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Spanish La Liga

Interview with Madrid based journalist Dermot Corrigan – Jonny McConnell

1. Which team do you think was the surprise package of La Liga last season?
Real Sociedad – not even they themselves expected to finish fourth I’d say.

2. Are there any young players you feel could have a big impact on La Liga this season?

There’s lots – ones to look out for include Morata and Jese at Madrid, Ruben Pardo at Real Sociedad, Oliver Torres at Atletico, Aymeric Laporte at Athletic, Vadillo at Betis, Rafinha at Celta, Carles Gil at Elche, Thievy at Espanyol, Ruben Garcia at Levante, Fabrice at Malaga, Saul at Rayo, Alberto Moreno at Sevilla and Trigueros at Villarreal.

3. 10 of the 20 teams have different coaches than they did last season. Do you think Spanish clubs need to stop changing coaches so often?

When you see the stats it definitely looks like more stability would help, but a lot of the changes – especially at the bigger clubs – were due to external reasons [Mourinho & Bielsa leaving, Tito ill, Valverde getting better offer etc.]. I would say there are a lot of young talented coaches around, and clubs are looking to take advantage.

4. How does watching La Liga differ from watching other leagues?

Tough to give a short answer that’s not pretty obvious – but you do see that La Liga is slower and more technical than say the Premier League. Teams are generally better coached, and tactics more interesting to watch develop.

5. Do you believe any teams can challenge the dominance of Real Madrid
& Barcelona in the near future?

Nope – Atletico are doing brilliant to be so close [thanks to amazing job by Simeone] but not feasible they could finish higher than 3rd unless there’s a meltdown at one of the top two.

6. Do you think Diego Simeone can continue to improve Atlético, and will he stay with them in the long run?

I keep thinking he’s topped out, but he keeps getting more out of them. Villa seems to be an upgrade on Falcao, and the team are playing better football this season, with Villa better at linking up with deeper attackers like Arda and Koke. So they’ll be more entertaining to watch, and have more weapons in CL than just scrap and defend and hope their number 9 nicks a goal.

7. What do you think about Barcelona under Gerardo Martino so far? Can he match the success they achieved whilst Guardiola was coach?

Matching Guardiola’s 14 out of 19 trophies is a big ask, but I’ve been impressed so far. He seems to have ideas about how to tweak the team and make them less predictable, and players seem to be accepting of them – even see Pique today. Main problem so far is they’re not fully fit yet, Messi, Iniesta among those who’ve not begun the season at 100 per cent. Might be no harm if they are at their best come the spring though, instead of fading around then like in recent years.

8. In your opinion, is Carlo Ancelotti the right man to take Real Madrid forward?

For me Ancelotti was an excellent choice for the job – he has experience managing egos in dressingroom and boardroom, and has won
trophies pretty much wherever he’s been. There were no Spanish candidates even considered for the job, and few overseas coaches who could really have taken it on I reckon.

9. How do you think Real Sociedad can do in the Champions League with such a difficult group?

I have a feeling they will do very well. It is a tough group, but Man Utd look pretty vulnerable, Shakhtar have lost some of their better players in the last 12 months, and Bayer are not on same level as Dortmund or Munich. If Real Sociedad play as well in all their games as they did v Lyon, they could even top the group.

10. If you could change one thing about Spanish football, what would that be?

I’d bring in serious punishments for clubs which break financial rules, and for the directors / owners at the clubs who go into
administration. Spain has great, great players, but a much lower standard of administrators, including the national team, league and many of the individual clubs. Until these admins are made follow set rules, clubs will continue to flout em, and players and fans are the ones who suffer.