The comparisons have already begun. After a long summer that isn't finished yet, fans and pundits alike are already pitting Barcelona and Real Madrid against each other as favorites to win the La Liga trophy.
Both sides have strengthened well in the transfer window, though Atletico Madrid can never be erased from the picture. So who are the favorites to win La Liga?
Most are making the case for Real Madrid to be considered the favorites after last season's success and additions this summer. However, Barcelona should be dubbed the favorites to win the Spanish league, not their El Clasico rivals.
To begin with, Barcelona boast a much more balanced midfield than their rivals, which is already an important factor in Spanish football.
As of now, La Blaugrana can put several combinations together with Sergio Busquets, Javier Mascherano, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Ivan Rakitic, Rafinha and even Alen Halilovic.
Barcelona is able to utilize a double pivot with Busquets and Mascherano or simply take advantage of creators like Xavi and Rakitic. If needed, Iniesta and Rafinha can be used to find space and pull defenders out of position.
Real Madrid's midfield is solid too; it just isn't quite as balanced as their Catalan rivals.
For instance, no one seems to know exactly how Carlo Ancelotti will line up this season. Some people, including Rio Ferdinand, have brought up the potential to play Toni Kroos beside Luka Modric, but that has potential to be disastrous for Los Blancos.
While both Modric and Kroos do have the ability to defend, they are used to playing alongside a true defensive midfielder. Asking them to play a double pivot together would give the defense very little coverage and could be problematic.
In truth, the simple reason why Barcelona should be considered favorites to win the league comes down to having a balanced squad overall.
Barcelona have two solid keepers, a defense that can give several different looks and midfield pairings that can both defend and create, as well as three of the best forwards on the planet. La Blaugrana are balanced from top to bottom, and that is a necessity in today's game.
It is true that Real Madrid is just as balanced, but it is highly unlikely that they will field a balanced XI often.
The idea of playing Kroos alongside Modric already takes out the team's defensive coverage, while swapping someone for the likes of Xabi Alonso just doesn't seem likely after all the money they spent this summer.
In addition, new signing James Rodriguez will likely be asked to play in behind the front three as the team's creative maestro. While the Colombian should thrive at Real Madrid, he is known for being lazy in defense, as evidenced by his averaging one tackle per game last season, via WhoScored.com.
On paper, Real Madrid are very top-loaded. They have a squad full of attacking talent and match winners. However, when the ball is turned over and opponents are in attack, there will be little stopping them unless Real Madrid do indeed put a true defensive midfielder into the mix.
The lineup may look great on paper, or in a game of FIFA for that matter, but a lineup has to be able to ebb and flow. When Real Madrid come up against better opposition, they could drop points unless Ancelotti gives the back line some help.
The thought of Real Madrid turning over the ball and having five or six players struggle to help defend the counter is quite scary.
Barcelona, however, will be playing with one of the most balanced squads in Europe. Busquets and Mascherano are able to work in a single or double pivot, while other players, such as Rakitic, create chances for the strikers in front of them.
Something as simple as changing one player in the lineup can alter an entire season for a club. Real Madrid have added incredible talent to their squad, but will they be able to put it together?
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have unbelievably talented squads, and either could win the La Liga title. But it is time that the Catalans start being looked at as the favorites for the simple reason that their balanced lineup can do things that Real Madrid's won't be able to.
Could Ancelotti fix the issues by playing Xabi Alonso or Asier Illarramendi regularly? Of course he could; that alone would see Los Blancos leapfrog Barcelona as the league favorites.
However, the chances of that happening are slim to none. After spending so much money this summer, Real Madrid have to play their biggest stars. The problem is, their biggest stars don't quite fit together.
Who are the favorites to win La Liga? Will Real Madrid be able to field all their attacking stars together? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
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