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La Liga 2018-19 Preview – The Best Of The Rest

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Spanish top-flight domestic football is back this weekend as 19 teams look to topple Barcelona and lift the La Liga trophy come the end of the season.

For the first time in nine years there will be no vs Lionel Messi debate in , after the former’s £100million swtich to .

Ahead of the first round of fixtures, LLTO looks ahead to what the new campaign will have in store.

Atletico Madrid are feeling mightily majestic after winning the the UEFA Super Cup.

Barcelona are very pleased with themselves over a transfer window that saw them sign Malcom, Lenglet and Arturo Vidal and offload Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes.

And Real Madrid are nervously scanning the market for last minute signings after underwhelming in Tallinn on Wednesday. As things stand Madrid’s new coach Julen Lopetegui has the third best squad but that could change in the next two weeks.

Who is below them, fighting for a Champions League spot?

Valencia lead the best of the rest. Marcelino did well to steer them into the fourth Champions League place this season and they are favourites to repeat the finish this time in what is their centenary year.

Their only concern at the moment is if Madrid do decide to do some last minute spending it might well be Valencia’s players they sign.

If they can avoid that they look strong having loaned striker Michy Batshuayi from Chelsea and signed French forward Kevin Gameiro from Atletico Madrid.

Sevilla under new coach Pablo Machin will try to push them but in their second full season without Sporting Director Monchi they have again underwhelmed in the transfer market and will have their work cut out keeping up.

How are the middle pack looking – anyone we need to keep an eye on?

Santi Cazorla’s return to Villarreal seven years after he left the club has captured everyone’s imagination. Cazorla’s first game will be emotional.

He injured ankle ligaments playing for Arsenal in the Champions League against Ludogorets in October 2016 and that was the start of a nightmare two-year period that included 10 operations. Villarreal have also added defender Funes Mori from Everton and striker Gerard Moreno from Espanyol.

Betis are worth keeping an eye on too. They have lost star midfielder Fabian to Napoli they have signed one of the most impressive performers of the World Cup, Japan’s Takashi Inui, from Eibar.

Who has a long season ahead?

Huesca’s first season in the top flight promises to be tough. Their 41-year-old coach Leo Franco took over in the summer after Rubi, who had got them promoted, moved to Espanyol. They have taken Villarreal forward Ruben Semedo but he is currently out on bail for attempted murder and if the case goes to court he will miss a big chunk of the season.

Fellow newly promoted side Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano are also bound to struggle. It would be no surprise this season if the three that came up went back down.