La Liga Preseason Power Rankings
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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:
Note, many ideas and excerpts in this article were taken from the author's own work at Inside Spanish Football.