La Liga preview – part six

We’ve made it. Today’s post is a veritable vault of va va voom. ¡Vámonos!

Valencia 

Los ché are reigning Copa del Rey champions and will take their place in the Champions League this season having finished fourth in La Liga last time out. Fans of my age will have fond memories of Valencia’s run to two consecutive finals in this competition at the start of the century. While the current crop is not quite at the level of Mendieta and co., Marcelino has made tangible progress since his appointment two years ago and, at their best, they are a devastating opponent. So, what could go wrong? Peter Lim.

Since buying the club in 2014, the Singaporean billionaire has not been shy to experiment with the coaching staff and club hierarchy. He hired and fired Nuno Espirito Santos, Pako Ayestarán, Gary Neville, Cesare Prandelli and Salvador González before settling on Marcelino in the summer of 2017. These previous coaches ranged from the reasonably successful (Nuno), to the downright funny (Neville). Other staff and even presidents have not avoided the trapdoor either: sporting director Rufete was one of the early casualties, before taking up a similar role at Espanyol where he has succeeded in implementing a coherent approach and transfer strategy. 

Fans at the Mestalla were walking on air after the side’s thrilling victory over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final in May, but the dark clouds of uncertainty have shrouded what should have been a bright outlook for Valencia. As a result, the squad has not been developed as they would have hoped.

Harry Redknapps’s wheeler dealers

The biggest move so far has been the signing of young Uruguayan striker Maxi Gómez from Celta Vigo, with Santi Mina going back to the Galician club. Jasper Cillesen will be first choice goalkeeper after joining from Barcelona, again with Neto heading in the opposite direction. Eliaquim Mangala was a free transfer from Manchester City and will compete for a spot in defence.

The storm on the horizon, however, is the reportedly imminent sale of star striker Rodrigo Moreno to rivals Atlético Madrid. This would surely have repercussions in the transfer market as it would leave Valencia scrambling for a suitable replacement before September 2nd.

Possible starting XI

Possible Valencia starting lineup 19/20
Possible Valencia starting lineup 19/20

David Bowie’s starman: Carlos Soler

Carlos Soler with the 2019 UEFA Euro under-21 trophy

Another one of la rojita’s stars from this summer, Soler could continue his development this eason and provide the improvement that has been lacking in the transfer market.

Have a look a the full squad on Transfermarkt here.

(Modern) moment of glory

Recent years have been an endurance test for Valencia fans, with the looming threat of bankruptcy and then the unpredictable nature of Peter Lim’s ownership. These facts made last year’s Copa del Rey victory all the sweeter.

Highlights of the Copa del Rey final 2019

FiveThirtyEight forecast: 4th


Valladolid

The only team from Castilla y León in Spain’s top division are owned by Ronaldo. That’s right, fat Ronaldo.

Ronaldo at the José Zorrilla stadium, Valladolid-
The original, best, and chubbiest Ronaldo

Everything else is secondary, really, but Valladolid are looking forward to their second year back in La Liga, having ensured survival, somewhat against the odds, on the penultimate day of last season. It will be an uphill battle once more for Sergio González’s troops at the José Zorrilla.

Harry Redknapp’s wheeler dealers

The balance sheet is looking a bit healthier following the sale of centre-cack Fernando Calero to Espanyol, but there has been precious little in the way of reinvestment. Los pucelanos will be heavily reliant on loan signings such as Jorge de Frutos, Javi Sánchez, Andrei Lunin (all Real Madrid), Federico Barba (Chievo), Pedro Porro (Man City) and Sandro Ramírez (Everton). Ronaldo hopes to get one more loan favour from his friends in Madrid in the shape of exciting Japanese prospect Kubo.

Possible starting XI

Possible Valladolid starting lineup 19/20
Possible Valladolid starting lineup 19/20

David Bowie’s starman: Rubén Alcaraz

Rubén Alcaraz of Real Valladolid.
How many Ronaldos are there, Rubén?

Calero and Alcaraz provided the spine that enabled Valladolid to stay in the league last season. With the former gone, it looks like the former Girona man will have to pick up the slack.

Have a look at the full squad on Transfermarkt here.

(Modern) Moment of glory

There is no point coming up to go straight back down, so last year’s victory away to Rayo Vallecano to ensure the continued top-flight status of the club was a big moment.

Sergi Guardiola scored the goal that kept Valladolid in LaLiga

FiveThirtyEight forecast: 18th


Villarreal

The yellow submarine is the biggest success story of modern Spanish football. While others clubs (see Valencia, Deportivo la Coruña etc.) flew too close to the sun thanks to lavish spending in the nineties and early 2000s, Villarreal appear to be here to stay. The fact that they have suffered two relegations, in 1999 and 2012, only to bounce back at the first opportunity on both occasions, backs this theory up. The team from the small Valencian town with a population of just 50,000 can name Marcos Senna, Diego Forlan, Robert Pirès and Juan Román Riquelme among their former stars, but the current squad are yet to add their names to this illustrious list after an uncertain 18/19 campaign which saw them flirting with relegation for long periods.

Harry Redknapp’s wheeler dealers

The defence was in urgent need of attention and Javier Calleja’s team have loaned out defenders Pedraza (Betis), Jaume Costa (Valencia) and Álvaro González (Marseille), with replacements Raúl Albiol (Napoli), Alberto Moreno (Liverpool) and Rubén Peña (Eibar) coming in on permanent deals. The hefty sum received for Pablo Fornals (West Ham) paid for these purchases, and Moi Gómez (Sporting Gijón) was picked up on the cheap to provide support for Santi Cazorla.

Possible starting XI

Possible Villarreal lineup 19/20
Possible Villarreal lineup 19/20

David Bowie’s starman: Santi Cazorla

What a legend.

Cazorla scores for Arsenal in the 2014 FA Cup final

Have a look at the full squad on Transfermarkt here.

(Modern) moment of glory

Villarreal, under Manuel Pellegrini, knocked out Rangers and Inter on their way to the Champions league semi-finals in 2006.

Villarreal in the days of Riquelmae and Forlan

Riquelme had a chance to send them into the final at Arsenal’s expense. He probably still wakes up in cold sweats thinking about what happened next.

Riquelme’s face.

FiveThirtyEight forecast: 11th


That’s your lot then. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that we have missed out Sevilla. Coincidentally, they are the visitors to RCDE stadium for Espanyol’s opening LaLiga match tomorrow evening at 7pm (Spanish time). Join us tomorrow, then, for a bumper season-and-match-preview extravaganza!

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