After slugging through teams 14-8, it’s time for the main course, the reveal of the seven European teams in the 2017-18 La Liga season. Unfortunately, there are no surprises here as I predict the top 7 will finish in the exact same order as they did last season. While every team finishing in the same spot seems unlikely, these teams are so similar to their 2016-17 counterparts that I just can’t see much changing.
7. Athletic Bilbao
Losing four year manager and former player Ernesto Valverde to the big boys at Barcelona deals Athletic Bilbao a huge blow, especially when the new man in has never managed a club in the top flight. Jose Angel Ziganda was promoted from the reserve side Bilbao Athletic and did not bring in any players for the Basque only side. While they may make a splash in Europa League, it will be hard for Athletic Club to push up in La Liga in Ziganda’s first season.
Last season: 7th, Europa League Round of 32
Predicted finish: 7th, Europa League Round of 16
Manager: José Ángel Ziganda, first season
Transfers in: none
Transfers out: CB Gorka Elustondo, Atletico Nacional, free; GK Gorka Iraizoz, Girona, free; AM Javi Eraso, Leganés, free; RB Markel Etxebarria, Numancia, loan; AM Unai López, LB Urtzi Iriondo, Granada, loan; GK Alex Remiro, Huesca, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-2-3-1): GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, RB Oscar de Marcos, CB Aymeric Laporte, CB Xabier Etxeita LB Mikel Balanziaga, DM Mikel San Jose, DM Beñat Etxebarria, RW Iñaki Wiliams, CAM Raul Garcia, LW Iker Muniain, ST Artiz Aduriz
6. Real Sociedad
After posting their first top 6 finish since 2012-13 last season, Real Sociedad look to push for a Champions League spot in Eusebio Sacristan’s third season. However, with the loss of stellar LB Yuri and the additions of only Adnan Januzaj and Diego Llorente, this club is not yet ready to make the jump and compete with Atletico Madrid or Sevilla. Real Sociedad will once again finish higher than any of the other three Basque clubs, but they are not quite ready to compete with the teams from Madrid or Barcelona.
Last season: 6th
Predicted finish: 6th, Europa league round of 32
Manager: Eusebio Sacristan, third season
Transfers in: RW Adnan Januzaj, Manchester United, 8.5M euros; CB Diego Llorente, Real Madrid, 6M
Transfers out: LB Yuri Berchiche, Paris Saint-Germain, 16M; LW Alain Oyarzun, Real Zaragoza, free; CM Esteban Granero, Espanyol, free; RW Pablo Hervias, Eibar, free; GK Ander Bardaji, Huesca, free; CB Srdjan Babic, Red Star Belgrade, loan; LB Hector Hernandez, Alaves, loan; RW Carlos Vela, Los Angeles Galaxy, undisclosed; RB Joseba Zaldua, Leganes, loan; DM Markel Baraga, Getafe, loan; CB Mikel Gonzalez, free agent
Predicted Starting 11 (4-3-3): GK Geronimo Rulli, RB Alvaro Odriozola, CB Diego Llorente, CB Iñigo Martinez, LB Kevin Rodrigues CDM Asier Illaramendi, CM Sergio Canales, CAM Xabi Prieto, LW Mikel Oryazabal, CF Juanmi, RW Adnan Januzaj
Villareal took a step back last season, finishing fifth after a fourth place finish in 2016-17. Sevilla’s steady rise was too much for the Yellow Submarine, as they were a solid five points out of Europe. They were active on both sides of the transfer market, signing Ruben Semedo, Enes Unal and Pablo Fornals to improve all over the field while letting go of Mateo Mussachio and Jonathan dos Santos. Look for Spain’s biggest cinderella story to impress again, but fall just short of the Champions League.
Last season: 5th, Europa League Round of 32
Predicted finish: 5th, Europa League Round of 32
Manager: Fran Escriba, 2nd season
Transfers in: CB Ruben Semedo, Sporting, 14M euros; CF Enes Unal, Manchester City, 14M; CM Pablo Fornals, Malaga, 12M; GK Andres Fernandez, Porto, 2M
Transfers out: CB Mateo Mussachio, Milan, 18M; CM Jonathan dos Santos, Los Angeles Galaxy, 4M; CB Pablo Iñiguez, Reus, free; LW Alfonso Pedraza, Alaves, loan; RW Cristian Espinoza, Boca Juniors, loan; LW Akram Afif, KAS Eupen, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-4-2): GK Andres Fernandez, RB Mario Gaspar, CB Ruben Semedo, CB Victor Ruiz, LB Jaume Costa, RM Samu Castillejo, CM Manu Trigueros, CM Pablo Fornals, LM Roberto Soriano, ST Nicola Sansone, ST Enes Unal
Sevilla lost manager Jorge Sampaoli to the Argentina national team along with several key players including the controversial transfer of Vitolo to Atletico Madrid. The move came right after the winger had signed a contract with the red and whites and was all the more surprising given Atletico’s transfer ban. Couple that with the losses of Vicente Iborra and Yevhen Konoplyanka and Sevilla was on the ropes in the transfer window. Even the heavy additions of Luis Muriel and Nolito will not be enough to challenge La Liga’s last three champions.
Last season: 4th, Champions League Round of 16
Predicted finish: 4th, Champions League Quarterfinals
Manager: Eduardo Berizzo, first season
Transfers in: CF Luis Muriel, Sampdoria, 20M euros; CB Simon Kjaer, Fenerbahce, 12.5M; LW Nolito, Manchester City, 9M; CM Ever Banega, Inter Milan, 9M; DM Guido Pizarro, Tigres, 6M; RB Sebastien Corchia, Lille, 5M; RW Jesus Navas, Manchester City, free
Transfers out: LW Vitolo, Atletico Madrid, 36M; DM Vicente Iborra, Leicester, 15M; LW Yevhen Konoplyanka, Schalke 04, 12.5M; CB Adil Rami, Marseille, 6M; RB Mariano, Galatasaray, 4M; CM Sebastian Cristoforo, Fiorentina, 2.5M; LB Benoit Tremoulinas, free agent; CF Juan Muñoz, Almeria, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-2-3-1): GK Sergio Rico, RB Sebastien Corchia, CB Simon Kjaer, CB Nicolas Pareja, LB Sergio Escudero, DM Guido Pizarro, DM Steven N’Zonzi, RW Pablo Sarabia, CAM Ever Banego, LW Nolito, ST Luis Muriel
3. Atletico Madrid
The transfer ban meant Atletico Madrid could only make one signing to improve last season’s steady third place team that was no match for Real Madrid and Barcelona. Even so, Vitolo must be loaned to Las Palmas until January meaning Atletico will field largely the same team as last season. This unfortunately means another last place finish and other Champions League final loss at the hands of their bitter cross city rivals, Real Madrid.
Last season: 3rd, Champions League Semifinals
Predicted finish: 3rd, Champions League Runner Up
Manager: Diego Simeone, seventh season
Transfers in: LW Vitolo, Sevilla, 36M
Transfers out: LB Theo Hernandez, Real Madrid, 30M; CM Oliver Torres, Porto, 20M; DM Matias Kranevitter, Zenit St. Petersburg, 8M; RB Javier Manquillo, Newcastle, 5M; CF Santos Borre, River Plate, 3M; RW Alessio Cerci, Hellas Verona, free; CB Emiliano Velazquez, Getafe, loan; GK Andre Moriera, Braga, loan; ST Diogo Jota, Wolverhampton, loan; LW Vitolo, Las Palmas, loan; AM Bernard Mensah, Kasimpasa, loan; CM Tiago, retired
Predicted Starting 11 (4-4-2): GK Jan Oblak, RB Juanfran, CB Diego Godin, CB Stefan Savic, LB Filipe Luis, RM Koke, CM Gabi, CM Saul Ñiguez, LM Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, ST Fernando Torres, ST Antoine Griezmann
The departure of Neymar to join his Brazilian comrades at Paris Saint-Germain deals Barcelona a huge blow, even if they recover by signing both Philippe Coutinho and Moussad Dembele. Their only major additions are Nelson Semedo and former player Gerard Deulofeu making it unlikely that they will be able to find the 13 goals that Neymar scored in last season’s La Liga campaign. They are therefore likely to fall considerably short of Real Madrid for the title and to go out again in the Champions League semifinals.
Last season: 2nd, Champions League Semifinal
Predicted finish: 2nd, Champions League Semifinal
Manager: Ernesto Valverde, first season
Transfers in: RB Nelson Semedo, Benfica, 30.5M; LW Gerard Deulofeu, Everton, 12M; CB Marlon, Fluminese, 5M
Transfers out: LW Neymar, Paris-Saint Germain, 222M; LW Cristian Tello, Real Betis, 4M; GK Jordi Masip, Real Valladolid, free; CB Jeremy Mathieu, Sporting, free
Predicted Starting 11 (4-3-2-1): GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, RB Nelson Semedo, CB Samuel Umtiti, CB Javier Mascherano, LB Jordi Alba, DM Sergio Busquets, DM Sergi Roberto, RW Lionel Messi, CAM Ivan Rakitic, LW Gerard Deulofeu, ST Luis Suarez
- Real Madrid
Without a doubt the best team in the world, Real Madrid will not disappoint, winning their second straight league and third straight Champions League titles. Barcelona’s loss of Neymar makes the title all but a foregone conclusion, and barring something catastrophic like a season-ending injury for Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane should lead his former club to the promised land once again. The real question is if they can do better than last season, when they only lost three matches in the league. While Real Madrid will not have a perfect season, it’s hard to dispute them as league champions.
Last season: 1st, Champions League Winners
Predicted finish: 1st Champions League Winners
Manager: Zinedine Zidane, third season
Transfers in: LB Theo Hernandez, Atletico Madrid, 30M; CM Dani Ceballos, Real Betis, 17M
Transfers out: CF Alvaro Morata, Chelsea, 65M; RB Danilo, Manchester City, 30M; AM James Rodriguez, Bayern Munich, 10M loan; CF Mariano Diaz, Lyon, 8M; CB Diego Llorente, Real Sociedad, 6M; LW Burgui, Alaves, 3M; CB Pepe, Besiktas, free; LB Fabio Coentrao, Sporting, loan
Predicted Starting 11 (4-3-3): GK Keylor Navas, RB Dani Carvajal, CB Nacho Fernandez, CB Sergio Ramos, LB Marcelo, CM Toni Kroos, CM Casemiro, CM Luka Modric RW Isco, CF Karim Benzema, LW Cristiano Ronaldo