Get Even More Visitors To Your Blog, Upgrade To A Business Listing >>

Corner Kicks: La Liga Preview

This is the third in a four-part preview of the European soccer season.

Almost continually since its foundation in 1929, Spain’s Primera Division has been caught in a duopolic stranglehold by giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barça and Madrid have won the Spanish title a combined 46 years out of 72, and while they have recently faced serious challenges from the likes of Deportivo La Coruna, Valencia, Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid, this year should be a typical contest between the two for the Spanish title.

By Madrid’s lofty standards, the last two years have been ones to forget. Despite having bought the most expensive players, the world’s richest soccer club has failed to win a Spanish title since 2003 and have not won a European Championship since 2002. The title drought has put a lot of pressure on manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo and his team’s many superstars. Luxemburgo has recently announced that he will shed the club’s unofficial policy of starting star players. He looks likely to adopt a three-man midfield featuring the iconic David Beckham, former World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane and defensive-minded Thomas Gravesen behind a trio of strikers – probably Ronaldo, Raul and new signing Julio Baptista. The arrival of Baptista and Brazilian starlet Robinho, combined with Luxemburgo’s new policy has led to an exodus of sorts from the Bernabeu Stadium. Among those who have left are former World Player of the Year Luis Figo and Argentines Santiago Solari and Walter Samuel. Also likely to go is England star Michael Owen.

Perennial Madrid rivals Barcelona are looking to build on last year’s success. In addition to an exciting roster featuring Spaniard Xavi Hernandez, Brazilian Ronaldinho, Portuguese Deco and Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o, manager Frank Rijkaard has brought countryman Mark van Bommel from PSV Eindhoven.

Other teams have done their best to keep up with ‘the big two’ in the off-season. Real’s cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid have brought together a potent strike force by purchasing Mateja Kezman from Chelsea and Maxi Rodriguez from Espanyol. But the biggest threat to Real and Barca may come from small-town club Villarreal. With a core of Argentine internationals – Juan Riquelme, Juan Pablo Sorin and Luciano Figeroa – as well as prolific Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan and new signings Alessio Tacchinardi and Jan Kronkamp, Villarreal look to do better than last year’s third-placed finish.

Recent Spanish champions Deportivo and Valencia, both of whom had sub-par seasons last year, look headed in opposing directions. Valencia is likely to rebound, having brought in former Premiership players Edu and Patrick Kluivert and signing Getafe’s Quinque Flores as manager. Meanwhile, Deportivo no longer has the services of successful manager Javier Irureta, having replaced him with former Seville chief Joaquin Caparros. Strikers Fran and Walter Pandiani and midfield Mauro Silva have all departed, leaving a skeleton of the side that reached the last four of the Champions League less than two years ago.

2005-06 Standings: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid, Real Betis, Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Sevilla, Malaga, Deportivo, Zaragoza, Celta de Vigo, Mallorca, Alaves, Getafe, Osasuna, Racing Santander, Cadiz.

Top Scorers: Eto’o (Barcelona), Forlan (Villarreal), Maxi (Atletico Madrid), Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Torres (Atletico Madrid), Tristan (Deportivo La Coruna), Ricardo Oliveira (Real Betis), Nihat (Real Sociedad), Urzaiz (Athletic Bilbao), Villa (Valencia)

This post first appeared on Hysteron Proteron, please read the originial post: here

Share the post

Corner Kicks: La Liga Preview


Subscribe to Hysteron Proteron

Get updates delivered right to your inbox!

Thank you for your subscription