The Big Season Preview - Part One

Almería The southern side could well be this season’s Recreativo - plucky hangers on for a couple of campaigns before an inevitable knapsack-clutching return to la Segunda. Poor Hugo Sánchez has had a terrible time of it in the transfer market over the summer by losing handy full-backs Bruno and Mané to Valencia and Getafe respectively. But most importantly of all, the goals of Alvaro Negredo are gone, gone gone.

The man now in charge of replacing the hot-as-La Liga Loca’s-pillow Sevilla striker is Henok Goitum.

On his signing with Almería, the Swedish striker pointed out one of the differences between himself and his prolific predecessor who scored 19 league goals last season. “My name begins with G, not N,” joked Goitum. “And he’s not completely crap” notes the blog. LLL Prediction - A relegation battle with a 50/50 chance of surviving. Athletic BilbaoIn the two Super Cup clashes with Barcelona, Joaquín Caparrós stunned the gasping Spanish football world with an Athletic side that played easy-on-the-eye, fast-flowing, one touch-stuff. The kind of football that made grown men weep. Not really. It was boot, rush, elbow, boot, rush, elbow.

The kind of footie that many feel should be driven out of town by a News of the World lynch mob but is, in actual fact, a guilty pleasure to watch and relish.

A bit like Ghost Whisperer.While Athletic are more than capable of an easy top 10 finish, they will probably spend four months of the season having a sexy smooch with the relegation zone. LLL Prediction - Mid-table cushion plumping for the filthy Basque battlers. Atlético MadridBarcelona, Deportivo, Espanyol, Mallorca, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Zaragoza and Betis - these are the names of the sides who have won shiny stuff in Spain since the useless Atlético Madrid picked up their last trophy back in 1996. But unless the rojiblancos can pull off something special in the Copa del Rey, it looks like their trophy cabinet will continue to be as empty as Jesus Navas’ book of traveller’s tips. Aside from the addition of the wee youngster Sergio Asenjo in goal, very little has changed in the Atlético Madrid squad.

The defence will continue to be a shambles, the central midfield a hopeless void, but the still tasty front four of Simao, Kun, Forlán and Maxi will do enough to ensure that Atleti are back fighting for a Champions League spot, once again.

But there are sure to be the usual thrills, spills and tantrums from the returning José Antonio Reyes along the way. LLL Prediction - Champions League contenders. BarcelonaThe charity-loving, independance-seeking, insufferably smug treble winners are back and already look like they mean business this season. The new challenge for Pep’s Dream Boys is not world domination, with Guardiola confessing that another three titles would be almost impossible.

Instead, their mission is to stop the “financially-doped” Real Madrid machine in its expensively assembled tracks. Any other success would be a Brucey bonus. And they might well do it.

The Zlatan for Eto’o swap means that Barça now have their plan ‘B’ - lots of crosses from Dani Alves - while the likes of Keita and Bojan will be asked to step up to help the Swede chalk up the 30 league goals Mad Sammy managed last season. While some say that the squad looks thinner than Mariano Pernia after a sauna, La Liga Loca has seen enough evidence of terrific talent in the cantera over the summer to feel that everything should be OK in the new campaign. LLL Prediction - Title contenders. DeportivoOh dear. La Liga Loca can feel footballing Dementors surrounding it as it begins to write about the club from la Coruña.

Over the past few months, manager Miguel Angel Lotina’s face sunk that little bit lower, the club’s debt increased a little bit more, but most importantly the squad got that little bit worse. Verdu, Julian de Guzman and Pablo Amo have gone with little to get excited over to replace them, unless defensive midfielders from Partizan Belgrade called Juca make you moist, that is. But if Riki can get himself injured for the next nine months, if José Guardado can stay fit and Rodolfo Bodipo can remember how to score goals then Deportivo should be fine this season. LLL Prediction - Mid-table stability.

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