20 Biggest Themes to Watch for in the New La Liga Season
It's almost one month to the day until La Liga is back on our screens.
No doubt the same stories will return that feature every year, but hopefully there will be some interesting sub-plots too.
From the top to the bottom, to city rivalries and player focus, B/R takes a look at the upcoming season.
Slide through for 20 of the biggest themes which could capture the imagination...
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
They've each won one of the last two titles, but Barcelona have won four of the last five now.
How will Real Madrid, under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, respond?
Both clubs have spent big this summer, and the El Clasico rivalry, as ever, will be the dominant theme across the next 10 months in La Liga.
Can Anyone Separate the Top Two?
Ah, this again.
It's unlikely to happen, but at some stage of the season—usually early on—there may be, in a hushed tone, a suggestion that someone could separate La Liga's apex predators.
Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid, having won the Copa del Rey against Madrid last season, are best placed to do so, but it's a long shot.
Champions League Race
Valencia missed out on Champions League football on the ultimate day last season, as Real Sociedad sneaked fourth.
Having been perennial third-placers before that, Los Che will be aiming to bounce straight back into Europe's top competition.
Presumably Atletico Madrid will be the favorites to join Barcelona and Real Madrid in the top four, leaving Valencia and teams such as Sociedad, a possibly rejuvenated Athletic Bilbao and maybe the two much changed Seville sides to scrap for one place.
Battle in Seville
Real Betis and Seville have both lost some of their best players this summer, but both have also brought in plenty of new faces.
Pepe Mel has lost Benat Etxebarria and Jose Canas, among others, but signings like Joan Verdu should help plug any gaps. Across town, Jesus Navas is among the departed, while Marko Marin has joined on loan from Chelsea and youngsters Jairo and Bryan Rabello are tipped to shine.
Last season it was Los Verdiblancos who finished as top dogs in Seville; Unai Emery's Sevilla will be keen to address that this year.
And with both teams competing in the Europa League too, there's going to be plenty at stake in one of Spain's most intense rivalries.
Real Sociedad hogged all the spotlight in the Basque Country last season; not only did they clinch fourth spot, they even had the cheek to win the last ever derby at San Mames.
The season before, Athletic Bilbao had been the apple of Europe's eye. Their run to the Europa League and Copa del Rey finals was memorable for Marcelo Bielsa's attacking approach to football.
The next campaign could see the two closer than ever. La Real will hope to hit similar heights, although they'll be managing a European campaign too, while Ernesto Valverde—newly installed as Athletic's boss—has made some astute signings as the club look to bounce back from a mediocre year.
Both clubs have plenty of talent too. Ander Herrera, Benat Etxebarria, Aymeric Laporte and Iker Munian are all exciting players for Athletic, while Sociedad boast the likes of Inigo Martinez, Ruben Pardo, Carlos Vela and Antoine Griezmann.
Either way, these two are going to be a story.
If they hit it off, we'll hear all about what a wonderful partnership they have, as journalists, tweeters and pub-goers laud them on a weekly basis.
If they don't, we'll hear all about it from the same sources.
Which option you'd prefer will depend on which side your bread's buttered.
Celta Vigo were the lone survivors of the four clubs which entered last season's ultimate day with a chance of survival, while Deportivo La Coruna, Mallorca and Real Zaragoza perished.
Now under the guise of former Barcelona player Luis Enrique, the Galicians target again will be to stay in La Liga.
Battling against them at the bottom will likely be the newly promoted teams—Villarreal, Elche and Almeria—and the likes of Real Valladolid, Levante, Osasuna and probably one or two others.
World Cup Squad
Let's not kid ourselves, the majority of Spain's squad picks itself.
Andres Iniesta and his Barcelona chums are pretty much guaranteed their place on the plane to Brazil next summer, however there are plenty of players who will want to impress ahead of the World Cup.
Namely, some of the recent participants of Spain Under 21s successful European Championship campaign.
The likes of Martin Montoya and Dani Carvajal with have their eye the right-back position, while Asier Illarramendi and Isco will be keen to jump into the senior squad.
Elsewhere there will be plenty of other players hoping to do enough to impress Vicente del Bosque as well.
Atletico Madrid's Koke and Real Sociedad's Inigo Martinez will be among that group, while Roberto Soldado will hope to keep his place in the squad.
La Real and Atleti in the Champions League
Joining Barcelona and Real Madrid representing Spain in next season's Champions League will be Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad.
Both sides will no doubt seek huge encouragement in Malaga's impressive run to the quarterfinal last year, where they were unfortunately knocked out by Borussia Dortmund.
Diego Simeone, despite the loss of Radamel Falcao, has appeared to add depth to his squad, while Jagoba Arrasate has some exciting young players ready to make an their mark on Europe.
Hopefully neither's La Liga form will suffer as a consequence of their participation in the European Cup though.
Under Pep Guardiola, Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez were among the La Masia graduates fast tracked to the Barcelona first team.
Since their break through, things haven't always been as straight forward for Barca's youngsters.
Already this summer Thiago Alcantara, Marc Muniesa and Andreu Fontas have left the club to seek regular football elsewhere.
Meanwhile, three other promising players have been, or are set to be, sent on loan.
Gerard Deulofeu has joined Everton, Rafinha Alcantara will spend a year at Celta Vigo and Jonathan Dos Santos is likely to end up at Real Sociedad, via football-espana—Blaugrana eyes will be on the trio.
Madrid's Spanish Youngsters
Real Madrid have re-signed Dani Carvajal and splashed plenty of cash on the arrivals Isco and Asier Illarramendi already this summer.
Throw in the encouraging signs that Alvaro Morata and Jese Rodriguez could feature in the upcoming campaign, and there's a feeling Madrid could be building a genuine Spanish spine to their side.
It hasn't gone unnoticed, and many glances will be cast throughout the season to see how their collection of young Spaniards progress.
Ronaldo vs. Messi
Who scores more?
You don't decide. They do.
Hand-in-hand with the Madrid and Barcelona rivalry, at the moment, comes the goal scoring feats of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
This season should prove no different, and you'd expect them to battle it out for the Pichichi once again.
Most seasons come with a surprise package.
Last season Real Sociedad exceeded expectations by coming fourth, while Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano's seventh and eight placed finishes were unexpected too.
So who has the potential to trip up the prediction professionals in the new campagin?
Granada have bought well, Riki and Piti should both bring goals to their side, while the other G, Luis Garcia's Getafe, offer an interesting proposition too.
Newly-promoted Villarreal have added Tomas Pina and Giovanni Dos Santos from Mallorca, and are another capable of upsetting the odds.
Miroslav Djukic led Real Valladolid back into La Liga and then helped them to a more than comfortable mid-table finish last time out.
On the back of that success, Valencia decided that their former center-back was ready to return to Mestalla as their new manager.
The Serbian's impressive record should make him a good fit for Los Che as the club seek a return to the Champions League.
Under the 47-year-old they will start the season as favorites for fourth.
Can Villa Replace Falcao's Output?
David Villa's replaced Radamel Falcao in the Atletico Madrid No. 9 shirt, but can he replace the 28 La Liga goals scored by the Colombian?
'El Guaje' scored 10 for Barcelona, but in a lot fewer minutes, plus eight of Falcao's goals came from the penalty spot.
Obviously Villa's advancing years hardly make him a long-term replacement, and his style of play is different to his predecessor, but if he rediscovers the goal scoring touch which alerted Barca, Atleti will be more than happy.
Javier Aguirre took Espanyol from bottom of the table to the brink of Europe at one point last season, but it's unlikely they'll feature in the upper echelons of La Liga this season.
Monetary restrictions mean the club have been forced to wheel and deal this summer, and Los Pericos will be happy with another mid-table finish next season.
There will be plenty of other clubs happy to fit into this category too, particularly if it means avoiding a dog fight at the bottom.
Malaga, who have been uprooted this summer, will take a mediocre season, while Granada and Getafe, who have the potential to surprise, may likely suit this group too.
Paco Jemez's Jackets
Paco Jemez has developed a reputation as one of La Liga's snappier dressers, and the Rayo Vallecano manager will be under pressure to not let his fans down this season.
After leading Rayo to an eight placed finish in his first year in charge, his managerial reputation isn't that bad either.
He has his side playing an attractive style of football, promoting them to many peoples' second choice team in Spain, and they should be fun to watch again when the new campaign gets under way in August.
The promoted sides always offer something fresh to any new league, and that should be no different in La Liga this year.
It's hard to argue that the three best sides didn't eventually prevail from La Segunda; Elche, Villarreal and Almeria earning their places in the Primera Division.
Many will no doubt tip them for an immediate return, but they'll be at their most dangerous early on as they still carry that element of surprise.
Villarreal have the most experience, while Elche and Almeria are, admittedly, more likely to struggle.
Real Madrid managers usually find themselves in the spotlight, meaning this season the focus will fall on Carlo Ancelotti.
The Italian has replaced Jose Mourinho, and has the task of toppling Barcelona in La Liga as well as winning the club's tenth European Cup.
His pedigree with AC Milan, Chelsea and PSG suggests he should be up to the challenge.
Successful or not, there's going to be plenty written about Ancelotti's time in the Spanish capital over the coming seasons.
The Sack Race
When times were tough at the bottom last season, Osasuna stuck by their manager Jose Luis Mendilibar when many might have pulled the trigger.
But who's unlikely to get a similar reprieve this season?
Joaquin Caparros, admittedly a good coach, has taken on a tough job at Levante, while the managers of the promoted clubs will come under the spotlight if the points don't total up.
Lucas Alcaraz, by Liga's standards, has been afforded relative luxury in the transfer market, and will need to keep his Granada side away from the bottom three.
Finally Luis Enrique, after a disappointing spell in Italy with Roma, and Bernd Schuster will need to impress at Celta Vigo and Malaga respectively to keep their places on the bench.