Last season Atletico Madrid broke a 9 year streak of either Real Madrid (3x) or FC Barcelona (6x) winning the Spanish La Liga. You have to go all the way back to Valencia winning in 2003-2004 to find another Champion. However I foresee going back to that Real or Barcelona streak for the near future as Atletico had a fire sale of sorts this summer and I don’t see any other legitimate contenders. The question is which side do your favor Los Blancos or Barca?
Real Madrid while finishing 3rd in La Liga were the Champions League winners defeating their crosstown rivals and the team that did win La Liga Atletico Madrid. When it comes to wealthy they never rebuild, they reload, and Real added a lot of firepower this summer in the transfer market. They’ve signed the following players and have yet to lose anyone despite frequent rumors that Angel Di Maria and Sami Khedira may be exiting Madrid.
- James Rodriguez, RW
- Toni Kroos, CM
- Keylor Navas, GK
When you add offensive fire power to a loaded lineup already consisting of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema that’s a nice luxury to have. You have potentially 5 different players than can easily score 20 goals in a season and I don’t know if there is another team in the world that can say that. Their defense is solid and they’ve had the same back four for a while, as long as Pepe or Sergio Ramos don’t lose their cool in a big game they’ll be fine. Especially head butting Pepe.
The biggest concern with Real Madrid is their goalkeeper Iker Casillas, and if you said that a few years ago you would be crazy. Casillas used to be the world’s best keeper and now he looks to be a player on the downslope of his career. He’s been extremely shaky at times both for Real and for Spain, which is why their signing of young keeper from Costa Rica Keylor Navas is a great contingency plan.
Don’t worry Barcelona fans the world doesn’t rise and set in Real Madrid, your championship might be headed back to the Catalans. Barcelona made the biggest single signing of the summer acquiring Luis Suarez (€81M) from Liverpool. While Suarez is serving a four month suspension and is not eligible to play until October he’ll be a huge addition to a squad that may have three of the best five forwards in the world. Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez is the definition of an Ultimate Team group of forwards, teams like that aren’t around very often. It reminds me of when Manchester United had Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez on their squad.
Outside of their Suarez singing, Barcelona was relatively quiet only signing two defenders: Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu and goalkeeper from Chile Claudio Bravo. Just like Real Madrid, Barcelona might be ringing in a new era between the posts. Victor Valdes is no more and it appears to be Bravo’s job to lose who was great in this summer’s World Cup. He already knows the Spanish La Liga in his eight years at Real Socieded. I just wonder have Barcelona done enough to counter balance the strong team that Real Madrid is going to march out there? The cast of characters is well known at Barca: Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pique, Pedro but with another year under their belt they are not a young team. Barca also lost two important players from last season: winger Alexis Sanchez and mid Cesc Fabregas but their transfers to Arsenal and Chelsea freed up the funds in order to sign Suarez so we’ll see if that move pays off.
In other news, FIFA has ruled that FC Barcelona will unable to participate in the next two transfer windows which encompasses all of calendar year 2015 due to violations Barca committed with under 18 year old player signings. They have approximately a week to make whatever moves they need to before this window closes. The next time we’ll see Barcelona able to buy a player will be in January of 2016. This is a huge penalty for Barca as they’ll need to organically produce some talent for next season and hope no players suffer critical injuries.
As I mentioned earlier Atletico Madrid will be your La Liga defending champions but they look nothing like the team that almost took them to a historical double. Their main goal scorer and best player Diego Costa exited for Chelsea, their starting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois returned to Chelsea from his loan spell, and Chelsea also stole away their starting left back Felipe Luis and they’ve also lost striker David Villa to the MLS. All were significant pieces in their team last year but they’ve done a formidable job and retooling their roster.
Atletico signed Mario Mandzukic from Bayern Munich to be their go to goal scorer (48 goals in 88 games) and they acquired up and coming French winger Antoine Greizmann from Real Sociedad. They have not filled the void in the goalkeeper position and that could be a big problem. They’ll be starting a 21 year old Slovenian International who played for Portuguese champion Benefica. However their biggest strength has been and will continue to be their defense and their manager. Diego Simeone is a fearless manager who doesn’t back down from anyone and if there is a team that would push the two giants it will be Atletico. A player to watch will be Koke, a 22 year old Spanish midfielder, who will step up into the main play maker role and improve upon his 13 assists from last year.
*Season kicks off August 23rd
**Top 3 teams advance to Champions League, 4th place into Champions League Qualification
- Real Madrid
- FC Barcelona
- Atletico Madrid
- Atletico Bilbao
- Cordoba CF
Top Scorers in 2013/2014
- Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid – 31
- Lionel Messi, Barcelona – 28
- Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid – 27
- Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona – 19
- Karim Benzema, Real Madrid – 17
Top Assisters in 2013/2014
- Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid – 17
- Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona – 13
- Koke, Atletico Madrid – 13
- Carlos Vela, Real Sociedad – 12
- Merkel Susaeta, Atletico Bilbao – 12
- Gareth Bale, Real Madrid – 12
Pre-Season Best XI
- GK – Claudio Bravo, Barcelona
- D – Marcelo, Real Madrid
- D – Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid
- D – Diego Godin, Atletico Madrid
- D – Jordi Alba, Barcelona
- M – Tony Kroos, Real Madrid
- M – James Rodriguez, Real Madrid
- M – Gareth Bale, Real Madrid
- F – Neymar, Barcelona
- F – Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
- F – Lionel Messi, Barcelona