Team-by-team guide, star players and predictions for La Liga 2017/18

Sport360 staff 21:23 17/08/2017
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With the new La Liga season upon us we have the lowdown on each team aiming to compete for the title.

From the key ins and outs to the strengths and weaknesses of each team, we have you covered.

Who do you think will win?

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ALAVES

Coach: Luis Zubeldia

Star man: Ibai Gomez

Last season: 9th

Ins: Rodrigo Ely (AC Milan, €3m), Burgui (Real Madrid, €3m), Ruben Sobrino (Man City, €2m), Antonio Sivera (Valencia, €2m)

Outs: Edgar Mendez (Cruz Azul, €5m), Marcos Llorente (Real Madrid, loan return), Theo Hernandez (Atletico Madrid, loan return), Victor Camarasa (Levante, loan return), Deyverson (Levante, loan return)

Strengths: A busy summer in the transfer market – both ins and outs – has given new coach Luis Zubeldia plenty of potential.

Weaknesses: Have lost their manager and all their best players, and it’s tough to see where goals will come from.

Verdict: An unknown quantity after losing nearly all last season’s regular starters. If the new team doesn’t gel quickly, they’ll have trouble.

ATHLETIC BILBAO

Coach: Kuko Ziganda

Star man: Inaki Williams

Last season: 7th

Ins: None

Outs: Gorka Iraizoz (Girona, free), Javi Eraso (Leganes, free)

Strengths: The basis of a strong unit remains intact, with new coach Ziganda inheriting an established core.

Weaknesses: Basqueonly policy restricts their potential in the transfer market, and they remain overreliant on veteran Aritz Aduriz for goals.

Verdict: Good enough to trouble any opposition on their day, but lack of depth will probably prohibit a serious top four challenge.

ATLETICO MADRID

Coach: Diego Simeone

Star man: Antoine Griezmann

Last season: 3rd

Ins: Vitolo (Sevilla, €36m)

Outs: Theo Hernandez (Real Madrid, €26m), Matias Kranevitter (Zenit, €8m), Javier Manquillo (Newcastle, €5m)

Strengths: Atletico remain Atletico and they will without doubt continue to boast one of the most resilient defences in the world.

Weaknesses: Unless Kevin Gameiro finally comes good they seriously lack a top class partner for the brilliant Antoine Griezmann in attack.

Verdict: If they can sign Diego Costa and keep themselves in contention until January, watch out – could be serious title contenders.

BARCELONA

Coach: Ernesto Valverde

Star man: Leo Messi

Last season: 2nd

Ins: Paulinho (Guangzhou, €40m), Nelson Semedo (Benfica, €30m), Gérard Deulofeu (Everton, €12m)

Outs: Neymar (PSG, €222m), Jeremy Mathieu (Sporting Lisbon, free), Cristian Tello (Real Betis, €4m)

Strengths: The presence of Leo Messi gives Barca the ability to beat any opposition, and the first choice eleven virtually picks itself.

Weaknesses: A woeful summer in the transfer market to date has left Barca badly lacking in squad depth, especially in attack.

Verdict: A lot hinges on the remainder of the transfer window. If they don’t strengthen, it’s hard to see how they can challenge.

CELTA VIGO

Coach: Juan Carlos Unzue

Star man: Iago Aspas

Last season: 13th

Ins: Maxi Gomez (Defensor, €4m), Stanislav Lobotka (Nordsjaelland, €5m)

Outs: Theo Bongonda (Trabzonspor, €400,000)

Strengths: Celta play some beautiful football and new coach Juan Carlos Unzue – formerly Luis Enrique’s assistant at Barcelona – favours a flowing style.

Weaknesses: Conceded too many goals last season and their determination to play out from the back can leave them defensively vulnerable.

Verdict: A wonderful preseason has sparked high hopes for a serious top four challenge. If Aspas shines again, they could be excellent.

DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA

Coach: Pepe Mel

Star man: Florin Andone

Last season: 16th

Ins: Guilherme (Udinese, €4.5m), Fabian Schar (Hoffenheim, €2m), Gerard Valentin (Tarragona, €600,000)

Outs: Pablo Insua (Schalke, €3.5m), German Lux (River Plate, free), Faycal Fajr (Getafe, free), Alex Bergantinos (Sporting, free), Laure (Alcorcon, free)

Strengths: Pepe Mel improved Deportivo’s organisation and intensity after taking over midway through last season and now can mould his own team.

Weaknesses: Defensively solid but lacking in genuine attacking quality to trouble decent opposition. Need to sneak a few low-scoring draws and wins.

Verdict: The Galicians have flirted with relegation regularly in the last few years and avoiding the drop again would be considered a success.

EIBAR

Coach: José Luis Mendilibar

Star man: Pedro Leon

Last season: 10th

Ins: Paulo Oliveira (Sporting Lisbon, €3.5m), Marko Dmitrovic (Alcorcon, €1m), Joan Jordan (Espanyol, €100,000), Charles (Malaga, free)

Outs: Florian Lejeune (Newcastle, €10m), Adrian (Malaga, free), Antonio Luna (Levante, free), Mauro Dos Santos (Leganes, free)

Strengths: La Liga’s ongoing surprise package consistently deliver attractive and focused football, and know how to play to their strengths.

Weaknesses: Lost defensive lynchpin Florian Lejeune in the summer and lack the depth of talent to cope with injuries or suspensions.

Verdict: Experienced boss Jose Luis Mendilibar could be Spain’s most under-rated manager and his team can expect to enjoy midtable safety again.

ESPANYOL

Coach: Quique Sanchez Flores

Star man: Pablo Piatti

Last season: 8th Ins: Naldo (Krasnodar, free), Esteban Granero (Real Sociedad, free), Sergio Garcia (Al Rayyan, free)

Outs: Felipe Caicedo (Lazio, €2.5m), Mamadou Sylla (Eupen, €2.3m), Diego Reyes (Porto, loan return), Jose Antonio Reyes (released)

Strengths: Wingers Pablo Piatti and Hernan Perez teaming up with Leo Baptistao and returning veteran Sergio Garcia is a tasty front four.

Weaknesses: A lack of pace and quality in the centre of midfield forces manager Sanchez Flores into a cautious approach which inhibits attacking play.

Verdict: Have the ability to easily avoid a relegation battle but are unlikely to feature in the race for European places.

GETAFE

Coach: Jose Bordalas

Star man: Jorge Molina

Last season: 3rd Segunda Division (won playoffs)

Ins: Djene Dakonam (Sint Truidense, €2.5m), Filip Manojlovic (Red Star Belgrade, €1.25m), Francisco Portillo (Real Betis, €1.5m), Dani Pacheco (Real Betis, €1m), Faycal Fajr (Deportivo, free)

Outs: Stefan Scepovic (Sporting Gijon, loan), Alejandro Faurlin (Cruz Azul, free), David Fuster (retired)

Strengths: A strong defensive record was the key to last season’s promotion and that unit has stayed intact to provide a decent platform.

Weaknesses: Striker Jorge Molina shone last season with 22 goals, but can the 35 year-old prove so effective in the top flight?

Verdict: Anything other than a quick return to the second tier would be a success for a team which will struggle for goals.

GIRONA

Coach: Pablo Machin

Star man: Marlos Moreno

Last season: 2nd Segunda Division

Ins: Gorka Iraizoz (Athletic Bilbao, free), Bernardo Espinosa (Middlesbrough, €4.5m), Christian Stuani (Middlesbrough, free), Aleix Garcia, Marlos Moreno (both Manchester City, loan)

Outs: Samuele Longo (Inter Milan, loan return), Richy (retired), Fran Sandaza (AlAhli, loan)

Strengths: The Catalan club have been consistently building for several years under long-serving boss Pablo Machin towards their first top-flight appearance.

Weaknesses: Hugely inexperienced squad at this level and heavily reliant upon their four young loan signings from ‘parent club’ Manchester City.

Verdict: Will be stubborn and solid but may struggle to win enough games to avoid the drop. But they won’t give up easily

LAS PALMAS

Coach: Manolo Marquez

Star man: Jonathan Viera

Last season: 14th

Ins: Vitolo (Atletico Madrid, loan), Leandro Chichizola (Spezia, free)

Outs: Roque Mesa (Swansea, €12.5m), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Eintracht Frankfurt, free), Jese (PSG, loan ret-urn), Marko Livaja (AEK Athens, free), Javi Varas (Granada, free)

Strengths: Arguably the most attractive team last season and possess some genuine elite talent with Viera and Vitolo.

Weaknesses: They were defensively wretched at times last year and the losses of Mesa and Boateng are major blows.

Verdict: New boss Manolo Marquez has a tough task and needs some big performances from Vitolo before his switch to Atletico in the new year.

LEGANES

Coach: Asier Garitano

Star man: Alexander Szymanowski

Last season: 17th

Ins: Dimitris Siovas (Olympiacos, €3m), Ezequiel Munoz (Genoa, €2.5m), Tito (Granada, Olympiacos, €600,000), Mauro Dos Santos (Eibar, free), Javi Eraso (Athletic Bilbao, free)

Outs: Alberto Bueno (Porto, loan return), Unai Lopez (Athletic Bilbao, loan return), Adrian Marin (Villarreal, loan return)

Strengths: Not many teams will work harder than the team who had the best defensive record in the bottom half last season.

Weaknesses: Goalscoring. Managed just 36 last season with no strikers mustering more than five, and haven’t significantly strengthened in that area.

Verdict: Face a long and hard struggle. Unless they can find a reliable goalscorer, their chances of staying up are slim.

LEVANTE

Coach: Juan Muniz

Star man: Roger Marti

Last season: 1st Segunda Division

Ins: Cheick Doukoure (Metz, €1.6m), Enis Bardhi (Ujpest, €1.5m), Ivi Lopez (Sevilla, €1.2m), Antonio Luna (Eibar, free), Alex Alegria (Betis, loan)

Outs: Victor Camarasa (Real Betis, €7m), Deyverson (Palmeiras, €5m), Natxo Insa (Johor Darul, €400,000)

Strengths: Won the Segunda Division title by a street last season and have made some promising additions in the transfer market.

Weaknesses: Title-winning goal king Roger Marti has been ruled out for six months through injury and their back-up striking options are unproven.

Verdict: If they can overcome the loss of Marti, the Valencia-based outfit could go well and even finish higher than their cross-town rivals.

MALAGA

Coach: Michel

Star man: Juanpi

Last season: 11th

Ins: Emanuel Cecchini (Banfield, €4m), Cenk Gonen (Galatasaray, €200,000), Adrian (Eibar, free), Borja Baston (Swansea, loan)

Outs: Pablo Fornals (Villarreal, €12m), Sandro (Everton, €6m), Nacho Camacho (Wolfsburg, €10m), Carlos Kameni (Fenerbahce, free)

Strengths: Possess some exciting young players, especially going forward with gifted playmaker Juanpi feeding Javi Ontiveros, Adalberto Penara-nda and Youssef En Nesyri.

Weaknesses: Squad has been truly decimated, losing their goalkeeper, best defender, best two midfielders and best striker.

Verdict: Worrying summer has left experienced manager Michel with a lot of work to do. Needs youngsters to develop rapidly.

REAL BETIS

Coach: Quique Setien

Star man: Ryad Boudebouz

Last season: 15th

Ins: Victor Camarasa (Levante, €7m), Ryad Boudebouz (Montpellier, €7m), Cristian Tello (Barcelona, €4m), Sergio Leon (Osasuna, €3.5m), Andres Guardado (PSV, €2.5m)

Outs: Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid, €17m), Cristiano Piccini (Sporting Lisbon, €3m), Petros (Sao Paulo, €2.5m), Ruben Castro (Guizhou, free)

Strengths: Setien is renowned for instilling exciting, possession-based football and has made some excellent signings.

Weaknesses: Taking a leap into the unknown with all the new arrivals, and last season’s key men Dani Ceballos and Ruben Castro gone.

Verdict: The most intriguing team in the division. If everything fits into place, they could be a dark horse top-four contender.

REAL MADRID

Coach: Zinedine Zidane

Star man: Cristiano Ronaldo

Last season: 1st

Ins: Theo Hernandez (Atletico Madrid, €26m), Dani Ceballos (Real Betis, €17m), Marcos Llorente (loan return, Alaves), Jesus Vallejo (loan return, Eintracht Frankfurt)

Outs: James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich, loan), Pepe (Besiktas, free), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea, €65m), Danilo (Manchester City, €30m)

Strengths: World-class quality in every position and oozing in confidence after finally finding a playing system which gets the best out of them.

Weaknesses: Selling both Morata and back-up striker Mariano Diaz leaves Los Blancos surprisingly thin on the ground up front.

Verdict: Anything other than a serious title challenge would be a huge surprise and at the moment they must be overwhelming favourites.

REAL SOCIEDAD

Coach: Eusebio Sacristan

Star man: Mikel Oyarzabal

Last season: 6th

Ins: Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United, €10m), Diego Llorente (Real Madrid, €6m)

Outs: Yuri Berchiche (PSG, €16m), Esteban Granero (Espanyol, free)

Strengths: Enjoyed a highly promising first full season under former Barcelona B coach Eusebio, who has kept his squad intact.

Weaknesses: Could struggle for goals, especially when long-serving Carlos Vela departs for America in mid-season. Much is required from youngster Jon Bautista.

Verdict: La Real can look forward with optimism, with every chance of again claiming local bragging rights as the top-placed Basque team.

SEVILLA

Coach: Eduardo Berizzo

Star man: Nolito

Last season: 4th

Ins: Muriel (Sampdoria, €20m), Simon Kjaer (Fenerbahce, €12.5m), Nolito (Manchester City, €9m), Ever Banega (Inter Milan, €9m), Jesus Navas (Manchester City, free)

Outs: Vitolo (Atletico Madrid, €40m), Vicente Iborra (Leicester, €15m), Adil Rami (Marseille, €6m), Mariano (Galatasaray, €4m), Samir Nasri (Manchester City, loan return)

Strengths: Talented squad has been further enhanced by smart signings, with the return of Banega particularly welcome.

Weaknesses: The departure of Rami and Iborra leaves them a little lightweight, especially if Steven Nzonzi is also sold.

Verdict: New boss Berizzo has a tough task to maintain recent high standards.

VALENCIA

Coach: Marcelino

Star man: Santi Mina

Last season: 12th

Ins: Neto (Juventus, €6m), Nemanja Maksimovic (Astana, free)

Outs: Mathew Ryan (Brighton, €6m), Enzo Perez (River Plate, €5m), Alvaro Negredo (Bes-iktas, €3m), Diego Alves (Flamengo, €300,000), Aderlan Santos (Sao Paulo, €800,000)

Strengths: New manager Marcelino is a no-nonsense and disciplined operator who will demand high standards both on and off the pitch.

Weaknesses: A bizarrely ponderous summer in the transfer market has left the squad worryingly threadbare as the new season rapidly approaches.

Verdict: There’s no sign of Los Che’s awful recent fortunes turning around yet. Perhaps they still haven’t even hit rock bottom.

VILLARREAL

Coach: Fran Escriba

Star man: Manu Trigueros

Last season: 5th

Ins: Enes Unal (Manchester City, €14m), Ruben Semedo (Sporting Lisbon, €12m), Pablo Fornals (Malaga, €12m), Andres Fernandez (Porto, €2m), Carlos Bacca (AC Milan, loan)

Outs: Mateo Musacchio (AC Milan, €18m), Jonathan Dos Santos (LA Galaxy, €4.5m), Roberto Soldado (Fenerbahce, €8m)

Strengths: A young and talented squad packed with players who should be capable of getting even better, especially in midfield.

Weaknesses: In danger of being a little too ‘nice’ and lacking the toughness required to grind out results when not playing well.

Verdict: The Yellow Submarine will be one of La Liga’s most watchable teams and should again be strong contenders for a Champions League return.

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