La Liga – The ‘Other’ Challengers To The Throne

This article is a collaboration of two pieces, one done by Anustup, who discusses about the ‘European Football playing’ chances of Atletico Madrid and Valencia, while the second one coined by Vikas, takes us through the pre-season preparations of Sevilla and Villareal.

The Spanish La Liga will be up and running in another few days. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, as usual, are going to hog most of the limelight. A league, which is  full of superstars, cannot be of only two teams. There are a few others who may not be of the same quality but on their day can give any ‘BIG’ team a run for their money. In this edition, we’ll explore four such teams who can cause possible ‘upsets’, who play some quality football but unfortunately don’t get as much credit as they actually deserve.

Atlético Madrid: Fondly known as Los Rojiblancos. The poor cousin of the richer part of Madrid has a decent enough team this term. 2010 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan along with young and dynamic Sergio Aguero make a deadly combo. One is a wily ‘old’ fox and the other is a smooth moving gazelle. Together with their incisive passing and deadly finishing can be a handful for any defence. Quique Sanchez Flores has other decisive players as well, Simao and Reyes being two of the most experienced.

Aug. 16, 2010 - Madrid, C.A. MADRID, ESPA A - MADRID, 16/08/2010.- Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan, prior to a press conference held at Majadahonda's Sports City in Madrid, Spain, 16 August 2010.

Diego Forlan - Golden man with golden locks

Atlético began 2009-10 season poorly. One of their most significant losses being against English heavyweights Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League. After a 4-0 drubbing at Fulham Street it was curtains for Abel Resino. Failing to rope in Michael Laudrup, Sanchez Flores took charge and somehow managed to salvage some pride in an otherwise average season. He took the team to two finals (Copa Del Rey and Europa League). They lost to Sevilla in the domestic cup finale but went on to win against a rejuvenated Fulham which had eliminated heavyweight Juventus, reigning champion Shaktar Donetsk, German powerhouses Werder Bremen and Hamburg SV. The Rojiblancos too saw off challenges from Galatasaray, Sporting Lisbon, Valencia and Liverpool.

With the arrival of Brazilian fullback Filipe Luis from Deportivo and Uruguayan centre-half Diego Godin from Villareal, the once-fragile defense now looks reasonably decent. ‘Youth’ has a lot of importance in the current Atletico squad. Young Spanish shot stopper David de Gea has been touted as a possible replacement for St.Iker. That alone speaks of his talent. Defender Alvaro Dominguez, who was handed his debut, more because of necessity, has been impressive and can only get better. With Forlan and Aguero, Atletico’s attack is as good as it can get.

With the likes of promising young shot stoppers in Sergio Asenjo and De Gea, talented midfielder Fran Merida, rock solid defender Diego Godin, Brazilian fullback Felipe and recently brought on-loan from Turin the Portuguese Thiago Mendes in their ranks, Atlético Madrid can be expected to give the big guns a run for their money.

Player out on loan: Uruguayan defender Leandro Cabrera to Recreativo, midfielders Ruben Perez (Spain) and Cedric (Congo) to Deportivo and Numancia respectively. Forwards Eduardo Salvio (Argentina), Jorge Molino (Spain) and German Pacheco (Argentina) to Benfica, Murcia and Independiente respectively.

Possible finishing position: Anywhere from 3rd to 8th


Valencia: Popularly known as Los Che, Valencia is one of the most successful clubs in Spain. Young and promising Unai Emery has been at helm from mid 2008. Under him, the club has had some good & bad times, the latter being the more predominant one. Sadly they were under debt of about 400 million Euros which is quite an astronomical figure to say the least. Despite a massive debt, the Murciélagos held on to their most prominent stars – David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata for the 2009-10 season. Unfortunately in the summer of 2010, Valencia had to release two of their most promising stars – David Villa to Spanish Giants FC Barcelona and David Silva to English moneybags Manchester City. Carlos Marchena too ended his 9-years stint with Valencia to join the Yellow Submarines and the gigantic Nicola Zigic too has been signed by English club Birmingham. Spanish defender Alexis has joined Sevilla.

Mar. 21, 2010 - Valencia, C. VALENCIANA, Spain - epa02087990 Valencia CF players Juan Mata (L) David Silva (back) and David Villa (front) celebrate after Silva scored against UD Almeria during the Spanish Primera Division soccer match against UD Almeria played at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, on 21 March 2010.

David Villa & David Silva - Can the Los Che cope with the loss?

Apparently, the loss of some key contributors might just seem crippling but in this case has given the cash strapped club a chance to offload the huge burden. With the money raised by the sale of these players, Valencia has brought in several utility players who, if play as a cohesive unit, can prove to be fatal enough. A lot depends on players Pablo, Joaquin, Vicente, Soldado, Banega, Chori and Fernandes.

Player out on loan: Goal keeper Renan to Internacional, defender Asier Del Horno to Levante and midfielders Michel, Nacho Gonzalez and Aaron Niguez to Deportivo, Levante and Recreativo respectively

Possible finishing position: Anywhere from 4th to 8th



Preseason and Transfers – Coach Antonio Alvarez has lost a lot of his players on transfers. Most notably, versatile player Adriano moved to Barcelona, while defender David Prieto is on loan to Tenerife. The other players who have moved out of Seville are De Mul to Standard Liege on loan, defender Casado on a free transfer to Rayo Vallecano. They have added strength to their midfield by bringing in Cigarini from Napoli on a 12-month loan deal. Fabiano’s transfer saga has been a long and tedious one for Sevilla and they’ll hope to resolve it before the season starts. A move to Marseille is on the cards.

Fabiano - Can they afford to let him go?


Looking forward to 2010-2011 – Preseason has been a kick start to the La Liga season for Sevilla. Participations in UCL qualifying rounds (where they were unfortunately eliminated) coupled with the 2-legged tie of the Spanish Supercup against Barcelona would give them enough match practice to start the league on a high. They will be expected to take the full three points away at Levante in their opening fixture. Sevilla don’t have the resources to compete with Real Madrid or Barcelona for the league title, but they’ll be hoping to finish as the best in the rest of the pack. They are the defending champions in the Copa, hence they’ll be hoping to defend the title and continue their impressive recent trophy winning seasons.

Possible finishing position: Valencia and Atletico are the only two teams who can push Sevilla all the way to the Champions League places. With Valencia losing both Villa and Silva to Barcelona and Man City respectively, they’ll not be a threat anymore and we all know the famous Atletico blowups. So, expect Sevilla to clinch that 3rd place behind leaders Real Madrid and Barcelona.



Preseason and Transfers – When Manuel Pellegrini left them to join Real Madrid, it was always going to be difficult for Villarreal to match the expectations they set on themselves during his era. But they had a good season last year albeit starting on a horrendous note. This season, they will be expected to compete and challenge for the Champions League places. And Villarreal look to do exactly that by making some very good signings. They have wrapped up a deal for Spanish World Cup winning experienced defender Carlos Marchena, while adding some strength to their midfield and attacking areas by signing Valero and striker Coria. But important players such as Godin, Ibagaza, and Escudero have all left the team. Villarreal were boosted by the fact that they were handed a Europa League entry at the expense of Mallorca. Young Italian striker Rossi was in red hot form when Villareal dismantled Premier League side Tottenham 4-1 in preseason

The Engine of the Yellow Submarine

Looking forward to 2010-2011 – With plenty of talent in the Yellow Submarine, they will look forward to having a successful campaign this season. They start off the campaign against Real Sociedad which should be an easy game and expect them to secure all 3 points. Villarreal will continue having easy rides after the first weekend as well. They face Espanyol, Levante, Deportivo, Malaga, Racing, and new side Hercules. In the Europa League, they will face Belarus hopefuls Dnepr Mogilev. With key players Diego Lopez, Santi Cazorla, Marcos Senna, Rossi, Marchena, Robert Pires and the freshly crowned world cup winner Capdevilla, this talented squad will sure be hoping to have a great season domestically and continentally.

Possible finishing postion – With the likes of the players mentioned above and new coach Juan Carlos Garrido, Villarreal must be able to finish in the top 6.

  • Not a Devil

    Hahaha…same old story…
    same old La Liga….
    just ck it out guys…all these teams have posibilty to finish frm 3rd to 8th
    No 1 can challenge Madrid & Barca.
    Worst league…no competition at all

  • A Blaugrana

    Its better to have 2 super teams than several average teams :)

  • Not a Devil

    2 super teams???
    only 1 of them is super…other 1 gets knocked out in 2nd rnd of UCL in past 6 yrs.
    & yeahhh..its better to have 2 good teams….no competiton…dats what i said

  • A Blaugrana

    btw… I saw DIEGO FORLAN in Kolkata :)
    Just wanted to share this info :)

  • kris

    ^^^U Lucky Blaugrana :)

  • Not a Devil

    But still La Liga is a non-competitive league.

  • Jayant

    For me, Atleti is the team to look out for. They’ve never had a problem when it comes to scoring goals but with the signing of Felipe and Godin, they’ve strengthened their biggest area of concern. Felipe was so close to joining Barca last season and then he had that horrific injury which pretty much put him out for most of the season. He is surely the future LB for Brazil. Godin is a no nonsense CB and will add much needed steel to Atleti’s defense.
    I wouldn’t count out Valencia as well. They’ve sold the big names but they’ve made some smart signings in Aduriz and Topal.

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