Everyone expects one of either Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona to claim the La Liga title the season. There's just one problem: Only one team can win the whole shebang. Here's why each team should be optimistic about their chances, but why they also should be wary of their prospects to win it all.
Reasons for Barcelona to be optimistic
They're the defending La Liga champions, first off, and the most feared attacking trident in the entire world in Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar remains intact. With the offense in good hands (feet?), Barca shored up their defensive back line with the addition of Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne, and added enviable midfield depth with Andre Gomes. With winger Arda Turan starting to come around as of late (at least for now), the already talent-rich Blaugranas are finding spare pieces when the puzzle already looks complete.
Reasons Barcelona should worry
Messi’s new look, to begin with. C’mon, man. All kidding aside, while it’s tough to be pessimistic about a team as loaded as Barcelona’s, there’s no such thing as total perfection. Luis Enrique’s contract expires in a year, and you can’t help but wonder if Barca’s Champions League finish factors into whether or not he remains at the helm. Last year’s defense of the Champions League title fizzled out in the quarterfinals, a failure compounded by watching Real Madrid hoist the big-eared trophy. On the personnel side, Barcelona will need to replace the departed Dani Alves at the fullback position. More than anything, this is a team that needed an incredible season by Suarez to hold onto the league a year ago so what if he goes back to his regular amazing self?
Getty ImagesManuel Queimadelos Alonso
Reasons for Real Madrid to be optimistic
Well, as holders of the Champions League trophy, they obviously have plenty of reason to be hopeful. The starting XI is absolutely stacked. With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema et al. in the fold, it’s tough to find any weaknesses. Furthermore, goalkeeper Keylor Navas has looked increasingly comfortable between the posts for Los Blancos, giving them a stable presence in the back. A consistent top-notch keeper could be the deciding factor for a team that lost La Liga by just one point last season.
Getty ImagesBoris Streubel
Reasons Real Madrid should worry
Despite being one of the biggest clubs in the world, Real Madrid have yet to make a signature splash in the summer transfer window. Zidane & Co. were linked to the likes of Paul Pogba, David de Gea and David Alaba, but Pogba went to United, and de Gea and Alaba stayed at their respective clubs. Alvaro Morata’s inclusion will add some fresh blood to the side, but where’s the Galactico signing we’re used to seeing? Another potential worry: Ronaldo will be 32 this winter, and had a taxing summer in Euro 2016. Yes, he’s a physical freak, but carrying an injury into a new season is never a good start.
Getty ImagesManuel Queimadelos Alonso
Reasons for Atletico to be optimistic
Hanging onto Antoine Griezmann this summer was paramount to maintaining their La Liga title challenge, and adding Kevin Gameiro puts another valuable piece on the chessboard for Atletico. Diego Simeone expects Atletico not only to challenge in La Liga, but in all the competitions Los Colchoneros are in. Nico Gaitan brings the creative dynamism that Atletico sorely missed last season, while the bulwark defense of El Cholo returns to stymie the opposition. It’s tough to get past Real Madrid and Barcelona, but it’s not unthinkable to picture Atletico sitting in second when the season ends, or perhaps even at the summit.
AFP/Getty ImagesLUKAS BARTH
Reasons Atletico Madrid should worry
Well, there’s Barcelona and Real Madrid to worry about, first and foremost. As defensively disciplined as Atletico are under Simeone, and as much as they’ve upgraded on offense, they still face long odds. That’s life in La Liga: There’s Real, Barca, and everyone else. That’s not to say that Atletico should pack it in (and besides, Simeone would slaughter any player with that attitude, anyway), but they begin the season with the deck stacked against them. Knowing that you could probably contend as champions of any other league is both a blessing and a curse.