?With the transfer window slowly drawing to a close, the squads of each of La Liga’s big three, Atletico, Real and Barcelona, are beginning to take shape.
Both of the clubs located in capital are in transitional phases, and this has been reflected in an extremely active transfer window for both Atletico and Real.
Finish the sentence ______ will win La Liga this season.
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Current champions Barcelona on the other hand have been more reserved, saving themselves for a number of marquee signings to compliment their already strong squad.
Which of these approaches will prove to be the most effective, and most importantly which of these sides is placed to win ?La Liga this season?
Though perhaps not possessing the strongest squad of the three teams on paper, ?Atletico probably possess the best manager and the clearest tactical plan.
A master-tactician, adept at getting the most out of his players by deploying a stringent counter-attacking system, Diego Simeone continues to be Atletico’s biggest asset. ?
In the transfer market, the
In ?Antoine Griezmann, Atletico have not just lost their top scorer, and the only player to even get ?into double figures last season, but also the source of their attacking impetus.
Though the Frenchman’s goals were of course vital, the 28-year-old has also performed a key creative role over the past five season, accruing 68 assists in the process.
Simeone will be desperately hoping that 19-year-old Felix lives up to his hype, but replacing a player as accomplished as the World Cup winning Griezmann may be too much of an ask for the teenager.
The Frenchman has not been the only high-profile departure from the Wanda Metropolitano this summer. Club stalwarts Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez, Rodri and Juanfran, have all followed their talisman out of the door.
This has the potential to create a leadership void in the dressing room and Simeone will need other long-serving players such as Koke and
Perhaps, the biggest area for concern at Atletico though, is their misfiring front line.
Striker Diego Costa has been plagued with discipline issues over the past few years, whilst new signing Alvaro Morata joins the squad after having a torrid time at Chelsea in the first half of last season.
The pair managed just 20 goals between them in all competitions last campaign. That number will need to seriously increase if Atletico are to have any chance of lifting the La Liga trophy in May.
Whilst Atletico have had a number of their more seasoned players depart this transfer window, ?Real continue to posses one of the most ?experienced squads in football.
Los Blancos have a pair of World Cup winners in their squad in ?Sergio Ramos and ?Toni Kroos, whilst many of the members of Real’s Champions League triumphs over the past few years, remain at the club.
This experience is always invaluable in a title race, and could prove to be a decisive factor should the side find themselves in a close battle for the La Liga trophy.
In Luka Modric, ?Casemiro and Kroos, Real can also boast one of the best midfield triumvirates in world football.
Casemiro as the dogged enforcer, Kroos as the metronome and Modric as the creative genius, all three of these players will need to be on top form this season. Especially considering that Mateo Kovacic will not be there to assist them this season, after he made his loan move to Chelsea a permanent one.
Of course, we cannot discuss Real’s chances without mentioning the signing of a certain Belgian attacker.
The arrival of ?Eden Hazard for a sizeable fee of over £100m, was an important statement to other clubs: “last season’s failures were not acceptable, and we are back with a vengeance.”
?One of the major areas of weakness for Real Madrid is the inexperience of their front line.
Though Vinicius Junior is an extremely exciting prospect, as is new signing Luka Jovic, both of them are still in the preliminary stages of their careers.
Their tender ages are bound to breed inconsistent performances, something that Real can ill afford if they want to sustain a serious title challenge.
Another of Los Blancos long-term issues that has reared its ugly head again this off-season, is the propensity of key figures at the club to engage in damaging public arguments.
The two most recent perpetrators of this bickering have been returning manager Zinedine Zidane, and winger ?Gareth Bale.
Barcelona’s main strength lies in one man, and one man alone: ?Lionel Messi. He’s probably still the best player in the world, and as their first leg against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final showed, whilst ?Barca have Messi, they have a good chance of winning ANY game.
Though he has just celebrated his 32nd birthday, Messi shows no signs of letting up any time soon. The Argentine scored 51, yes you read that right, 51 goals last campaign, also chipping in with 21 assists.
Keeping La Pulga fit during the upcoming season may even be enough on its own to reclaim the La Liga title.
It is not just the Messi show at the Camp Nou this season though. The arrival of Antoine Griezmann for
It may seem a crazy thing to say about a man who has won back-to-back league titles, but in Ernesto Valverde Barcelona probably have the weakest manager out of La Liga’s top sides.
Barca’s repeated failures in the Champions League, under his premiership are indicative of Valverde’s occasional tactical naivety in big game situations.
Should the title race go down to the wire, you must question whether he is the man able to orchestrate Barcelona’s success under pressure.
It could also be argued that Barcelona’s ageing squad has the potential to cause them some problems this campaign.
First-teamers such as Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal are all coming towards the end of their respective careers and may require significant rotation in order to keep all of them fit.
If Valverde chooses to prioritise Europe in the latter stages of the season, it could leave Barca short of some of their older star names for some La Liga games.
?It’s obvious isn’t it? Barcelona are without doubt in the best shape to win La Liga this season. The continued brilliance of Lionel Messi, combined with a number of very impressive signings during the summer gives Ernesto Valverde a brilliant chance to secure his third La Liga title.
Atletico Madrid will need record signing?