Who’s Shaping Up best Ahead of the La Liga Season?6 min read
In just under three weeks time, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will begin their 2018/19 La Liga campaign.
The former are unlikely to improve upon being one goal away from an unbeaten season (as they were in 2017/18) but will be going for another league crown, whilst the ‘Rojiblancos’ will again want to split the ‘big two’ in the Spanish top flight, thus relegating Real Madrid into third for the second consecutive campaign.
Julen Lopetegui and his staff will have something to say about that mind. Even taking into account that the team is going through a transition of sorts, third place for Los Blancos is nowhere near good enough.
Their own title tilt will be one that’s sans Cristiano Ronaldo too, the primary source of goals for them over the last few seasons.
Though there has been a lot of talk about a ‘Ronaldo replacement,’ as of this moment, one has yet to be signed.
Neymar was blatantly courted, but as Barcelona found with their pursuit of Marco Verratti, PSG strike the hardest of bargains.
Kylian Mbappe, who slipped through Real’s fingers this time last year, is now untouchable and just about the hottest property in world football, so there’s little doubt he’ll stay put in Paris too.
Robert Lewandowski is known to want a move to the Santiago Bernabeu, but given his age, and how much he’ll cost, that’s an operation that’s unlikely to take place. Ditto moves for Mauro Icardi and/or Harry Kane.
The most likely scenario at this point is that Karim Benzema is trusted to rediscover his form as a centre-forward, with Gareth Bale and, one would assume, Marco Asensio or Lucas Vazquez providing the deliveries.
Barcelona don’t have any such problems in attack, though their midfield is still overstocked.
The signing of Malcom only complicates things further just now, given that Sergi Samper, Andre Gomes, Rafinha and Denis Suarez remain at the club along with Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Philippe Coutinho, Arthur and Carles Alena.
Not forgetting Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes, neither of whom can now be moved on in this window thanks to the injuries sustained on Barca’s US tour.
Nine players into four positions at best clearly doesn’t work, and for all the excitement surrounding their new signing, the money men need to work their socks off to get at least a couple of fringe players out of the exit door quickly.
In fact, of last season’s three top teams, Atletico seem the ones best placed to hit the ground running at the start of the season.
Diego Simeone has been working his men hard in training, but it’s nothing they’ve not been used to under the Argentinian, and the team look in great shape and good spirits.
Antoine Griezmann will soon return to the fold and will be welcomed back as a World Cup winner. Having turned down the overtures of Barcelona, the Frenchman will be looking to spearhead the charge to glory.
He’ll do so alongside three exciting new signings in Thomas Lemar, a €60m capture from Monaco, Rodri from Villarreal and Gelson Martins from Sporting.
The latter is a free transfer at present but the club may be required to pay somewhere in the region of €30m for his services.
Olivier Giroud remains a target, whilst Jonny has been signed and loaned for a season to Wolves.
With the bulk of his squad remaining the same and no dissenting voices coming from the dressing room, it’s no wonder Simeone is enthused about the new campaign.
He has genuine strength in depth and at for Atleti to take the La Liga title, Bet Victor’s customers might be well advised to get in quick.