Your 2010-11 La Liga Driver’s Manual

This is a guest bible by Donald Wine.

Note: Thank you for your patience, Donald. Hectic day here at TSG.

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Meet America’s Best Hope In La Liga…kidding…

Meet America's Best Hope in La Liga...kidding!

Okay, time to click “bookmark.”

Consider the prose below to be your driver’s manual to La Liga 2010-11.

Each and every team concisely summarized by Donald, guiding you through want to expect in Spain’s top league this year.

Hint: Not all Guiseppe and Jozy.

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The 2010-11 La Liga Season Preview

On Saturday, the dawn of a new season in La Liga begins, and 20 teams from around the World Cup champion nation of Spain will begin their quest for the La Liga title.  Well, to most people, it’s a 2 team race between perennial powers Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.  However, the rest of the teams in Spain’s top flight will be doing their best to interrupt Barca and Real’s 2-man tango for the crown.

While the English Premier League is widely regarded as the most popular league in the world and the league with the most talent, La Liga is very close behind them in popularity and can definitely give them a run for their money in terms of talent.  While Madrid and Barca carry the most obvious examples, teams like Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Villareal and Mallorca can also hang with the best teams in the world.  However, many people don’t know much about the rest of the gang of the league that produced all but one player of the 2010 World Cup champions.  So, here’s your in-depth preview of the 2010-11 La Liga teams.

Team: Unión Deportivo Almería

Nickname(s): Almería

Stadium (Capacity): Estadio del Mediterráneo (Capacity 22,000)

Location: Almería, Andalusia

Manager: Juan Manuel Lillo

Captain: Jose Ortiz

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: (W-D-L): 13th (10-12-16, 42 points)

Outlook:  Almeria, a smaller team with a mid-table finish last season, packs a lot of fight and is never a slouch on matchday.  Newcomer Michael Jakobsen will be called upon to anchor the defense as captain José Ortiz will help provide the firepower that Almería need to try to make a run at a Top 10 finish this season.

Team: Athletic Club (Bilbao)

Nickname(s): Athletic Bilbao, Los Leones, Bilbao

Stadium (Capacity): San Mamés (39,750)

Location: Bilbao, Biscay, País Vasco (Basque Country)

Manager: Joaquín Caparrós

Captain: Pablo Orbaiz

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: (W-D-L, points): 8th (15-9-14, 54 points)

Outlook: Athletic Bilbao, a team with a lot of history and the pride of Basque Country, has long been a successful team despite only fielding players native to their autonomous region.  Spanish international Fernando Llorente will be the man up front as Los Leones seek to return to European football by improving on last year’s 8th place finish.

Team: Club Atlético de Madrid, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Los Rojiblancos, Los Colchoneros, Los Indios, El Atleti

Stadium (Capacity): Vicente Calderón Stadium (54,851)

Location:  Madrid

Manager: Quique Sánchez Flores

Captain: Antonio López

2009/10 Trophies: UEFA Europa League Champions, Copa del Rey Runner-up

2009/10 Result: 9th (13-8-17, 47 points)

Outlook: Long regarded as the “other team” of Madrid to crosstown rivals Real Madrid, Atleti had a disappointing season in La Liga, finishing 9th.  However, despite their finish, they were Copa del Rey runners-up and won the Europa League back in May, beating Fulham in the final.  They will use that momentum, coupled with the successful World Cup runs of Diego Forlán and Sergio Agüero as well as the rise in form of Jose Antonio Reyes to make another run in Europe and finally begin their attack on the top 5 teams in Spain.

Team: Futbol Club Barcelona

Nickname(s): L’equip blaugrana, Culers or Culés, Blaugranes or Azulgranas, Barça

Stadium (Capacity): Camp Nou (98,772)

Location: Barcelona

Manager: Josep “Pep” Guardiola

Captain: Carles Puyol

2009/10 Trophies: La Liga, Spanish Supercopa, UEFA Supercup, Club World Cup

2009/10 Result: 1st (31-6-1, 99 points)

Outlook: Last year’s champs only got better with the addition of former Valencia striker David Villa, and with the reigning FIFA player of the year Lionel Messi up front, you know that Barca is looking to do it again.  With 8 Barca players playing on the World Cup winners and another 3 players on other World Cup squads, Barca has the experience necessary to carry the league once again and challenge for more trophies in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.  However, can they hold off archrivals Real Madrid once again?

Team: Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña

Nickname(s): Depor, El Turco, Blanquiazules, SuperDepor

Stadium (Capacity): Riazor (34,660)

Location: A Coruña, Galicia

Manager: Miguel Ángel Lotina

Captain: Manuel Pablo

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 10th (13-8-17, 47 points)

Outlook: Skipper Manuel Pablo, Mexican international Andrés Guardado and Depor will look to make the jump this year from the middle of the table to European qualification.  Usually a quiet team, Deportivo has the capability of playing great football and stringing together many quality wins in a row.  However, it will be their play against the Big 2 as well as the other major teams that will determine if Deportivo can sneak into one of the Europa League spots by season’s end.

Team: Reial Club Esportiu Espanyol de Barcelona (RSD Espanyol)

Nickname(s): Perequitos, Blanquiblaus

Stadium (Capacity): Estadi Cornellà-El Prat (40,500)

Location: Barcelona, Catalonia

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Captain: Iván de la Peña

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 11th (11-11-16, 44 points)

Outlook:  Espanyol, always looking up to crosstown big brothers Barca, want to have their team be the pride of Catalonia this season.  New loan entrants Pablo Osvaldo and Jesús Dátolo will help captain Iván de la Peña drive the Blanquiblaus offensive attack.  The Barcelona derby always is a hotly contested battle that Espanyol gets up for, but they will have to be more consistent this season if they want to improve on last year’s 11th place showing.

Team: Getafe Club de Fútbol S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Azulones, El Geta

Stadium (Capacity): Coliseum Alfonso Pérez (17,700)

Location: Getafe, Madrid

Manager: Michel

Captain: Javier Casquero

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 6th (17-7-14, 58 points)

Outlook: Last season, Getafe took Real Madrid benchwarmers Dani Parejo and Jordi Cordina, who led Getafe to a 6th place finish that shocked the Spanish countryside.  Qualifying for Europa League, Getafe enter this season with visions of becoming eligible to dance with the big boys in the 2011-2012 Champions League.  They will have to defend better in big matches, and the return of İbrahim Kaş could be the answer to stabilizing their defense and making a run at the Top 4, which would be a remarkable accomplishment for the 2007-08 UEFA Cup quarterfinalists.

(Unfortunately, before Donald’s article, I best new Getafe as the the club that Messi went x-box on.)

Team: Hércules Club de Fútbol, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Herculanos, Blanquiazules

Stadium (Capacity): José Rico Pérez (30,000)

Location: Alicante, Valencia

Manager: Esteban Vigo

Captain: Tote

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 2nd Segunda (19-14-9, 71 points)

Outlook: Hércules returns to the top flight for the first time since the 1996-97 season, and they haven’t been shy in going after the players that they think will help keep them in La Liga Primera beyond this season.  Captain Tote as well as Javier Portillo will provide the attack for Alicante’s finest, as they hope to leave a Herculean impression on the rest of the field.

Team: Levante Unión Deportiva, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Granotes

Stadium (Capacity): Ciutat de Valéncia (25,534)

Location: Valencia

Manager: Luis García Plaza

Captain: N/A

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 3rd Segunda (19-14-9, 71 points)

Outlook: Levante returns to the top flight after 2 seasons in La Segunda.  This time, they return with a couple of former stars on defense, with Juanfran anchoring the defense and recent loan acquisition Asier del Horno providing the pace they need to solidify the back line.  They have questions on offense, and they will have to answer them if they want to remain in La Primera.

Team: Málaga Club de Fútbol, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Boquerones

Stadium (Capacity): La Rosaleda (28,963)

Location: Málaga, Andalucía

Manager: Jesualdo Ferreira

Captain: Jesús Gámez

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 17th (7-16-15, 37 points)

Outlook: Málaga narrowly avoided the drop last season with some late theatrics and maybe some hyperventilating on the part of fans of the Boquerones.  Midfielder Duda was an absolute monster for Málaga last season, but he’s going to need help from his defense if they are going to move further up the table.  Surely, keeper Francesc Arnau will have his hands full between the posts with a team that’s still a little green behind the ears.

Team: Real Club Deportivo Mallorca, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Los Bermellones, Els Barralets, La Ensalmada Mecánica, Mallorca

Stadium (Capacity): ONO Estadi (23,142)

Location: Palma, Mallorca, Balearic Islands

Manager: Michael Laudrup

Captain: Nunes

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 5th (18-8-12, 62 points)

Outlook:  After several seasons of wallowing mid-table, Mallorca finally was able to put it all together last season.  A final matchday heartbreaking loss to Sevilla put Sevilla in the Champions League and Mallorca on the outside looking in.  With Nunes and Rubén back on defense and newcomer Jonathan De Guzman adding to the firepower of Martí in a creative midfield, expect Mallorca to continue their assault on the Top 4.  It may once again come down to the wire, but Mallorca has the tools and the chemistry to once again be shooting for 4th place on the final matchday in May.

Team: Club Atlético Osasuna

Nickname(s): Los Rojillos, Gorritxoak, Osasuna

Stadium (Capacity): Reyno de Navarra (19,500)

Location: Navarre, Pamplona

Manager: José Antonio Carnacho

Captain: Francisco Puñal

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 12th (11-10 -17, 43 points)

Outlook: Osasuna’s defense is much better than last season’s 12th place finish would tell you.  With Ricardo in net and the trio of Nacho Monreal, Miguel Flaño and Josetxo, they should always be sound defensively.  Scoring goals will be a key point of emphasis for them this season, and Serbian international Dejan Lekić has been brought in to do just that.  Osasuna has had a slow fall from grace from their 4th place finish in 2005-06.  Right now, they will be fighting to get out of the lower half of the table, but will they have the offense to do so?

Team: Real Racing Club de Santander, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Racing, Los Racinguistas, Los Verdiblancos, Los Montañeses

Stadium (Capacity): El Sardinero (22,271)

Location: Santander, Cantabria

Manager: Miguel Ángel Portugal

Captain: Pablo Pinillos

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 16th (9-12-17, 39 points)

Outlook: Racing, like Málaga, had to sweat out the relegation line late last season, finishing 16th.  Adding Henrique on loan from Barcelona should help out their back line, and adding Greece World Cup starter Alexandros Tziolis in the middle should further allow their defense to maintain stability.  They too will have to score more goals and have a more balanced attack if they’re going to get their backs off the relegation wall this season.

Team: Real Madrid Club de Fútbol

Nickname(s): Real, Madrid, Los Blancos, Los Merengues, Los Galácticos

Stadium (Capacity): Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (80,354)

Location: Madrid

Manager: José Mourinho

Captain: Iker Casillas

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 2nd (31-3-4, 96 points)

Outlook:  The Special One looks to take the Galácticos back to the top, as he seeks to take a disappointing-yet-record-breaking 2nd place finish from last year and make it even better by placing above their Catalonian archrivals.  Real has not sat still this offseason, saying goodbye to legends Raúl and Guti and saying hello to 6 newcomers, including 18-year-old Sergio Canales…look for him to make a serious impact this season.  Up front, they still have the incredible attack led by Gonzalo Higuaín and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Iker Casillas has assumed the role of captain after Raúl’s departure.  Will the captain of the World Cup champs lift even more hardware this season as the captain of Los Blancos?  Make no mistake, they want to win everything this season: La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey.  And in each competition, Barca is likely the team standing in their way around each corner.

(Do you know who plays for Real Madrid?! Euro…Music…Train…Go!)

Team: Real Sociedad de Fútbol, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Sociedad, Txuri-urdin, Erreala

Stadium (Capacity): Anoeta (32,076)

Location: San Sebastián, País Vasco (Basque Country)

Manager: Martin Lasarte

Captain: Mikel Aranburu

2009/10 Trophies: Liga Segunda

2009/10 Result: 1st Segunda (20-14-8, 74 points)

Outlook:  La Primera welcomes back Real Sociedad to the top division after a 3 year absence.  Their questions lie in their defense and whether they are ready to defend a much better crop of attackers than there is in the 2nd division.  Captain Mikel Aranburu will look to hold down the midfield and send balls up to striker Joseba Llorente, who will hopefully have the finishing touch Sociedad need to stay in La Primera for a while.

Team: Sevilla Fútbol Club S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Sevillistas, Rojiblancos, Los Nervionenses

Stadium (Capacity): Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán (45,500)

Location: Sevilla, Andalucía

Manager: Antonio Álvarez

Captain: Andrés Palop

2009/10 Trophies: Copa del Rey

2009/10 Result: 4th (19-6-13, 63 points)

Outlook:  Sevilla is a strong team, probably one of the strongest in Spain outside of Madrid and Barcelona.  A final-day victory against Mallorca gave them the final Champions League spot.  Sevilla is loaded on the attack with Álvaro Negredo, Jesús Navas, Frédéric Kanouté, Didier Zokora and Luis Fabiano.  Pair that with a great keeper in Andrés Palop and you have a team that can cause some serious damage this season.  Last season, Sevilla beat Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey final, and they’ll be looking for more silverware this season.  Their questions lie at defense, who came up short in some of the bigger games, especially in the 2nd half when run down.  Their hope is that they have built up enough depth on the backline so that when their incredible attack puts them ahead, they don’t let teams back into the match.

(Fabiano, a true striker…with his foot only)

Team: Real Sporting de Gijón, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Rojiblancos, Sporting

Stadium (Capacity): El Molinón (25,855)

Location: Gijon, Asturias

Manager: Manuel Preciado

Captain: Rafel Sastre

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 15th (9-13-16, 40 points)

Outlook: Rafel Sastre will hope to lead his team defensively and David Barral and Diego Castro will hope to form a good combination between the midfield and the front as Sporting look to improve on their 15th place finish this season.  There will be an interesting battle for the starting keeper job, as former starter Iván Cuéllar returns from a knee injury he suffered last season, where current starter Juan Pablo came in and did enough to keep Sporting out of the relegation zone last season.

Team: Valencia Club de Fútbol

Nickname(s): Los Che, Bats, Murciélagos, Valencianistas

Stadium (Capacity): Mestalla (55,000)

Location: Valencia

Manager: Unai Emery

Captain: N/A

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 3rd (21-8-9, 71 points)

Outlook: Valencia was decimated by the loss of their two best players this summer, as David Villa went in a blockbuster transfer to Barcelona and David Silva left in similar fashion to Manchester City.  However, Valencia still have a lot left in the cookie jar.  It will be up to Roberto Soldado, Juan Manuel Mata, Joaquín and Mehmet Topal to run the attack, while David Navarro anchors the defense with César Sánchez in net.  Will Valencia be able to recover from losing their two best players to stay in the Top 4?  They will also have the added pressure of Champions League football, so their depth is a concern.  However, they still have the balance to win a lot of points, and they have one of the fiercest homefield advantages in Spain in La Mestalla.

Good Ship Lollipop

Team: Villarreal Club de Fútbol, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine)

Stadium (Capacity): El Madrigal (25,000)

Location: Vila-real, Valencia

Manager: Juan Carlos Garrido

Captain: Marcos Senna

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result:7th (16-8-14, 56 points)

Outlook: The Yellow Submarine had a bit of an off year by their standards, as they are usually closer to contention for the Top 4.  This season, they appear to have the right mix of youth and experience to do just that.  Spanish international Marcos Senna will keep things balanced in the center, while American superstar Jozy Altidore seeks to carve his place in a stacked striker lineup that includes Brazilian international Nilmar and American-Italian Giuseppe Rossi.  World Cup winners Carlos Marchena, Santi Cazorla and Joan Capdevila will bring, along with Senna, the experience that Villareal needs to return to their usual place among the Top 4.

Team: Real Zaragoza, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Blanquillos, Maños, Zaragoza

Stadium (Capacity): La Rmareda (34,596)

Location: Zaragoza, Aragon

Manager: José Aurelio Gay

Captain: Gabi

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: 14th (10-11-17, 41 points)

Outlook:  Zaragoza will look to improve majorly on their 14th place finish.  Brazilian international Edmilson has been brought in this season to provide some experience in the middle and some creative flair, while captain Gabi and Nigerian international Ikechukwu Uche look to provide the goalscoring touch that Zaragoza desperately needs to make a run for the middle of the table and not have to sweat out a relegation battle towards season’s end.

La Liga is set to provide lots of drama, heartbreak and some outstanding freeflowing play this season to a worldwide audience.  With ESPN Deportes and GolTV showing several La Liga matches each week here in the United States, it will be easy to follow this season to see who will be part of the cream that rises to the top and who will be in the relegation zone making the drop.

Donald Wine II is the author of the blog “Life In 1-1-8,” which can be found here.

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One response to this post.

  1. You didn’t mention Hercules’ match-fixing methods of rising above Real Betis to get promoted: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2009836,00.html

    Viva Betis!

    Reply

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