It’s also been a busy month for signings in Spanish football. The 2019/20 season will see plenty of hotly tipped new arrivals with the likes of Eden Hazard, Joao Felix and Frenkie de Jong set to make a big splash in La Liga. So does have anybody have what it takes to stop Lionel Messi and Barcelona once again dominating football in Spain?
A quick look at the key fixtures in the 2019/20 La Liga season
The 2019/20 La Liga season kicks off on Sunday 18 August. This action-packed day will see both Barcelona and Real Madrid facing their first test of the season away from home. Barcelona will travel to play against the tricky Athletic Bilbao team, whilst Real Madrid should be able to make a decent start in an away game against the lowly-ranked Celta Vigo. Atletico Madrid face a potentially tough home match against Getafe.
In terms of El Classico, you’ll have to wait until October to see Barcelona playing Real Madrid. Barcelona will host Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on 27 October, whilst there will be the rematch at the Santiago Bernabeu on 1 March. The Madrid derbies will take place on 29 September and 2 February.
The 2019/20 La Liga season will see three newly promoted teams in action. These include the likes of Osasuna and Granada who both return after an absence of two years, whilst Mallorca are back in La Liga after six seasons away.
2018/19 La Liga: Another classic season of Spanish football
Although the 2018/19 La Liga season was notable for seeing the introduction of VAR technology in Spanish football, it also gave us chance to see Barcelona winning their 26th league title. The defending champions managed to claim the title with three games to spare.
Ernesto Valvede’s team dominated Spanish football throughout the year. From their opening 8-2 thrashing of newly promoted Huesca, to their outrageous 5-1 demolition job of Real Madrid in October’s El Clasico, it seemed that Barcelona were just about unstoppable.
Whilst Barcelona’s losing results in the Champions League and the Copa Del Rey final might have been upsetting, they took heart in ending the season with yet another league title to their name.
Such glory was a marked contrast to Real Madrid’s fortunes. This was one of Los Blancos’ worst seasons in the modern era, and whilst much of this was blamed on Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit to Juventus, it’s clear that there were many more problems.
Real Madrid’s head coach, Julen Loptegui, came in for much criticism and he received his marching orders as early as 29 October. Santiago Solari was appointed as his replacement, but couldn’t stop the rot.
Following a shocking Champions League exit at the hands of Ajax, Solari was dismissed and Zinedine Zidane returned to the head coach role. But with many top players like Gareth Bale finding it hard to get results, it remains to be seen how Real Madrid can overcome their bad run of form.
Atletico Madrid will have been glad to have ended their 2018/19 campaign ahead of Real Madrid. Barring some embarrassing results such as defeats by the likes of Celta Vigo, it was another solid year for Diego Simeone’s side. But with top goalscorer Antoine Griezmann rumoured to be leaving the club, it’s going to be difficult for Atletico Madrid to consolidate their run of good form.
Barcelona’s bid to become the world’s greatest football team
So can Barcelona get their third successive La Liga title? Once again, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi to see if he can continue his incredible run of goalscoring. But Ernesto Valverde has been busy with the chequebook to make sure that Barcelona continue to dominate Spanish football.
Recent signings have included the immensely promising Dutch midfielder, Frenkie De Jong, who was signed from Ajax for £65 million. In addition to this, we’ve seen the Brazilian goalkeeper, Neto, joining from Barcelona from Valencia, whilst the young right-back, Emerson, will be coming to Camp Nou from Atletico Mineiro.
But it seems that Barcelona’s spending spree hasn’t stopped there. There have been repeated rumours that Antoine Griezmann is set to join the club from Atletico Madrid, and with ongoing gossip that Neymar could be ready to leave Paris Saint Germain to rejoin Barcelona, it’s clear that this team could be just about unstoppable next season.
Real Madrid desperate to make amends for past disappointments
What can Real Madrid do to make amends for the car crash that was their 2018/19 La Liga campaign? Fans will be looking to Zidane for inspiration as the legendary manager bids to get Los Blancos on the right track.
There remain huge questions over how to handle the likes of Gareth Bale, but already it seems that Eden Hazard is going to be the key player in Real Madrid’s 2019/20 campaign. With £90 million in transfer fees, Hazard is going to have his work cut out in living up to the hype, but it’s going to be fascinating to see how the ex-Chelsea star shapes up alongside recent signings such the Serbian striker Luka Jovic.
But with a few weeks left of the transfer window, it’s clear that Real Madrid haven’t stopped signing top players. Manchester United’s Paul Pogba is rumoured to be close to signing to Los Blancos, and all Real Madrid fans would love to believe the gossip that Kylian Mbappe could be set to join their ranks.
All eyes on a new-look Atletico Madrid
Much of Atletico Madrid’s fortunes rest on whether they can keep the hugely talented French star Antoine Griezmann on their books. If the forward leaves for Barcelona, he will leave a massive hole in the Atletico Madrid attack.
As a result, it’s no surprise to find that strikers like Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette have been linked with a move to Diego Simone’s team. In addition to this, Alvaro Morata will be hoping for a more successful time with Atletico Madrid than with Chelsea as the striker is set to join the Spanish side on a permanent deal.
But it’s the recent arrival of Joao Felix that will get everyone talking. This teenage sensation proved to be a big part of Benfica’s success last season, and his £113 million fee illustrates how Felix could be set to become one of football’s next megastars.
Other key La Liga teams who could cause an upset
Whilst the big three of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid tend to dominate Spanish football, it’s important to remember that teams like Valencia, Sevilla and even Villarreal have put in some decent challenges in the past. So here’s a quick look at the La Liga sides who could give the big three some issues in the 2019/20 campaign.
Marcelino’s side suffered a stodgy start to their 2018/19 season with only one win in 11 matches. But thanks to the goalscoring talents of Rodrigo and Daniel Parejo, Valencia ended well to get fourth place in the La Liga table and even shocked Barcelona to win the Copa del Ray. It remains to be seen whether the £31 million signing of the goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen from Barcelona can help Valencia get anything more than top-four finish.
Jaime Mata was easily the star player of Getafe’s season, and hopes will be high that the Spanish striker can help the team find more consistency this year. Head coach Jose Bordalas hasn’t made any big signings in the current transfer window, but the team look like they have recovered well from being relegated to second-flight football a couple of seasons ago.
It was another characteristically gritty display from Sevilla last year, and they will be hoping that their new signings of the defenders Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos can help shore up their occasionally leaky defence. But above all, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Julen Lopetegui fares in his role as Sevilla’s new head coach. Hopefully he will have better luck than he experienced during his brief tenure at Real Madrid.
Athletic Bilbao recovered well from a dismal start to their last campaign to at least get eighth position in the La Liga table. After the sacking of Eduardo Berizzo in December, Gaizka Garitano seems to be settling in well as the new head coach. But whether this deeply traditional team can meet the standards of titans like Barcelona and Real Madrid remains to be seen.