Now that the Games are over and the high-flying, dazzling Olympic feats have been replaced with regularly-scheduled football matches, the world shifts back into its local sports and rivalries. But none do football quite the way the Spanish league, or La Liga, does it. In Catalonia, reigning kings FC Barcelona are ready for a killer season. Down in Madrid, teams Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid spent the last year battling it out, with Atlético giving Real Madrid a run for their money despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s stardom. In the meantime, La Liga officials are cracking down on clubs that don’t sell enough tickets. Confused? Don’t worry. Here is our can’t-miss guide to the La Liga 2016-2017 season.
While Barcelona regularly dominates in winning league titles, Real Madrid has won the Champions League in two of the last three years. As this is Zinedine Zidane’s first whole year as club manager, he’s under intense pressure for the team to perform. Luckily, star players Cristiano Ronaldo and Welshman Gareth Bale continue to demonstrate the grace and power of the team, with Bale scoring two out of the three goals in the game against Real Sociedad last week. With a solid start to the season, maybe Real Madrid are in perfect position to nab another title this year.
While FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are the two Spanish teams you’ve certainly heard of, Madrid possesses a third: Atlético Madrid, who came in third in La Liga just last year, barely behind their two biggest competitors. This year, they managed to keep all their best players, and even added Kevin Gaimero and the long-awaited Nico Gaitan. Although Antoine Griezmann’s suspension helped to ensure their rather disappointing 1-1 first game this season (against Alaves), Atlético Madrid is not to be written off in this La Liga 2016-2017 season, and could deliver a stunning league victory.
Of all the teams in the La Liga 2016-2017 season, this is the team to beat, and everyone knows it. FC Barcelona enjoys an international reputation as one of the best football clubs in Europe–star Lionel Messi is a household name in every country with a football team. The stadium is enormous (and available to tour!), and weekends have it packed full of fans that scream, sing, and cheer. This year, the team is looking good, with new additions like midfielder Denis Suarez of Manchester City youth, and French defenders Lucas Digne and Samuel Umtiti. With a legendary trio of forwards (Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar), Barcelona crushed Real Betis 6-2 in their first game of the season. It’s clear that these champions will be tough to beat.
The La Liga 2016-2017 season is filled with exciting opportunities and challenges for the other Spanish teams, too.
Although Málaga lost their coach Javi Gracia, replacement Juande Ramos has the energy and experience they need to succeed. Osasuna have years of experience in the form of Enrique Martin Monreal, their successful manager, and they are expected to do well. Athletic Bilbao has one gem–Unai Lopez, whose tough approach to the midfield could help to raise the team’s rankings. Depor managed to nab Florin Andone, a feat after how he tore up the field for Romania at Euro 2016.
Real Sociedad, notorious for their inconsistency, is not really expected to go far, and their loss against Real Madrid last week only proves it. Unfortunately for Valencia fans, they lost talented midfielder Andre Gomes to Barcelona, and haven’t been able to replace him. While there’s always a chance of a surprising turnaround, it doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for this team. Granada gained Paco Gomez, but the loss of stars Adalberto Penaranda, Isaac Success, and Youssef El-Arabi is sure to hurt them this season. Sporting Gijon have lost important players, as well: Bernardo, Luis Hernandez, and Jony have been an integral part of the team’s successes for the last few years.
Real Betis has added many new players, many of them young up-and-coming stars. Despite the loss to Barcelona, perhaps the largely-new team will coalesce into a rhythm. Las Palmas has done the same, adding in new players and retaining Roque Mesa, but it’s not clear how well they will do together. Basque team Eibar gained additional players, and since they have bargained for stellar player in the past, they might have some talented people here, but the likelihood of this is unclear. Espanyol have drafted several players from other teams, and while they’re hoping to combine them into an incredible team, only time will tell. Although Leganés now boast the coveted midfielder Gabriel, whether or not they will continue last year’s moderate success is not confirmed. Alavés has talented Theo Hernandez and Marcos Llorente on loan from Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, respectively, and while the rest of the team isn’t great, we might see some exciting moments from them.
The Camera Crackdown
One unexpected element to the La Liga 2016-2017 season is the brand-new rule put in place by the higher-ups: the fine that all football clubs will receive if the sections of the stadium facing the TV cameras are less than 75% full. If they are less than 50% full, the fine will double. Struggling to compete with the English Premier League and hoping to carve out a more secure spot in the overseas television market, La Liga has recognized that showing a game completely packed with cheering fans will sell more tickets than a game with a few dozen people watching in random spots across the stands. To enforce this, the league will send someone to matches to ensure that the teams are complying with the regulations.
Check out the full schedule right here, so you can follow your favorite team to victory. If that favorite team is Barça, then you’re in luck–as Lifestyle Barcelona is a registered agent, we can arrange hospitality and regular tickets for FC Barcelona. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your request!
What team are you most excited for this season? Let us know in the comments!