La Liga 2022/23 All Out of Palancas

rguilmar

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Jul 16, 2005
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I’ll give a general La Liga thread another shot. It’s a super entertaining league in terms of technical quality, pretty accessible to an American audience, and there are several prominent Yanks playing there. We all know the big three and their quality, though I expect Atletico to be a step or two below Barca and Real Madrid. So who are the contenders who can challenge them?

Sevilla finished fourth last season. It looked like they had a real shot of making a run at the title but seemingly forgot how to win games. They have some really fun player to watch, Papu Gomez and Lucas Ocampos among them, but their strikers just stopped scoring (albeit with some poor injury luck). They had a very strong defense but sold their starting CB and brought in one replacement in Marcao who I don’t know too much about. So far as I can tell they have two CBs and three FBs on their roster so more players need to be added before a final grade can be made.

Real Betis is just a fun team to watch, and this gives me the chance to say that the Derby Days episode on the Sevilla-Betis derby is f*cking amazing. But I digress. I love watching them play but worry about their central defense as well. Bringing in Luis Felipe from Lazio was a nice piece of business and should help. Up top, Fekir is fantastic and Borja Iglesias is a serviceable striker, but they might lack the firepower needed to contend even with the addition of Willian Jose.

Real Sociedad has been solid for a few years now, and we forget that they have won La Liga before, albeit a long time ago. They are a smartly run team and have a solid spine from the CB pairing through the CM to Isak up top. If Oyarzabel comes back healthy and Isak takes a step forward, they could really be cooking. Depth is an issue though. But maybe our boy JoGo can get some run.

Villarreal made a run to the semifinals of the Champions League but finished seventh in La Liga. So it goes in Spain. There are some writers who feel like they would have benefited from finishing 8th and avoiding the Conference League. You gotta respect their ability to snatch talent from their local rivals, this time getting El Comandante Morales from relegated Levante (pundits have joked he should now be called El Almirante since he joined the Yellow Submarine). I still think they lack that top end talent to compete, but Danjuma can prove me wrong.

Others to Watch:
Valencia- ownership is a joke. The city and the supporters deserve better. But they have some players to watch like Carlos Soler. New manager Gattuso is entertaining and probably a better fit for the squad than Bordales (a good manager in his own right and handled the sh!tshow last year with grace). Plus Gattuso seems to like young Yunus Musah as a CM.
Athletic Bilbao- a team in Spain with massive amounts of funds? Get out of here. Of course they’re limited by the team’s policies, but they are a refreshing team. San Mames is still the Lion’s Den and one of the hardest places to play especially when a team from the capital visits. Plus legend Ernesto Valverde has returned to manage them.
Celta Vigo- not just because they added Luca de la Torre. I’m genuinely fascinated by Iago Aspas and his ability to almost single handedly keep the team relevant. 167 goals in 374 games for Celta isn’t a bad strike rate. I know he flopped at Liverpool and Sevilla but maybe he’s just more comfortable at home in Galicia.

Beyond that there are always interesting story lines. Crazy ultras supporting smaller clubs like Cadiz and Osasuna. Ronaldo’s (the Brazilian one) team at Valladolid. The inevitable fight against relegation. The return of Christhian Stuani at Girona, who could have easily left the club when they were relegated but stayed and fought for years to get the club back to La Liga. Rayo Vallecano and their connection to Vallecas, a unique neighborhood in Madrid. For us USMNT fans, Dest, LDLT, Musah, JoGoand likely Konrad will be calling Spain home. Plenty to watch in La Liga. Of course some will be keeping an eye on La Segunda to see if Real Oviedo, under new ownership, can make their return to La Liga. Even fewer will be paying attention to the 3rd tier to see if maybe, just maybe, Depor can begin to climb back to their rightful place among Spain’s elite.
 

Zososoxfan

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SoSH Member
Jul 30, 2009
7,933
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I’ll give a general La Liga thread another shot. It’s a super entertaining league in terms of technical quality, pretty accessible to an American audience, and there are several prominent Yanks playing there. We all know the big three and their quality, though I expect Atletico to be a step or two below Barca and Real Madrid. So who are the contenders who can challenge them?

Sevilla finished fourth last season. It looked like they had a real shot of making a run at the title but seemingly forgot how to win games. They have some really fun player to watch, Papu Gomez and Lucas Ocampos among them, but their strikers just stopped scoring (albeit with some poor injury luck). They had a very strong defense but sold their starting CB and brought in one replacement in Marcao who I don’t know too much about. So far as I can tell they have two CBs and three FBs on their roster so more players need to be added before a final grade can be made.

Real Betis is just a fun team to watch, and this gives me the chance to say that the Derby Days episode on the Sevilla-Betis derby is f*cking amazing. But I digress. I love watching them play but worry about their central defense as well. Bringing in Luis Felipe from Lazio was a nice piece of business and should help. Up top, Fekir is fantastic and Borja Iglesias is a serviceable striker, but they might lack the firepower needed to contend even with the addition of Willian Jose.

Real Sociedad has been solid for a few years now, and we forget that they have won La Liga before, albeit a long time ago. They are a smartly run team and have a solid spine from the CB pairing through the CM to Isak up top. If Oyarzabel comes back healthy and Isak takes a step forward, they could really be cooking. Depth is an issue though. But maybe our boy JoGo can get some run.

Villarreal made a run to the semifinals of the Champions League but finished seventh in La Liga. So it goes in Spain. There are some writers who feel like they would have benefited from finishing 8th and avoiding the Conference League. You gotta respect their ability to snatch talent from their local rivals, this time getting El Comandante Morales from relegated Levante (pundits have joked he should now be called El Almirante since he joined the Yellow Submarine). I still think they lack that top end talent to compete, but Danjuma can prove me wrong.

Others to Watch:
Valencia- ownership is a joke. The city and the supporters deserve better. But they have some players to watch like Carlos Soler. New manager Gattuso is entertaining and probably a better fit for the squad than Bordales (a good manager in his own right and handled the sh!tshow last year with grace). Plus Gattuso seems to like young Yunus Musah as a CM.
Athletic Bilbao- a team in Spain with massive amounts of funds? Get out of here. Of course they’re limited by the team’s policies, but they are a refreshing team. San Mames is still the Lion’s Den and one of the hardest places to play especially when a team from the capital visits. Plus legend Ernesto Valverde has returned to manage them.
Celta Vigo- not just because they added Luca de la Torre. I’m genuinely fascinated by Iago Aspas and his ability to almost single handedly keep the team relevant. 167 goals in 374 games for Celta isn’t a bad strike rate. I know he flopped at Liverpool and Sevilla but maybe he’s just more comfortable at home in Galicia.

Beyond that there are always interesting story lines. Crazy ultras supporting smaller clubs like Cadiz and Osasuna. Ronaldo’s (the Brazilian one) team at Valladolid. The inevitable fight against relegation. The return of Christhian Stuani at Girona, who could have easily left the club when they were relegated but stayed and fought for years to get the club back to La Liga. Rayo Vallecano and their connection to Vallecas, a unique neighborhood in Madrid. For us USMNT fans, Dest, LDLT, Musah, JoGoand likely Konrad will be calling Spain home. Plenty to watch in La Liga. Of course some will be keeping an eye on La Segunda to see if Real Oviedo, under new ownership, can make their return to La Liga. Even fewer will be paying attention to the 3rd tier to see if maybe, just maybe, Depor can begin to climb back to their rightful place among Spain’s elite.
Thanks for doing this @rguilmar !

I agree at the top it's Barca vs. Madrid, with Barca's squad looking better and deeper IMO, but with Madrid having a headstart in terms of chemistry.

Re Madrid, Benz is an alltime legend, and he'll get plenty of service, but watching to see if him or Modric slows down will be keys for the season. Kroos has already done so IMO. Casemiro and Vasquez are really going to have to fight for their minutes. Vini is a world class winger, and Madrid have other world class quality in Rudiger, Alaba, and Mendy. I may have said this last season, but this might be the key year for the development of Asensio, Rodrygo, Camavinga, and Valverde. Asensio quietly had a really nice season last year potting 10 goals at a per 90 rate below only Benz and Vini. It will also be interesting to see how Carlo manages the MF rotation, which also includes Tchouameni--a terrific piece of biz, albeit very expensive. Will Hazard do anything? Will aging vets like Carvajal and Nacho hold up over the season?

Barca are still an incomplete picture IMO, as they need to pickup another FB/WB on both sides--certainly on the left. They've been linked to RBL's Angelino, which would be my dream, and I'm still not certain the Soler transfer doesn't go thru. On the right, it does seem like the club might just go with Araujo/Kounde at FB when they don't select Dest, but I don't love that setup, as a back 3 of Christensen-Araujo-Kounde seems like it would be ideal for this squad. Maybe try FDJ at RB--why not, they've shit on him at every other opportunity. The MF is still stacked and the story for the season IMO will be whether the club finally starts to move away from Busi with Kessie now in the fold. Kessie obviously can't dictate the game anything like Busi, but with Pedri, Gavi, Nico, and an absurd amount of quality in the front 3 Barca have the ability to get the creativity and ball movement elsewhere. While Barca have an excellent squad, they have weird lack of depth at spots and I think they will struggle initially to integrate Lewa and the other signings.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Jul 2, 2006
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Great writeup rguilmar!

I like Barcelona to win La Liga. Not only have they signed a ton of good players, but I don't think they were actually that far off Real Madrid last year to begin with. Real's incredible CL run covered up a fairly pedestrian league campaign in which they won the title almost by default and did so by outperforming XG by quite a lot. And I can see a lot of ways for things to go wrong for Real - Benzema gets hurts or shows his age, they struggle to get the right midfield composition between the young guys and the old stalwarts, their right side players (RB and RW) just aren't up to standard and teams learn to exploit that, etc. Barcelona also just seems deeper at this point and this season will be crazy in terms of fixture congestion and wear-and-tear with the midseason World Cup.
 

Zososoxfan

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Jul 30, 2009
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I look forward to @bosox4283 preview of Atleti but they had a quiet summer so far. I'll be the first one to tell you how good and promising Nahuel Molina is, but he's a good--not yet elite--RB and I don't think that's going to fix Atleti's surprising defensive problems from a year ago. Maybe getting Saul back will help? I like Gimenez a lot, but I'm not sure who's the best to pair with him out of Savic, Hermoso, or Felipe (maybe Kondogbia, Mandava??). On the bright side, Angelito Correa had a terrific season potting 12 goals and 5 assists, and Felix started to show his promise with 8 goals and 4 assists at a good per 90 rate. Cunha also showed good promise, and Atleti still have excellent players all over the pitch with Griezmann, RDP, Lemar, Carrasco, Oblak, etc.

Sevilla are due for a big regression IMO, as any side would losing Kounde and Diego Carlos in the same window. Good thing for them that Monchi can reinvest more wisely than just about anyone. Their scoring was down last season, but the D was terrific. I'm looking for that to flip this season as they'll need to outscore teams and rely on possession. With Acuna, Rakitic, Gomes, Navas, and Fernando, this is an older side that really might struggle to keep up with the pace later in the season, especially if the Argentines get significant PT in the World Cup.

I like Betis a lot and Pellegrini had them playing very well last season and I expect for that to continue. Most of the squad is in their prime and should continue to gel. Juanmi and Borja combined for 26 (!) goals and Willian Jose had 9 goals and 4 assists. If Luis Felipe can help prevent a few more goals, they should push hard for top 4.

Sociedad might be the most exciting side to watch as they finished in a respectable 6th place with a stingy D and young squad overall. Another season to gel under Algacuil and I'm sure the expectation for this season is to push for top 4. Oyarzabal led their attack with 9 goals and 3 assists, alongside Isak who scored 6 and assisted 2. Sociedad needs them to blow up if they're gonna push for higher honors--but they have the talent and promise, so it's not a long shot by any means. They have exciting Spanish players throughout their squad and are about to hit their peaks. They bought Brais Mendez from Vigo, who was productive last season (5 G, 4 A) but it took him a ton of minutes (over 3000) to get there--i.e. not a particularly good rate. Nevertheless, I expect that rate to improve significantly on this better side.

Villarreal are another team I'm going to try and watch as much as possible. They were unlucky to miss out on UEL and instead will compete in Conf League. Moreno (9G, 3A), Groeneveld (10G, 3A), and Dia (5G, 5A) were all incredible last season. The latter 2 are likely headed to bigger clubs soon, so Villarreal need to make this season count. They also need to start breaking in younger players at the back and in the middle, as Albiol, Parejo, Capoue, and Trigueros all played big minutes last season and are 29+. Emery is an elite manager (in Spain anyways) and if they can nab GLC on a permanent transfer, he might be able to increase the scoring output for this club to push them into the top 4.

I think Bilbao will stay about the same, as I don't see much room for improvement for them.

I think Valencia made a big mistake swapping Gattuso for Bordelas. I abhor Bordelas' style but it was effective and he's good at managing it. Valencia have a slew of exciting players like Soler, Gaya, Guedes, Gomez, Musah (!), Duro, and Guillamon, but even assuming they can improve on both sides of the ball I think their management disaster situation is going to result in a middling finish and this squad getting picked apart next summer. Soler, Gaya, and Guillamon are FA next summer, with Guedes and Gomez a year behind them. Nevertheless, I'm expecting an underperformance due to ownership.
 

bosox4283

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Mar 2, 2004
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I look forward to @bosox4283 preview of Atleti but they had a quiet summer so far. I'll be the first one to tell you how good and promising Nahuel Molina is, but he's a good--not yet elite--RB and I don't think that's going to fix Atleti's surprising defensive problems from a year ago. Maybe getting Saul back will help? I like Gimenez a lot, but I'm not sure who's the best to pair with him out of Savic, Hermoso, or Felipe (maybe Kondogbia, Mandava??). On the bright side, Angelito Correa had a terrific season potting 12 goals and 5 assists, and Felix started to show his promise with 8 goals and 4 assists at a good per 90 rate. Cunha also showed good promise, and Atleti still have excellent players all over the pitch with Griezmann, RDP, Lemar, Carrasco, Oblak, etc.
Last year, Atletico struggled to find defensive consistency, especially in the first half of the year before acquiring Reinildo Mandava, and had a hard time getting everyone going at once.

Reinildo really stabilized the defense upon arrival, so the hope is that Atletico can get enough quality time from the pair of Savic-Gimenez, as Gimenez is injury-prone, to avoid giving up easy goals. Felipe and Hermoso are both quite mediocre, so I almost envision Simeone using Kondogbia or Witsel as options at CB.

I'm hoping that Nahuel Molina can somewhat replace Trippier's production, or else Simeone will have to play Llorente at that position. In some odd ways, I think Llorente as better as RB since he's just so-so with the ball. But the magic that Trippier and Llorente shared two years ago was one of the key ingredients to the title run.

Up front, the challenge is the same -- can Simeone find a way to get the time to play quality attacking football frequently and forcefully? Simeone has the players. There's no lack of quality. It is a matter of finding the right mix and having Simeone have the conviction to play in the open field.

This is the line-up I like, with Griezmann, Correa, Lemar, Saul, Rodrigo de Paul, Witsel, and Morata coming off the bench.

Oblak
Molina-Gimenez-Savic-Reinildo
Llorente-Koke-Kondogbia-Carrasco
Joao Felix-Cunha
 

rguilmar

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Jul 16, 2005
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For shits and giggles, I entertained the idea of CR7 going to Sevilla and tried to figure out if that was possible. Turns out that Sevilla are yet another big club in Spain that are at their financial limits with regard to their salary structure. They actually had to sell Kounde to register Macao. They don't quite have the same financial levers to pull as Barca. Someone had mentioned that perhaps Barca's financial difficulties were a blessing in disguise for the club, and the idea that they are now in a position to potentially capitalize on other clubs running into problems is just more proof of that. Whatever the case, if they can't figure out a way to turn their wonderful attacks into more goals, it's going to be a long season for Sevilla.

I also remember Atleti having some issues and maybe needing to offload some players, but @bosox4283 would know more about that.

I think Valencia made a big mistake swapping Gattuso for Bordelas. I abhor Bordelas' style but it was effective and he's good at managing it. Valencia have a slew of exciting players like Soler, Gaya, Guedes, Gomez, Musah (!), Duro, and Guillamon, but even assuming they can improve on both sides of the ball I think their management disaster situation is going to result in a middling finish and this squad getting picked apart next summer. Soler, Gaya, and Guillamon are FA next summer, with Guedes and Gomez a year behind them. Nevertheless, I'm expecting an underperformance due to ownership.
Valencia had to come up with some revenue as well as they had budgeted for $30 million or so more in sales that never happened, so either they found savings somewhere else or are in trouble because they had no sales since January. That club is such a mess that it's possible that they forgot to sell players or hoped that La Liga would somehow overlook it. Perhaps they accept that they won't be bringing new players in, so they don't care about the FFP punishment right now and will right the financial ship next summer? I agree that Bordales >>>>> Gattuso, but the players they have are such a bad fit for Bordales's system. Marcelino is still in need of a job and is a better fit, but that bridge was torched long ago.

I missed this news. Is there excitement and/or optimism around the Grupo Pachuca ownership?
I'll let others who are literally more invested in the club answer more completely, but the sense that I get is that the response has been pretty positive. One of the first pieces of business was bringing in Mexican starlet Marcelo Flores* on loan from Arsenal. They've also held onto the two Borjas (Baston and Sanchez) and added some veteran depth, so it looks like they'll be pushing for promotion again this season, and perhaps playing a less practical style.

Back to La Liga, both Elche and Villareal will be celebrating their 100th birthdays this year, and Villareal recently completed a renovation to El Madrigal/La Ceramica.

*Flores is actually born in Canada so is technically a dual national
 

rguilmar

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Jul 16, 2005
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Want to give a shout to Betis after stumbling on this video from Copa90 (and very glad to see Eli Mengem back at it with another cool series). Joaquin is an absolute riot.

Anyways, they have been an awesomely fun team for a few years now, to the point that Sid Lowe has a saying #alwayswatchbetis. Speaking anecdotally, Betis are the most popular “second team” in La Liga, the team fans want to win except when playing their “first team”. I think Villarreal is the popular choice to crack into the top four this season, but I’m keeping my eye on Betis. Assuming that they can keep Fekir, they might have something interesting. I’m a huge fan of Luiz Henrique having seen him play a grand total of once at Fluminense, but he really stood out in that game. Fekir often drifts left, so if Henrique can offer any danger on the right, it can really open things up. They’re fun, their fans are fun. Why not?