La Liga’s Other Stories: Minnows Huesca, Cazorla Magic & Brilliant Betis5 min read
Barcelona remain the team to beat in La Liga after investing well over the course of the summer.
Rivals Real Madrid will need to improve on their poor showing in 2017/18 but are still getting used to what new coach, Julen Lopetegui, wants, therefore Atletico Madrid, in the early stages of the campaign, could provide Barca’s biggest challenge.
But what of the rest of the league?
Valencia are building from their fantastic season under Marcelino, and the captures of Michy Batshuayi and Kevin Gameiro are astute pieces of business by the club. If Los Che can follow that up with the purchase of Goncalo Guedes, they’ll have had a more than satisfactory summer, and are well placed to aim for the top four again.
Sevilla will, more than likely, lose Steven Nzonzi after the player expressed a preference to leave, but Pablo Machin is another to have bought well. Aleix Vidal returns from Barcelona, Andre Silva comes on loan from AC Milan, whilst Sergi Gomez, Joris Gnagnon and Ibrahim Amadou give them options in defence.
Eibar can no longer lay claim to being the smallest club in the Spanish top flight. Their capacity 7,083 Estadio Ipurua positively dwarves the ground of La Liga debutants, Huesca.
Their Estadio El Alcoraz holds only 5,500 spectators, and though the team from Aragon will be up against it from the first whistle of the season, they have battle-hardened players to get them through.
Twelve new signings for Leo Franco’s side will hold them in good stead, particularly when they are of the quality of Pablo Insua, Axel Werner and Ruben Semedo, even if the latter’s hire only came about because of off-field disciplinary problems.
Rayo Vallecano came up with Huesca and many Spanish football watchers have a soft spot for the Madrid-based side. Jordi Amat returns five years after leaving, a bargain £900,000 capture from Swansea, and Gael Kakuta also heads back to Vallecas after a stint in China.
The third promoted side, Real Valladolid, have spent less than a million euros on 10 players, though three of them – Antonio Dominguez, David Mayoral and Moises Delgado – are from the B team. Coach Sergio Soriano will have his work cut out as a relatively young squad are lacking in the experience required.
Levante ended Barcelona’s epic unbeaten run in the league last season, putting five past the champions. Los Granotes finished 2017/18 well after not winning a league game between November and March and looking like favourites for the drop for long periods.
Paco Lopez fully deserved his contract renewal, and we can expect the same sharp counter-attacking style from the Valencia-based side as they look to get points on the board early.
#VuelveLaMagia ??? | Y la magia de @19SCazorla… volvió. pic.twitter.com/6BGadnNqLD
— Villarreal CF (@VillarrealCF) August 9, 2018
How nice is it to see Santi Cazorla back playing again?
At the club where his football journey began, Villarreal’s free transfer was unveiled with a magic trick on the pitch at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
His experience will be invaluable to a team that are always in the mix for the European places, and he joins Miguel Layun, Gerard Moreno and Ramiro Funes Mori as being quality incoming transfers.
They will, however, lose the goals of Carlos Bacca who looks set to join Sporting Clube de Portugal.
With Real Betis playing wonderfully well under Quique Setien during pre-season, there’s much to be excited about for the forthcoming campaign.
It’s refreshing to think that more of the stories to be written will come from right across the league rather than the big two or three.