Wednesday, August 24, 2005
La Liga prospects for 2005/06
MADRID, Aug 24 (Reuters)
Coach: Frank Rijkaard
After ending a barren six-year spell with a convincing
victory in last season's title race, Barca decided to make
minimal changes to their squad.
Experienced Dutch midfielder Mark van Bommel and talented
Spanish winger Santi Ezquerro are the only two recruits, both
players arriving at the Nou Camp on free transfers.
With Sweden striker Henrik Larsson, midfielders Thiago Motta
and Edmilson, and defender Gabri returning from serious knee
injuries that kept them out for most of last season, Frank
Rijkaard has a far more powerful squad this time round.
Unlike Real Madrid the team will need no time to bed in and
pre-season results suggest their rivals will face an uphill task
in stopping the Catalans from winning a second successive title.
REAL MADRID (2)
Coach: Vanderlei Luxemburgo
After two off-colour seasons without winning a major trophy
Real have undergone a €60million ($73.40 million) makeover
that should allow them to challenge for domestic and European
honours once again.
Uruguayan duo Pablo Garcia and Carlos Diogo have been
brought in to strengthen the side's defensive resources while
forwards Robinho and Julio Baptista have given the new-look
front line a distinctly Brazilian flavour.
Former World and European Player of the Year Luis Figo,
centre-back Walter Samuel and the versatile Santiago Solari have
all left for Inter Milan while the future of England striker
Michael Owen is still up in the air.
Despite the hype surrounding Robinho's arrival, the talented
21-year-old forward is likely to need time to adapt to European
football and Luxemburgo may struggle to keep all his players
happy as he rotates his squad.
Coach: Manuel Pellegrini
After last season's best-ever third-place finish, Villarreal
have made typically astute reinforcements to complement their
Experienced Italian midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi, Dutch
international Jan Kromkamp, Ecuador international Antonio
Valencia and Argentine goalkeeper Mariano Barbosa add new depth
to a top-quality squad.
With the mercurial Juan Roman Riquelme running the show and
Golden Shoe winner Diego Forlan hoping to continue his rich vein
of form up front, they should be a match for anyone.
REAL BETIS (4)
Coach: Llorenc Serra Ferrer
Betis have boosted their midfield with the addition of
classy playmaker Albert Rivera from relegated Levante and the
highly-rated Miguel Angel from Malaga, but the Andalucians still
lack strength in depth.
Once again Brazilian striker Ricardo Oliveira and Spain
winger Joaquin will shoulder most of the burden in attack.
Injury or a loss of form for either player could leave Serra
Ferrer's side struggling for goals.
Coach: Miguel Angel Lotina
Unless they can sign someone to replace Maxi Rodriguez and
support the reliable Raul Tamudo up front the Catalans will have
no hope of matching last season's impressive fifth-place finish.
The Espanyol midfield, on the other hand, looks strong with
Argentine youth international Pablo Zabaleta, Brazilian Eduardo
Costa, Albert Riera and former Real Madrid player Juanfran
providing support for inspirational playmaker Ivan de la Pena.
Coach: Juande Ramos
After fears that the loss of leading striker Baptista to
Real Madrid would undermine the team's chances of repeating the
success of last season, the arrival of Javier Saviola, Frederic
Kanoute and Luis Fabiano has more than restored optimism at the
With Brazilians Adriano Correia, Renato and Daniel Alves
combining with a talented crop of youngsters including Jesus
Navas and Sergio Ramos, the Andalucians are likely to be up
there challenging for European places once again.
Coach: Quique Sanchez Flores
All change at Valencia with former player Sanchez Flores
taking over the coaching duties after working a minor miracle in
keeping Getafe in the top flight last season.
Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert and Uruguay winger Mario
Regueiro have joined as free agents while the club has spent 20
million euros on bringing in Portugal right back Miguel Monteiro
from Benfica and Spain striker David Villa from Zaragoza.
On paper they should be challenging for a Champions League
place, but a serious knee injury to Brazilian signing Edu has
scuppered plans for a new-look midfield and pressure from the
notoriously fickle fans could hamper their progress.
DEPORTIVO CORUNA (8)
Coach: Joaquin Caparros
A change of guard at Depor with coach Javier Irureta leaving
after seven highly successful seasons and loyal servants Mauro
Silva and Fran retiring.
Club president Augusto Cesar Lendoiro has continued his
policy of belt-tightening and Canada midfielder Julian de Guzman
is the only major recruit, while last season's leading scorer
Albert Luque looks to be on his way out.
Depor's ace in the pack is new coach Joaquin Caparros. The
Andalucian worked wonders with limited resources at Sevilla and
should bring the best out of promising young forwards Ivan
Carril and Ruben Castro.
ATHLETIC BILBAO (9)
Coach: Jose Luis Mendilibar
Options are limited for a team that only relies on players
from the Basque region although new coach Jose Luis Mendilibar,
who took neighbours Eibar so close to promotion last season, has
the right credentials for the job.
Attacking left back Asier del Horno has decamped to Chelsea
for a club record 12 million euros and talented winger Santi
Ezquerro has left for Barcelona on a free.
With a crop of promising youngsters including Javier Casas,
Jonan Garcia and Fernando Llorente coming through to join the
likes of Fran Yeste, Ismael Urzaiz and Joseba Etxeberria the
Lions should be looking for a UEFA Cup place.
Coach: Antonio Tapia
Another rebuilding job for the Andalucians with the entire
front line of Marcio Amoroso, Paulo Wanchope and Fernando Baiano
leaving in the close season.
Salva Ballesta, who scored 18 goals when at Malaga two
seasons ago, returns to form a combative strike partnership with
Uruguayan international Richard Morales.
Coach Antonio Tapia did a great job after taking over midway
through last season but his side face an uphill struggle
especially after the loss of influential midfielder Miguel
ATLETICO MADRID (11)
Coach: Carlos Bianchi
There is a rare atmosphere of optimism at the Calderon at
the start of this season.
With the appointment of former Boca Juniors coach Carlos
Bianchi, Atletico look to have a boss with a reputation to match
the club's expectations while there has been an unusual logic
behind the transfer policy in the close season.
Live-wire Bulgaria winger Martin Petrov, former Chelsea
striker Mateja Kezman and Argentine duo Maxi Rodriguez and
Luciano Galletti have been brought in to boost the midfield and
provide much-needed support for Fernando Torres up front.
If the goals do come and the defence remains as water-tight
as last season then Atletico could be battling for a Champions
REAL ZARAZOZA (12)
Coach: Victor Munoz
Borussia Dortmund striker Ewerthon and former Barcelona
player Sergio Garcia have been brought in following leading
scorer David Villa's departure to Valencia.
Goalkeeper Cesar has joined on a free from Real Madrid
although the core of last season's squad remains the same.
Another mid-table finish beckons.
Coach: Bernd Schuster
Bernd Schuster has a tough job stepping into the shoes of
former coach Quique Sanchez Flores who kept the modest
Madrilenos up against the odds in their first season in the top
Swiss midfielder Fabio Celestini, Serbian striker Veljko
Paunovic and Argentine fullback Anibal Matellan are the leading
recruits and survival will be a major achievement.
REAL SOCIEDAD (14)
Coach: Jose Maria Amorrortu
Sociedad no longer have charismatic Valery Karpin after the
former Russian international retired at the end of last season
although they have managed to hang on to Turkish striker Nihat
Kahveci who is back from a serious knee injury.
If Nihat renews his profitable partnership with the tireless
Darko Kovacevic then Sociedad should have few problems securing
a mid-table finish. If either gets injured they could be in
Coach: Javier Aguirre
Strikers John Aloisi and Richard Morales have gone, and Savo
Milosevic and the rangy Pierre Webo will now be supported by
Argentine forward Bernardo Romeo.
The Navarrans have replaced Pablo Garcia with the similarly
abrasive Marcelo Sosa in midfield while former Manchester United
goalkeeper Ricardo has also been added to the squad. Overall the
Navarrans look short of cover.
RACING SANTANDER (16)
Coach: Manuel Preciado
A difficult season ahead for the Cantabrians who have lost
all three of their key attacking players, Mario Regueiro, Yossi
Benayoun and Javi Guerrero.
The modest reinforcements are led by Dalmat brothers
Stephane and Wilfried, and Espanyol midfielder Oscar Serrano. A
relegation struggle could be on the cards.
REAL MALLORCA (17)
Coach: Hector Cuper
After a Houdini-like escape from relegation last season,
Cuper has decided to bring in a host of recruits to ensure they
stay clear of trouble this time round.
Argentine trio Eduardo Tuzzio, Jonas Gutierrez and Adrian
Peralta have arrived on Cuper's personal recommendation and the
defence and midfield look strong, but the islanders are
seriously short of firepower up front.
CADIZ (Second division champions)
Coach: Victor Esparrago
Last season's second division champions will try to copy
Getafe's feat and remain in the top flight without breaking the
Uruguayan winger Fabio Estoyanoff is the most exciting
signing, yet Victor Esparrago's side are in for a tough time in
their first Primera Liga campaign in 13 years.
CELTA VIGO (runners-up in second division)
Coach: Fernando Vazquez
Of all the promoted sides Celta have expended the most
energy and resources on reinforcements and have the look of a
team that should be challenging for Europe rather than fighting
Argentine international defender Diego Placente has been
drafted in from Bayer Leverkusen and Brazilian striker Fernando
Baiano joins after a fine season at Malaga.
Midfielders Antonio Nunez and Jorge, striker Javi Guerrero
and keeper Esteban are other interesting recruits. However, the
defence remains suspect.
ALAVES (3rd in second division)
Coach: Chuchi Cos
A return to the top flight for flamboyant club president
Dimitry Piterman who sacked new coach Rafael Monfort after less
than six weeks in the job and reappointed right-hand man Chuchi
Cos, who steered the club to promotion.
The experienced Mauricio Pellegrino has been brought in to
marshal the defence after a brief spell at Liverpool and Arnaud
Antchouet and John Aloisi lead the attack, although the midfield
looks a little lightweight. The Basque side could spring a
surprise or two but will do exceptionally well to stay clear of
the relegation battle.