podium once again.
Key arrivals: Isco (Malaga); Casemiro (Sao Paolo); Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad); Daniel Carvajal (Bayer Leverkusen)
Key departures: Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco); Michael Essien (Chelsea); Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli); Jose Callejon (Napoli); Raul Albiol (Napoli)
The exit of Leo Baptistao and Amat to Atletico Madrid and Swansea respectively depletes the side from two of their most influential figures, while the loss of Chori Domiguez takes away a serious goalscoring option from coach Paco Jemez. The influx of players has not been sufficient in order to keep the side competitive for this season, after they finished eighth to much surprise. Rayo Vallecano are likely to drop down a few places, if no big name makes the jump between now and the end of the summer transfer window.
Key arrivals: Raul Baena (Espanyol); Nery Castillo (Pachuca); Rafael Garcia (Xerez); Joaquin Larrivey (Atlante)
Key departures: Leo Baptistao (Atletico Madrid); Piti (Granada); Javier Fuego (Valencia); Amat (Swansea); Raul Tamudo; Chori Dominguez (Olympiacos)
Real Sociedad’s success last term saw them pay a penalty as they parted ways with midfielder Asier Illarramendi, one of their most important gems. Not many bet on the small Basque outfit to break into the first four last season and it remains to be seen if they can do it again. Manager Philippe Montanier left the club for Rennes, but the side should pick up where they left off. With Antoine Griezmann, Xabi Prieto and Chori Castro staying put, and Esteban Granero joining, they have the chance to have another fine season.
Key arrivals: Jose Angel (Roma); Haris Seferovic (Fiorentina), Esteban Granero (QPR, loan)
Key departures: Asier Illarramendi (Real Madrid); Joseba Llorente
Sevilla might be La Liga’s biggest summer losers as they conceded Spanish duo Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas to Manchester City, while Andres Palop jumps ship to Germany after years at the club. To make up for this, Kevin Gameiro from Paris Saint-Germain and Marko Marin from Chelsea have been brought in, but it remains to be seen how easily either of them will slot into Los Rojiblancos’ scheme. Having to start his first full season at Sevilla, Unai Emery will hope to change his team’s fortunes from last season.
Key arrivals: Javi Varas (Celta Vigo); Raul Rusescu (Steaua Bucharest); Jairo (Racing Santander); Marko Marin (Chelsea, loan); Vitolo (Las Palmas); Nico Pareja (Spartak Moscow); Kevin Gameiro (Paris Saint-Germain)
Key departures: Miroslav Stevanovic (Elche); Manu del Moral (Elche); Jesus Navas (Manchester City); Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City); Andres Palop (Bayer Leverkusen); Emir Spahic (Bayer Leverkusen); Antonio Luna (Aston Villa); Luis Alberto (Liverpool); Bernardo Espinosa (Sporting Gijon)
The exit of Roberto Soldado marks the end of an era for Valencia, but the club have grown accustomed to seeing their big names leave every summer. The departure of Soldado depletes Los Che of a reliable goalscorer. Many genuinely classy players are still at the Mestalla though, such as Adil Rami, Ever Banega and Jeremy Mathieu, but new coach Miroslav Dukic might take some time to establish a new style of play and identity for the side, and as a result, their performances could suffer.
Key arrivals: Paco Alacer (Getafe); Michel (Levante); Javier Fuego (Rayo Vallecano); Oriol Romeu (Chelsea, loan); Yeray Gomez (Mallorca)
Key departures: David Albelda; Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors); Tino Costa (Spartak Moscow); Roberto Soldado (Tottenham Hotspur)
Real Valladolid will be hoping for better luck when they start their new season under Juan Ignacio Martinez, having finished in fourteenth position last term. Old faces such as Javi Guerra and Javier Baraja are still at the club, but with few other quality players, there seems to be little hope of them breaking the barrier and improving their standing for this upcoming campaign.
Key arrivals: Zakarya Bergdich (Lens); Carlos Lazaro (Huesca); Diego Marino (Villarreal); Humberto Osorio (Millonarios); Omar Ramos (Huesca)
Key departures: Mikel Balenziaga (Athletic Bilbao); Neira; Henrique Sereno (FC Porto)
The past twelve months have been hectic for Villarreal, having descended into the Segunda Division after a period where the club had been so accustomed to the Spanish limelight. With no big name players, problems seemed certain. Ahead of the new season, they reinforced themselves with former Barcelona and Tottenham man Giovani dos Santos and Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo. Other players have left the club, such as Marcos Senna, while Jonathan de Guzman continues his English journey with Swansea. Marcelino Garcia Toral is the manager facing the pressure of keeping Villarreal up. A tough season will rest ahead of them.
Key arrivals: Bojan Jokic (Chievo Verona); Tomas Pina (Mallorca); Pedro Rios (Levante); Javier Camunas (Deportivo La Coruna); Giovani dos Santos (Mallorca); Sergio Asenjo (Atletico Madrid)
Key departures: Joan Oriol (Osasuna); Diego Marino (Real Valladolid); Gerard Moreno (Mallorca); Olof Mellberg (Copenhagen); Marcos Senna (New York Cosmos); Jonathan de Guzman (Swansea, loan); Javi Venta; Cristian Zapata (AC Milan)