With the La Liga season openers nearly upon us, it’s time to open up the crystal ball, gaze longingly into its depths, and forecast the season to come.
Nostradamus I am not, but what I can guarantee is that at least one of these predictions will come true, and at least one of them will not even come close.
First, the La Liga title. Despite all of the upheaval and drama of the transfer window, when it comes to contenders in Spain, there are but two true heavyweights, and after one of those heavyweights took a serious blow in losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain, it’s no longer really a two horse race, as the results of the Spanish Super Cup showed. Even the often brash Gerard Pique, he who boasted that Neymar was staying, has admitted that he felt “inferior to Madrid” after the 5-1 aggregate thrashing. With Suarez now out an expected month, and Messi not yet having signed an extension, it feels as though an end of an era has befallen Barca, even as Madrid’s youth would have us believe there are heights yet to be reached in the capital.
Still, Barca remains a team of talented pieces, and even though they haven’t quite the collection of Zinedine Zidane’s squad in Madrid, they’re still significantly better composed than, say, Atletico or Sevilla.
Prediction: Real Madrid defends their title handily.
Bold prediction: While Barca hangs on to second, they’ll have some competition for that slot, and that could cause some heads to roll. Barca finishes closer to third than first.
Extra bold prediction: Given clear divisions on the board, Barca’s rollercoaster season and difficulties in the transfer season cost club president Josep Maria Bartomeu his position.
As usual, it appears La Liga will be a bit top-heavy again this year, with only a handful of contenders sniffing a realistic shot at the Champions League. Beyond Real Madrid and Barca, we can count the following as realistic contenders for those four berths: Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao, Villarreal, and Real Sociedad.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid holds off Sevilla for the third spot, partially on the strength of the swiped Vitolo, but the same four teams advance as last season.
Bold prediction: Valencia moves up the table significantly after last season’s struggle, but not enough to nab a Champions League berth.
Levante, Girona, and Getafe are the newcomers this season, and as always, the questions will be as to whether or not they can successfully maneuver the jump up and notch enough points to avoid relegation. Getafe and Levante may both have memories of their most recent stints in the uppermost division (the 2015-2016 season for each), but for Girona, this is their first season in the Primera La Liga. It could be rough.
Other teams we might see struggle this season, in addition to the clubs just promoted, include Leganes, Las Palmas, and, despite their rich history, Deportivo.
Prediction: Girona and Levante are joined by Las Palmas in relegation.
(Maybe not so) Bold prediction: Deportivo and Espanyol both struggle at various points throughout the season, but manage to avoid the relegation line by season’s end.
Real Madrid certainly have the talent to nab a continental treble and more, including an outside shot at a 2017-18 sextet, a feat only one club has ever achieved: Barcelona in 2009. That Barca squad may well be the most talented of all time, but could Zidane’s squad match that feat this season?
Prediction: Real Madrid adds a continental treble to add to Barcelona’s achievements in 2009 and 2015, but cannot nab the elusive sextet.