Season preview: 2014-15 La Liga

Sports Mole previews the 2014-15 La Liga campaign with an in-depth look at all 20 clubs.


In: Mauro dos Santos, Tomer Hemed, Ximo Navarro, Ruben, Quique (all free transfers), Wellington Silva (Arsenal, loan), Thievy Bifouma (Espanyol, loan), Julian (Sevilla), Teerasil Dangda (Muangthong United, loan), Thomas (Atletico Madrid, loan)

Out: Aleix Vidal (Sevilla, undisclosed), Raul Garcia, Marcelo Silva, Esteban, Rafita, Marcos Tebar, Oscar Diaz (all free transfers)

Last season: 17th

Key player: Corona

Almeria midfielder Corona celebrates a goal against Barcelona on April 9, 2011© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Almeria survived on the final weekend of the campaign last season, eventually finishing in 17th position. They have lost their best player this summer, however, with Aleix Vidal moving on to Sevilla. They have been active in the market, but most of their new additions have arrived on free transfers and it will take time for the newcomers to settle.

Francisco Rodriguez's side finished with the third-worst goal difference last season and it is difficult to see where the goals are going to come from once more. The skipper Corona will be expected to contribute in terms of assists, but big responsibility will fall onto the shoulders of Jonathan Zongo, with much expected from the forward. Wellington Silva and Thievy Bifouma have also arrived on loan to boost the attack, but they appear lightweight in all the key areas. It looks set to be another difficult campaign.

First game: Espanyol (H) August 23

Prediction: 19th


In: Borja Viguera (Alaves, undisclosed)

Out: Ander Herrera (Manchester United, £32m), Raul Fernandez, Inigo Perez, Borja Ekiza (all free transfers), Jonas Ramalho (Girona, loan), Ubai Albizua, Iker Guarrotxena (both Tenerife, loan), Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta (Real Zaragoza, loan)

Last season: 4th

Key player: Aritz Aduriz

Athletic Bilbao's forward Aritz Aduriz celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Athletic Club Bilbao vs Malaga CF at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on April 14, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Bilbao have signed just one new player this summer, but aside from Ander Herrera, who has joined Manchester United, the Basque outfit have managed to keep their squad together. It is a squad full of experience, while the likes of Aymeric Laporte, Iker Muniain and Ander Iturraspe will reap the benefits of a summer of rest. Ernesto Valverde's side lost just eight times in the league last season, with a tally of 70 points enough to secure fourth position in the table.

They will once more be battling for another top-four finish this time around and will again be threatened by the likes of Sevilla, Villarreal and Real Sociedad, while Valencia will also improve. Bilbao's Basque-only policy makes it difficult for them to significantly improve their squad each summer, but they have starved off interest in a number of their key youngsters. The top three all struggled against Bilbao last season, but whether they can secure another top-four finish will depend on their results against the teams around them.

First game: Malaga (A) August 23

Prediction: 5th


In: Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad, £26m), Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich, £19m), Jan Oblak (Benfica, £14m), Raul Jimenez (Club America, £9m), Guilherme Siqueira (Granada, £9m), Angel Correra (San Lorenzo, £7m), Miguel Moya (Getafe, £2.5m), Jesus Gamez (Malaga, £2m), Cristian Ansaldi (Zenit, loan)

Out: Diego Costa (Chelsea, £33m), Filipe Luis (Chelsea, £18m), Adrian Lopez (Porto, £10m), Roberto (Olympiacos, £5m), Joshua Guilavogui (Wolfsburg, loan), Sergio Asenjo (Villarreal, £4m), Javier Manquillo (Liverpool, loan), Oliver Torres (Porto, loan), Diego (free transfer), Ruben Perez (Torino, loan), Thomas (Almeria, loan), David Villa (NYC FC), Andre Moreira (Moreirense, loan), Dani Aranzubia (free transfer), Leo Baptistao (Rayo Vallecano, loan)

Last season: Champions

Key player: Koke

Atletico Madrid's Koke celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Barcelona during their Champions League quarter final match on April 9, 2014© AFP

Sports Mole says

Diego Simeone led Atletico to their first La Liga title since 1996 last term, guiding his side to 28 wins from their 38 league matches. A total of 90 points left them three clear of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the big two in Spain have significantly strengthened their squads this summer. Atletico have also lost key players in the shape of Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois, but have spent wisely, bringing in the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann.

Key players Koke, Miranda and Diego Godin have also been retained and there is no reason why Atletico cannot challenge for the title again next season. They scored 23 fewer goals than Barcelona last season and 27 fewer than Madrid, which suggests that they will need another strong defensive showing in the new campaign. The top three will once more consist of Atletico, Real and Barca, but Simeone could be forced to settle for third this time around due to the summer business that has occurred at both the Bernabeu and Camp Nou.

First game: Rayo Vallecano (A) August 25

Prediction: 3rd


In: Luis Suarez (Liverpool, £65m-£71m), Jeremy Mathieu (Valencia, £18m), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla, £16m), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Borussia Monchengladbach, £10.5m), Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad, £10.5m), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal, £9m)

Out: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal, £33m), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea, £29m), Bojan Krkic (Stoke City, £4.5m), Cristian Tello (Porto, loan), Jonathan dos Santos (Villarreal, £2m), Ibrahim Afellay (Olympiacos, loan), Isaac Cuenca, Oier Olazabal, Victor Valdes, Kerrison, Jose Pinto (all free transfers), Gerard Deulofeu, Denis Suarez (both Sevilla, loan), Carlos Puyol (retired)

Last season: 2nd

Key player: Lionel Messi

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match FC Barcelona vs Manchester City at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 12, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Barcelona failed to pick up a major trophy last season, losing out to Atletico Madrid in both the league and Champions League and to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final. Lionel Messi missed a large chunk of the campaign, however, while Neymar was hit-and-miss during his first campaign in Spain. Both will surely fire in the new season, while there is the small matter of Luis Suarez, who finally completed his move from Liverpool this summer and will be available from the end of October.

Defenders have also been signed in the window, in addition to Ivan Rakitic, who was one of the league's most outstanding players last season. Under new boss Luis Enrique, the signs are extremely strong for the Catalan outfit. Gerardo Martino was guilty of attempting to change the style of the team last season, but Enrique knows the club inside out. Everything is in place for Barcelona, but a noisy pair from the capital will have something to say about their challenge for silverware.

First game: Elche (H) August 24

Prediction: 2nd


In: Pablo Hernandez (O'Higgins, £1.5m), Nemanja Radoja (Vojvodina, £800,000), Joaquin Larrivey, Gustavo Cabral (both free transfers), Sergi Gomez, Carles Planas (both Barcelona B)

Out: Jota (Brentford, £1.3m), Jonathan Vila (Real Oviedo), Cristian Bustos (Mallorca), Samuel Llorca (Real Valladolid, loan), Yoel Rodriguez (Valencia, loan), Mario Bermejo (retired)

Last season: 9th

Key player: Nolito

Celta Vigo's Nolito celebrates after scoring against Sevilla during the La Liga match on March 29, 2014© AFP

Sports Mole says

Luis Enrique performed miracles at Celta last season, helping the club finish ninth in the table, level on points with former Spanish champions Valencia. Enrique has since departed for Barcelona, while a number of their key performers from last season have sought pastures new. Astute signings have been made, however, especially Joaquin Larrivey, who scored a hatful for Rayo Vallecano last season. No team particularly enjoyed playing against Celta last season and that should again be the case in the new campaign.

In relation to the rest of the league, Celta have quite a small squad, at least at the moment. However, there are plenty of goals, with Nolito and Charles both finding the back of the net on a consistent basis last season. Sergi Gomez and Carles Planas have also arrived from Barcelona B to boost their defence, joining former Barca defender Andreu Fontas in Vigo. It is a strong squad and one that should be good enough for a top-half finish once more.

First game: Getafe (H) August 24

Prediction: 9th


In: Deivid, Mike Havenaar, Inigo Lopez, Artiz Lopez Garai, Patrick Ekeng Ekeng, Jose Carlos (all free transfers), Borja Garcia (Castilla, loan), Aleksandar Pantic (Villarreal, loan), Fausto Rossi (Juventus, loan), Matos (Fiorentina, loan), Federico Cartabia (Valencia, loan), Fidel (Elche, loan), Jose Angel (Bologna, loan)

Out: Javi Cabezas (Huesca, loan), Arturo Rodriguez (Alcorcon, loan), Bernardo (Racing, loan), Fran Cruz (Alcorcon, loan), Nwankwo Obiora, Pedro, Jaime Astrain (all free transfers)

Last season: Promoted via Segunda Division playoffs

Key player: Federico Cartabia

Valencia's Fede Cartabia celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Ludogorets during their Europa League match on March 13, 2014© AFP

Sports Mole says

Cordoba booked their spot in La Liga for the new campaign by coming through the Segunda Division playoffs last season, but they needed a stoppage-time equaliser from Uli Davila in the second leg of their clash with Las Palmas to advance into Spain's top flight. To suggest that it has been a busy summer in terms of transfers would be a serious understatement. Investment was needed following their rise into La Liga and head coach David Ferrer has indeed been a busy man.

Federico Cartabia is arguably their most exciting signing of the summer, with the Valencia youngster impressing for Los Che last season. It would be foolish to think that the club will not be involved in a relegation battle this season, but they have made some clever additions and also been able to retain the bulk of the squad from last season. It is a tricky start to the campaign to say the least, however, with Real Madrid away to come in their opener.

First game: Real Madrid (A) August 25

Prediction: 16th


In: Isaac Cuenca, Haris Medunjanin (both free transfers), Roberto Canella (Sporting Gijon, loan), Lucas (PAOK, loan), Jose Rodriguez (Castilla, loan), Luis Farina, Ivan Cavaleiro (both Benfica, loan)

Out: Antonio Nunez, Carlos Marchena (both free transfers), Luis Fernandez (Lugo, loan)

Last season: Segunda Division, 2nd

Key player: Isaac Cuenca

Isaac Cuenca of FC Barcelona runs with the ball during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Getafe CF at Camp Nou on April 10, 2012© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Like Cordoba, Deportivo La Coruna were promoted from the Segunda Division last season, finishing second behind Eibar to secure a return to La Liga. Long-serving former Spanish international Carlos Marchena has departed, but they have kept the bulk of their squad together, as well as making what could prove to be some smart signings. In particular, Isaac Cuenca from Barcelona could prove to be a key addition, with Deportivo beating off a host of competition to sign the Spaniard.

The fact that Deportivo have a big squad will also aid them, while they have plenty of players that know what it takes to survive in La Liga, with captain Manuel Pablo certain to be a key performer. The club have also taken highly-rated midfielder Jose Rodriguez on loan from Real Madrid to help supplement an experienced squad with youthful talent. Survival will be the name of the game this season, but ultimately they might fall just short.

First game: Granada (A) August 23

Prediction: 18th


In: Dani Nieto (Barcelona B), Jaime Jimenez, Angel Rodriguez, Borja Ekiza, Dani Garcia, Iosu Ozkoidi (all free transfers), Raul Navas (Real Sociedad, loan), Manu del Moral (Sevilla, loan), Abraham (Real Zaragoza, loan), Javi Lara (Ponferradina), Derek Boateng (Rayo Vallecano), Federico Piovaccari (Sampdoria, loan)

Out: Diego Jimenez, Matias Ibanez, David Mainz, Urko Vera (all free transfers), Aitor Arregi (Cadiz, loan), Aitor Ortega (Amorebieta, loan), Iosu Ozkoidi (Irun, loan)

Last season: Segunda Division, winners

Key player: Ander Capa

An assortment of Eibar players celebrate their promotion on May 31, 2014© AFP

Sports Mole says

Eibar lost just nine times on their way to winning the Segunda Division last season, while they had the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 28 times. The quality of the forward lines in La Liga will be of a much higher standard, however, and it difficult to see where the goals are coming from down the other end. In fact, Eibar scored just 49 times in their 42 league games last season.

Goals will be harder to find and they will certainly concede more, which points to problems. They have been active in the transfer market this summer, but the majority of their squad have never played in Spain's top tier. Indeed it was just two summers ago that they were preparing for life in the Segunda B. It is going to be a serious step up in quality this time around and it could be a long and difficult season for the newly-promoted club.

First game: Real Sociedad (H) August 24

Prediction: 20th


In: Enzo Roco (CDUC, loan), Adrian Gonzalez, Pedro Mosquera, Victor Rodriguez (all free transfers), Jonathas (Pescara, loan), Mario Pasalic (Chelsea, loan), Przemyslaw Tyton (PSV, loan), Milos Krasic (Fenerbahce, loan)

Out: Carlos Sanchez (Aston Villa, £5m), Sergio Mantecon (free transfer), Pelayo (Lugo, loan), Fidel (Cordoba, loan), Charlie I'Anson (Alcorcon, loan), Alberto Rivera (retired)

Last season: 16th

Key player: Milos Krasic

Bastia's Serbian midfielder Milos Krasic is congratulated by Tunisian midfielder Wahbi Khazri after he scored a goal during a French L1 football match against Evian in the Armand Cesari stadium in Bastia on December 1, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Elche were another team that survived relegation by their fingertips last season, eventually finishing in 16th position, just one point outside of the bottom three. They were the lowest scorers in the league with just 30 strikes and managed just nine wins. They have also lost their best player this summer, with Carlos Sanchez moving on to Aston Villa. However, they do have a squad that now knows what it takes to survive in this league, even by the smallest of margins.

They travel to Barcelona and Real Madrid in their first five matches of the season, but that run also includes fixtures against Rayo Vallecano, Granada and Eibar and it is those games that will determine whether they can remain in the league. Their struggles in front of goal will more than likely continue, but they should have just about enough defensively to finish above the relegation positions.

First game: Barcelona (A) August 24

Prediction: 17th


In: Paco Montanes, Alvaro Gonzalez (both Real Zaragoza), Salva Sevilla, Felipe Caicedo, Anaitz Arbilla (all free transfers), Lucas (Castilla, loan)

Out: Thievy Bifouma (Almeria, loan), Sergio Tejera (Alaves, loan), Cristian Gomez (Girona, loan)

Last season: 14th

Key player: Sergio Garcia

Espanyol's Sergio Garcia vies with Villarreal's Bojan Jokic during a Spanish league football match on February 24, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Last season proved to be up and down for Espanyol, but they eventually finished in 14th position, just three points clear of the relegation zone. That said, the Barcelona-based side never really offered the impression that they were being pulled into a relegation scrap. Transfer business has been as expected, with three players coming in on free transfers, including forward Felipe Caicedo.

Highly-rated Mexican centre-back Hector Moreno had been expected to leave this summer, but picked up a serious injury at the World Cup, which could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Espanyol. Skipper Sergio Garcia will once again be a key player, while they have the likes of Kiko Casilla, Diego Colotto and Alex Fernandez in what is a strong spine. A push for the top half of the table is certainly a possibility, while they will have no problems remaining in the league.

First game: Almeria (A) August 23

Prediction: 11th


In: Jonathan Lopez, Vicente Guaita, Karim Yoda (all free transfers), Fredy Hinestroza (La Equidad, loan), Michel (Valencia, loan)

Out: Miguel Moya (£2.5m, Atletico), Jaime Gavilan, Pedro Mosquera, Ciprian Marica, Julio Cesar (all free transfers)

Last season: 13th

Key player: Pedro Leon

Pedro Leon of Getafe CF celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Elche FC at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium on November 9, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Somewhat surprisingly, Getafe were involved in a relegation scrap for a period of last season before eventually finishing in 13th spot, three points clear of the bottom three. Their lack of goals was a major problem, with just 35 strikes in their 38 matches. That problem has not really been solved in the transfer window, while they have lost experienced goalkeeper Miguel Moya to Atletico Madrid. That said, they do boost a squad full of experience at this level.

It is also a squad that boasts Pedro Leon – one of the most talented midfielders in the division. Looking at their squad as it stands, it is difficult to see where the goals are coming from. Defensively they are fairly solid and have no major issues, but they lack a player who is going to net double figures in the league. They finished sixth in the 2009-10 season, but they will be a long way from that position in the coming campaign.

First game: Celta Vigo (A) August 24

Prediction: 14th


In: Dimitri Foulquier (Granada, £2m), Jhon Cordoba (Jaguares, £1.5m), Josan, Daniel Larsson, Javi Marquez, Oier Olazabal, Molla Wague, Jean-Sylvain Babin, Ruben Rochina (all free transfers), Juan Carlos Perez (Braga, loan), Juan Carlos Paredes (Barcelona SC, loan), Aboul Sissoko (Udinese, loan)

Out: Guilherme Siqueira (Atletico Madrid, £9m), Yacine Brahimi (Porto, £6m), Allan (Udinese, £2.5m), Brayan Angulo (Razgrad PFK £1m), Jona (Cadiz, loan), Essaid Belkalem, Gai Assulin, Dani Benitez, Toti, David Ferreiro (all free transfers)

Last season: 15th

Key player: Piti

Granada midfielder Piti in action on April 20, 2014© AFP

Sports Mole says

Granada have been one of the busier teams in the league this summer, bringing in a host of players and also letting some key men, in particular Guilherme Siqueira and Yacine Brahimi seek pastures new. Last season proved to be a slight disappointment, but they did manage to remain in the league, eventually finishing in 15th position. They will be round and about that area once more, but it should be a lot more comfortable in terms of proximity to the bottom three.

With the likes of Piti and Youssef El-Arabi, they have players that know what it takes to score on a regular basis in La Liga. Meanwhile, clever signings in the shape of Daniel Larsson and Jean-Sylvain Babin have been made to beef up what was a relatively small squad. Exciting youngster Jhon Cordoba has also joined the club, which has plenty of attacking options for the new season. They will not set the world alight next season, but will be safe from the relegation zone.

First game: Deportivo (H) August 23

Prediction: 13th


In: Jesus Fernandez (Real Madrid, £400,000), Victor Perez, Diego Marino (both Real Valladolid, loan), Jaime Gavilan, Rafael Martins (both free transfers)

Out: Keylor Navas (Real Madrid, £9m), Roger (Real Valladolid, loan), Miguel Pallardo, Pedro Rios, Nagore, Angel Rodriguez, Sergio da Silva Pinto (all free transfers)

Last season: 10th

Key player: Juanfran

Juanfran Garcia of Levante UD competes for the ball with Ferran Corominas of Elche FC during the La Liga match between Levante UD and Elche FC at Ciutat de Valencia on December 13, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

The 2013-14 La Liga season proved to be a stable one for Levante, who finished 10th in the league, nine points outside of the bottom three. The new campaign will be a test after losing their best player Keylor Navas to Real Madrid. Jesus Fernandez has arrived as the Costa Rican's replacement, however, while they have managed to retain the bulk of their key players.

When running through the squad list, it is not too difficult to understand why Levante are now an established La Liga outfit. They have quality defensively in the shape of Hector Rodas and Loukas Vyntra, coupled with midfield powerhouses Pape Diop and Simao Mate. The goal-scoring burden will fall upon new signing Rafael Martins, who netted 15 times during a loan spell with Vitoria Setubal next season. If the Brazilian can fire, there is no reason why the club cannot finish in the top half.

First game: Villarreal (H) August 24

Prediction: 10th


In: Ricardo Horta (Setubal, £700,000), Roberto Rosales, Arthur Boka, Guillermo Ochoa, Miguel Torres (all free transfers), Luis Alberto (Liverpool, loan), Agustin Cousillas (Tigre, loan)

Out: Willy Caballero (Man City, £7m), Jesus Gamez (Atletico Madrid, £2m), Eliseu (Benfica, £800,000)

Last season: 11th

Key player: Guillermo Ochoa

Mexico's goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa gestures during a Group A football match between Mexico and Cameroon at the Dunas Arena in Natal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 13, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Losing Willy Caballero – one of La Liga's finest goalkeepers – to Manchester City this summer was a huge blow for Malaga, but they replaced the Argentine with Mexico's World Cup star Guillermo Ochoa, beating off a host of competition in the process. Ivory Coast international Arthur Boka is another clever signing, while Liverpool's Luis Alberto will increase their options in the final third.

Along with Caballero, however, Jesus Gamez and Eliseu have both departed, leaving Malaga short of serious experience. They are not the same team from a couple of seasons ago, but they have a host of youthful talent, which will stand them in good stead for the future. Goals will again be a problem this season, but they are fairly sound defensively. Staying in the league shouldn't be a problem, but they don't really have the squad to push into the top half.

First game: Athletic Bilbao (H) August 23

Prediction: 15th


In: Johan Mojica (Cali, £400,000), Alejandro Pozuelo, Jorge Morcillo, Jozabed Sanchez, Manucho, Diego Aguirre, Quini, Derek Boateng, Antonio Amaya (all free transfers), Lica, Abdoulaye (both Porto, loan), Leo Baptistao (Atletico Madrid, loan), Javier Aquino, Jonathan Pereira (both Villarreal, loan), Gael Kakuta (Chelsea, loan), Cristian Alvarez (San Lorenzo, loan)

Out: Alberto Perea, Joaquin Larrivey, Adrian Gonzalez, Ruben, Razvan Rat, Alejandro Galvez, Jose Carlos, Sebastian Fernandez, Anaitz Arbilla, Nery Castillo (all free transfers), Johan Mojica (Real Valladolid, loan), Derek Boateng (Eibar)

Last season: 12th

Key player: Javier Aquino

Mexico's Javier Aquino in action during the Confederations Cup against Italy on June 16, 2013© AFP

Sports Mole says

At one point earlier in the summer, Rayo had just seven first-team players on their books following an exodus in terms of free transfers and players returning to their parent clubs from loan spells. A host of experience has left, but they have been extremely active in the market, adding plenty of attacking talent as well as boosting their back-line. Javier Aquino and Jonathan Pereira, who have both joined from Villarreal, are in particular two exciting signings.

There wasn't really an in-between for Rayo last season, they were either brilliant, or poor, and that is demonstrated by the fact that they drew just four of their 38 league games. They are a team that loves to play football, but they do concede a lot of goals – 80 in the league last season, a quite incredible statistic for a team that finished 12th. It should be another similar campaign this time around, plenty of goals, plenty of excitement and another comfortable La Liga finish.

First game: Atletico Madrid (H) August 25

Prediction: 12th


In: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid, £70m), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich, £26m), Keylor Navas (Levante, £9m)

Out: Alvaro Morata (Juventus, £18m), Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund, £6m), Jesus Fernandez (Levante, £400,000), Diego Lopez (AC Milan, undisclosed), Casemiro (Porto, loan), Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal, loan)

Last season: 3rd

Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates scoring his goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 2, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

How do you improve a team that has almost everything? Sign World Cup stars James Rodriguez and Keylor Navas and one of the best midfielders in world football in the shape of Toni Kroos. They have spent a lot of money, but it is now a squad that looks capable of picking up every major trophy next season. They won the Champions League and Copa del Rey last term, but missed out to Atletico Madrid in the league. Second or third will not be good enough this time around, it just has to be first.

Despite their summer business and the presence of a certain Gareth Bale, who will look to improve on his goal tally from last season, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored just the 254 goals in 248 games for Los Blancos, remains the star turn at the Bernabeu. Throughout the team there is bundles of quality, with the likes of Sami Khedira and Angel di Maria both believed to be available for transfer. They will face a serious challenge from Atletico and Barcelona, but it should be Madrid's title.

First game: Cordoba (H) August 25

Prediction: Champions


In: Alfred Finnbogason (Heerenveen, £7m), Esteban Granero (QPR, £3.5m), Raul Navas, Inaki Urkizu (both free transfers), Geronimo Rulli (Estudiantes, loan)

Out: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid, £26.5m), Claudio Bravo (Barcelona, £10.5m), Haris Seferovic (Frankfurt, £3m), Mikel Abaroa, Javi Ros (both free transfers), Raul Navas (Eibar, loan), Inaki Urkizu (Irun, loan), Diego Ifran (Tenerife, loan), Oscar Vega (free transfer)

Last season: 7th

Key player: Carlos Vela

Real Sociedad's Mexican forward Carlos Vela controls the ball during the Spanish league football match Sevilla FC vs Real Sociedad at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Sevilla on May 18, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Keeping hold of Carlos Vela this summer and indeed signing the Mexican to a new long-term deal was great business for Sociedad, but they have lost arguably their two best players in this window, with Antoine Griezmann joining Atletico Madrid and Claudio Bravo joining Barcelona. It is still a team full of quality, but they will not have excited the fans with their incomings.

They finished 11 points off the top four last season and having lost serious quality, it is difficult to imagine them seriously challenging for a Champions League spot in the new season. That said, new addition Alfred Finnbogason has a stunning return of goals over the last two years – hitting 53 league goals in 65 games for Dutch side Heerenveen. It remains a squad full of technical ability and a multi-talented midfield, but a Europa League position might be the best that they can hope for this time around.

First game: Eibar (A) August 24

Prediction: 7th


In: Grzegorz Krychowiak (Reims, £5m), Aleix Vidal, (Almeria, undisclosed), Nicolas Pareja (Spartak Moscow, £2m), Daniel Carrico (Reading £1.5m), Mariano Barbosa (Las Palmas, undisclosed), Alejandro Arribas (Osasuna, undisclosed), Denis Suarez, Gerard Deulofeu (both Barcelona, loan), Iago Aspas (Liverpool, loan), Ever Banega (Valencia, £2m)

Out: Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona £16m), Alberto Moreno (Liverpool, £16m), Alberto Botia (Olympiacos, £2m), Diego Perotti (Genoa, undisclosed), Manu del Moral (Eibar, loan), Javi Hervas (Sabadell, loan), Julian (free transfer)

Last season: 5th

Key player: Carlos Bacca

Carlos Arturo Bacca of Sevilla celebrates after scoring during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Sevilla FC at El Madrigal on December 21, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Sevilla made a late challenge for the top four last season, but lost a key match away to Athletic Bilbao in the run-in and were eventually forced to settle for fifth. The inspirational Ivan Rakitic has moved on to Barcelona, but they have made some excellent signings, with Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu arriving on loan from Barcelona. Iago Aspas has also joined on loan from Liverpool and the Spaniard knows what it takes to score goals in Spain's top flight.

Defensively Sevilla also look extremely strong, with the brilliant Federico Fazio – the new captain – and Nicolas Pareja once more expected to form the centre-back partnership. As well as an abundance of midfield talent, which includes new signing Ever Banega, Sevilla also have Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro – two players that scored plenty of goals last season. It is a squad that oozes class and one that should be good enough to secure a return to the top four.

First game: Valencia (H) August 23

Prediction: 4th


In: Andre Gomes (Benfica, £13m), Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria, £7m), Rodrigo de Paul (Racing Club, £4m), Lucas Orban (Bordeaux, £3m), Yoel Rodriguez (Celta Vigo, loan), Rodrigo, Joao Cancelo (both Benfica, loan), Bruno Zuculini (Manchester City, loan)

Out: Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona, £18m), Juan Bernat (Bayern Munich, £9m), Dorlan Pabon (Monterrey, £5m), Adil Rami (£4m, AC Milan), Aly Cissokho (Aston Villa, £2m), Vicente Guaita, Seydou Keita, Philippe Senderos, Ricardo Costa (all free transfers), Ever Banega (Sevilla, £2m), Federico Cartabia (Cordoba, loan), Victor Ruiz (Villarreal, loan), Michel (Getafe, loan)

Last season: 8th

Key player: Sofiane Feghouli

Sofiane Feghouli of Valencia runs with the ball during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and Levante UD at Estadio Mestalla on January 04, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

When the news broke at the end of last season that Singaporean businessman Peter Lim was due to take full ownership of the club, Valencia were linked with moves for a number of top players around Europe. Lim's purchase has still not been completed, however, and as it stands, Valencia's summer business has not been too inspiring. They have added the likes of Rodrigo Moreno and Andre Gomes and removed a few bad eggs from the squad, but still there is no star acquisition.

Two key defenders from last season – Jeremy Mathieu and Juan Bernat – have also moved on, leaving Los Che short in a number of areas. They still boast an extremely talented squad with a number of exciting youngsters, but the teams around them - the likes of Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad - have just that little bit more quality. Much could change before the end of the window, but as it stands, a push for the top four seems unlikely.

First game: Sevilla (A) August 23

Prediction: 8th


In: Luciano Vietto (Racing Club, £5m), Sergio Asenjo (Atletico Madrid, £4.5m), Jonathan dos Santos (Barcelona, £2m), Javier Espinosa, Antonio Rukavina (both free transfers), Denis Cheryshev (Real Madrid, loan), Victor Ruiz (Valencia, loan)

Out: Jeremy Perbet (Basaksehir, £1m), Jonathan de Guzman (Napoli, £5m), Aleksandar Pantic (Cordoba, loan), Jonathan Pereira, Javier Aquino (both Rayo Vallecano, loan)

Last season: 6th

Key player: Giovani dos Santos

Villarreal's Mexican forward Giovani Dos Santos celebrates his goal during the Spanish league football match Villarreal CF vs Valencia CF at the El Madrigal stadium in Villareal on October 27, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Last season was an overwhelming success for Villarreal on their return to La Liga. They challenged for a top-four spot in the early stages of the campaign, but were eventually made to settle for sixth – a position that would have been snapped up at the start of the season. As it stands, Mateo Musacchio remains a Villarreal player and if that remains the case beyond the end of the window then it will be their best business of the summer. Jonathan Pereira and Javier Aquino have both been allowed to leave on loan, which is a demonstration of their attacking talent.

Jonathan dos Santos has joined his brother Giovani at the Yellow Submarine and the pair will be key in the new season. The latter scored 12 times for the club last season and should better that tally this time around with the likes of Cani and Bruno providing the ammunition. Marcelino's side were one of the best teams to watch last season and there is no question that they have the squad to challenge for a top-four position once more.

First game: Levante (A) August 24

Prediction: 6th


1. Real Madrid
2. Barcelona
3. Atletico Madrid
4. Sevilla
5. Athletic Bilbao
6. Villarreal
7. Real Sociedad
8. Valencia
9. Celta Vigo
10. Levante
11. Espanyol
12. Rayo Vallecano
13. Granada
14. Getafe
15. Malaga
16. Cordoba
17. Elche
18. Deportivo La Coruna
19. Almeria
20. Eibar

Bayern Munichs midfielder Toni Kroos celebrates scoring the 0-1 goal past Hertha's goalkeeper Thomas Kraft (R) the German first division Bundesliga football match Hertha BSC Berlin vs FC Bayern Munich in Berlin's Olympic Stadium on March 25, 2014
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