Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Spanish League

The Spanish League started this weekend. It will be an interesting season for one of the strongest leagues in Europe. Last year, many took it for granted that the Super-team from Real Madrid would take the title, because of the many stars.
But if there ever was a lesson from Real Madrid's lousy season, it must be that a team is only as good as its weakest link: Real Madrid had plenty of those last year. This year there has been an attempt to mend these weaknesses with Mr. Camacho and the purchase of star-defenders Walter Samuel and Jonathan Woodgate. At the same time, the return of Fernando Morientes and the purchase of Michael Owen, has made the attack even scarier. However, I do not think Real Madrid is that strong: firstly, while a scary attack, they cannot play with five strikers... Secondly the team is still in need of a central midfielder. In any case, I do expect that we will see some amazing goals from Real Madrid this season, and some better defending than last year.
Valencia was a bit of a suprise last year, but a very well-deserved champion. With Mr. Benitez gone to Liverpool though, I am in doubt that they will keep up the work with Mr. Ranieri, whose overly defensive tactics don't go well with the spirit of Valencia. In any case, the team is strong: a great midfield around Ruben Baraja and David Albelda, and two excellent players on the flanks with Vicente and Rufete. Defense, like last year, will be hard to beat for any striker with Roberto Ayala and Marchena. On attack, Mista had a great season last year, although Ranieri seems to be putting his money on the new purchase from Juventus, Di Vaio. In any case, Valencia will be a strong contester for the title again this year.'
Deportivo La Coruña has been used to a top spot for many years, and I believe the Galicians again will be there. Led by Mr. Irureta for many years, the team has not overly changed form last years: still a broad group of technically good players, who played a memorable game against Milan in the Champions League last season. Valerón, Victor and Mauro Silva form one of the best mid-fields in Europe, and the attack with Walter Pandiani and Albert Luque is pure poison.
A very good bet for the championship this year is Barcelona. After a lousy start last season, Mr. Rijkaard's team finished off second in the lague, after an amazing streak of victories in the spring. With entertaining attacking football, there is great expectation that Barcelona might return to its former glory. And looking at this years team, it looks even stronger than last year: New strikers Henrik Larsson and Eto'o can scare any defense. In midfield, Barcelona has pure magic: new players Ludovic Giuly and Deco, together with Ronaldinho, Xavi and Santiago Motta. In defense, Marquez, Puyol and Van Brockhorst. I personally believe that Barcelona is currently the strongest team in Spain, and the best bet for a champion.
It is a long season though... and there are other teams: watch out for Zaragoza, Atletico Madrid and Villareal. These teams have very strong squads, which I believe can surprise positively this year.

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