Sure, the talk might be off EPL “B” teams touring the United States or Jozy Altidore transferring out of La Liga, but…with Jose Mourinho providing a foil to Messi, Guardiola and Barca….
and with storylines around Valencia decimated by player loss, Atletico coming on real strong off a Europa Cup win oh and with a Spain win at the World Cup…La Liga might be the “Don’t Miss” league on the 2010-’11 season.
Oh, you didn’t realize the schedule came out Tuesday?
TSG opens our La Liga coverage with a guest piece from La Liga expert Donald Wine.
Top Ten La Liga Matches For The 2010-2011 Season
By Donald Wine II
The Spanish Primera released their 2010-2011 schedule Tuesday, and it was the first chance for La Liga fans to see where their favorite teams were playing and when. While Real Madrid and Barcelona are expected to go toe-to-toe once again for the title, several upstart and strong teams, from Villareal and Atlético Madrid to Sevilla and Valencia, will have something to say about that. On the other end, La Liga welcomes Real Sociedad, Levante and Hércules FC back to top flight football, and all three will be looking to plant their roots in La Primera beyond this season.
While every match is important, there will be some matches where the 3 points will be essential, where the outcome will determine one’s place in the table, or where you will simply see the best players in the world battle each other for bragging rights and club glory. Here is the list of the top 10 must-see matches that will take place this season in Spanish football.
10. Valencia-Atlético Madrid – September 22, Estadio Mestalla
Valencia has been decimated with the loss of its two major stars, David Silva (to Manchester City) and David Villa (to Barcelona). Yet, the Mestalla will be rocking for the first major test to see how Valencia will handle its loss of talent as they take on Atletico. The Mestalla is one of the toughest places to play in Spain, and Valencia will need their fans’ support in showing the rest of the table that the reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated.
9. Hércules-Athletic Bilbao – August 29, Jose Rico Perez
Jose Rico Perez should make for a special venue as La Liga welcomes Hercules back into the fixture list for the first time in 13 years. They play host to a formidable Athletic Bilbao in their first game in the Primera, a team that should have aspirations of qualifying for Europe this season. Hercules will want to use the heavy crowd support to gain a result in their first match to hopefully give them some momentum and keep them from their expected place at the bottom of the table.
8. Barcelona-Espanyol – May 8, Camp Nou
The Catalan derby will be a great test for Espanyol to steal some points away from Barcelona, who will likely be in a dogfight with Real for the crown at this point in the season. With only a couple matches after the derby for both teams, points will be essential to either win a title (Barca) or qualify for Europa (Espanyol).
7. Sevilla FC-Real Madrid – May 8 Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
Top 4 finisher Sevilla has a very strong lineup that did not suffer any major departures. They will be once again vying for a Champions League spot, and Real will look down the barrel of two loaded weapons in Sevilla and Villareal back to back to either hold off Barca or hope Barca falter. Sevilla is definitely the tougher of the two, and Real will have to focus all their attention on beating this terrific side.
6. Sporting Gijon-Racing Santander – May 15, El Molinon
Sporting Gijon and Racing Santander will likely be playing to stay in the Primera by this point in the season, which makes this match so important. The winner of this match will have a great chance of avoiding relegation, while the loser will need to start making plans for La Segunda.
5. Barcelona-Real Madrid – November 28, Camp Nou
The first “El Clásico” matchup of the year will see Jose Mourinho take his first crack at the Blaugrana on the road at the Camp Nou. It will be a star-studded affair as Clásicos tend to be, and this will likely be a test of two teams fighting for that top place in the table.
4. Atlético Madrid-Real Madrid – March 20, Vicente Calderon
While winning the first ever Europa League title capped an otherwise sour year for Atlético Madrid, they will have the tools to try and shoot for a top 4 finish and play Champions League football. Likely in their way will be their cross-town archrivals as the Madrid derby will take center stage for an important test for both teams. Last season, a Real victory sent Atlético spiraling down the table to 9th place. Atlético will look to provide the fireworks in this showdown at the Vicente Calderon.
3. Mallorca-Sevilla FC – April 10, ONO Estadi
These two teams finished 3rd and 4th in the table last season…will the effects of Champions League football wear them down? Chances are that both teams will still be in the hunt for the final two Champions League spots, which makes this early April matchup a must-see.
2. Mallorca-Atlético Madrid – May 22, ONO Estadi
An Atletico team entering the season with tons of confidence could find itself in a final-match tie with Mallorca for one of the final Champions League spots. All eyes will be on ONO Estadi, for in terms of Champions League aspirations, this match could be winner-take-all.
1. Real Madrid-Barcelona – April 17, Santiago Bernabeu
The winner of this match won’t necessarily win the trophy outright, but we’re betting that the winner of this match will have the inside track to the 2010/11 La Liga crown. On top of that, Barca has won the last four matchups, including two commanding victories at the Bernabeu. In front of 80,000, Los Galácticos are going to want to exact revenge and get an outright lead in the standings. The best players, the best coaches, the biggest rivalry in world football…the stage will be set for the stars to shine.
Regardless of who your team is, whether you love or hate Barcelona or Real Madrid, La Liga is set for another incredible season. With just about every game each week on ESPN Deportes or GolTV, it will be easy to tune in for each of these key matches.
Donald Wine II is the author of the blog “Life In 1-1-8,” which can be found here.