Can Barcelona Score a Three-peat Hattrick?

In Spain, where football is a religion and ‘tiki-taka’ is the national style of playing, the La Liga kicks off on Friday 16 August 2019. Gear up for the spectacular El Clasicos and the Madrid Derby.

Last season was horrible for Real Madrid. They finished a poor third behind city rival Atletico Madrid in the Spanish La Liga. Meanwhile, Barcelona – like Manchester City in the English Premier League – is looking for a three-peat hattrick of La Liga titles. 

The $200-million mystery is Brazilian Neymar da Silva Santos Junior. Will the Catalans finally grab the world’s most expensive footballer? Whispers are that Paris Saint-Germain is looking to swap Neymar with Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho. Real Madrid’s offer of a swap with mid-fielder Luka Modric for Neymar seems less attractive. 

Here’s our Top Six for La Liga 2019-20:

1. Barcelona

Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona is the absolute favourite to retain the La Liga title. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are their only challengers. It’s the most balanced side, adding Antoine Griezmann (striker), Frenkie de Jong (mid-fielder), Junior Firpo (left back) and Neto (goalkeeper) to their ranks this summer. Attacking troika of Suarez, Dembele and Messi will get added power if they bag Neymar as well. 

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2. Real Madrid

A forgettable 2018/19 campaign and a disastrous pre-season – with defeats to Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Tottenham (16 goals conceded vs 11 goals scored) – cannot write off Real Madrid. Le Galacticos have added attacking mid-fielder Eden Hazard, centre-forward Luka Jović, defenders Ferland Mendy and Eder Militao, and youngsters Rodrygo Goes and Takefusa Kubo. Zinedine Zidane needs to bring it all together… 

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3. Atletico Madrid

Despite the loss of its stars Antoine Griezmann to Barca and Rodri to Man City, positivity surrounds Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. 19-year-old Portuguese sensation Joao Felix, acquired from Benfica via a €126 million transfer, looks set to take up Griezmann’s role, with support from 20-year-old Serb Ivan Saponjic. Defenders Kieran Trippier, Mario Hermoso and Renan Lodl, as well as mid-fielders Marcos Llorente and Hector Herrera, make a young side that lives up to Atletico’s best traditions. 

Atletico Madrid
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4. Valencia

Marcelino's Valencia won the Copa del Rey, its first trophy after 2008, against Barcelona! It reached fourth place in La Liga, with Champions League qualification. Can 'Los Ches' reduce the gap with La Liga's big three? It has gained goalkeper Jasper Cillessen, striker Maxi Gomez and left winger Denis Cheryshev. It has lost Neto to Barca and sold striker Simone Zaza to Torino. Its best hope seems to be retaining fourth place and Champions League qualification. 

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5. Sevilla

Sevilla’s new manager, Julen Lopetegui, has spent over €50 million in transfers. New centre-back Jules Koundé will partner Diego Carlos. New mid-fielders Joan Jordan and Óliver Torres may start this season. Pablo Sarabia’s departure is a huge loss, which will be compounded if Ben Yedder goes too – they netted 45 times last season. Can Marseille winger Lucas Ocampos replace them, supported by Luuk de Jong and Munas Dabbur? Lopetegui aims for a fourth place finish, but a top six finish and a better Europa League showing is more realistic. 

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6. Villareal

Last season, it was in the bottom six. It even looked in danger of relegation. Manager Javi Calleja was sacked only to be re-hired. The club has the best academy in Spain, but regularly sells its brightest young talents; Pablo Fornals was the latest. Alberto Moreno and Rubén Peña have been added in defence, and midfielder André Zambo Anguissa is on loan from Fulham. Wingers Samuel Chukwueze and Santi Cazorla need support to click. The team looks good to break into the top six and Europa Cup qualification. 

The La Liga kicks off past midnight on Friday 16 August 2019, when Atletico Bilbao takes on defending champions Barcelona at 12.30am. Saturday 17 August 2019 matches include Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo at 8.30pm, Valencia vs Real Sociedad at 10.30pm and Villareal vs Granada past midnight at 12.30am. Sunday 18 August 2019’s big matches are Espanyol vs Sevilla at 10.30pm and Atletico Madrid vs Getafe CF past midnight at 1.30am. 

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