La Liga Preview

The return of football in Spain is just around the corner (September 12th) and we have all your bases covered. This guide to the season won’t go as deep into the rosters as the Premier League’s did, but we cover all major points, plotlines, issues, and exciting players from every team. There isn’t as much opportunity for betting tips as there normally is considering how lopsided the league is, but there’s plenty of information below plus some good tips for the tight relegation battle that will be occurring.

Athletic Club

2019 Finish: 11th

2020 Title Odds: +15000

Arrivals: None

Departures: Cristian Ganea, LB, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: For those who might not know, Athletic Bilbao is one of the more unique clubs in the world. They’re one of the few clubs who limit where their football players come from which severely limits their potential. Only players from the Basque portions of Spain and France or those who have trained with clubs in that region may join the club which makes life difficult for the management team. Despite that, this organization has enjoyed a great run of top flight football and are one of the teams with higher hopes to win La Liga outside of the Big 3, which says a lot.

However, Bilbao are coming off a bit of a down season and they don’t seem to have any incoming players this season. The defense was top four in the league, allowing only 38 goals which was ten less than Barcelona. The problems for the club came in the attacking third where they finished just 41 times, 15 of which came from the aging Raúl Garcia. Iñaki Williams could be the striker of the future and youngster Asier Villalibre could have a shot, but the latter two will need to improve.

A top ten finish should be in the books for Athletic Club if the attack can get better as they finished 10 matches in 1-1 or 0-0 draws. I don’t like them to be a top four team this season but if the defense puts on a similar performance then Bilbao should easily break back into the European scene.

Attacking Player to Watch: Iñaki Williams, CF

The striker netted six goals and an assist for the club in 2019/20, and at just 26 years of age, could be in the works to take over the starting position this season. He has much to learn while playing off the ball and finding better positioning, though he’s a candidate for a breakout season.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Unai López, CM

López burst onto the scene last season in the defensive midfield, but was much more keen on pushing the attack and playing as a decision-making pivot than staying back and defending. He pushed through four assists and a goal and was clear as the best passer on the team.

Defensive Player to Watch: Unai Simón, GK

There probably won’t be too many goalkeepers in this category, but Simón is very deserving. Keepers don’t often earn high ratings because they’re often blamed for goals, but the 23 year old is very different. He’s making unbelievable saves on shots with high post-xG and hardly ever places a foot wrong. Watch for him to be breaking into the Spanish team soon.

Atlético Madrid

2019 Finish: 3rd

2020 Title Odds: +800

Arrivals: Álvaro Morate, CF, €56M; Ivo Grbić, GK, €7M; Yannick Carrasco, LW, Unknown

Departures: Caio Henrique, LB, €8M;

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: After a season in which Diego Simeone would have certainly loved to be more competitive, Atléti will look to make a move with a healthy squad. The team drew far too often last season thanks to a sputtering offense while João Félix was injured and adjusting to the difficulty of La Liga, but the defense was stellar. Most of the team is completely intact and the club made a few loans permanent so I don’t expect to see any type of dropoff. The young players are going to improve and Jan Oblak should have a much better season in goal. The defense was injury prone, but with a bit of luck I don’t see any reason why Los Colchoneros couldn’t jump Barcelona and challenge for the title this season.

Attacking Player to Watch: João Félix, ST

The youngster had a tough time adjusting to the pressures of the big stage and the injury issues didn’t help much, but he was much better later in the season. With six goals and an assist last season, we should expect the wonderkid to double his production at least and mix in a few worldies.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Marcos Llorente, DM

This might be a surprise pick to some considering this midfield plays Thomas, Saúl, and Koke, but Llorente has the skills to become the best of any of them. Llorente plays as the pivot while Saúl and Koke advance play with the forwards and that spot generally doesn’t get to show off too often, evidenced by three goals and three assists for Llorente. However, after his performance at Anfield and watching him progress under Simeone I can’t help but think he’s going to be great in that midfield.

Defensive Player to Watch: Renan Lodi, LB

There are few things more exciting than watching a footballer streak down the side of the pitch, beating defenders, and swinging in crosses to be finished for goals. Renan Lodi has that trait in him and we’re going to start seeing it much more often. He was second on the team in crosses and was a successful dribbler for a 22 year old defender. The Brazilian has the opportunity to become a top five left back in the world and this season could be the first step into stardom.

Barcelona

2019 Finish: 2nd

2020 Title Odds: +175

Arrivals: Miralem Pjanić, CM, €60M; Trincão, RW, €31M; Matheus Fernandes, DM, €7M; Pedri, LW, €5M

Departures: Arthur, CM, €72M; Carles Perez, RW, €11M; Marc Cucurella, LM, €10M; Ivan Rakitić, CM, €1.5M; Arda Turan, LW, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Expectations: Even in the most disappointing of seasons Barcelona has the ability to make the best teams in the world look utterly helpless, but this was not one of those seasons. A horrific end-of-season collapse and a pathetic smashing ended the chances of meaningful silverware for the Catalan club and the team fired the head coach because of it. The new man in charge is club legend Ronald Koeman and he’s already caused a stir by nearly forcing the best player in the world out of the club.

I don’t expect the relationship to mend between Messi and Koeman which will cause issues going forward, but it won’t be for more than a season because Messi will be leaving the club as soon as possible. The only thing that might keep him is a quadruple where Koeman kisses his cleats while raising the trophies. Regardless, Barca are a very good team and can threaten to win any competition at any given moment, but their age is just crippling and the board is one of the worst in the world. I don’t expect Barcelona to be a better team than last season and I won’t be surprised to see them drop from the second spot in La Liga. Within the next two seasons the roster may completely turn over.

Messi should still be the favorite to win the Golden Boot. He’s a -166 favorite so it isn’t great value, but he’s the best player in the world, so what did you expect?

Attacking Player to Watch: Lionel Messi, RW

Seriously?

Midfielder Player to Watch: Frenkie de Jong, CM

I wanted to put Riqui Puig here but there is no guarantee that he plays this season so instead I went with the Dutch star. de Jong is more of a defensive midfielder and thus doesn’t get into as many highlights with Leo and the lads, but he’s still a great player who makes highlights. Learning from one of the greatest football has ever seen in Sergio Busquets plus the adjustments made to the La Liga ought to form an absolutely stellar footballer.

Defensive Player to Watch: Marc-André ter Stegen, GK

I know, I said not too many keepers, but ter Stegen just can’t be denied here. For my money he’s neck and neck with Neuer as the best keeper in the world and saved Barcelona from defeat more times than once last season. He’s the last bastion of hope for the defense that’s beginning to wither away and makes eye-popping saves regularly. For the record I wanted to put Oblak down as well.

Celta de Vigo

2019 Finish: 17th

2020 Title Odds: +50000

Arrivals: Miguel Baeza, AM, €2.5M; Renato Tapia, DM, Free; Álvaro Vadillo, LW, Free

Departures: Pione Sisto, LW, €2.5M; Juan Hernández, RW, Loan

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: They aren’t great, though bookies apparently think that last season was just a down year considering the chances of other sides. There are very good players on the team and last season does seem like a bit of a fluke considering just how good the defending was, but the attack was disappointing and there wasn’t much progress made in the way of improving it. Rafinha is back with Barcelona and the replacement is Vadillo who was brought in on a free. The creativity will need to improve because 37 goals is far too few for a team that plans to stay up.

The midfield has some quality in it and won’t be the flaw of the team, but there could certainly be improvements on the offensive side of things. The defense was very good which could surprise you if you just went by ratings. The passing out of the back was quality and the defenders did very well at disarming dribblers and blocking shots. The passion seemed to be the equalizer for the defense instead of skill and that’s perfectly fine.

Celta is +500 to be relegated and I don’t hate the thought of taking that bet. It’s not too likely that they go down but losing Rafinha without replacing him is going to create big issues while the defense might have a tough time replicating last season’s performance.

Attacking Player to Watch: Iago Aspas, CF

Aspas is cold-blooded in his goal scoring. His 14 goals were easily top of the team and he was able to bury them in some of the most critical of moments. He’s just 31 so he does still have some tread on the tires and he should be exciting to watch as the wingers and strikers grow around him.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Denis Suárez, AM

The midfielder was a disappointment while on loan with Arsenal but has turned things around in his home country. He was third on the team in shot attempt creations and his passing directly led to five goals. He’ll never be the best scorer on the team but his creativity and passing could be the key to staying up for Celta.

Defensive Player to Watch: Lucas Olaza, LB

The player is only on loan with the club from Boca but he’s been incredible for Celta since joining. His defense is very impressive and his contributions to the offensive game need to be noted. He’s a very strong passer with 59 shot-creating actions while second on the team in shots created. He assisted three times on the season with only a single goal, but his value is in what he creates on the left side of the pitch with Suárez and Aspas.

Cádiz

2019 Finish: 2nd in Segunda División

2020 Title Odds: +200000

Arrivals: Álvaro Giménez, CF, €2.7M; Choco Lozano, CF, €2.5M; Iván Alejo, RW, €2M; Jorge Pombo, AM, €1.2M; Filip Malbašić, RW, €1M; Álvaro Negredo, CF, Free; Jens Jönsson, DM, Free; Nano Mesa, CF, Free; Gaspar Panadero, LW, Free; David Mayoral, RW, Free; Dani Sotres, GK, Free; Jeremías Ledesma, GK, Unknown

Departures: David Mayoral, RW, Loan

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: While we shouldn’t expect too much out of the newly promoted team, we ought to respect them for what they’re trying to do. The club have 19 players who are new faces in the clubhouse from last season including those who were on loan and none of them are just players meant to be loaned. Had Cádiz taken just two points from their final three matches instead of none they would have won the league, and despite not owning a player with a valuation of €5M, the team are committed to winning and finding the best team possible.

The team featured a very strong defense that allowed just 39 goals in 42 matches. While that number won’t be sustainable in La Liga, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to put up something comparable on a sliding scale. The attack will have to get better after scoring just 50 goals, but playing opportunistic football could be enough to help them survive if they can find a few standout performances on the season.

Cádiz is +150 to be relegated and though I don’t find them to be that bad, it’s an undeniable possibility that they could be sent right back down. I would not personally make this bet though the plus juice makes it tough to ignore.

Attacking Player to Watch: Salvi Sánchez, RW

If you like good passing it’s critical that you watch Salvi Sánchez play football. The winger is the truest version of the position, rarely coming in and preferring to patrol the flank and swing in crosses to his teammates. His seven assists led the team and his tandem play with Carcelén helped Cádiz dominate the right half of the pitch.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Álex Fernández, AM

Álex Fernández was probably the best player for the club in Segunda, pouring in goals and assists at the highest clip on the team. The attacking midfielder scored 13 times with six assists and helped the offense work its way to a promotion. Without him things would be much more stagnant and the team would likely have not managed even a goal per match. The transition to La Liga will be tough but Fernández has the chops to manage it.

Defensive Player to Watch: Isaac Carcelén, RB

Carcelén was the most important player on the team last season at just 26 years old, playing the most minutes as a defender while aiding the attack. He nearly led the team in interceptions while putting in nearly two crosses per match. He’s a very good passer and will be relied upon heavily by the team to be good again.

Deportivo Alavés

2019 Finish: 16th

2020 Title Odds: +150000

Arrivals: Rodrigo Battaglia, CM, Loan; Deyverson, CF, Loan

Departures: Ermedin Demerović, CF, €3.7M; Patrick Twumasi, RW, €700K

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: Alavés scraped by at the end of the season to finish three points above the relegation zone. It’s a bit of a wonder that they survived considering their massive deficit in the goal differential, but opportunism and a can-do attitude can do wonders, I suppose. I was a fan of their loan moves in the window as both players are dependable and should be able to make serious contributions. Battaglia should walk into the midfield considering Camarasa is gone and Deyverson will be the top choice behind Pérez and Joselu.

The defense that allowed 59 goals last season is back and I don’t have much confidence in them. Alavés don’t carry possession that well which means that the back line is always working. If the team can control the ball more, let the defense get into a rhythm, and rest a while things could look a lot better, but I’m not sure that’s going to be the case this season.

Attacking Player to Watch: Joselu, FW

The striker excelled at the front of the pitch next to his partner Pérez. The pairing contributed evenly to make 22 goals and Joselu added a pair of assists to boot. He’s a true striker who can score from just about any position. Both players will need to be better in order to keep the offense afloat, but the team’s position certainly isn’t their fault.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Rodrigo Battaglia, CM

Battaglia is a true central midfielder who can do just about everything that position needs him to do. He’s a quality defender and excels at turning play around in a moment. He’s a strong passer and understands the field well but he doesn’t make too many goal contributions. He sets up others as well as one can ask of him.

Defensive Player to Watch: Rodrigo Ely, CB

As much as it might please me to put Laguardia in this slot, Ely was the much better player last season and deserves the nod. The Brazilian made his mark with a pair of goals as well as being the best defender on the team. The addition of Battaglia will make Laguardia’s job a bit easier, but Ely has good potential and should be fun to watch this season.

Eibar

2019 Finish: 14th

2020 Title Odds: +50000

Arrivals: Damien Kądzior, RW, €2M; Recio, CM, Loan

Departures: Gonzalo Escalante, CM, Free; Fabián Orellana, RW, Free; Charles, CF, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: Eibar hardly scraped together a single goal per match in 2019 and that simply has to change. The best player on the team and the only one who really rated on the attack, Fabián Orellana, is gone, and so are his 15 goal contributions. He could play in any position above a defensive midfielder and for that he’ll be greatly missed. Damien Kądzior can replace some of that production but certainly not close to all of it.

The defense also allowed 56 goals, which while egregious, could have evidently been worse. The biggest issue with the team isn’t that it doesn’t play in the correct formation or that the management is wrong, it’s just that the club don’t have the money for high priced players. The only player worth over €5M is goalkeeper Marko Dmitrović and he had a very off season in 2019. Things may get worse before they can get better.

Eibar is +300 to be relegated and could be a good bet. The defense is probably going to be a bit stronger this season but the attack is primed for a setback.

Attacking Player to Watch: Damien Kądzior, RW

The team was right to pursue Kądzior after losing Orellana. Kądzior scored 13 goals with 11 assists across all competitions for Zagreb last season and should replace some of the production lost in the window. He’ll need the support of those around him while he transitions but his ability to find teammates should translate well.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Edu Expósito, CM

Edu spent time in evey central midfield position last season, specializing as a true midfielder but also flashing some chops as a defender and an attacker. The 24 year old played his best football right in the middle and as an attacker, netting four goals and an assist. His defense could be better but it isn’t what’s asked of him, plus he’s comfortable in the position if he needs to be.

Defensive Player to Watch: Paulo Olivera, CB

The Portuguese defender is one of the least recognized players on Eibar’s roster, rarely adding goal contributions or anything in terms of big stats, but he’s dependable. He’s a reliable distributor of the ball and defends extremely well, though sometimes with a temper.

Elche

2019 Finish: 6th in Segunda División

2020 Title Odds: +250000

Arrivals: Dani Escriche, CF, Loan

Departures: Juan Cruz, LB, €2.75M; Óscar Gil, RB, 500K

Preferred Formation: 4-2-1-3

2020 Expectations: A few teams are projected at over 2000/1 odds to win La Liga and Elche is one of them, but they don’t really deserve to be in that same ballpark just yet. The team finished sixth in the second division in Spain, but it wasn’t in a very convincing fashion. They were middle of the road at everything they did and lucked into some wins that they didn’t deserve. They just edged out a pair of teams by a single point to make the playoff, and the playoff isn’t about who’s the better team, it’s just about who’s playing better.

I don’t like being this negative about a team’s chances to win but I just have no hope for Elche. Their quality is so much lower than the rest of the league. The team website shows literally 12 players on the roster and only three defenders. It’s going to be a very, very ugly season, but the team ought to enjoy it.

It should go without saying that I believe Elche are going to be relegated. They’re -118 to do so and despite it not being the best payoff, it’s sure money.

Attacking Player to Watch: Fidel, LW

Fidel made 18 goal contributions in the form of nine goals and seven assists last season. He’s going to be one of the few working cogs on the offense considering the next best player in the attack is 40 year old Boy. He’ll be a good threat on the left.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Ramón Folch, CM

Folch was decent as a true pivot for Elche and played exactly where and how a central midfielder should. He was a nice passer who both defended and aided the attack when needed. One goal, one assist, one yellow card. Precise.

Defensive Player to Watch: Dani Calvo, CB

Calvo was the most important player to the Elche defense, playing in 37 matches and earning a goal and assist. He’s a solid defender and that’s all he’s really asked to do.

Getafe

2019 Finish: 8th

2020 Title Odds: +15000

Arrivals: Marc Cucurella, LM, €10M; Enes Ünal, CF, €9M; Cucho Hernández, CF, Loan; Ante Palaversa, DM, Loan

Departures: José Carlos Lazo, LW, €4M; Enric Gallego, CF, €2M; Iván Alejo, RW, €2M; Merveil Ndockyt, LW, €550K; Jorge Molina, CF, Free; Vitorino Antunes, LB, Free; Álvaro Jiménez, RW, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: Netting only a single win in their final 12 league matches, Getafe were one of the biggest collapses of the football season alongside the likes of Lazio. The team left 27 points on the table in those matches while they needed just seven more in that stretch to beat out Villareal for 5th instead of 8th. The team’s attacking disappeared as they scored just six goals in that stretch while the defense was one of the best in Spain.

So what are the focuses on this season then? Well the largest will be finishing the season. 37 goals in 26 matches isn’t a bad pace, but 43 in 36 is. Keeping the offense running well for the entire season will be a must while keeping the defense regular and tough is the other big challenge. There’s a ton of talent all over the pitch, it’s just up to the club in making sure they can see things out the right way.

Attacking Player to Watch: Jamie Mata, FW

The 31 year old is a talisman, a leader, and a solid coal scorer for Getafe, as well as one of the reasons they’ve had as much success as they’ve had. His 11 goals and three assists were crucial, but his 14 yellow cards indicated a fight and passion that helped spur his teammates. He’ll need to keep that fire going as his battery mate Jorge Molina has left the club to be replaced by Ünal.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Marc Cucurella, LM

The Barcelona man has joined the club on a permanent basis and we should all be happy for that. The player is still just 22 years old and was never going to break into the team in the next few years, so Getafe negotiated to keep him after a very productive loan on the left side. His regular passing needs to improve but he was great at finding teammates with crosses, registering five assists and a goal. Some good development will see him become one of the better Spanish players at the position.

Defensive Player to Watch: Djené Dakonam, CB

Djené isn’t very well known but he’s an absolute assassin in the back of the formation for Getafe. Even in a bit of a down year he was the best defender on the team and made very few mistakes, just defending on all levels at a very good rate.

Granada

2019 Finish: 7th

2020 Title Odds: +100000

Arrivals: Luis Milla, CM, €5M; Maxime Gonalons, DM, €4M; Alberto Soro, RW, €2.5M; Dimitri Foulquier, RB, €2M; Jorge Molina, CF, Free; Kenedy, LM, Loan; Jesús Vallejo, CB, Loan

Departures: Álvaro Vadillo, CF, Free; Bernardo Cruz, CB, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: Granada just snuck into the top seven and missed out on top six by a single goal, but it was a good season for the island team. Most of the team performed well and those who didn’t had good replacements and are expected to come back stronger. The transfer window was productive as well with all of the leaving players replaced and even upgraded in some cases. Granada seem to have their eyes set on making that fourth spot, though it will be a tall task for the team. Granada got to where they were by just working hard and making things break their way. They didn’t excel on either offense or defense, they just fought whistle to whistle and whatever they did would pay off. They got lucky to make European football, but they won’t need luck this season.

Attacking Player to Watch: Darwin Machís, LW

Machís was one of the best attackers on the wing last season and it wasn’t any type of fluke. The Colombian scored often from the left win, finishing with seven goals. He was also very good crossing the ball and finding open teammates as he closed five assists as well.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Kenedy, LM

The Chelsea man is going to be the most entertaining player in the midfield for a few reasons. First off, he’s contracted to Chelsea for a reason, and that’s that he’s very good. He netted a goal and three assists, and while his passing could improve, he’s on his way to becoming a very good winger and will benefit from the Machís pairing.

Defensive Player to Watch: Jesús Vallejo, Pos

One can tell Vallejo is exciting in the same way that one could tell Kenedy is: his home club. Real don’t have him for fun, he’s a genuinely good prospect with great defending skills. He’s an extremely strong passer with a very good success rate at disarming dribblers. He’ll be fun to watch when he’s on the field.

Huesca

2019 Finish: Segunda División Champions

2020 Title Odds: +250000

Arrivals: Pablo Maffeo, RB, Loan; Gastón Silva, LB, Free; Pablo Isuna, CB, Unknown; Andrés Fernández, GK, Unknown

Departures: Dani Escriche, CF, Loan; Serdar Gürler, RW, Unknown

Preferred Formation: 4-1-2-3

2020 Expectations: Huesca secured the top spot of Spain’s second league after an epic collapse from Cádiz that allowed the team to slip above them by a single point on the final day. Just because they snuck in, though, doesn’t mean they were undeserving. While others at the stop faltered down the stretch Huesca was very strong and finished with a top offense and defense in the league.

The team has a fine mix of experienced players and youth with a lot of potential. The team showed a commitment to be competitive as they’re loaning and buying from big clubs like Wolves, Schalke, and Dortmund in hopes to stay up. A successful season in a top flight can earn reputation and money enough to stay up another year if the club are smart, which Huesca is proving to be.

Huesca is +150 to be relegated but I don’t think they’ll be sent down. They’ve done a good job of improving the roster enough to compete with the bottom half of La Liga and I think the system is in place for them to stay up. Don’t bet on their relegation.

Attacking Player to Watch: Shinji Okazaki, ST

Wait, THAT Shinji Okazaki? You’re absolutely right it’s that Shinji Okazaki, and he’s still scoring bunches of goals at age 37. The former Leicester man shares time with Rafa Mir at the top of the formation and fields crosses from a pair of very talented wingers to the tune of 12 goals last season. He’s always been fun to watch and now he’s back on the underdog side.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Sergio Gómez, AM

This might be cheating a bit since the Dortmund loanee has been playing on the right wing recently, but I’m doing it anyway. The 20 year old is wildly talented and contributed a goal and three assists in 19 matches in 19/20. Gómez could be one of those players Dortmund sells on for €50M in the future so it’s a good idea to get acclimated with him now.

Defensive Player to Watch: Álvaro Fernández, GK

I’m back on my goalkeeper business after a slight break, but I promise it’s for good reason. On a team with loans and buys from those big teams, this 22 year old goalkeeper is appraised at the highest price by over half a million Euro. He started 36 matches in Segunda and was one of the best goaltenders in the competition. He’s a very special player with great hands.

Levante

2019 Finish: 12th

2020 Title Odds: +150000

Arrivals: Jorge de Frutos, RW, €2.5M; Dani Gómez, CF, €2.5M; Mickaël Malsa, DM, Free; Son, RB, Free

Departures: Moses Simon, LW, €5M; Raphael Dwamena, CF, Free; Bruno González, CB, Free; Armando Sadiku, CF, Free; Ivi López, RW, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: As far as some of the lower rated teams in La Liga go, Levante has one of the best squads in terms of appraisal. The midfield has a pair of very highly rated players while the attack was upgraded in the offseason. The issue is that Levante had a defending issue in 2019 and didn’t do nearly as much to improve that part of the field.

The attack was obviously upgraded with a pair of buys from the Real Academy and the midfield should benefit, but Levante cannot afford to play in their half of the pitch so often. Their pair of stellar midfielders need to own the ball to be effective so Levante need possession to win matches. While the team might not be able to finish in the top half, they’re certainly too good to be relegated, so don’t bother with that type of bet, even at +300.

Attacking Player to Watch: Dani Gómez, CF

The player was bought from real Madrid for a fine fee of €2.5M and will have a chance to join the starting lineup immediately. He’s replacing another Real Madrid player, one who was on loan last season, in Borja Mayoral who scored eight goals from the top of the formation. The pairing with Roger Martí will play well for the youngster who has double-digit goal potential.

Midfielder Player to Watch: José Campaña or Enis Bardhi, CM

I’m putting both of these players here because they’re both very good players with a lot of exciting play within them. Neither have hit the age of 28 yet but have been great in the midfield for Levante. Bardhi plays higher upfield with the attack and scored more often with seven goals and two assists. On the other hand, Campaña sits back a bit more, not as a defensive midfielder, but as a pivot with great passing abilities. He flipped Bardhi’s statline for a beautiful seven assists. These players can do wonders if Levante have the ball which is why the possession battle will be so important.

Defensive Player to Watch: Aitor Fernández, GK

That’s it, I’m unhinged with the keepers and I cannot be stopped. Fernández is still on the right side of 30, though not for long, and has been the defense’s best and most important player in past seasons. It should speak volumes that the keeper started 36 games on a team that allowed 53 goals and still nearly earned a player rating of seven on the season. That’s impressive, and so is he.

Osasuna

2019 Finish: 10th

2020 Title Odds: +100000

Arrivals: Juan Cruz, LB, €2.75M; Lucas Torró, DM, €2M; Enric Gallego, CF, €2M; Raúl Navas, CB, €250K

Departures: Luis Perea, DM, €3M; Fran Mérida, CM, Free; Antonio Otegui, CM, Free; Rober Ibáñez, RW, Unknown

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: Osasuna is the perfect example of a team who overachieved in 2019/20, earning 10th place (and nearly eighth) with a team evaluation of less than €55M, something generally not very likely. So what happened? Well the team didn’t play streakily, they were level constantly, so despite their skill disadvantage they always had the nerve to find results like their 2-2 draw with Barcelona.

This season is about general improvements and I’m a fan of the upgrades made. A pair of defenders and attackers will serve the team well as both sides of the ball could bear to be improved. The attack scored just 1.21 goals per game while the defense allowed 1.42. Both numbers could be better and this offseason’s buys can help make that happen. Goalkeeper is still a problem position but that could be the next area of upgrade if some money comes available in the winter window or if there’s a good deal next summer.

Attacking Player to Watch: Roberto Torres, RW

Torres is 31 years old, but that certainly hasn’t slowed him down as he’s still one of the most productive players on the team. His seven goals and eight assists were critical in keeping the team up. The strikers clearly benefit from his play and the ability to find his own goal makes him the most exciting player on the roster.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Jon Moncayola, DM

Moncayola didn’t have the best of seasons in 2019, but the newly promoted midfielder had never played top flight football and at just 22 years of age, we can’t fault him. He contributed a goal last season and some decent passing, but he’s prime for a breakout season. His passing should jump past 80% and his defense and role as a pivot will seem much more sensible after this season.

Defensive Player to Watch: Aridane Hernández, DC

Hernández is another older player at age 31 but that doesn’t stop him from being one of the better defenders on the pitch. He wins a lot of aerial duels and plays well from the back with strong passing. He’s also tall enough to get forward on sets and for crosses as he scored three goals on the season.

Real Betis

2019 Finish: 15th

2020 Title Odds: +25000

Arrivals: Martín Montoya, RB, Free; Víctor Ruiz, CB, Free; Claudio Bravo, GK, Free

Departures: Giovani Lo Celso, CM, €32M; Zouhair Feddal, CB, €3M

Preferred Formation: 4-1-4-1

2020 Expectations: Despite owning an attack that should have put them in the top ten last season, Betis’ defense was subpar enough to drop them all the way to 15th, allowing 60 goals, 1.58 per match. A team with the payroll of Betis flatly has no business finishing in the bottom half of the league and that sentiment has been resonating around the clubhouse, I’m sure.

Despite having the funds from the transfer of Lo Celso, Betis didn’t need to spend to get better in the offseason. A trio of free transfers were enough to upgrade at a couple of positions and secure a great backup in Claudio Bravo. I would have liked to see a top goalkeeper bought to help bring the goals down but I can’t be too upset with the frugality of the front office.

Attacking Player to Watch: Nabil Fekir, LW

Fekir is technically an attacking midfielder but he plays on the wing and in the attacking third so much that I’m letting him be an attacker. Fekir is one of the more recognizable names outside of the Top 3 clubs and that’s because he’s a great player. He was the best on Betis last season and contributed seven goals and four assists. The talisman is integral to the success of the team and should be seen as one of the best players in the league.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Sergio Canales, AM

Another reason Fekir is so valuable is because his versatility allows the team to field the best 11 players on the roster. Sergio Canales is one of those eleven and the offense wouldn’t be where it is without him. Fekir is great but doesn’t need the rest of the team to get his goals. Canales doesn’t either, but he gets the rest of the team involved and that’s just as valuable as what Fekir does. Canales posted six goals and six assists last season and will need those same numbers this season to keep things competitive.

Defensive Player to Watch: Marc Batra, CB

It’s weird that this was a tough decision considering how poorly the defense played last season, but Marc Batra is the one who stands out. The fullbacks are wildly talented and even his partner Mandi could be slotted here on a different squad, but Batra is the best of all. Not only is he a great defender, not only is he a very reliable passer, but he can contribute to the offense with his height and passing ability. He can make those David Luiz-esque passes through the defense to a streaking winger or nod in corners with the best of him. He’s so valuable to the team and simply a pleasure to watch.

Real Madrid

2019 Finish: Champions

2020 Title Odds: -149

Arrivals: None

Departures: Achraf Hakimi, RM, €40M; Óscar Rodríguez, AM, €13.5M; Javi Sánchez, CB, €3M; Takefusa Kuba, RW, €2.5M; Alberto Soro, RW, €2.5M; Jorge de Frutos, RW, €2.5M; Dani Gómez, CF, €2.5M; James Rodríguez, AM, Free; Brahim Díaz, AM, Free; Reinier, AM, Loan

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Expectations: After a great season in which Madrid proved they were more than just Ronaldo in recent years, they earned the trophy for the league, beating out Barcelona with a scintillating performance down the stretch. The big players played big and smart decisions were made all around the pitch. This coming season is going to be more of the same with improving youngsters and another weakened Barcelona team.

The whole team was stellar last season even without the best of Eden Hazard. Assuming a healthy Hazard (admittedly a stretch) and some improvement from the youngsters we ought to see the team become even better as some of the transitions have already begun. Some players will be immovable but others will cede some playing time to make the club better. That being said this is still a top five club in the world with their roster so there won’t be much need for turnover soon, but in the next few years we will see some retirements.

Madrid are favorites to win the cup for a reason. Take them to win even at the -149 line. You’ll make money either way.

Attacking Player to Watch: Rodrygo, RW

I would put Hazard here, but he’s out for an unknown amount of time so I’ll refrain from that. Rodrygo is just 19 years old so we can forgive him for not being the best player on the pitch at all times, but he’s starting for the team and has shown us all why. His ball skills are phenomenal and he put in a pair of delicious goals in last season. He’s going to continue to improve and be a fun watch out on the right wing.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Casemiro, DM

If you only like to watch goals then Casemiro might not be the player for you, though he did punch in four with three assists last season. The reason he makes this spot is because he’s the best defensive midfielder in the world and just demolishes opponents. He attacks with crunching tackles and passes with unbelievable skill. He always understands the field and where his teammates are and should be. He makes Madrid turn and without him they’d be much worse off.

Defensive Player to Watch: Sergio Ramos, CB

He’s not the freak that he used to be, but he’s still one of the best central defenders in the world. He’s a great passer, one of the best passers in the position the game has even seen, and possibly the best tackler of all time. He’s a leader, winner, one of the most entertaining tacklers in the world, and by the way, he scored eleven goals last season.

Real Sociedad

2019 Finish: 6th

2020 Title Odds: +20000

Arrivals: David Silva, AM, Free

Departures: Gero Rulli, GK, €5M; Raúl Navas, CB, €250K

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: As many teams who operate in 4-2-3-1 do, Sociedad didn’t defend very well last season. If it sounds like I’m off to a pessimistic start, it’s true because I want to get the negativity out of the way. Sociedad got better in the offseason without paying a dime, getting David Silva on a free to improve their 6th place team already. The attack is very talented and the team has a chance to get better with their youth taking a step forward.

There were no additions to the defense which can be concerning, but the team didn’t make much money from transfers to improve it with. After a season of money from the Europa League and what I’m assuming will be another high finish the team should have some extra cash for improvements. For now the team will just have to keep their defensive midfielders sitting a bit further back and rely on the wealth of skill up front to keep them ahead.

Attacking Player to Watch: Mikel Oyarzabal, LW

Oyarzabal is the future of Spain’s left wing position as he’s just 23 and has seven caps for the storied national team. For club last season he put up ten goals and eleven assists. Hitting double digits in both categories is a feat very few players can accomplish in any league, let alone Spain’s top flight. He’s young and only getting better, so feast your eyes while he’s still with La Real.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Mikel Merino, CM

As much as I would like to say David Silva, we all know to watch him and it would be a disservice to displace Sociedad’s best player from last season. Merino anchors the central midfield, so while Silva, Oyarzabal, and company are pushing up, he’s creeping up and acting as a release and pivot to swing the ball. At 24 he has a lot to learn and could be a better passer, but he’s still developing, plus his knack for goal will make him immovable from the first team.

Defensive Player to Watch: Joseba Zaldua, RB

I’m sorry to break up the Mikel train that had started, but there just wasn’t a suitable option here. After down years from Llorente and Le Normand at center back, Zaldua takes the spot with his defending and passing. Zaldua is one of the older players in the defense but has learned much from his own elder Nacho in the past season. His passing has become better and he’s been a better, more modern fullback because of it. He’s a good crosser and defends well when needed to.

Real Valladolid

2019 Finish: 13th

2020 Title Odds: +200000

Arrivals: Shon Weissman, CF, €4M; Javi Sánchez, CB, €3M; Fabián Orellana, RW, Free; Bruno González, CB, Free; Robert, GK, Free; Luiz Perez, RB, Free; Raul Carnero, LB, Unknown

Departures: Mohammed Salisu, CB, €12M; Stiven Plaza, CF, €100K

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: It’s tough to believe that a team who scored 32 goals in a 38 match season didn’t get relegated, yet alone make it all the way to 13th. However, I suppose that’s something you can afford when you have one of the better defenses outside of the top clubs in the competition. Making the whole team better, no matter the position should have been a priority, and with the funds from Salisu, it was. The attack was clearly a top issue and it was fixed up a bit with Weissman and Orellana. The team was also able to get depth at fullback and a replacement for Salisu, so I expect good things to come. They’re +300 to be relegated, but with the improvements to the attack I don’t see that as a possibility.

Attacking Player to Watch: Shon Weissman, CF

The Weissman transfer should be seen as one of the best pieces of business in the current transfer window. The Israeli attacker was bought from Wolfsburger in Austria where he poured in 37 goals and eight assists in 40 matches last season. Weissman was bought for €4M. Austria is less difficult to score in than Spain, but not to a degree where he won’t be an instant game changer for Albivioletas.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Rubén Alcaraz, DM

The midfield is absolutely the weakest part of the team for Valladolid and it was a big portion of the reason they were so bad last season. They didn’t have much possession so they were constantly on their heels being attacked from all angles. Alcaraz was one of the exceptions as defensive midfield. He’s a pretty good passer for the position and defends well. He can play well in the attack as well, scoring and assisting twice last season.

Defensive Player to Watch: Javi Sánchez, CB

The replacement for Salisu, Sánchez has the potential to become as good and even better than the new Southampton man. Sánchez clearly has quality coming out of the Madrid academy and playing alongside Olivas, Nacho, and Bruno should have him as a dependable rising defender in a couple years time.

Sevilla

2019 Finish: 4th

2020 Title Odds: +2500

Arrivals: Suso, RW, €24M; Óscar Rodriguez, AM, €13.5M; Bono, GK, €4M; Ivan Rakitić, CM, €1.5M

Departures: Sergio Rico, GK, €6M; Simon Kjaer, CB, €3.5M; Rony Lopes, RW, Loan, Éver Banega, CM, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Expectations: The loss of club legend Éver Banega is not an easy thing to handle as the player is rightfully finishing his career in loads of cash, but the replacements and great players all around will lessen the blow. The Europa League winners were tied in points with Atlético and were only four goals from overtaking them.

The attack could have been much better last season and Sevilla are a defensive minded team, so the additions made in the offseason are going to make them dangerous. I legitimately think the side is good enough to move into one of the top three positions to beat out either Atléti or Barça. Their defense isn’t getting any worse and ther attack is miles better than last season. Book a super strong performance and even a deep run in Europe.

Attacking Player to Watch: Suso, RW

Suso shared time with Milan last season, sharing about 50% of the matches. In that time he scored three goals and three assists for an attack that wasn’t very good while putting up one of the best ratings on the team. At just 26 years old and now back at home in Spain, Suso is primed for a huge season as one of the key and highlighted components in the offense.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Fernando, DM

There’s plenty of options to put here including mega-bargain Rakitić, but 33 year old Fernando is taking the cake. He was very good last season in all areas of the field and facets of the game. He was good in the attack with two goals, he was a great defender, and his passing was best on the team at nearly 88% with three assists.

Defensive Player to Watch: Diego Carlos, CB

Reguilión would have been here were he still with the team, but since his loan is over Carlos gets the spot. The Brazilian played all but three matches for Sevilla last season and absolutely worked attackers. He had massing success rates on tackles and pressures and was good in the air. Carlos is a good passer and got forward with a pair of goals. What’s not to like?

Valencia

2019 Finish: 9th

2020 Title Odds: +25000

Arrivals: None

Departures: Ferran Torres, RW, €23M; Rodrigo, CF, €30M; Francis Coquellin, DM, €6.5M; Dani Parejo, CM, Free; Cristiano Piccini, RB, Unknown

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: Apart from losing their entire attack and replacing none of it, Valencia are looking great heading into the season. They were middle of the road in attacking and defending last season, landing them in a middle of the road position. They were flush with rich attacking players but have since been raided and left with very little of their midfield and goal contributions. 

There’s a good amount of young players who will be internal fixes for the players lost, but they’re not going to be the types who can replace the production lost in the offseason. There’s still a ton of talent on the roster and the defense is going to be very strong again, but the attack got much worse and I fear it’s going to cause Valencia to drop severely in La Liga.

Attacking Player to Watch: Gonçalo Guedes, LW

The Portugese winger was stuck behind Torres while he was at the club, but now that Guedes has next he can finally flex his wings. Guedes was one of the top prospects in the world a few years ago but has fallen off thanks to his lack of usage. His four goal contributions will triple this season as he takes the reins on the left.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Kang-in Lee, AM

There’s so many good options here but the 19 year old South Korean is my favorite. He’s the heir apparent to Son’s title as Korea’s sweetheart. Lee was another one of those top prospects who dropped off after being stuck behind other players. He’s very young and raw, but viscerally talented.

Defensive Player to Watch: José Gayà, LB

Gayà was another player who suffered a down year but is much more talented than the stats he put out. He’s a very good defender at the heart of things and that’s why his goal contributions are down, but he can flex like a wing back if that’s what is needed. He registered just a single assist last season but he’s a very good passer regardless.

Villarreal

2019 Finish: ii

2020 Title Odds: +15000

Arrivals: Francis Coquellin, DM, €6.5M; Gero Rulli, GK, €5M; Takefusa Kuba, RW, €2.5M; Dani Parejo, CM, Free

Departures: Karl Toko Ekambi, CF, €11.5M; Enes Ünal, CF, €9M; Álvaro González, CB, €4M; Akram Afif, LW, €1M; Santi Carzola, CM, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: Villarreal fielded the third best attack in the country behind Madrid and Barcelona which is why they could afford to sell a pair of strikers for a combined €20M. Their 63 goals were put in by a lot of players but there’s a lot of production from Carzola who is now gone. That poses a big playmaking issue, but something that Villarreal should be able to sustain.

The defense will need some bandages to get back into the top six and maybe even some stitches to get into the top four, but I don’t see there being too many issues from the back. The unit was very good but paled in comparison to the high octane attack. They’ll be a bit more comparable this season but not for the right reasons.

Attacking Player to Watch: Takefusa Kubo, RW

If Villarreal are smart, which they generally are, Takefusa Kubo will be starting on the right wing. The wonderkid has played all across Spain in his young career but has always been regarded as one of the best prospects in the world and the Japanese Messi. He’s just 19 years old so getting him first team reps will help make him one of the best players in Spain sooner rather than never.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Dani Parejo, CM

Either of the Valencia transfers could fit the bill here, but Parejo is just edging Coquellin on the basis of more goal production. It’s not fair since they don’t really play the position but Parejo will be a bit more fun to watch as he takes over the midfield and works with that wildly talented attack. He’ll need to become a great passer very soon but that’s something he’s capable of.

Defensive Player to Watch: Pau Torres, CB

This is a fairly easy decision considering his future and valuation around the country. The player is one of the few who are rising in price despite the fact that he had a comparatively poor season last year. The 23 year old is a very strong passer and was able to assist in the attack, but there’s no one on Villarreal who can defend as well as Torres.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *