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Who will be the Spanish La Liga champions this year?



This weekend begins the first fixtures of the Spanish season, with Barcelona getting the defence of their title underway against Real Betis. Competing for the title with them this year will be Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid side and Diego Simone’s Atletico. Looking at signings, pre-season, the managers and the squads, all three sides seem capable of going all the way, but just who is looking the team most likely to lift the trophy in May of next year?


Luis Enrique’s Barca side defeated Seville in the Spanish Super Cup 5-0 on aggregate to lift the trophy for the 12th time, inspired once again by a superb performance by Lionel Messi. With Messi, combined with Luis Suarez and Neymar, the front three scored 130 goals between them, helping Barca to win both La Liga and the Copa del Rey last season. This season they will go in as favourites for most competitions.

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This season Barcelona still have the same attack, but have added depth to a squad. It has been suggested that they rely too much on the same team during a season which contains upwards of 60 games due to their guaranteed success in cup competitions, and so reinforcements have arrived. In have come Euro 2016 winner Andre Gomez, young French left-back Lucas Digne, youngster Denis Suarez and exciting centre-back Samuel Umtiti.

The team now has exciting players to come in, and with Munir and Arda Turan looking good in the Super Cup, Barcelona have a side capable of lasting in all competitions. This could be vital, as before Christmas of last season Barcelona brushed aside Real Madrid 4-0 and also beat Atletico Madrid, while after Christmas, both Madrid sides recorded victories against them in various competitions.

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While other factors naturally were involved, a more fresh Barca side could have competed more, especially against a much organised Atletico in the Champions League. Barca however, did the double over Atletico in the league, and lost at home to Real Madrid in their only defeat against the big teams in La Liga. A repeat of this would highly likely see a repeat of a title-win.

Luis Enrique has immediately showed he is capable of leading this squad of world class players, and the side has an extremely capable mentality of winning trophies. With new squad depth, talented young players and the front three, Barcelona will surely be the team to beat this season, as well as the most entertaining, if the Super Cup is anything to go by.

Real Madrid

Last season’s La Liga runners-up finished one point behind Barcelona, although it took a late resurgence from a newly invigorated Zinedine Zidane side to allow the title race to go as close as it did. Real won the El Clasico in April at the Nou Camp, and then went on to win the Champions League against Atletico on penalties. It will be interesting to see if Zidane can pick up where he left off when the season starts.

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Cristiano Ronaldo once again scored over 50 goals in all competitions, and having won Euro 2016 with Portugal, will be looking to bring in more silverware. Real won the UEFA Super Cup against Seville without the likes of Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo, who stuck 98 times between them last season. The goals may seem less than Barca’s front three, but with the return of Alvaro Morata, who scored 25 times for Juventus, Madrid could have a new dimension to their attack. If the strike force can have an uninterrupted season in terms of injuries and managerial casualties, they could easily break the 100 goal mark between them and really have a shot at overtaking Barcelona.

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No major signings at the Bernabeu has raised question marks, with only Morata coming in and Marco Asensio returning from his loan spell at Espanyol. Maybe Zidane believes in his squad? Or maybe Real believe that spending all that money isn’t necessary this year? Either way, Real are the defending champions in the Champions League and the runners-up in La Liga and have plenty to prove and plenty to gain going in to the new season, starting away to Real Sociedad.

Atletico Madrid

It seems like they are the most hard-working and most organised team on the planet. Diego Simone might not have the money of Barcelona or Real Madrid, but he certainly knows how to find a player, and how to organise a team. Never the favourites but always there at the end, Atletico finished a close 3rd in La Liga, and only lost on penalties in the Champions League final despite arguably being the better side. Once again, Atletico will go into the season as the underdogs.

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Having failed to get Diego Costa, Atletico have brought in Kevin Gameiro to add to their strike-force of Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann, as well as bringing in Nico Gaitan from Benfica. Gameiro scored 39 goals in 92 appearances for Sevilla, and will help out Griezmann, who has scored 44 goals in 75 appearances. Fernando Torres has been signed permanently on a free, following his loan spell.

The biggest thing for Atletico is that their manager is still there, and so it is not against the odds to think that Atletico will find
a way to compete in all competitions, again. The young players will get better, the attack will improve, and once again they will find a way to beat the big teams. In La Liga, however, one aspect they will need to improve is their ability to beat Barcelona and Madrid in the league.

Barcelona did the double over them in the campaign, and Atletico’s inability to put Real away in the Champions League cost them on penalties. If Atletico can take their opportunities against the big teams, there is no reason why they won’t be celebrating in May, despite being the underdogs once again. Their season begins against Alaves at home.

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Atletico Madrid

What is Diego Costa’s Chelsea legacy after three eventful years in the Premier League?

Rob Meech



Diego Costa

Diego Costa’s controversial Chelsea career is finally set to come to an end. According to The Guardian, the Blues have agreed to sell the striker back to his former club, Atletico Madrid, for £57 million, subject to agreeing personal terms and passing a medical. Costa scored 59 goals from 120 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, winning the Premier League title on two occasions as well as the League Cup.

His uncompromising style won him few friends but there was no denying his influence and suitability to England’s top-flight. Costa’s relationship with Antonio Conte turned sour this summer when it emerged the Chelsea manager had told the Brazilian-born forward via text message that he was no longer in his plans. Costa pushed for a return to Atletico and was ostracised by Conte, who will no doubt be relieved this saga is now resolved.

What is Costa’s legacy at Chelsea?

Regardless of the negative reputation he had among the wider public, Costa was loved by the majority of Chelsea supporters and played a huge part in their domestic success during his spell at the club. Due to its competitiveness, the Premier League is notoriously difficult to win, so for the Blues to have done so twice in three years – under two different managers – is a remarkable feat. Costa’s goals were fundamental to this. Put simply, the Blues would not have been crowned champions without him. He netted 20 times in each of their title-winning campaigns and made life miserable for defenders.

Costa never strayed too far from controversy though and occasionally crossed the line of acceptable conduct. Infamously, he received a three-match ban in January 2015 for stamping. But the 28-year-old was always at his best when playing on the edge. Take that out of his game and he would definitely not be the same player. Jose Mourinho understood this compromise, but Conte found it harder to accommodate. With his high-intensity style, the Italian needed to know he could rely on each and every one of his players. Ultimately, he could not trust Costa to follow his instructions.

How will Chelsea fare without him?

Conte is a ruthless character and once he had made it clear that Costa’s days at Stamford Bridge were numbered, there was never a way back. The high-profile capture of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid was confirmation, if it were needed, that their relationship was irreparable and Conte had moved on. The biggest compliment that can be paid to the Spaniard, though, is that Conte signed a replacement very much in his image. Costa had taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, and Morata has very similar attributes. He too, has started in blistering fashion and looks tailor-made for the English game.

After their opening-day blip against Burnley, Chelsea have rediscovered their best form and are unbeaten in four Premier League games. On that score, it doesn’t appear that they are missing Costa. No player is bigger than the club and Conte had obviously grown tired of the Spain international’s antics, however entertaining they were for us, the viewers. Financially, the Blues have made an enormous profit on Costa, having signed him for £32 million just over three years ago.

Can Costa rebuild his career at Atletico?

Costa’s public desire to rejoin the club at which he won the La Liga title in 2014, highlights the affiliation he has with the club. He is perfectly suited to Diego Simeone’s brand of football and he will relish linking up with Antoine Griezmann. Atletico of course, remain under a transfer embargo, which means Costa will not be eligible to play for them until January. But once he is, it will surprise nobody if he is back on the goalscoring trail straight away.

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Atletico Madrid

Could Atletico Madrid striker Nicolas Gaitan make a surprise move to Watford to pave the way for Diego Costa’s return?




This is certainly one of the more surprising stories to surface from transfer deadline day but the Hertfordshire Mercury claim that Watford have been offered Atletico Madrid striker Nicolas Gaitan.

It is understood that the Spanish side are looking to clear room for Diego Costa – who is edging closer to an Atletico return according to the Daily Mail – and as such are ready to off-load Gaitan.

The report continues to say that although the La Liga outfit would rather have an up-front loan fee paid in the region of €2 million (£1.8 million) they are happy to add an option to buy in the deal.

What could the Argentine international bring to Vicarage Road?

It’s fair to say that Watford fans didn’t expect this when they woke up this morning. Nicolas Gaitan has been one of the most consistent goal-scorers across Europe in the past seven seasons, bursting on to the scene at Benfica in 2010 after arriving from Argentine side Boca Juniors.

In a six-year spell, spanning over 250 appearances, the 29-year-old found the net 41 times in all competitions and played a massive part in Benfica winning three consecutive Primeira Liga titles.

Despite beginning his footballing career in Argentina as more of a left-sided midfielder he began to develop into a dangerous player further up the pitch in Portugal, often being utilised in the number ten role just behind the striker, but he could easily fit in wherever Watford boss Marco Silva sees fit.

To attract a team like Atletico Madrid you already know that there’s a little bit of flair to his play, comfortable when driving at a static back-four and using his speed and close ball-control for results.

His excellent sense of vision in and around the final third would be an incredibly underrated asset should he join too, and he could spark a very productive partnership indeed with new man Andre Gray.

And although he played second fiddle to Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torries for most of last season, scoring three times in just 11 starts in La Liga, there’s little doubt he’d impress at Watford.

The Boot Room’s Verdict (1/5)

The arrival of Gaitan really would send Watford supporters into dream land following the summer business done to date, but this is one of those deals that is dependent on something else happening.

And with Costa’s future well and truly in the air, and time ticking away, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time remaining before the deadline to see both Chelsea and Watford complete their deals.

Gaitan to Watford
Reader Rating1 Vote1.85
Transfer Likelihood
The Boot Room's Verdict
The arrival of Gaitan really would send Watford supporters into dream land following the summer business done to date, but this is one of those deals that is dependent on something else happening. And with Costa’s future well and truly in the air, and time ticking away, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time remaining before the deadline to see both Chelsea and Watford complete their deals.
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Atletico Madrid

As Atletico close in on Diego Costa, will Chelsea’s Antonio Conte rue his decision?




All decisions have consequences, and football managers in particular live or die by the paths that they choose during the course of their job.

So, with the Mirror reporting that Atletico Madrid are closing in on a £30 million deal for Chelsea outcast and former Los Rojiblancos striker Diego Costa, Antonio Conte will be the latest manager to put himself on the line with a seemingly impulsive leadership decision.

After telling the controversial forward that he was no longer part of the club’s plans by text at the end of last season, one of the summer’s most unsavoury transfer sagas could well be coming to a close.

The question is whether Conte will rue his decision in a season in which Chelsea must compete on both domestic and continental fronts, or unify the squad by removing an occasionally unsettling influence from its midst?

Will Conte return home to Madrid?

The deal itself is an unusual one, as while all parties are motivated to complete the transfer there is no guarantee that Atletico will sign their man before the window closes.

Due to the breakdown of the relationship between player and manager and Costa’s decision to remain in his native Brazil until a deal is concluded, Chelsea are determined to drive a hard bargain and the club’s posturing has hindered talks.

Even with a £30 million compromise in the offing, this is a transfer that is likely to run and run until the final moments of the window.

Atletico’s transfer embargo has also complicated any potential deal, but as The Guardian confirmed in pre-season the club can officially agree terms with Costa if Chelsea accept their bid.

The player would then be eligible to represent the club when the embargo is lifted on January, although Atletico would be keen for Costa to play on loan somewhere else in order to maintain his match fitness. This is unlikely to be a deal-breaker, but it could distract Atletico in their attempts to land the Brazilian-born Spanish striker.

Everton may also be ready to provide a solution, with the club short of established strikers and the Independent reporting that manager Ronald Koeman would be willing to secure his services on a short-term loan. This would certainly add another piece to the jigsaw, helping to smooth any complications and help Costa achieve his dream move back to Madrid.

Will Conte Regret his Actions?

The saga surrounding Costa has been bizarre, with the striker deemed surplus to requirements despite scoring 20 league goals in 35 appearances as the Blues secured the title in Conte’s first season as manager. The issue first emerged last January, when Costa was linked to a move to China amid concerns over his fitness and dedication to the club.

Although a deal did not materialise, this seemed to fracture the relationship between the player and his manager, with the Italian famously discarding his striker by text at the end of last season.

While the relationship is almost certainly beyond repair, the question that remains is whether Conte will rue his conduct towards Costa. Deeming an experienced and proven forward surplus to requirements so soon after the season ended appeared reckless at best, particular with the Blues already short of alternative number -nines.

The subsequent signing of Alvaro Morata has done little to assuage the issue, as Chelsea continue to lack a strong and powerful centre-forward who can retain possession and link play.

Morata’s disappointing display during the 2-1 win against Tottenham at Wembley reaffirmed this, as while the Blues secured an impressive win they were constantly subjected to heavy pressure from Spurs due to their inability to retain the ball. Morata was too easily dominated by Tottenham’s powerful centre-halves, and Chelsea would have greatly benefited from Costa’s presence.

This is a trend that could well be repeated during other away games this season, during which the Blues will need to find alternative ways of playing if they are to be successful.

Time will tell for Conte, but Chelsea need options in attack

On a fundamental level, the Blues need further options and number in attack, particularly as they look to compete in both the Premier League and the Champions League this season.

In this respect, discarding a player who is capable of scoring 20 or more goals each season seems detrimental to the team, regardless of how difficult he can be to manage within the group.

Only time will tell whether Conte made an inspired managerial decision by axing Costa, or simply allowed ego and impulse to weaken his squad at a time when Chelsea are looking to build on last years’ success.

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