Season after season we try, more often than not we are left red-faced. At least you have to hand it to us for trying! Two Outside of the Boot editors put their intelligence to the test and look ahead to the 2014/15 La Liga season.
Stick your neck out! Who will win the league?
Sami: There usually aren’t many teams in the race but predicting the La Liga winners is always a difficult task. The balance in Real’s side, carrying on from the previous season seems impressive. Ancelotti as a manager has that in him to get it to work as well. They aren’t just massive names, but names that fit into the system well.
Vishal: Real Madrid were the top team in Europe last season, and they have only strengthened this season. I cannot look beyond them for the league title. Their target should also be this title, especially after winning the European Cup, and the domestic cup last season. Also, their competitors don’t really seem that strong, especially Atletico, who have lost some of their best players.
The next best. Who’ll secure the coveted Champions League spots?
Sami: There’s no stopping the Top 3. Atletico, Barcelona & Real Madrid will be in the top three (not in that order). That coveted 4th spot is more difficult to predict this time around. Athletic & Sevilla impressed last season and should do so again. I want to say Valencia, I like the squad they have with some exciting young players, but their instability with managers is concerning. If I had to stick my neck out, I’d go with Unai Emery’s Sevilla.
Vishal: Atletico have gotten weaker, but not weak enough to crash out of the top 4. Simeone is a very good manager, and has got some strong replacements. Barcelona will also be there for sure, with all their additions, and their already incredible team. Aside from these 2, and Real Madrid, who will win the title, Sevilla will possibly make it too. They’ve lost their star man, but still have an amazing manager in Unai Emery. I’m tipping them to make an impact in the league ahead of the likes of Valencia, Athletic, and Sociedad.
Down and out. Who is getting relegated this season?
Sami: Very excited by the return of Deportivo; it was incredibly disappointing to see them in the second division; with a complete bias, I expect them to survive. Can’t say the same about Cordoba & Eibar. The former may well be seen as a guaranteed three point opposition, while Elche don’t particularly inspire confidence. Having said that, never saw Betis going down last season, and they finished bottom, so don’t take my word for this!
Vishal: Vallecano play very good football, but they’re not effective enough in possession to make the grade for me. They got a lot of plaudits last season for holding more possession than Barcelona, but they lost the game anyway. Of the newcomers, Eibar look a little weak, and look likely to go down. Granada too, weren’t always convincing last season, and so, I’ll give the other new comers the benefit of the doubt.
Poster-boy! Who’ll be the best individual player this season?
Sami: There are the obvious choices, but beyond those big names, there are a whole host of new signings to pick from. I’ll go with an old (young) boy though, Koke won our Talent Radar Young Player of the Year Award and his importance to the Atletico side is far greater now.
Vishal: While I’d love to go with Suarez, just for the entertainment value, it looks very difficult, especially with Ronaldo and Messi around. Of those 2, I’ll side with Ronaldo. His consistency is just scary. People thought 42 goals in 2007-08 were an aberration, but he’s bettered those standards over the years. Simply amazing.
Talent Radar. The best young players?
Sami: This is someone who I was extremely impressed with last season, and is still only 20. Paco Alcacer has all the attributes to be a proper complete striker. A genuine raw talent who’ll only grow into an exciting front-man. My main concern, as with the club as a whole, is the chopping & changing of bosses that doesn’t bode well for a young players’ development.
Vishal: Jan Oblak is a very interesting signing. He has a mammoth task ahead of him, as trying to replace Courtois is nearly impossible, but the keeper surely has the talent. He’s just a little older than the people making these predictions, so he’s a long term buy for me!
Between the posts, Who’ll be the best goalkeeper this season?
Sami: All three of the big clubs have new keepers at the helm, but the Clasico giants themselves seem to be unclear as to who is the best option. It would be wrong to keep Navas on the bench after the season and World Cup he’s had, but Casillas to the bench permanently? Certainly believe ter Stegen is a better option that Bravo, but it remains unclear still as to who the first choice could be. Oblak is certainly more proven than when Courtois had come to Atletico, so they’ve got a solid first-choice set. In proper Talent Radar style, I’ll go for the Slovenian.
Vishal: Real Madrid have 2 top keepers, and the one that wins this contest should be a good shout for the overall award. Atletico’s Courtois led dominance of this segment may come to an end with his departure, and I can see the Real boys doing very well. Iker Casillas, to make his mark, once again for me.
Man at the back. Who’ll be the best defender this season?
Sami: Not completely sold on Barcelona’s new defenders, but I certainly hope Marc Bartra is given a regular run of games. Of course Atletico’s central defence of Miranda & Godin will be solid again, while Varane’s return to fitness can aid Madrid. But I see Bartra as very underrated player; with Vermealen’s injury record, he’ll see more games at the start, hopefully he stakes a regular claim.
Vishal: Diego Godin was very dominant last season, with a lot of the credit for Atletico’s title win going to him and the solid defence they had. They retain majority of it, but Filipe and Courtois are sure to be big misses. So this will go to Mascherano. The player was immense for Argentina, evolving into more than a ball winner, a dominating midfielder. He’ll be the big little man in their defence.
The Middle. Who’ll be the best midfielder this season?
Sami: Too many quality ones to pick from, with Koke as my choice of player, he’ll be the man here as well. Having said that, the likes of Rakitic (with Mascherano) and Kroos (with Modric) will be a delight to watch as well. Hopefully we see those four names in the centre of midfield (yes looking at you Masch), but Atletico’s Koke will only grow into one of the biggest names in the sport beyond this season.
Vishal: A very tough call this. The likes of Rakitic and Koke were surely up there last season, and should be this season too. Since I’ve got Real winning the league, I’ll go with their star man, Luka Modric. He’s a real dynamo in midfield, with excellent passing. Pulls defences all over the place, the puppet master that he is.
The goal scorer. Who’ll be the best forward this season?
Sami: There are just two choices, aren’t there? If we’re looking at pure amount of goals, seems like Ronaldo & Messi will be the two main men in the charts (again). With Real winning the league in my opinion, expect the latter to take the cake. Though, I must mention, Mandzukic is another smart capture from Simeone. Not similar to Costa but expect him to pull-off the important goals.
Vishal: Again, I’d love to say Luis Suarez, because he’s a player I love watching, but if we’re putting Ronaldo in this category, it will have to go to the big man. The way he’s been playing in the last few seasons, you just cannot look past him. Only Messi could snatch this one from him.
The hipsters favourite! Team that’ll surprise the most?
Sami: Levante have been a consistent surprise package over the last couple of seasons. Any finish in and around the 10th spot is certainly impressive. I’m expecting/hoping they can surprise again and get that European spot, as they did two seasons back.
Vishal: Can we consider Sevilla doing well as a surprise? If so, it’s going to be them. Emery is a very good manager, and they’ve got a very good team, even without Rakitic. They did well to win the Europa League, and will now want to book a place in the Champions League through a good league finish.
Let down! Which team’ll disappoint the most this season?
Sami: Real Sociedad have stagnated, falling back last season and not really suggesting they can improve. In Griezmann they’ve lost another gem after having let Illarramendi go. I like Finnbogason, but I don’t expect him to cut it in the Spanish league. Expected Sociedad to be more ambitious than what they have been, I can see them being a disappointment this season.
Vishal: Yes, they’re on a tight budget, yes they lost a lot of players, and yes, they did very well last season, but as Champions, I think Atletico are not going to be able to put up a tough defence. No fault of theirs, with the other 2 burning money.
Gaffer. Which manager do you see impressing the most (besides the obvious title winners)?
Sami: Diego Simeone is arguably the best manager in the World for pulling off what he has with the level of resources at his disposal. Many don’t give him credit, and many say last season was a bit of a fluke. He’ll prove this season that it isn’t quite so. Don’t think he’ll get Atletico winning either the League or the Champions League, but they’ll challenge again. It’s not often that you lose players like Costa, Courtois, Luis and still look a decent side.
Vishal: Unai Emery. I’ve always rated him very well, and was a bit shocked to see him leave Valencia. Pretty pleased to see him do well with Sevilla, and I think he will continue the good work there. He’s someone who modifies his attitude and approach to fit the situation very well, a huge positive.