As the La Liga season looks to get into full swing, we take a look at the opening weekend match-ups and how the teams could fare as the season goes on.
Malaga v. Athletic Bilbao
Malaga will look to start their season off on the right foot after a disappointing 11th place finish this past season. Having lost their rising star in Isco to the powerhouse that is Real Madrid, Malaga looked lost at times and were unable to replicate their success from years past. New loanee Luis Alberto from Liverpool is joined by marquee signing of Guillermo Ochoa, arguably the best goalkeepers at the World Cup. Expect a strong showing from them this year as they look to reclaim a spot in the Europa League.
Lining up opposite Malaga, Athletic Bilbao look to pick up where they left off as a new season begins. Coming off of a wildly successful 2013-14 campaign, Athletic will try to replicate their winning ways. Having lost one of their main midfielders, Ander Herrera, to Manchester United, it is clear that someone such as Beñat must step up to avoid a gaping hole in the midfield. Athletic did manage to retain the services of young Spaniard Iker Muniain. Called ‘the Spanish Messi’ by the press, he will look to further his status as a young star as he goes into his sixth season with Los Leones.
Prediction: Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Malaga.
Malaga will make a good argument as to why they can reclaim a Europa League but Athletic Bilbao’s all-around talent will prove too much for Los Boquerones to handle. Malaga must look forward for better results while Athletic Bilbao will be happy to walk away with three points.
Granada v. Deportivo La Coruña
Granada will also look to build from last season as a they look to improve from a 15th place finish to something slightly higher. With a plethora of new signings, a mid-table finish will not seem out of reach for the team as Joaquín Caparrós takes the reign for the first time. With a young, pacey winger in Juan Carlos combined with a skilled dribbler such as El Arabi, Granada will be fielding one of their strongest teams yet as staying away from the drop zone looks more and more likely for a team that will want to stay in the first division very badly. There is no reason why a top 12 finish is out of reach for Granada come the 2014-15 La Liga season.
Coming out of the second-division, Deportivo will be looking to begin an extended stay in the first division having been dropped just two years ago. And, after making a quick return back to the top flight, Deportivo look set to stay. Having secured Isaac Cuenca, a young winger from Barcelona, on a permanent transfer, and Jose Rodriguez, a central midfielder from Real Madrid, on loan, it is clear Deportivo do not want to spend anymore time in the second division than they already have. Seeing Deportivo in the Primera Division seems increasingly likely as Victor Fernandez looks to get his career as a manager back on track.