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La Liga Preview
The Sunday Times, August 21st, 2006 4:45PM



Spain's La Liga kicks off this Sunday and while there are still 10 days open in the transfer window, most teams have their rosters set at this point. Make no mistake about it: the EPL may have Chelsea, but by and large, the world's best players will be playing in La Liga this season. The Milan clubs may have something to say about that, but following the relegation of Juventus and the occasional burst from Roma or Lazio, Italy's Serie A is no longer what it used to be. Even so, there are really only three teams who will be battling out for the La Liga crown, and Barcelona is the heavy favorite to three-peat. The Spanish champions have had a shrewd offseason, adding players only when they need to. Eidur Gudjohnsen comes in from Chelsea to replace Henrik Larsson, and Lillian Thuram and Gianluca Zambrotta have been brought in from Juve to tighten up the defense. Real Madrid should offer a stronger challenge this year, but it will be a very different looking side from the one finishing 12 points behind Barca last season. Fabio Capello joins as coach, Ruud Van Nistelrooy comes in from Manchester United, Malian Mahamadou Diarra is the new man in center midfield from Lyon, and Fabio Cannavaro and Emerson have come over from Juventus. "Real's squad is bloated with players," The Sunday Times says. "If they do not find a way to thin the ranks, they will have a lot of highly paid, unhappy would-be stars." The problem is up top: Van Nistelrooy may be the only out-and-out goal scorer, but who among Raul, Antonio Cassano, Robinho, Julio Baptista and Ronaldo do you put in behind him? And what formation do you play? Expect one or two of Real's strikers to go before the transfer deadline closes. The paper adds that Valencia "has quietly built a team that could mount a serious challenge." David Villa is already one of the league's best strikers, and new signing Francesco Tavano, another prolific goal-scorer, and a fit-again Vicente could be all Valencia needs to give Barcelona that challenge. Read the original story...

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