La Liga Preseason Power Rankings

Michael CernaCorrespondent IAugust 13, 2012

La Liga Preseason Power Rankings

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    The start of the 2012-2013 La Liga season is less than a week away—barring yet another strike.

    Throughout the new season, Bleacher Report will list Power Rankings of all La Liga clubs on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

    By the end of the season chances are that only around ten percent of the preseason rankings will be proven accurate.

    For this first, preseason edition, there are a lot of variables that will certainly affect every club just over the next few weeks as the transfer period winds down.

    Please note that these rankings are based on current rosters. I am aware that a lot could change in the coming days.

    Read on to see La Liga's Preseason Power Rankings.

20. Real Zaragoza

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    August Fixtures: Real Valladolid (H), Espanyol

    Breakout star: Francisco Montañés

    Top scorer: Helder Postiga

    Zaragoza escaped relegation—and an investigation—by the slimmest of margins last year, but will be in the relegation battle again this season.

    Having Apoño for the whole season will be a huge help as he was key to their incredible second-half run last campaign.

19. Mallorca

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    August Fixtures: Espanyol (H), Malaga

    Breakout star: Antonio Luna

    Top scorer: Tomer Hemed

    Manager Joaquin Caparros is one of the best in La Liga, but he will have a lot of work to do after losing his two best defenders as well as Chori Castro.

    Imagine if he had Jose Mourinho's squad to work with.

18. Deportivo La Coruña

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    August Fixtures: Osasuna (H), Valencia

    Breakout star: Nelson Oliviera

    Top scorer: Riki

    Despite the financial crisis at Deportivo, the club has made some great moves this summer and could have the surprise run of the season to become this year’s Levante.

    Or, that porous-looking defense could cripple the team and keep them in the relegation zone all season long.

17. Real Valladolid

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    August Fixtures: Real Zaragoza, Levante (H)

    Breakout star: Victor Perez

    Top scorer: Oscar

    Oscar will be the star and Patrick Ebert could have a revival, but expect little from a Valladolid team that will struggle to score goals.

    Staying in La Liga for another season will likely be the goal for this newly-promoted side.

16. Osasuna

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    August Fixtures: Deportivo la Coruña, Barcelona (H)

    Breakout star: Alejandro Arribas

    Top scorer: Kike Sola

    The impact of losing Javad Nekounam cannot be overstated, especially with Raul Garcia also returning to Atletico.

    But Osasuna always seem to find a way to succeed even after losing key players (such as Javi Martinez, Natxo Monreal and Cesar Azpilicueta).

    Keep an eye on Arribas who has great potential and could anchor a surprisingly solid defense this season.

15. Celta Vigo

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    August Fixtures: Malaga (H), Real Sociedad

    Breakout star: Iago Aspas

    Top scorer: Iago Aspas

    The Galician club’s goal this season will be to stay in the first division and that will be a tough task.

    There are no real superstars, but Iago Aspas is a great goal scorer who will surprise people this season.

    He could become the surprise breakout star of Europe with his wondrous vision, footwork and finishing.

14. Rayo Vallecano

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    August Fixtures: Granada (H), Real Betis

    Breakout star: Leo Baptistao

    Top scorer: Leo Baptistao

    Rayo lost their manager and their two best scoring threats. At least they kept their great captain—so far.

    They were seconds away from being relegated last season, but highly touted Brazilian forward Leo Baptistao could soon make us forget about Michu.

13. Levante

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    August Fixtures: Atletico Madrid (H), Valladoid

    Breakout star: Michel

    Top scorer: Barkero

    Levante’s was one of the biggest success stories in years last season after achieving Europa League qualification despite being the league’s poorest club.

    This year, a mid-table finish would be a great success for the Valencian club that will likely struggle with scoring and keeping the opposition out of their own half.

12. Granada

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    August Fixtures: Rayo Vallecano, Sevilla (H)

    Breakout star: Gabriel Torje

    Top scorer: Antonio Floro Flores

    Granada is my risky dark horse pick this season as I see them surprising some people.

    They were very active and pretty successful in the transfer window, making some very smart moves including bringing Irney over from Betis and using their shared owner to pick up a few quality players from Udinese.

    Of course, all will depend on how well the team meshes together in the first half.

11. Espanyol

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    August Fixtures: Mallorca, Real Zaragoza (H)

    Breakout star: Wakaso Mubarak

    Top scorer: Sergio Garcia

    Last season, Espanyol did some of the smartest business in the league with a lot of great loan moves and it paid off.

    They hope this season’s signings will replicate that performance, but replicating that kind of success is always troublesome.

10. Real Betis

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    August Fixtures: Athletic Bilbao, Rayo Vallecano (H)

    Breakout star: Joel Campbell

    Top scorer: Ruben Castro

    Real Betis will only go as far as Beñat will carry the team as the underrated midfielder continues to become one of the league’s best midfielders.

    A few smart moves in the transfer window could be enough to push for a Europa League spot, but breaking the top 10 would be a more realistic goal.

9. Getafe

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    August Fixtures: Sevilla, Real Madrid (H)

    Breakout star: Abdel Barrada

    Top scorer: Alvaro

    Getafe’s midfield can carry them pretty far this season if Pedro Leon finally performs at his best and Abdel Barrada has the type of season I think he is capable of.

    The defense will struggle without Cata Diaz, but the overall squad talent will prove better than most expect.

8. Athletic Bilbao

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    August Fixtures: Real Betis (H), Atletico Madrid

    Breakout star: Jon Aurtenetxe

    Top scorer: Fernando Llorente

    The team continues to be at risk of losing its best players to Europe’s biggest clubs, but if they can stay together, Bilbao has one of the best starting 11s in Spain.

    If Fernando Llorente, Fernando Amorebieta or Javi Martinez—who should become an elite player this year—do end up leaving, another mid-table finish could be in order.

7. Real Sociedad

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    August Fixtures: Barcelona, Celta Vigo (H)

    Breakout star: Asier Illarramendi

    Top scorer: Carlos Vela

    Look for La Real to finally become the primo team in Basque Country this season after doing some great business to lock down Carlos Vela and bring in the underrated Chori Castro.

    They have a solid starting 11 and can challenge for a top six spot this season if all the youngsters perform.

    This team really can be exciting to watch so keep a close eye on them. Don't be surprised if they are playing in Europe come August of 2013.

6. Malaga

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    August Fixtures: Celta Vigo, Mallorca (H)

    Breakout star: Ignacio Camacho

    Top scorer: Isco

    More than any other club, a lot depends on how Malaga looks at the end of the transfer window.

    Despite losing Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon, Malaga are still a pretty strong side and have one of the league's best midfield units.

    Most importantly, never underestimate Manuel Pellegrini.

5. Sevilla

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    August Fixtures: Getafe (H), Granada

    Breakout star: Geoffrey Kondogbia

    Top scorer: Alvaro Negredo

    The club claims it will be a transitional period, but have really improved over the summer, notably by signing a top class keeper in Diego Lopez, defensive upgrades and the exciting young Bryan Rabello.

    Having the best winger in La Liga, Jesus Navas, and a class striker in Alvaro Negredo doesn't hurt either.

4. Valencia

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    August Fixtures: Real Madrid, Deportivo la Coruña (H)

    Breakout star: Paco Alcacer

    Top scorer: Roberto Soldado

    Los Che had the best transfer window of any La Liga club, filling every hole in the squad. Of course, there is no guarantee that it will translate to immediate success.

    A managerial change will cause some growing pains, but another top four finish will still be required for the club to survive financially.

3. Atletico Madrid

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    August Fixtures: Levante, Atheltic Bilbao (H)

    Breakout star: Koke

    Top scorer: Radamel Falcao

    Atletico have lost their best midfielder and brightest defending prospect, but are deeper in midfield now with the Turks (Turan and Emre) running things.

    If the defense can take that next step to becoming truly elite, they will at least challenge Valencia for third.

2. Barcelona

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    August Fixtures: Real Sociedad

    Breakout star: Marc Bartra

    Top scorer: Lionel Messi

    The team should be more consistent if they stay fit, but there will be a few growing pains under Tito Vilanova and tactical growth could be a hindrance.

    That poor defense will continue to be a major concern and the front line will greatly struggle is Messi becomes too great a focal point for the wingers.

1. Real Madrid

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    August Fixtures: Valencia (H), Getafe

    Breakout star: Alvaro Morata

    Top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo

    The defending champions will be even stronger this season and have no real flaws in their starting 11.

    Winning the treble is certainly possible this year, but a lot will depend on how well Mourinho can manage his men after such a successful season last year.

    Please leave your comments below and check out my other recent columns:

    La Liga: 10 Predictions for the 2012-2013 Season

    Note, many ideas and excerpts in this article were taken from the author's own work at Inside Spanish Football.