3 La Liga stories to follow as the season resumes
La Liga is coming back this week, and so are many interesting stories across the league. Here is a preview of what’s ahead of us.
The second half of the La Liga season is kicking off this weekend after almost a two-month break for the World Cup. The league is coming back with a bang and there is a lot to look forward to for the next few months in Spain, including a title race, a fight for European places, and tight relegation battles.
Will the trophy return to Barcelona?
Barcelona hasn’t won La Liga since 2019 when Ernesto Valverde was still the manager, Josep María Bartomeu was still the president, and Lionel Messi was still putting up magical performances. So much has changed since then, and Barcelona is still in a rebuilding phase trying to get back to its glory days, both on the field and in the financial department.
They have started this season well, winning twelve out of fourteen games so far. The only draw came in the first game of the season against Rayo Vallecano and the only loss came against Real Madrid. Things aren’t looking so good elsewhere for Barcelona though, as they were disappointingly eliminated from the Champions League and will now play in the Europa League for consecutive seasons. But that will help them focus more on the league and bring the trophy back to Camp Nou.
It's an edgy battle for La Liga title between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid ⚔️🇪🇸🏆#FCBarcelona #RealMadrid #LaLigaSantander pic.twitter.com/2qvHxq4Qtn
— Sportskeeda Football (@skworldfootball) December 21, 2022
Real Madrid is also in a transitional period after losing Casemiro, who was such an important piece to them in the last seven glorious years. Aurélien Tchouaméni has done well so far to step up in his position and the team was firing on all cylinders before the World Cup break, losing only twice in twenty games played across La Liga and the Champions League.
With Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos getting plenty of rest during the past few weeks, they will feel rejuvenated and play a crucial part in the second half of the season. This title race will be tight and could continue until the last few weeks of the season.
The La Liga top six is crowded
It looks like Atlético Madrid won’t be a part of the title race this season. Not only are they playing poorly in La Liga, but they were also eliminated from the Champions League finishing at the bottom of their group. The club is in fifth place below the two Basque clubs Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, so manager Diego Simeone has plenty of work cut out for him.
It's been 11 years since Atlético Madrid hired Diego Simeone. His trophy haul:
2x La Liga
1x Copa del Rey
2x Europa League
2x UEFA Supercup
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 23, 2022
Real Betis are also playing great fútbol under Manuel Pellegrini and currently are level on points with Atlético. The Andalusian side won the Copa del Rey last season and is in great form this season, so they will probably be another challenger for a Champions League spot.
Valencia and Villarreal are the outside contenders for the European places, as well as Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano, who are both exceeding expectations. With the way the current system is set up, the top four will qualify for the Champions League, while fifth place gets the Europa League and the sixth gets the Conference League, meaning some deserving team is going to get left out.
Sevilla and Celta Vigo need to turn their seasons around
Before the season started, it was expected for both Sevilla and Celta Vigo to be fighting for European places. Sevilla finished the last three seasons in the top four, while Celta brought in ten new players to bolster their squad. However, both teams now find themselves in a relegation battle. They have played a combined 28 games and only won five, which puts them both on track for relegation.
Just remembered that Sevilla are sitting 18th in La Liga with 3 World Champions in their squad 😭
— Brian (@Bri_an8) December 21, 2022
Both clubs have already made big changes to get things back on track. Sevilla fired their manager Julen Lopetegui, who helped them win the Europa League in 2020, and brought back former manager Jorge Sampaoli. Celta also fired their manager Eduardo Coudet and appointed the vastly experienced Carlos Carvalhal.
Sevilla and Celta both have squads good enough to get back to the top half of the table, and they will also have an opportunity to bring in reinforcements during the January transfer window. It might be too late for them to fight for European spots, but don’t expect them to be in the relegation zone for long.