The Spanish Primera Liga gets underway this weekend with Barcelona defending the title they won for the 23rd time last season. Real Madrid, under new leadership, will again provide the Catalans with their sternest challenge, but expect Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla to be leading those determined not to let the top two have it all their own way.
Barcelona, who also won the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, banged in 110 La Liga goals in 2014/15 with Lionel Messi hitting 43 of them. Cristiano Ronaldo outscored the little Argentine, grabbing 48 of Los Blancos’ 118 goals but, as always, La Liga is about so much more than arguably the world’s two greatest club sides and its top two stars.
Messi’s goals were crucial in landing Barcelona coach Luis Enrique the Spanish championship at the first time of asking. A fans’ favorite in his playing days at Camp Nou, the Barca boss will again have an enviable array of talent at his disposal, ready for their next assault on the Primera crown.
With Luis Suarez and Neymar alongside Messi, Barca have a frontline comprising three of the planet’s finest attacking players. The Brazilian will miss the start of the campaign with injury but Barca have the depth to cope without him. The talismanic Xavi Hernandez has gone, but Ivan Rakitic had a fine debut season for the Catalans and is gradually beginning to fill the master’s shoes.
Real Madrid wasted no time in installing Rafa Benitez as their new coach as the curtain came down on an ultimately disastrous campaign for the capital city giants and the former Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea and Napoli supremo is already moulding a side with greater strength and resilience to mount a serious challenge to Enrique’s men.
Not that Benitez has rung major changes. He has, however, looked to build a team with sufficient back-up for key players like Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. The long-running saga linking Sergio Ramos with a move to Manchester United was eventually extinguished and, with David de Gea remaining at Old Trafford, Keylor Navas and new signing Kiko Casilla will battle it out to replace Iker Casillas between the posts.
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