Tim Stannard puts his neck on the line to predict a season of misery in Mordor...
Once a blog reaches a certain age, it has no qualms about wearing clothes that are comfortable, rather than fashionable. It feels proud to admit that it has no idea which songs have been No.1 in the past five years. Basically, it doesn’t give two enormous hoots what anyone says.
Seniority also revels in making bold predictions that will annoy the heck out of a decent chunk of the population, and ultimately be proved completely wrong.
So, La Liga Loca is going to come up with a whopper to kick things off. Real Madrid won’t win the league. Nor will the Mordor outfit finish second. It’s 70-30 whether the Bernabeu bunch will even grab third. It could be that bad. There is just too much potential for everything to go wrong this season, and supporters of both Clásico clubs will be well aware of how quickly matters can unravel on the pitch when not everything is right on the institutional side. And this where the good ship Real Madrid could rapidly take in water.
Carlo was replaced by the last name in the little presidential black book who neither the players nor fans particularly wanted
The only person on the planet who thought that it would be a great idea to axe Carlo Ancelotti and replace the Italian with Rafa Benítez is Florentino Pérez, Real's pompously daft club president whose reflexive need to fire coaches is akin to the rest of the world’s instinctive love of breathing in and out.
Florentino thought Madrid blew the second half of last season, so the Champions League-winning coach had to go. The problem was that Carlo was replaced by the last name in the little presidential black book who neither the players nor fans particularly wanted.
Indeed, Marca have had a most demanding job over the summer trying to get the juices of the fanbase going with boasts over how solid the defence might be this year. Instead, what the Madridista massif wants to hear is how Rafa says ‘to hell with the back four’, and this is the team to score 2,000 goals in a season.
Another problem for Madrid, aside from a manager who nobody wants, is that there is still fluttering uncertainty over how the forward line will look. Will Cristiano Ronaldo start slowing down in his 30s? Will Gareth Bale slot in behind Karim Benzema? Will the Welshman keep his ‘European hair’? What will happen if Benzema gets injured without a proper backup No.9 in the team? Will James be jammed in on the right to make up the numbers, and what of the Spanish contingent of Jesé and Isco? That’s a lot of chin-stroking.
Over in Barcelona
Aside from a few wobbles in the European and Spanish Super Cups, where the Catalan defence didn't quite seem as stable as Luis Enrique would have liked, Barcelona will be a heck of a lot more predictable than Real Madrid, mainly because the transfer ban leaves them carrying on where they left off.
Barcelona will be a heck of a lot more predictable than Real Madrid, mainly because the transfer ban leaves them carrying on from whence it left off.
The front three will no doubt rack up over a hundred goals between them, while the addition of Arda Turan in the second half of the season might add a little bite when the business end of the campaign arrives.
The ability to grind out victories when not playing particularly well was picked up last year, the messy business of the presidential elections is out of the way, and a huge amount of credit has been built up by Luis Enrique. All in all, it's Barça’s to lose.
In LLL’s world, the Camp Nou club’s biggest challengers will be Atlético Madrid, although that push may only be half-hearted with a conservative approach from Diego Simeone.
The forward line has been tweaked again with Mario Mandzukic and Turan skipping town but being replaced by Jackson Martínez and the talented Argentine Luciano Vietto, who joined from Villarreal. If Antoine Griezmann survives at the Vicente Calderón to the end of the transfer window and Fernando Torres comes good – there’s still hope – then the quartet has more than enough goals in it for the campaign.
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The return of Filipe Luis to the backline makes up a little for the departure of Miranda, but José Maria Jiménez and Diego Godin could become the nastiest centre-back pairing in world football.
Valencia and Sevilla both look well-equipped to continue attempting to be the fourth-best team in La Liga, two sides that have gone through changes over the summer but look fairly potent. Indeed, Sevilla looked very comfortable in another new skin in the narrow UEFA Super Cup defeat against Barcelona. Even José Antonio Reyes appeared to be focused.
Real life for Rafa
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READ THIS FFT's La Liga Season Preview 2015/16
The opening day for the two old dames of La Liga will be telling. Barça have to return to the scene of the Super Cup nightmare and take on Athletic Bilbao again, and without the suspended Gerard Piqué, while Real Madrid travel to the returning Sporting Gijón and a home stadium that will be a second wind blasting the newbies against the visitors. There is tendency with Madrid and Barcelona for one to be up and the other down, like a footballing seesaw. The Treble winners are very much in the ascendency this season. It remains to be seen if Madrid can avoid suffering the backlash and being bashed on the playground floor.