After taking on a second teaching job, I was unable to continue the previous La Liga previews that I had ambitiously set upon in early July. In the interest of time, I will be briefly previewing the rest of the teams in La Liga, followed by the Premier League teams on Thursday and Friday. Without further ado…
The first team to clinch promotion after finishing last in La Liga in 2015-16, Levante look poised for a mid-table run. A stellar defense that allowed just 32 goals–a huge improvement from 70 in 2015-16–should be enough to keep Les Granotes in every game and perhaps even steal some victories from rivals Valencia and the top clubs. The additions of center backs Chema, Esteban Saveljich, and Sergio Postigo for a combined 1.9 million euros really helped the team. Despite the loss of Saveljich to a loan contract, the decision to keep Antonio Luna should still provide a stellar defense. Look for Levante to easily stave off relegation and push for a mid-table position.
Last season: 1st in Segunda División (promoted)
Predicted finish: 14th
Manager: Juan Muñiz, 2nd season
Transfers in: DM Cheick Doukoré, Metz, 1.6M euros; AM Enis Bardhi, Újpest, 1.5M; CF Ivi, Sevilla Atlético, 1.2M; GK Oier Olazábal, Getafe, 200k; CF Alex Alegría, Real Betis, loan; LB Antonio Luna, Eibar, free; CB Rober Pier, Deportivo La Coruña, loan
Transfers out: CM Víctor Camarasa, Real Betis, 7M; CF Deyverson, Palmeiras, 5M; DM Natxo Insa, Johor DT, 400k; CB Esteban Saveljich, Albacete, loan; CF Victor Casadesús, Tenerife, free; AM Javier Espinosa, Granada, loan; RW Rubén García, Sporting Gijón, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-3-3): GK Oier Olazábal, RB Iván López, CB Chema, CB Rober Pier, LB Antonio Luna, CDM Chieck Doukoré, CM José Campaña, CAM Enis Bardhi, RW Jason, CF Ivi, LW José Luis Morales
13. Celta Vigo
After three top half finishes including as high as 6th in 2015-16, Vigo dropped last season to 13th. Having now lost another stellar manager to one of the top four teams, with Eduardo Berizzo moving to Sevilla, their promotion of Juan Carlos Unzué from his assistant position at Barcelona may not be enough. Vigo look do for another mid-table finish with little improvement from last season.
Last season: 13th
Predicted finish: 13th
Manager: Juan Carlos Unzué, 1st season
Transfers in: CM Stanislav Lobotka, Nordsjaelland, 5M euros; CF Maximilliano Gómez, Defensor, 4M; CM Jozabed Sánchez, Fulham, 3.5M
Transfers out: RW Fabián Orellana, Valencia, 3M; LW Theo Bongonda, Trabzonspor, 400k loan; LB Carles Planas, Girona, free; CF Pedro Martín, Real Murcia, free; CM Levy Madinda, Asteras Tripoli, free; RB Álvaro Lemos, Lens, loan; RW Josep Sené, CyD Leonosa, undisclosed
Predicted Starting 11 (4-2-3-1): GK Sergio Álvarez, RB Hugo Mallo, CB Facundo Roncaglia, CB Sergi Gómez, LB Jonny Castro, CDM Daniel Wass, CDM Stanislav Lobotka, RW Pione Stiso, CAM Jozabed Sánchez, LW Iago Aspas, CF Maximilliano Gómez,
Despite steady progression up the table from 18th to 14th to 10th, Eibar’s lackluster finish to last season and continuing status as one of La Liga’s smallest clubs will lead to a small dip in performance in 2017-18. They lose star center back Florian Lejeune to Newcastle and while they have improved at the back with the additions of Paulo Oliviera and Marko Dmitrovic, this team still does not have the firepower on either side of the ball to challenge for a top half position.
Last season: 10th
Predicted finish: 12th
Manager: José Luis Mendilibar, 3rd season
Transfers in: CB Paulo Oliveira, Sporting CP, 3.5M euros; GK Marko Dmitrovic, Alcorcón, 1M; GK Yoel Rodriguez, Valencia, 750k; RW Iván Alejo, Alcorcón, 300k; CM Joan Jordán, Espanyol, 100k; CF Charles, Málaga, free; RW Pablo Hervías, Real Sociedad, free; LB José Ángel, Porto, free
Transfers out: CB Florian Lejeune, Newcastle, 10M; LB Antonio Luna, Levante, free; LW Sergio García, Barakaldo, free; GK Jon Ander Felipe, Toledo, free; AM Adrián González, Málaga, free; CB Mauro dos Santos, Leganés, free; RW Pablo Hervías, Real Valladolid, loan; LW Pere Milla, Numancia, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-4-2): GK Marko Dmitrovic, RB Ander Capa, CB Paulo Oliveira, CB Iván Ramis, LB David Juncá, RW Rubén Peña, CM Dani García, CM Gonzalo Escalante, LW Inui, ST Sergi Enrich, ST Kike García
Málaga hired new manager Michel in March of last season and went on a strong run, winning six of seven to solidify their mid-table spot. However, a lot of their production came from players that Michel sold in the offseason. The loss of Ignacio Camacho, Pablo Fornals and Sandro Ramirez, who all ranked in the top five of the club in appearances and led the club with 4, 6, and 14 goals respectively, will hurt the club significantly. They did add major players in Emmanuel Cecchini and goalkeeper Cenk Gonen, but are set for another steady 11th place finish.
Last season: 11th
Predicted finish: 11th
Manager: Michel, 1st full season (hired 7 March 2017)
Transfers in: CM Emanuel Cecchini, Banfield, 4M euros; CB Diego González, Sevilla Atlético, 500k; GK Cenk Gonen, Galatasaray, 200k; LB Juankar, Braga, free; GK Andrés Pieto, Espanyol B, free; CB Paul Baysse, Nice, free; AM Adrián González, Eibar, free; GK Roberto, Espanyol, loan; CF Borja Bastón, Swansea, loan
Transfers out: DM Ignacio Camacho, Wolfsburg, 15M; CM Pablo Fornals, Villareal, 12M; CF Sandro Ramírez, Everton, 6M; CF Charles, Eibar, free; GK Carlos Kameni, Fenerbahce, free; LW Ricardo Horta, Braga, free; GK Guillermo Ochoa, Standard Liege, free; LM Duda, free agent; CB Wellington, retired; CB Martin Demichelis, free
Predicted Starting 11 (4-1-4-1): GK Cenk Gonen, RB Roberto Rosales, CB Diego González, CB Diego Llorente, LB Juankar, CDM Emanuel Cecchini, RW Keko, CM Recio, CM Juanpi Anor,s LW Chory Castro, ST Castro
Alavés won the second division and earned promotion 2015-16. They then had one of the best finishes ever for a promoted side at 9th in the 2016-17 La Liga, but lost manager Mauricio Pellegrino to Southampton. They brought in unproven Argentine manager Luis Zubeldía to manage the club along with an unprecedented 14 transfers. This could mean a complete turnover in the starting 11 aside from goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco and right back Kiko Femenía, the only two players who appeared in at least 30 matches last season. With so much uncertainty, it looks like Alavés will once again be a defensively strong mid-table side.
Last season: 9th
Predicted finish: 10th
Manager: Luis Zubeldía, first season
Transfers in: CB Rodrigo Ely, Milan, 3M euros; LW Burgui, Real Madrid, 3M; GK Antonio Sivera, Valencia B, 2M; CF Rubén Sobrino, Manchester City, 2M; LB Rubén Duarte, Espanyol, 400k; CF Ermedin Demirovic, RB Leipzig U19, free; LW Juanan Entrena, Granada B, free; CB Antonio Cristian, Espanyol B, free; DM Arturo Segado, Atlético Malagueño, free; AM Enzo Zidane, Real Madrid Castilla, free; AM Mubarak Wakaso, Panathiniakos, free; CB Guillermo Maripán, CDUC, free; CM Tomás Pina, Club Brugge, loan; LB Héctor Hernández, Real Sociedad, loan; LW Alfonso Pedraza, Villareal, loan
Transfers out: LW Edgar Méndez, Cruz Azul, 5M; CB Zouhair Feddal, Real Betis, 2.5M; DM Arturo Segado, Rudes, loan; RB Kiko Femenía, Watford, free; RW Gaizka Toquero, Real Zaragoza, free; LB Raúl García, Leganés, free; CB Antonio Cristian, Rudes, loan; LW Juanan Entrena, Rudes, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-4-2): GK Fernando Pacheco, RB Kiko Femenía, CB Rodrigo Ely, CB Alexis, RM Gaizka Toquero, CM Manu García, CM Ibai Gómez LM Burgui, ST Rubén Sobrino, ST Christian Santos
Sitting as low as 17th at the midpoint of last season, Valencia went through three different managers before caretaker manager Voro elevated them to a mid-table finish. This season they poached Marcelino Garcia Toral from community rivals Villareal and added two Juventus players in striker Simone Zaza and goalkeeper Neto in an effort to jump back into the Europa League and perhaps even in aspiration of Champions league contention. However, this squad just does not quite measure up and while they will jump three spots, they will fall short of any Europe contention.
Last season: 12th
Predicted finish: 9th
Manager: Marcelino Garcia Toral, first season
Transfers in: CF Simone Zaza, Juventus, 16M euros; GK Neto, Juventus, 6M; RW Fabián Orellana, Celta Vigo, 3M; CM Nemanja Maksimovic, Astana, free;
Transfers out: GK Matthew Ryan, Brighton & Hove Albion, 6M; CM Enzo Pérez, River Plate, 5M; CF Álvaro Negredo, Besiktas, 2.5M; LW Pablo Piatti, Espanyol, 1.3M; CB Aderllan Santos, Sao Paulo, 800k loan; GK Yoel Rodriguez, Eibar, 750k; GK Diego Alves, Flamengo, 300k; CM Tropi, Lorca, loan; LW Zakaria Bakkali, Deportivo la Coruña, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-4-2): GK Neto, RB Joao Cancelo, CB Ezequiel Garay, CB Aymen Abdennour, LB José Gayá, RM Fabián Orellana, CM Dani Parejo, CM Carlos Soler, LM Santi Mina, ST Simone Zaza, ST Rodrigo
Barcelona’s city rival Espanyol had their best season since 2010-11 last year, finishing 8th in La Liga including an upset of Sevilla. Despite never winning more than three straight, los Blanquiazules rattled off 15 wins. Quique Sánchez Flores returns for his second season at the helm. Despite the loss of key center forwards Pablo Caicedo and Mamadou Sylla, he has added left winger Pablo Piatti and goalkeeper Diego López in an effort to push up in the league. However, the seven point gap up to 7th place is larger than it seems especially with the money factored in. Espanyol are destined to finish just outside Europe once again.
Last season: 8th
Predicted finish: 8th
Manager: Quique Sánchez Flores, 2nd season
Transfers in: LW Pablo Piatti, Valencia, 1.3M euros; GK Diego López, Milan, 1M; CB Mario Hermoso, Real Madrid Castilla, 300k; CM Esteban Granero, Real Sociedad, free
Transfers out: CF Pablo Caicedo, Lazio, 2.5M; CF Mamadou Sylla, KAS Eupen, 2.3M; LB Rubén Duarte, Alavés, 400k; CM Joan Jordán, Eibar, 100k; RB Roberto Correa, Cádiz, free; LB Víctor Álvarez, Arsenal Tula, free; GK Roberto, Málaga, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-4-2): GK Diego López, RB Javí López, CB Mario Hermoso, CB David López, LB Aarón Caricol, RM Hernán Peréz, CM José Manuel Jurado, CM Javi Fuego, LM Pablo Piatti, ST Gerard Moreno, ST Felipe Caicedo