The FourFourTwo Season Preview 2015/16: La Liga
3) New boys can bring the ruckus
Three new teams, and three incredible fanbases. Real Betis, Las Palmas and Sporting Gijon are all big clubs in one particular merit, and that’s when it comes to support. Even while all three have been dwelling in Segunda, their season ticket sales and general matchday attendances dwarf most clubs in La Liga. All their home games this season will be ferocious affairs, with the backdrop of passionate fans willing their teams on against the bigger clubs.
El Molinon, home to Sporting, gets its chance to impress right away with the visit of Real Madrid and could immediately pile the pressure on Rafa Benitez. Betis will have their sights set on one team – Sevilla – who present the opportunity for Spain's best derby to come alive once again.
Barcelona-Espanyol? Real Madrid-Atleti? The Seville derby makes both look like friendly get-togethers between mates after work. Sevilla is the hottest metropolitan city in Europe when it comes to weather, but its football supporters fit the bill, too.
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Benitez’s arrival at Real Madrid poses many intriguing questions, above all how he begins to win over fans still reeling from Carlo Ancelotti’s exit – the eyebrow-jerking Italian was a clear favourite among fans and players. It feels as though some in the press are waiting for the first cracks to appear, and a mediocre pre-season has been magnified a little more than it really should have been. Such is the drama in the capital, however, that Rafa’s arrival was dwarfed in comparison to Iker Casillas being bombed out after a 25-year association with the club. This is all without even getting started on Sergio Ramos’s contract saga.
Over in Valencia, Jorge Mendes' influence is beginning to peeve. The club's president left, and his technical team followed after a series of bizarre transfer sagas. If things don’t go well on the pitch at Mestalla, you get the feeling the situation could get awfully tense at the creaking old stadium.
A little further down the table, Eibar were granted a reprieve from relegation after Elche failed to come up with money they owed to the tax man. Don’t expect Eibar – with new manager José Luis Mendilibar after Gaizka Garitano stepped down – to achieve similar exploits to those at the start of last season.