The new La Liga season promises some exciting action ahead this year, and with potential last-minute transfers still possible, the permutations are endless.
Teams and coaches
The new La Liga season is scheduled to begin Friday, August 16, 2019 and end August 24, 2020. The twenty teams competing this year for the Spanish Football championship will be: Alaves, Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Celta Vigo, Eibar, Espanyol, Getafe, Granada, Leganes, Levante, Mallorca, Osasuna, Real Betis, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Valencia, Valladolid, and Villarreal. The teams in italics are the newly promoted sides. The first match will be played this Friday at Bilbao between hosts Athletic and the visiting reigning champions Barcelona.
There will be four teams with new coaches this season, all joining their sides over the summer, Rubi left Espanyol for Real Betis, Asier Garitano takes the reigns at Alaves, the star-crossed Julen Lopetegui takes over at Sevilla, and David Gallego replaces Rubi at Espanyol.
This season, only Argentines Diego Simeone at Atleti and Mauricio Pellegrino at Leganes, and Frenchman Zinadine Zidane at Real Madrid, will be the three foreign managers on the La Liga sidelines. Lionel Messi begins the season as the only non-Spanish captain of any team.
Last year, Barcelona won going away with 87 points to second place Atletico Madrid’s 76, followed by Real Madrid, 19 points behind in third place, and Valencia 26 points behind in fourth. Relegated were Girona, sacrificed at the altar of the remaining Valladolid, Huesca, who could only sum 33 points, and Rayo Vallecano who ended the season with 32 points and a -29-goal differential.
The bottom line was that last La Liga season was one for the funny papers. Despite winning La Liga comfortably, Barcelona lost the Copa final and was eliminated from the UEFA Champions League (UCL) by Liverpool 4-0 at Anfield Stadium. Real Madrid imploded mid-season and never recovered, in any competition, despite Zidane’s return. Simeone was hard put to get one last ounce of ferocious effort from his soon-to-desintegrate Atleti charges and they faded across the board in the stretch. Valencia, who put together a decent domestic campaign and qualified for the UCL, still ended 26 points back, but at least they had the roster to go further and won the Copa del Rey over Barcelona.
Getafe and Espanyol played above their weight and will be in the Europa League this year. Sevilla, who had six coaches at the helm since Unay Emeri left in June of 2016, are still experimenting in that department bringing in their seventh coach—Lopetegui—for the upcoming season. Athletic Bilbao just missed qualifying for European play despite ending the season tied on points with Espanyol. The rest of the table were nearly 40 points off the pace.
The 2019-20 Season
While any serious preview must await the effect of the final transfers—and Neymar’s choice, allegedly between Real Madrid and Barcelona, could well be the season’s decider—we can try to make some preliminary sense of the upcoming La Liga competition as things stand today.
Barcelona is the odds-on favorite to repeat as the only superpower club in Spain with any semblance of order at the top and cohesion on the pitch. Messi is reaching his zenith and with a gimmie Copa America at home next summer, the mid-year Qatar World Cup 30-months later, and three-to-four domestic and continental seasons left before he turns 35-36, time is running out for his claim to be the undisputed GOAT. Count on Suarez and company in Spain, and his national teammates in Argentina, to do all they can to ensure he goes out with a bang.
Atletico and Real are, each in their own way, in a rebuilding mode of sorts at Madrid and it will be up to Simeone and Zidane to mold their new charges into teams who can compete, but don’t expect miracles at the Spanish capital. Valencia has the opportunity, again, to go far in all competitions if Marcelino Garcia Toral can marshal his resources perfectly. Expect them to ride the energy and experience of last season to a competitive 2019-20.
That said, absent any major revelations, injuries, or transfers, expect Barca to win it all again, Atleti and Real to vie for second and Valencia to vie with the up-and-comer of the season for the fourth and fifth places. Here is the week by week calendar of La Liga matches for the season.
With days to go before the season begins, anything can still happen to turn the tables on this season, and if changes warrant we will revisit our preview, but the closer opening day gets, the better the odds that this preview stands.