La Liga 2016-17 Season Preview
Galicia & Asturias
Spain’s picturesque North-West is again represented by Celta Vigo, Deportivo La Coruña and Sporting Gijón this season. The Galician clubs both started the last campaign very well but only Celta could hold their form to take a Europa League spot while Depor fell badly away and ended up just 4 points clear of the relegation zone. It was an even closer call for Sporting who survived on their final day in their first season back in the top flight and it is likely to be another tricky season for them this time around.
Last Season: 6th
IN: Pione Sisto (€6million from Midtjylland), José Naranjo (€1million from Gimnastic), Facundo Roncaglia (Free Transfer), Álvaro Lemos (Undisclosed from Lugo)
OUT: Nolito, Borja Domínguez, Yelko Pino
Coach: Eduardo Berizzo
Key Player: Fabián Orellana
It has been a pretty quiet summer in Vigo with a couple of notable exceptions. The departure of Nolito, who has been an absolute revelation over the past few seasons, clearly weakens them. They have though signed promising Danish winger Pione Sisto, who starred for Midtjylland in the Europa League last term memorably scoring twice against Manchester United. He is a different kind of player to Nolito with pace his main asset but he will take up a similar role in the Celta attack alongside Fabián Orellana and Iago Aspas who remain at the club.
Aim for 2016-17: Europa League Qualification
Celta Vigo will be back in Europe this season so they will have to juggle the demands of often playing two games a week in the first half of the campaign at least. Without Nolito they might find it difficult to replicate the success of last year but they did finish just 4 points off the Champions League places last term and were comfortable qualifiers for Europe’s secondary competition. It may be tougher this time around but they will be aiming for another top six finish.
Celta have looked considerably weaker in recent years whenever Nolito has been missing through injury and it’s hard to see how they are going to compensate for his loss. With only one major signing, there is a lot of pressure on Pione Sisto’s young shoulders and he may need some time to adapt to life in La Liga.
Perhaps more worryingly they’ve not really added many bodies to their squad which they will surely need given they might have 10 or more games on their calendar with European football this season and it’s hard to see how they are going to be able to tackle both competitions effectively with their current squad. The likes of Sevilla, Malaga and Valencia are likely to be stronger this year and the latter two will have no European distractions so Celta may find themselves slipping back down towards mid-table.
Deportivo La Coruña
Last Season: 15th
IN: Florin Andone (€4million from Cordoba), Przemyslaw Tyton (€500,000 from Stuttgart), Borja Valle (Free Transfer), Ruben (Free Transfer), Bruno Gama (Free Transfer), Juanfran (Free Transfer), Emre Çolak (Free Transfer), Fayçal Fajr (Free Transfer), Raul Albentosa (Undisclosed from Derby), Carles Gil (Loan from Aston Villa), Marlos Moreno (Loan from Manchester City), Guilherme (Loan from Udinese)
OUT: Fabricio, Manu Fernández, Cani, Miguel Cardoso, Luis Fernández, Stipe Pletikosa, Jonás Gutiérrez
Coach: Gaizka Garitano
Key Player: Lucas Perez
It has been a very busy summer at the Riazor and in truth it needed to be because Depor were in absolute freefall in the Second half of last season. They won just 2 games after Christmas and only 8 all season, the joint worst tally in the division. Therefore although it may have been with a heavy heart, it wasn’t a great surprise when the Galicians opted to part company with Víctor Sánchez at the end of the campaign.
His replacement was a bit of a surprise though. Gaizka Garitano was the mastermind behind Eibar’s miraculous rise to the top flight but was sacked by Real Valladolid last season after just 3 months in the job leaving his team rock bottom of the Segunda Division.
Aim for 2016-17: Mid-table Finish
Depor will be hoping to build on a 15th place finish last year and to do that they will have to shed their tag as draw specialists and start converting 1 point into 3 with a bit more regularity. Romanian international striker Florian Andone should help them towards that goal and will relieve some of the burden on Lucas Perez up front. Most of their other additions have been free transfers but some of them do come with real pedigree and Depor will fancy they can improve this season.
Depor have finished between 15th in the Primera Division and 2nd in the Segunda Division in each of the last 6 seasons. This will be their third successive season in the top flight and progress would be to go into the final couple of games without any relegation worries. They look to have strengthened enough to achieve that aim and ought to be one of the stronger sides in the bottom half when everything settles down.
Last Season: 17th
IN: Duje Cop (Loan from Cagliari), Fernando Amorebieta (€300,000 from Fulham), Diego Mariño (€200,000 from Levante), Akram Afif (Loan from Villarreal), Burgui (Loan from Real Madrid), Lillo (Free Transfer), Jean-Sylvain Babin (Free Transfer), Victor Rodriguez (Free Transfer), Moi Gomez (Free Transfer), Xavi Torres (Free Transfer), Óscar Whalley (Free Transfer)
OUT: Miguel Angel Guerrero, Jony, Alex Menendez, Bernardo Espinosa, Alex Barrera, Alberto Garcia, Luis Hernandez
Coach: Abelardo Fernández
Key Player: Jorge Mere
Sporting beat the drop on the final day last year but it hasn’t been a good summer for them. They’ve lost a host of players on free transfers most notably winger Jony and centre-back Luis Hernandez who has joined Leicester and just as significant as those players who’ve moved on frees are those who aren’t returning following successful loan spells in Asturias last season. Much of their attacking threat came from exciting youngsters Sanabria and Halilovic but neither will be at the club this term and again they’ve had barely any funds to spend on new players.
Aim for 2016-17: Survival
Again the aim for Sporting Gijon will be to beat the drop but with their squad severely diminished, they are going to need some of their new-boys to really hit the ground running and have big seasons. Abelardo Fernández will know he has a tough job on his hands and perhaps their most notable addition is that of striker Duje Cop, who was pretty underwhelming up front for Malaga last season.
It’s going to be a long 9 months for Sporting Gijon you feel. They are boosted by excellent home support at El Molinón but some of the buzz that marked their return to the top flight will have gone and with what on paper looks a much weakened team it’s hard to see them beating the drop.
They simply don’t have the resources to really invest in their squad and they are likely to struggle at both ends of the pitch this year unless someone like promising young defender Jorge Mere can really step up a gear and take charge of this defence but that’s a lot to ask of a 19 year old.
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