With the top guns Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid yet to play, La Liga can not be said to have really gotten into gear, even though some matches have been played.
As the big fishes prepare to get in the action, we are joined by three football pundits that knows La Liga like the back of their palms – Joseph Bassey (@akajoebass), Wale Agbede (@thewaleagbede) and Edwin Onyebolise (@theofficialije) as we do an in depth preview of the 2020/21 La Liga season.
GB: What tactical trend(s) should we be looking forward to see in the La Liga this season?
Joseph: It’s a great time to be alive if you’re a fan of Spanish football, there will be a collection of super coaches with impeccable tactical nous. Obviously Zidane, Koeman, Simeone and Lopetegui are the headliners but Unai Emery, Manuel Pellegrini are no push overs. There won’t be a common theme, expect variation in tactics from these managers.
Wale: Tactically, I think the La Liga is as diverse as it gets in terms of ideas. From the pass-oriented Ronald Koeman, Julen Lopetegui and Imanol Alguacil to the more astute Zinedine Zidane, Diego Simeone, Pepe Bordalas and Paco Lopez, expect plenty contrasting styles in every match week. What could be particularly striking (although not totally alien before now) is how much quality the likes of Zidane, Lopetegui and Emery have in wide areas. Wing play could be a big feature, tactically, of the league this year.
Edwin: I personally don’t think La Liga is a “tactical” league in comparison to say … Serie A. The focus is more on technique and finesse. There’s a general theme to the way teams play except Atletico Madrid.
GB: What does Lionel Messi’s stay mean to La Liga, Barcelona and Madrid’s quest to defend the title?
Joseph: Messi’ stay almost guarantees that Barcelona will still be in the title race amidst their chaos, he is still the best player in the league. But the bad news is that it doesn’t necessarily make Barcelona a good team. Real Madrid’s project means Barca can’t depend on the brilliance of Messi only, he will need help to dethrone them.
Wale: To La Liga, it simply means the league still features the best player in the world. Messi is a big plus to La Liga sporting-wise and economically.
For Barcelona, I don’t see what they gain. It’s election year, an even older squad than the last and quite frankly, a leader who wants to leave. That can’t be a positive.
For Real, I think they clearly have a better project and, like last season, Messi might not be enough to stop them from winning.
Edwin: Nothing changes for La Liga except conversations. It’s gone from “How many goals will he score?” to his reaction and body language.
Barcelona will play second fiddle to Real Madrid who have a better team irrespective of Messi’s presence.
GB: Which matches/battles are you mostly looking forward to?
Joseph: The Andalusian derby (Sevilla vs Real Betis) will be a spectacle this season. Both teams have gotten stronger especially with the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini in Betis. Both teams could be competing for the European spots this season.
Wale: The El Classico, obviously. For Real, they must feel the urge to knock nails into a figurative Barcelona coffin. The last time they had any sense of dominance over Barcelona is over 15 years ago but they can build blocks this season.
I’d like to see how Emery manages Villareal in games. So many quality wide players but in Parejo and Trigueros, he has two of the best CMs in Spain.
Simeone will also have to cracks higher performance levels from his expensively assembled Atletico team. If not, don’t be too shocked at a major change at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Edwin: El Classico remains the biggest game. Maybe the Madrid derby
GB: Who are the possible breakout star(s) to keep an eye on?
Joseph: Last season we saw the emergence of Take Kubo, Martin Odegaard and Rodrygo, this season, we maybe talking about Oscar Rodriguez who just moved from Leganes to Sevilla. The former Real Madrid Castilla player is a gem.
Wale: Takefuso Kubo. Had a decent season with Mallorca last year but his qualities might just be suited to the Yellow Submarines – Villareal.
Ansu Fati is clearly turning heads and this could be a breakout season for the 17-year old at Barcelona.
Martin Odegaard will be starring at the Santiago Bernabeu this season and after his exploits in the Basque country with Real Sociedad last season, a great year might be on the cards for the midfielder.
Edwin: Takefusa Kubo (Real Madrid – on loan at Villarreal). Arguably the best player at Mallorca last season.
Lee Kang-in (Valencia) If he can put a lid on his temperament, he’s one for the future.
Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal). He needs consistency and end product to make the next leap. Exciting with pace and trickery.
Ansu Fati (Barcelona) Heir to Messi? His start to life in the first team gives hope to Barcelona for the future.
Rodrygo (Real Madrid) Needs consistent run on the first. Has an eye for goal.
GB: Do you see any team finishing above or breaking into the traditional top-two of Real Madrid and Barcelona?
Joseph: Unlikely especially with Messi deciding to stay. Sevilla and Atletico Madrid are still lacking key components (top strikers) that can drive them above Real and Barcelona.
Wale: There’s always the likelihood of this happening, especially in the last few years with the gap in quality diminishing so quickly. I don’t see how Barcelona will make a good enough season and if it goes really badly, a team like Sevilla, who topped the league for a few weeks last season, might just be around the corner hoping to pounce.
Edwin: I fancy Sevilla. Not since 2007/08 has Barcelona looked out of sort. I hope they take advantage.