The 90th season of the La Liga – the 2020/21 edition will soon become the second of Europe’s top five leagues to get underway for the new season in the upcoming weekend. So, let’s take a look at all of the teams, and what we can expect from each of them.
Athletic Club had a disappointing end to the last campaign, as they finished outside the top half of the table. They showed glimpses of real quality though, and will be keen to make them count this time around.
Transfers: Bilbao haven’t done much in the transfer window – making no new additions to their squad and only losing Beñat Etxebarria and Mikel San José as their contracts expired.
Key Player: Raúl García – Iñaki Williams’ goals dried up in this season, Raúl García had to step up, and he did so with his best-ever goal-scoring campaign. A return of 15 goals from 34 appearances is nothing to be ashamed of, but the 34 year-old will look to try and better that this time around.
Recently, Atlético Madrid have been in the title-mix with Barcelona and their local rivals Real, but they were quite a fair bit behind last season. In fact, they just managed to pip Sevilla to the final podium spot, getting there thanks to a superior head-to-head record. Their defence was slightly more porous last time around, so Diego Simeone will look to fix that and perhaps try to push for the title.
Transfers: Ivo Grbić was the only signing of Atléti’s transfer window, with the keeper set to play second fiddle to Jan Oblak. Although players like Thomas Partey and Saúl Ñíguez have been linked with moves to England, they seem to be staying for now.
Key Player: Jan Oblak – Atléti’s Slovenian shot-stopper is the best in the world, irrefutably when it comes to quite simply making saves. Even though his defenders were a bit poor at times, the 27 year-old put in inspired-performance-after-inspired-performance to help his side keep the second-best defensive record in the league. Chelsea don’t seem to be able to pay his £120m release clause, so he looks set for another stellar season in Madrid.
Barcelona finished as runners-up in last season’s La Liga, which, while not ideal, isn’t exactly a disaster. If you want to know the definition of a disaster, then you’d have to take a look at the 2-8 drubbing they received courtesy of Bayern Munich. That has caused a panic-induced rebuild to begin at the club, with Ronald Koeman being appointed as the new head coach and changes at the boardroom taking place too. However, the much-hated President Josep Maria Bartomeu has not resigned, so the Blaugarana could be in for another poor campaign.
Transfers: Before all of that, Barcelona had already sealed the Arthur-Pjanić swap deal. They signed the likes of Francisco Trincão and Pedri thereafter, while Philippe Coutinho returned from a successful loan at Bayern. Ivan Rakitić was the first to depart, while Arturo Vidal and Luis Suárez look set to leave.
Key Player: Lionel Messi – A huge relief for Barça was the fact that Lionel Messi had announced that he was going to stay with them for at least another year following his transfer request. This decision, however, was only taken to avoid a legal battle centring around his free-to-leave clause. In his interview, he did deliver some scathing remarks directed at the board and management, so he is clearly unhappy. His performances on the pitch shouldn’t be affected by that, however, and he remains the Catalans’ superstar captain.
At the opposite end of the table, Celta Vigo narrowly avoided relegation thanks to a solitary point (which one could argue they nicked off Barcelona in a 2-2 draw), and they will be keen to stray a bit further away from the foot of the table this time around.
Transfers: Miguel Baeza, Renato Tapia and Álvaro Vadillo have all been brought in during the transfer window, presumably in an attempt to replace some of the departing party which includes Rafinha, Jeison Murillo, Pape Cheikh, Fedor Smolov, Pione Sisto and Filip Bradarić.
Key Player: Iago Aspas – Celta’s club captain and long-serving forward Iago Aspas led from the front once again, as he started all but one match throughout the season, and returned with a tally of 14 goals and three assists. At 33, he is certainly approaching the twilight of his career, but hopefully he still has a few more seasons in him.
Last year’s Segunda División runners-up Cádiz have made a return to the top-flight for their 12th season in history. Unsurprisingly, their aim will be to simply stay up.
Transfers: Cádiz have been very quiet in the transfer window, making no new first-team signings to strengthen their squad. At the same time, they haven’t lost any major players either, so it’s a consistent squad going into the new season.
Key Player: Alberto Cifuentes – Even at 41, Cádiz’s club captain and main keeper is showing no signs of letting off, as he stood between the sticks for the best defence in the 2019/20 campaign of the Segunda División. Now, he has a chance to play in the top-flight with a club that he signed for when they were in the third-tier.
Alavés always had a safe gap to the relegation zone throughout the previous campaign, but they only finished three points away from the bottom three. Now, they are in el Glorioso sixth-consecutive top-flight campaign – the longest run in their history, and they’ll look to continue that.
Transfers: Loans for Deyverson and Rodrigo Battaglia are the only noteworthy inbound signings, while Aleix Vidal, Roberto Oliver Burke, Víctor Camarasa, Lisandro Magallán and Ljubomir Fejsa have all departed.
Key Player: Joselu – The joint-top scorer for Alavés in last year’s La Liga campaign was Joselu, who came away with 11 goals and two assists in 37 outings. The striker will certainly like to take those numbers up a notch and help his side inch up the table.
Eibar were involved in the relegation battle for a brief period of time as well, but they eventually pulled clear and finished six points above the madness in 14th spot. This time around, they’ll look to stay similarly distanced from the wrong end of the table.
Transfers: Eibar have made a couple of additions to their squad – Damian Kądzior and Recio. They have lost a few key men, however, including Fabián Orellana, Gonzalo Escalante, Charles, Pablo de Blasis and Sebastian Cristoforo.
Key Player: Cote – Eibar will need their left-back to continue putting in solid displays in the next season, as their defence will be crucial in the relegation battle. Last season, he averaged 1.9 tackles, 1.6 clearances and 1.2 interceptions per match while also making one key pass, and his side will need more of the same.
Elche have made another return to La Liga after winning the promotion play-offs thanks to the solitary away goal across two legs in both the semi-final and final. They barely crept into sixth place by a point, so they certainly have an uphill task when it comes to surviving in the top-flight.
Transfers: Elche didn’t make any additions to their squad, while losing Juan Cruz, Tekio, Jonathas, Iván Sánchez and Miguel San Román among others.
Key Player: Nino – Elche’s evergreen striker is not showing any signs of slowing down even at 40 years of age. Now the club’s all-time top-scorer, the forward will look to help the side he first joined in 1997 stay up in La Liga.
Although Getafe stuttered towards the end of the season, they finished in a very strong 8th position, missing out on the Europa League qualifiers by a mere two points. Another top-half finish will be certainly welcomed by their fans.
Transfers: Getafe’s summer signings include Enes Ünal, Cucho Hernández, Darío Poveda and Ante Palaversa. The frontmen have presumably been signed to replace the likes of Jorge Molina and Deyverson who bid farewell.
Key Player: Damián Suárez – Getafe’s left-back was absolutely brilliant in the last season, as he made 31 La Liga appearances and returned with a goal and four assists. To add to that, he averaged 33.7 passes, 2.6 long balls 2 tackles, 1.1 key passes and as many crosses per match. His team will hope that he can keep those numbers up.
The side who piped Getafe to the 7th spot and the Europa League qualifiers were Granada, who were mightily impressive in their first season after achieving promotion once again. Now, they will play in a UEFA competition for the first time in their history, and will look to keep up their impressive league performances.
Transfers: Granada’s new additions included Luis Milla, Jorge Molina and Alberto Soro. José Antonio Martínez, Carlos Fernández and Gil Dias are among those who have left.
Key Player: Yangel Herrera – El Graná will hope that Yangel Herrera can continue operating at the high level he displayed in the last season. He averaged 4 tackles and interceptions per match, had a passing accuracy of 75.2% and got on the scoresheet five times. More of the same will be appreciated in his camp.
After their first-ever La Liga campaign ended in relegation in 2018/19, Huesca have bounced straight back up to the top-flight with a Segunda División title to their name. The main target will be to attain their best-ever finish in the first division – one which keeps them out of the bottom three.
Transfers: Gastón Silva, Kike Hermoso and Andrés Fernández are among the new arrivals, while Jordi Mboula, Miguelón, Dani Raba, Cristo and Cheick Doucouré have departed after the end of their loan spells.
Key Player: Mikel Rico – The 35 year-old was the heartbeat in Hiesca’s midfield, and he didn’t miss a single one of the 42 Segunda División matches that Huesca played in the previous campaign. Similar consistency will be needed from the ex-Bilbao man as Huesca will try to stay up for the first time in their history.
Levante had a decent season last time around, as they finished in a comfortable 12th spot – just three points away from the top half of the table. They will certainly look to continue performing at that level in the new campaign.
Transfers: Levante’s fresh arrivals include Jorge de Frutos and Dani Gómez, while Borja Mayoral has departed since his loan spell ended.
Key Player: José Campaña – The Spanish midfielder appeared in all but one La Liga match that his side participated in, and he came away with a tally of two goals and seven assists. To add to that, he made 2 key passes, 1.7 dribbles and 52.7 passes per game on average along with a pass completion rate of 81.4%. His side will hope that he can keep those numbers up as they try to break into the top ten spots in the table.
Osasuna are another side who looked strong last time around, as they crept into the final spot in the top half of the table. For their first season back in the top tier, that is certainly a strong achievement, and they will look to keep performing in a similar fashion.
Transfers: Osasuna have also made a few smart signings – Juan Cruz and Lucas Torró among them. The departures include Pervis Estupiñán, Fran Mérida and José Arnaiz.
Key Player: Ezequiel Ávila – Osasuna didn’t have any player who got into double digits in the goal-scoring charts last season, but Chimy Ávila came closest with nine. This season, they will hope that he breaks into the 10s at the very least, perhaps even enjoying his best-ever return of goals.
Under new head coach Manuel Pellegrini, Real Betis will be keen to propel themselves back up into the top half of the table following their 15th-placed finish to the last campaign. They only avoided relegation by five points, so they will be happy to move a bit further away from the bottom three at the very least.
Transfers: Betis have quietly gone about conducting some very good summer business. Their new signings feature Claudio Bravo, Martín Montoya and Víctor Ruiz among others. At the same time, they have lost the likes of Zouhair Feddal, Alfonso Pedraza and Carles Aleñá.
Key Player: Nabil Fekir – 2019’s big name signing showed real glimpses of quality at times but also dropped off occasionally when deployed in some unfamiliar positions. Even then, he amassed a tally of seven goals and four assists in 32 La Liga appearances. Hopefully, he will be more consistent throughout the new season, and guide his side to the upper half of the table.
Defending champions Real Madrid look set to retain their crown given Barcelona’s turmoils, but they will have to be wary of challenges from elsewhere including their local rivals Atlético. However, if they can maintain their post-lockdown form, nothing can get in the way of them and a 35th La Liga title.
Transfers: Real haven’t purchased any new players, but that’s simply because of the amount and quality of their returning loanees. Martin Ødegaard, Sergio Reguilón and Álvaro Odriozola are among those who currently seem to be staying, while the likes of James Rodríguez, Achraf Hakimi, Takefuso Kubo and Brahim Díaz have been moved on.
Key Player: Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid’s captain was not only vital to their defensive effort, but also crucial with regard to goal-scoring as his double-digit figure of 11 goals earned multiple victories for his side. His side will hope that he can keep those numbers up while continuing to dominate proceedings in defence.
Real Sociedad had a strong campaign last time around, as they qualified for the Europa League by finishing inside the top six. They seem quite confident too, and even have their eyes set on a Champions League spot for the new season. High ambitions, but let’s see if they can achieve them.
Transfers: Real Sociedad didn’t have too much to do in terms of transfers, but whatever they did was enough to make the headlines in Spain and beyond. They were searching for a replacement for Martin Ødegaard who was recalled by his parent club Real Madrid, and they found more than just that in Manchester City’s David Silva. An outstanding signing!
Key Player: David Silva – It’s rare to see a new signing join the squad and immediately be regarded as the most important player, but David Silva is no common man. The midfield magician will be tasked with doing just what Martin Ødegaard did – linking up with his fellow attackers from the number 10 role. His credentials show that he is among the best of the best, so he should be able to do his job in style.
Valladolid were also able to distance themselves from the relegation zone as they finished five places above in 13th, but they only had a six-point cushion. This season, they should look to build the gap and perhaps even knock on the door to the top half of the table.
Transfers: Valladolid have lost a few key players in the transfer window, including Mohammed Salisu, Hatem Ben Arfa, Enes Ünal, Matheus Fernandes, Sandro Ramirez and Pedro Porro. However, they look to have secured strong replacements including Fabián Orellana, Bruno González, Shon Weissman and Roberto.
Key Player: Rubén Alcaraz – The defensive midfielder looked good whenever he played, but a couple of groin injuries meant that he missed 11 La Liga games. He averaged 2.3 tackles and 2.1 free-kicks won per match while maintaining a passing accuracy of nearly 80%, so he clearly has the quality. Now, he should just try to stay as fit as he can be and help his side in midfield.
Sevilla enjoyed a brilliant campaign, both continentally and domestically as they lifted their sixth Europa League while finishing in the top four of the La Liga. With such buoyant performances and other teams stuttering around them, they could even look to break into the podium places of the La Liga table in this campaign, and perhaps even play a part in the title race.
Transfers: Éver Banega and Sergio Reguilón bid their farewells after the Europa League triumph, and Sevilla had a big task on their hands as they looked for replacements. Óscar Rodríguez and Ivan Rakitić are their big name signings so far, but the search for a left-back is still on, although they do have a couple of replacements in their own ranks.
Key Player: Lucas Ocampos – The Argentine forward announced his arrival onto the world scene in his very first season at Sevilla, as he scored 14 goals and provided 3 assists in 33 La Liga appearances. To add to that, he completed 2.1 dribbles and won 1.7 free-kicks per game as well. If he keeps performing at that level, Sevilla will have a chance of breaking into the top three.
It was a contrasting campaign for Valencia to that of Sevilla, as los Murcelagos finished in a relatively low ninth place – further away from the European spots than what was expected. Their primary aim will be to push back into the top six at the very least this time around.
Transfers: The losses of star players like Ferrna Torres, Rodrigo Moreno, Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo will not help that cause, and neither will the fact that they haven’t signed any replacements. It’s still a long transfer window though, and they have time to find a few good players.
Key Player: Geoffrey Kondogbia – One player who has stayed put at the club is Geoffrey Kondogbia, the Central African midfielder. Last season, he played 27 La Liga matches and averaged 41.1 passes, 2.3 tackles, 2.1 interceptions and 1.2 clearances per game while maintaining a pass completion rate of 84.1%. With all the departures, he looks set to be a guaranteed starter, and will need to operate at the highest level.
The last of the teams, Villarreal also had a strong campaign last time around, as they finished in fifth place. However, they were 10 points away from the Champions League places, so their primary objective should be to close that gap down.
Transfers: Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo were brought in from near-rivals Valencia, while the Yellow Submarine also signed Takefusa Kubo on a season-long loan. The departures saw captain Bruno Soriano hang up his boots, while Santi Cazorla left for Qatar.
Key Player: Gerard Moreno – The 28 year-old striker looks to be at the peak of his goal-scoring powers, as he enjoyed his best-ever La Liga campaign, netting 18 goals and setting up five more in the process. Villarreal will hope that he can continue scoring at that rate, and perhaps even cross 20 goals.
Top Six: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Atlético Madrid, Villarreal
Relegated: Eibar, Elche, Cádiz