This weekend the 88th La Liga season gets underway and with no Cristiano Ronaldo following his record move to Juventus and a Barcelona midfield minus the irreplaceable Andres Iniesta the league’s two most glamorous clubs will have a distinctly unfamiliar look to them. It’s a new dawn and that is especially true of the Bernabau giants who additionally have a fresh approach in their coaching with the arrival of Julen Lopetegui who left Spain in such controversial fashion prior to the World Cup. With his predecessor Zidane departing as a legend twice-over having secured an incredible trilogy of Champions League successes Lopetegui has some awfully big shoes to fill.
Despite recruiting the exceptionally exciting teenage striker Vinicius Junior from Flamengo the suspicion is that Real Madrid are still far from finished with their summer spending and continue to be linked with headline-exploding bids for Neymar or Kylian Mbappe, each at PSG. Yet as the weeks pass and with the new campaign now very much looming into view no new Galactico appears imminent and Madridistas are starting to worry. That might seem a touch precious given their club boasts a rich variety of attacking talent that includes Bale, Isco, Asensio, and Benzema but let’s not forget that the establishment club trailed their bitter rivals by 17 points last term. The very real possibility of Luka Modric switching to serie A meanwhile remains a concern.
As for the reigning champions theirs has been a summer of sensible evolvement. The aging Iniesta’s dignified exit weakens them but elsewhere they have brought in decent funds from underperforming peripheral talent (largely thanks to Everton it must be said). The arrival of Arturo Vidal from Bayern certainly stiffens up the central area while Messi and Suarez will relish having fun and games alongside new faces Arthur and Malcom, a Brazilian duo who promise much. Add in the fact that the influential Coutinho is now settled in Catalonia and it’s hard to see any other eventually other than a 26th title for Ernesto Valverde’s resplendent side come May. A preview of La Liga betting odds confirms this while offering terrific value to others.
If the destination of the league silverware is hardly negligible the more intriguing question might be to ponder by what margin will can be achieved. The Barcelona faithful have had their patience tested seeing Real lift the Champions League three years running and this year is widely deemed to be do or die in their bid to wrestle the trophy from them. Might this obsession undermine their league pursuits? The expectation will unquestionably add another weight of pressure onto Valverde’s shoulders.
Beyond the obvious two Atletico Madrid will challenge strongly and a repeat of last year’s runner-up placing will impress but a lot of attention too will fall on a resurgent Valencia who may have lost on nine occasions in 2017/18 but still finished only three points behind Zidane’s Real.
By Monday evening the first round of fixtures will be complete and the latest La Liga season will be well and truly underway. Let the estupendo adventure begin.