Finally, the Spanish La Liga gets underway this weekend after players’ strike had forced its original scheduled start last weekend to be put on hold—but thank god it was for only a weekend.
The strike forced the postponement of the opening round of games in Spain’s top two divisions, but on Thursday, the players and league officials reached a deal to end it, much to the delight of Spanish football followers around the world.
And of course it goes without saying about much am delighted to be back to keep an eye on what is regarded by many as the best league in the world, though this position is disputed by as many English Premier League fans.
According to Spanish press, up to 200 players from both the first and second division leagues are owed by the clubs a reported €50m in unpaid wages that’s why the players’ union had vowed not to start the league unless their concerns are sorted.
Now the league has guaranteed the reported €50m owed to players and also reached an agreement to allow players to be released from their contracts if wages were not paid—so much to look out for this season from that side beyond the biggest rivalry in world club football.
Inevitably all the attention on the opening weekend will be on Barcelona, particularly Cesc Fabregas, who is most likely than not to make his La Liga debut when the Yellow Submarines of Villarreal visit the champions in Nou Camp on Monday. Barca were due to begin their title defence at Malaga last weekend.
Spain’s world cup and European cup winning midfielder returns to his boyhood club after spending the last eight years with Arsenal. Fabregas, who left as a budding youngster from the Barca academy, returns as one of the most complete midfielders in the game at the moment.
The former Arsenal captain’s first taste of the ‘el classico’ ended successfully when Barca beat their eternal rivals to win the Spanish Super Cup about a fortnight ago, and there was no shortage of drama.
As well as Fabregas, Guardiola has added Chile forward Alexis Sanchez to his squad as the European champions aim for a club record-equalling fourth straight domestic title.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, have bolstered their squad with Spanish forward Jose Callejon, Turkish midfielders Hamit Altintop and Nuri Sahin, Portuguese left back Fabio Coentrao and French central defender Raphael Varane.
Jose Mourinho, who has come under fire for jabbing a finger into the eye of Guardiola’s assistant during the Super Cup fracas, has also been handed more power by Florentino Perez [Real president] as he seeks to end a barren run for the 9-times European champions.
Real and Mourinho begin their bid to end Barca and Guardiola’s stranglehold on the Spanish title at Real Zaragoza tomorrow night.
Malaga, who were bought by a member of the Qatar royal family at the end of the 2009-10 season, have been the most active in the transfer market during the close season and may surprise some of the more established sides [aside from Barca and Real Madrid] if coach Manuel Pellegrini can get the players to gel.
The Chilean former Real Madrid coach has splashed out on big names including Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla, Brazilian forward Baptista and Spanish winger Joaquin.
As it has been in the last three seasons, Barca will again be the team to beat but only this time, Real have a resemblance of a team with the ingredients to dash their bitter rival’s hopes of winning four successive La Liga titles.
But a resemblance is just that if it’s not backed with solid actions, which is why, with the standards that Guardiola’s team have set, it will take Mourinho and his team to have a real special season to upstage the champions.