La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

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Jaime

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La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Mon Jun 24, 2013 6:44 pm


 
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Mon Jun 24, 2013 6:53 pm

Well, with Almeria winning the playoff and final promotion place after overcoming Girona last weekend we have the teams that will make up the 2013-14 Spanish League!

U.D. Almería - Javi Gracia
Athletic Club Bilbao - Ernesto Valverde
Club Atlético de Madrid - Diego Simeone
F.C. Barcelona - Tito Vilanova
Real Betis Balompié - Pepe Mel
R.C. Celta Vigo - Luis Enrique Martínez
Elche C.F. - Fran Escribá
R.C.D. Espanyol - Javier Aguirre
Getafe C.F. - Luis García
Granada C.F. - Lucas Alcaraz
Levante U.D. - Joaquín Caparrós
Málaga C.F. - Bernd Schuster
C.A. Osasuna - José Luis Mendilibar
Rayo Vallecano de Madrid - Paco Jémez
Real Madrid C.F. - Carlo Ancelotti
Real Sociedad de Fútbol - Jagoba Arrasate
Sevilla F.C. - Unai Emery
Valencia C.F. - Miroslav Djukić
Real Valladolid -Juan Ignacio Martínez
Villarreal C.F. - Marcelino García Toral
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Tue Jun 25, 2013 2:33 pm

Bizarre gesture from Malaga's sheikh - he announced via twitter that the club are going to retire Isco's number 22 shirt.
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Mon Jul 08, 2013 11:46 pm



---------------------Courtois

Juanfran------Miranda------Godin------F. Luis

----------Koke/M. Suarez-----Gabi

?????--------------?????-------------?????

-------------------D. Villa

Will be interesting to see how the front 4 shapes up. Villa is going to play as an out and out centre forward, Cerezo has already said that much. Diego Costa will be the back up. But then on the right, will they try and find a more traditional winger or use Adrian or Leo Baptistao as a wide forward. I am not a big fan of Cebolla Rodriguez so I think they could do with a player for the left unless they decide to play Turan out on the wing. But then that leaves the mediapunta. Do they try Oliver? Or will they still try for someone like Diego Ribas who Cerezo said today was still "impossible".
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Tue Jul 09, 2013 2:44 pm

La liga calendar released today!

Here is the first round:



Clasicos are played on 27/10 (Camp Nou) and 23/3 (Bernabeu).

bounce
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Mon Jul 15, 2013 5:57 pm

Valencia have lost their first preseason friendly to Karlsruhe. wtf.

Doh
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Thu Jul 18, 2013 12:42 am

And now Valencia have drawn 0-0 with the mighty Waldhof Mannheim. Gonna be a long season I think.
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:27 pm

With Valencia losing again this preseason (0-1 to Stuttgart) and all of the player sales (and several other impending departures) I was trying to work out how they are going line up this season. This is the best I can come up with, without any new signings:

---------------------Guaita

J. Pereira------V. Ruiz------Mathieu------Bernat

--------------J. Fuego-----Banega

Feghouli------------Canales-----------Guardado

--------------------Jonas

That's the best I can come up with. Of course we can probably count on Banega being injured for most of the season. Which leads to the point that they really have no depth in the squad though. Oriol Romeu and Parejo (decent) in midfield. Ricardo Costa Doh and Barragan (basically shit) in defense. Viera and Paco Alcacer (very inexperienced) up front?
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:02 pm

Just thought I'd do a couple more hypothetical XIs for next year...

Atletico

--------------------Courtois

Juanfran------Miranda------Godin------F. Luis

--------------Gabi------M. Suarez

Adrian L.-----------Arda---------L. Baptistao

------------------D. Villa

Real Sociedad

------------------------C. Bravo

C. Martinez------I. Martinez-----??????-----De la Bella

-------------------Markel------Pardo

Vela--------------------X. Prieto-------------Griezmann

------------------------Agirretxe

Betis

----------------Andersen/Sara

Chica-------Paulao-------Figueras-------D. Vila

------------Reyes------?????

R. Castro----------Verdu----------S. Sevilla

-----------------J. Molina

Sevilla

------------------Beto

Diogo------Carriço------Pareja------Navarro

-----------Medel-----Kondogbia

??????-----------Rakitic-------------Reyes

----------------Gameiro

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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Romford Pele on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:11 pm

Sevilla one has the potential to be good. Definitely like the Sociedad one! What about Bilbao?
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:19 pm

Romford Pele wrote:Sevilla one has the potential to be good. Definitely like the Sociedad one! What about Bilbao?

Real Sociedad will be good again I think. They mainly have to find a replacement for Mikel Gonzalez at centre back after his big injury. Pardo will have to step it up without Illarra unless they sign someone new. Their attack is pretty awesome if everyone stays healthy.

For Athletic (I am assuming they will sign Mikel Rico):

------------------Iraizoz

Iraola-----San Jose-----Etxeita-----Aurtenetxe

-----------M. Rico-----Beñat

Susaeta----------Ander---------De Marcos

----------------Muniain

Not sure what they are going to do up front. Valverde has experimented with Kike Sola and Muniain. Maybe Muniain will be as the centre forward or even more of a false 9? Don't know that Kike Sola has enough goals to be the main guy. They actually have pretty good depth in midfield with Mikel Rico, Beñat, Iturraspe, Ander, Gurpegi, even De Marcos can drop deeper. Etxeita is a big question too. Since they lost Amorebieta there isn't a clear replacement to partner San Jose.
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:22 pm

I don't know about Sevilla. I think they will be a lot better defensively. I think they need to find someone better than Medel though. And a replacement for Navas down the right. And the other question is up front. Negredo was a guarantee for about 20 league goals per season. Can Gameiro or Rucescu or Bacca provide that?
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:27 pm

What's left of Malaga:

-----------------------Wily

J. Gamez-----S. Sanchez-----Weligton-----Antunes

------------Camacho-----Tissone/Recio

Portillo?-------------------------------------Duda

------------Santa Cruz-----Anderson?

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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Romford Pele on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:30 pm

Munian as false 9? Interesting! He'll probably be off next summer if he has a good year with Bilbao - not much left for him there.
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:32 pm

Romford Pele wrote:Munian as false 9? Interesting! He'll probably be off next summer if he has a good year with Bilbao - not much left for him there.

He might end up back on the left, you never know.

I hope he doesn't go yet, he is still pretty young. And he does have rather a long contract so probably someone would have to pay his buyout if they want him. Athletic won't be keen to sell him, there aren't that many basques around you know?!?!??! Biggrin
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:11 pm

Last year's top scorers:

1. Lionel Messi (BAR) 46
2. Ronaldo (RMA) 34
3. Radamel Falcao (ATL) 28
4. Alvaro Negredo (SEV) 25
5. Roberto Soldado (VAL) 24
6. Piti (Rayo) 18
7. Ruben Castro (BET) 18
8. Gonzalo Higuain (RMA) 16
9. Helder Postiga (ZAR) 14
10. Aritz Aduriz (ATH) 14
11. Carlos Vela (SOC) 14
12. Jonas (VAL) 13
13. Imanol Agirretxe (SOC) 13
14. Jorge Molina (BET) 13
15. Riki (DEP) 13
16. Oscar (VLD) 12
17. Iago Aspas (CEL) 12
18. Karim Benzema (RMA) 11
19. Tomer Hemed (MAL) 11
20. Cesc Fabregas (BAR) 11

Doh
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by messiah on Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:32 pm

kroos is right all a long
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:58 pm

kroos was only reiterating what we've been talking about in la liga thread for years.
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:46 am

Rafa says he wants Coentrao and Arbeloa for Napoli! Doh
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Romford Pele on Thu Aug 01, 2013 8:14 am

Jaime wrote:Rafa says he wants Coentrao and Arbeloa for Napoli! Doh

Surely you guys won't be that stupid?! lol! 
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:48 pm

Coentrao will probably go but we would be idiots to sell Arbeloa.
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:42 am

Harsh words from Soldado: "I left because the president has told a bunch of lies. I don't believe in the project any longer..."
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Puro on Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:10 pm

WOW! Tata looks the part in his first game in charge at Barça. This is the most disciplined I've seen Barcelona since they were at their peak.

Santos are having a rough year in Brasil just like São Paulo (who played recently against Bayern and Milan) but Tata has organized Barça in one week!Shocked 

Tata's Barça shall utterly destroy Bayern. Revenge! Watch out!Shocked <Ale> <Ale> <Ale> 
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Puro on Sun Aug 04, 2013 10:29 pm

Valencia are utterly destroying Inter. Jonas is about to score the third goal as he's walking the ball into the net, and Jesus arrives a bit late but whacks Jonas in the nape with a nice elbow.lol! lol! lol! 

Nice defense from Inter.
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by blutgraetsche on Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:47 am

La Liga's official anthem this year...




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRq0k8b7UAs
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Kroos on Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:47 am

what going on with the kick off times are they serious



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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by 110% on Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:56 am

Kroos wrote:what going on with the kick off times are they serious


they said it was due to heat:
http://www.goal.com/en/news/12/spain/2012/08/04/3287081/lfp-release-statement-explaining-late-kick-off-times-on-la

but as I understand it there is a special programme for August and then as it cools down in September matches can be earlier
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Kroos on Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:23 am

oh i understand
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by blutgraetsche on Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:44 pm

La Liga season preview 2013-2014

Neymar and Gareth Bale dominate the headlines, but the real story of the summer has been the exodus of players from Spain

The first man to leave was Radamel Falcao. Then Alvaro Negredo departed, then Roberto Soldado. Last season's third, fourth and fifth top scorers, all gone. It is not just them either. Neymar came to Spain, joining Barcelona, and Real Madrid remain confident that Gareth Bale will too. They dominate the agenda – over the past month, 28 of Marca's 30 covers have been dedicated to Real, 10 of them to Bale, with AS mirroring those figures exactly – but the summer has been marked by movement in the other direction, by the exodus. The new season will be too.

A dash through the squads, pen in hand, reveals more than 70 players who have left the Spanish league this summer. Not all of those are a problem, of course. Some went because it suited their clubs in footballing terms; others departed for specific, one-off reasons and it is no great revolution for other players to have headed for big clubs in big leagues. Thiago Alcântara to Bayern Munich and Gonzalo Higuaín to Napoli are deals grounded in a certain logic and facilitate transfers that are bigger yet for Real and Barcelona. But it runs deeper than that and this is a symptom of a serious crisis.

Only six first division clubs here have been net spenders so far this summer: Real and Barcelona, then newly-promoted Villarreal at €6.7m (£5.7m); Granada, propped up by Udinese, at €6.3m; Valladolid at €250,000; and Elche, who have spent €50,000. According to figures in AS, for the second year in a row Spanish clubs have collectively made more on transfers than they have spent. English, French and Italian teams have all spent more in absolute terms than Spanish ones. German, Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish, Portuguese and Dutch clubs have all spent more in net terms.

Players have left Spain for teams in Argentina, Brazil, Greece, Abu Dhabi, Russia, Qatar, Mexico, Denmark, the US, Belgium and Azerbaijan. Their clubs have almost all sold because they have to. Spanish football's collective debt is almost €4bn. More than half the teams in the top two divisions have been through administration. Málaga and Rayo Vallecano were denied a Uefa licence. Spain's clubs owe almost €500m to the Inland Revenue; now, at last, the government is getting serious. It's time to pay back the debt and there is only one way to do that. As the secretary of state for sport puts it: "Players must leave."

The impact on the quality of the league and the title race is obvious, reinforcing a trend that was already apparent. Real finished 2012-13 15 points behind Barcelona, the biggest ever gap between first and second. José Mourinho had publicly conceded the title before Christmas; by their standards, it was a disaster, yet their 85 points is their joint-fourth highest total ever. It's just that Barcelona reached 100, equalling the record set by Real the year before. Seven times a team has gone over 90 points; all seven have happened in the last four seasons. What was it Pep Guardiola called it? Fucking barbaric. No one else could compete.

For a while last season it looked like Atlético Madrid might – and their Copa del Rey victory was one of the great footballing stories, perhaps their best night ever – but ultimately they finished nine points behind Real and 24 behind Barcelona. In terms of points, fourth-placed Real Sociedad were closer to the bottom than the top, just as third-placed Valencia had previously been, three seasons running. Both Atlético and Real Sociedad had enjoyed a superb season, but then the former lost Falcao and the latter lost central midfielder Asier Illaramendi to Real for €38.5m.

That was just the start. Carry on down the table and the pattern is startling. Two teams strengthen, everyone else weakens. In fifth, Valencia lost their best player, Soldado, following David Silva, David Villa, Juan Mata and Jordi Alba out the door. In sixth, Málaga lost Jérémy Toulalan, Joaquín, Júlio Baptista and Isco, who joined Real. And in seventh, Betis lost both central midfielders, including playmaker Beñat. Rayo were eighth: they've lost pretty much everyone, including their top scorer. In ninth, Sevilla sold Jesús Navas and Negredo, their most outstanding players.

On top of that, Athletic Bilbao finally sold Fernando Llorente to Juventus. Of the Spain squad at the Confederations Cup, nine will play abroad this season. Only one will play in Spain at a club other than Madrid or Barcelona – and that's Villa, now 31, who the Catalans let go.

If the rest could not compete last year, how can they compete this year? The answer of course is that they can't. For many that is no longer the point; it is not even about competing any more, it is about surviving. New season, same candidates. Not just to win the league but to win virtually every week: a defeat-free campaign may not be far off; 36 matches, decided by two clásicos? It could yet happen.

For some fans, that's a depressing scenario. Yet the coming season is not a write-off, nor a switch-off, even if knowing when to switch on will be an adventure in itself.

For the big two, winning is not so much an objective as an obligation; draws are the new (or the not-even-so-new-now) defeats. Any points dropped can be decisive and every mistake is magnified. It does not always feel like it, but that constant tightrope walk gives a tension and edge to their every game, piling pressure on the players, even if it will be Europe that truly defines their seasons. And then there's, simply, the quality of their football, the talent of their players. Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Isco, Andrés Iniesta, Mesut Özil … Bale? It's hard not to be just a little excited.

Domestically, the advantage may be Real's. There are positive signs with Tata Martino, with the recovery of high pressure vital. But Barcelona's pre-season was preceded by the impact of Tito Vilanova's illness and Thiago's departure and has been largely a mess, with bad pitches, bad planes, bad preparation and even bad food. Meanwhile, Real's has been impressive. Barcelona are yet to sign a central defender and although Madrid too could find themselves short at the back and the No9 position, a kind of galácticism creeping back into their planning, there is a palpable sense of relief about the place, a release. Isco, in particular, has impressed.

In the opening weeks of the season when there may still be a touch of vulnerability, in those weeks where Madrid lost the title last year, the fixture list probably favours Carlo Ancelotti's side too. Barcelona face Málaga, Valencia, Sevilla and Real Sociedad in the first six weeks; Madrid face none of them. Perhaps their only theoretically difficult fixture is Athletic in week three.

Besides, although it is all about them, it is not just them. And it is striking how optimistic some supporters are, now that they have let go of the title itself. Good players remain; better ones will emerge. The scouting, coaching and preparation remains excellent, the talent doesn't dry up. Spain keeps producing footballers. Crisis is opportunity and there will be much worth watching. Villarreal back up and with Giovani dos Santos, Celta under Luís Enrique, and Granada under Lucas Alcaraz. Elche back in the first division after almost 30 years. Pepe Mel's Betis: 12 players out, 13 players in, but always entertaining. Any team Paco Jémez puts out and any jacket Paco Jémez puts on.

Valencia keep losing players season after season, but running through their squad there's strength there – and, yes, that does include the new signing Hélder Postiga – and there is an optimism and determination about the new coach Miroslav Djukic that is contagious. Real Sociedad may be stretched by the Champions League, assuming they get past Olympique Lyon, but they can probably assimilate the loss of Asier Illarramendi, with Rubén Pardo likely to play more often. And Sevilla have reinvested. There's something exciting about what they're constructing, a team that could compete for a Champions League place: Marko Marin, Ivan Rakitic, Kévin Gameiro, Vitolo … there's not too much wrong with that.

Atlético have lost Falcao, but Villa, if he is fully fit, and Leo Baptistao feels like a reasonable and bright swap, with the potential to be genuinely thrilling, especially alongside Arda Turan, Diego Costa and Oliver Torres. Just ask the 20,000 who turned up for Villa's presentation, or those who saw his first goal for the club screech into the top corner. Torres, meanwhile, is a very, very special talent.

Then there's Athletic Bilbao: Llorente departed physically this summer, but departed mentally last summer, spending a year in limbo, rejected by fans and club. His actual leaving is a relief not a problem, particularly with Aritz Aduriz in the side. Beñat and Kike Sola have joined, while others will surely be recoverable now that Marcelo Bielsa has gone, replaced by the excellent Ernesto Valverde. Get Iker Muniaín fit and focused and a Champions League challenge may not be beyond them as they embark on their first season in a century away (but not far away) from San Mamés.

With Atlético, Athletic Bilbao are arguably the only side that have actually improved in a division when even standing still is an advantage. For the rest, there may be some consolation in convincing themselves that the step back might not be as bad as it looks, especially when everyone else has taken a step back too. Everyone, that is, except Real and Barcelona, but then they long since disappeared into the distance. And no one is even trying to chase them any more.
http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/aug/15/la-liga-season-preview-2013-2014
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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

Post by Jaime on Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:47 pm

blutgraetsche wrote:
La Liga season preview 2013-2014

Neymar and Gareth Bale dominate the headlines, but the real story of the summer has been the exodus of players from Spain

The first man to leave was Radamel Falcao. Then Alvaro Negredo departed, then Roberto Soldado. Last season's third, fourth and fifth top scorers, all gone. It is not just them either. Neymar came to Spain, joining Barcelona, and Real Madrid remain confident that Gareth Bale will too. They dominate the agenda – over the past month, 28 of Marca's 30 covers have been dedicated to Real, 10 of them to Bale, with AS mirroring those figures exactly – but the summer has been marked by movement in the other direction, by the exodus. The new season will be too.

A dash through the squads, pen in hand, reveals more than 70 players who have left the Spanish league this summer. Not all of those are a problem, of course. Some went because it suited their clubs in footballing terms; others departed for specific, one-off reasons and it is no great revolution for other players to have headed for big clubs in big leagues. Thiago Alcântara to Bayern Munich and Gonzalo Higuaín to Napoli are deals grounded in a certain logic and facilitate transfers that are bigger yet for Real and Barcelona. But it runs deeper than that and this is a symptom of a serious crisis.

Only six first division clubs here have been net spenders so far this summer: Real and Barcelona, then newly-promoted Villarreal at €6.7m (£5.7m); Granada, propped up by Udinese, at €6.3m; Valladolid at €250,000; and Elche, who have spent €50,000. According to figures in AS, for the second year in a row Spanish clubs have collectively made more on transfers than they have spent. English, French and Italian teams have all spent more in absolute terms than Spanish ones. German, Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish, Portuguese and Dutch clubs have all spent more in net terms.

Players have left Spain for teams in Argentina, Brazil, Greece, Abu Dhabi, Russia, Qatar, Mexico, Denmark, the US, Belgium and Azerbaijan. Their clubs have almost all sold because they have to. Spanish football's collective debt is almost €4bn. More than half the teams in the top two divisions have been through administration. Málaga and Rayo Vallecano were denied a Uefa licence. Spain's clubs owe almost €500m to the Inland Revenue; now, at last, the government is getting serious. It's time to pay back the debt and there is only one way to do that. As the secretary of state for sport puts it: "Players must leave."

The impact on the quality of the league and the title race is obvious, reinforcing a trend that was already apparent. Real finished 2012-13 15 points behind Barcelona, the biggest ever gap between first and second. José Mourinho had publicly conceded the title before Christmas; by their standards, it was a disaster, yet their 85 points is their joint-fourth highest total ever. It's just that Barcelona reached 100, equalling the record set by Real the year before. Seven times a team has gone over 90 points; all seven have happened in the last four seasons. What was it Pep Guardiola called it? Fucking barbaric. No one else could compete.

For a while last season it looked like Atlético Madrid might – and their Copa del Rey victory was one of the great footballing stories, perhaps their best night ever – but ultimately they finished nine points behind Real and 24 behind Barcelona. In terms of points, fourth-placed Real Sociedad were closer to the bottom than the top, just as third-placed Valencia had previously been, three seasons running. Both Atlético and Real Sociedad had enjoyed a superb season, but then the former lost Falcao and the latter lost central midfielder Asier Illaramendi to Real for €38.5m.

That was just the start. Carry on down the table and the pattern is startling. Two teams strengthen, everyone else weakens. In fifth, Valencia lost their best player, Soldado, following David Silva, David Villa, Juan Mata and Jordi Alba out the door. In sixth, Málaga lost Jérémy Toulalan, Joaquín, Júlio Baptista and Isco, who joined Real. And in seventh, Betis lost both central midfielders, including playmaker Beñat. Rayo were eighth: they've lost pretty much everyone, including their top scorer. In ninth, Sevilla sold Jesús Navas and Negredo, their most outstanding players.

On top of that, Athletic Bilbao finally sold Fernando Llorente to Juventus. Of the Spain squad at the Confederations Cup, nine will play abroad this season. Only one will play in Spain at a club other than Madrid or Barcelona – and that's Villa, now 31, who the Catalans let go.

If the rest could not compete last year, how can they compete this year? The answer of course is that they can't. For many that is no longer the point; it is not even about competing any more, it is about surviving. New season, same candidates. Not just to win the league but to win virtually every week: a defeat-free campaign may not be far off; 36 matches, decided by two clásicos? It could yet happen.

For some fans, that's a depressing scenario. Yet the coming season is not a write-off, nor a switch-off, even if knowing when to switch on will be an adventure in itself.

For the big two, winning is not so much an objective as an obligation; draws are the new (or the not-even-so-new-now) defeats. Any points dropped can be decisive and every mistake is magnified. It does not always feel like it, but that constant tightrope walk gives a tension and edge to their every game, piling pressure on the players, even if it will be Europe that truly defines their seasons. And then there's, simply, the quality of their football, the talent of their players. Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Isco, Andrés Iniesta, Mesut Özil … Bale? It's hard not to be just a little excited.

Domestically, the advantage may be Real's. There are positive signs with Tata Martino, with the recovery of high pressure vital. But Barcelona's pre-season was preceded by the impact of Tito Vilanova's illness and Thiago's departure and has been largely a mess, with bad pitches, bad planes, bad preparation and even bad food. Meanwhile, Real's has been impressive. Barcelona are yet to sign a central defender and although Madrid too could find themselves short at the back and the No9 position, a kind of galácticism creeping back into their planning, there is a palpable sense of relief about the place, a release. Isco, in particular, has impressed.

In the opening weeks of the season when there may still be a touch of vulnerability, in those weeks where Madrid lost the title last year, the fixture list probably favours Carlo Ancelotti's side too. Barcelona face Málaga, Valencia, Sevilla and Real Sociedad in the first six weeks; Madrid face none of them. Perhaps their only theoretically difficult fixture is Athletic in week three.

Besides, although it is all about them, it is not just them. And it is striking how optimistic some supporters are, now that they have let go of the title itself. Good players remain; better ones will emerge. The scouting, coaching and preparation remains excellent, the talent doesn't dry up. Spain keeps producing footballers. Crisis is opportunity and there will be much worth watching. Villarreal back up and with Giovani dos Santos, Celta under Luís Enrique, and Granada under Lucas Alcaraz. Elche back in the first division after almost 30 years. Pepe Mel's Betis: 12 players out, 13 players in, but always entertaining. Any team Paco Jémez puts out and any jacket Paco Jémez puts on.

Valencia keep losing players season after season, but running through their squad there's strength there – and, yes, that does include the new signing Hélder Postiga – and there is an optimism and determination about the new coach Miroslav Djukic that is contagious. Real Sociedad may be stretched by the Champions League, assuming they get past Olympique Lyon, but they can probably assimilate the loss of Asier Illarramendi, with Rubén Pardo likely to play more often. And Sevilla have reinvested. There's something exciting about what they're constructing, a team that could compete for a Champions League place: Marko Marin, Ivan Rakitic, Kévin Gameiro, Vitolo … there's not too much wrong with that.

Atlético have lost Falcao, but Villa, if he is fully fit, and Leo Baptistao feels like a reasonable and bright swap, with the potential to be genuinely thrilling, especially alongside Arda Turan, Diego Costa and Oliver Torres. Just ask the 20,000 who turned up for Villa's presentation, or those who saw his first goal for the club screech into the top corner. Torres, meanwhile, is a very, very special talent.

Then there's Athletic Bilbao: Llorente departed physically this summer, but departed mentally last summer, spending a year in limbo, rejected by fans and club. His actual leaving is a relief not a problem, particularly with Aritz Aduriz in the side. Beñat and Kike Sola have joined, while others will surely be recoverable now that Marcelo Bielsa has gone, replaced by the excellent Ernesto Valverde. Get Iker Muniaín fit and focused and a Champions League challenge may not be beyond them as they embark on their first season in a century away (but not far away) from San Mamés.

With Atlético, Athletic Bilbao are arguably the only side that have actually improved in a division when even standing still is an advantage. For the rest, there may be some consolation in convincing themselves that the step back might not be as bad as it looks, especially when everyone else has taken a step back too. Everyone, that is, except Real and Barcelona, but then they long since disappeared into the distance. And no one is even trying to chase them any more.
http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/aug/15/la-liga-season-preview-2013-2014
Basically what we've been saying on this board all summer! ok

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Re: La Liga 2013/14 Season Thread

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