La Liga 2014/15 season big three preview: Real, Barca and Atleti
Atletico Madrid will be looking to somehow manage another incredible achievement next season by defending their La Liga title, after holding off cash-rich Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona for their first crown in 18 years.
However, all three clubs will be equally determined for the grand domestic prize, and are hoping to make marquee acquisitions ahead of the new season to bolster their sides.
La Liga champions Atletico (10/1 third-favourites to retain their crown) are bracing themselves for a mass exodus of their players, who were also beaten finalists in the Champions League.
Star striker Diego Costa has already gone to Chelsea, while midfielder Tiago has also left and could re-join the London club as well. On top of that, the likes of defenders Diego Godin, Joao Miranda, Filipe Luis as well as Koke and Arda Turan have all been linked away form the Vicente Calderon.
However, Atleti have already made a move for Bayern Munich attacker frontman Mario Mandzukic, to replace 36-goal striker last season Costa. The German giants confirmed on their twitter page: “Mario Mandzukic (28) has completed a transfer to Atletico Madrid. All the best, Mario!”
The Croatian has signed on a four-year deal, and fans at the club will have some of their fears eased having snapped up the player, who scored 18 times in the Bundesliga last term.
It seems that the 2014/15 campaign will be a year of reconstruction for Diego Simeone’s side, so expect Atletico to finish behind their richer rivals. This will be a season where the likes of upcoming stars such as 19-year-old midfielder Saul Niguez can build experience and shine.
Real (10/11 odds-on favourites for La Liga) finished third in the league last term, level on points with Barca and three behind Atletico, but the club will be elated nonetheless after finally winning ‘La Decima’ – their 10th Champions League.
With that incredible feat now out the of way, they can concentrate on getting their top-flight trophy since 2012, and are hoping to persuade Colombia sensation James Rodriguez to come to the Bernabeu.
The 22-year-old Monaco magician has already stated his desire to move to Spain and the white half of Madrid in particular. “It would be a dream to play [in La Liga]. It is the best league in the world. I prefer Real Madrid to Barcelona,” he said.
Reports suggest he could be available for around £60m, and if he were to link up with the likes of Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and world record transfer Gareth Bale, it would be difficult to look past them winning the league.
Last season’s runners-up Barca look set to sign Luis Suarez but can they balance all three world class forwards in one team – with Lionel Messi and Neymar?
Bitter rivals Real at least will have the luxury of being able to integrate their superstars in pre-season, but the Catalans have been hit with two, possibly three, problems.
Brazil hero Neymar, who missed his country’s 7-1 thrashing against Germany, is injured with a fractured vertebrae, meaning he will be out for much of pre-season at least and lacking fitness for Barca’s first La Liga game.
If that wasn’t bad enough, FIFA have turned down an appeal from Uruguay against Suarez’s ban from all football. New boss Luis Enrique is still set to complete a big money deal for the current Liverpool ace, but will not be able to call on his services until the end of October.
On top of that, Barca will welcome back a burnt out Messi, with the Argentine to lead out his country in the World Cup final. The 27-year-old was not as impressive as in recent years last season and, although he has enjoyed a decent tournament in Brazil, he has almost literally carried his nation to the finals.
Messi has had to come through two 120 minute-matches this competition, and it will be very difficult to see him live up to his usual expectations throughout the whole of next term again.
Barca (11/10 second-favourites to win La Liga) should still have enough in them to finish runners-up, but Real have too much fire-power and freshness in them.