Football Espana’s La Liga 2019-20 predictions

Football Espana writers Jon Driscoll, Feargal Brennan, David Whitworth and Cillian Shields have their say on how the Spanish football season will pan out…

The top four (in order):

Jon: Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Valencia. Barca were dominant last season and look stronger with de Jong. Atleti's recruitment looks promising but there will have to be adjustments. Real Madrid haven't addressed key concerns. Valencia are my best of the rest by default because I'm unsure whether the others have improved enough.

Feargal: Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Sevilla.

David: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Valencia.

Cillian: Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Sevilla.

Surprise team(s) of the season:

Jon: Real Sociedad could be good to watch, with some entertaining players in attacking areas.

Feargal: Leganes. Some smart recruitment this summer, bringing in Kenneth Omeruo, Jonathan Silva and Roberto Rosales to boost the squad. Martin Braithwaite and Youssef En-Nesyri are an orthodox front two and could cause problems for La Liga defences.

David: I think Mallorca will acquit themselves very well upon their return and Real Sociedad too with the astute transfer dealings they have done.

Cillian: I think Athletic Bilbao might threaten for the 4th Champions League spot if they continue their progression from last season. They shot up the league when Gaizka Garitano arrived so if they are able to carry on that good form, I think they have a good enough squad to win a European spot. I'm also quite excited by the reinforcements Real Sociedad have brought in – they could just as easily sink as swim, but I'm looking forward to seeing how Odegaard, Isak, and Portu get on in Donostia.

Player(s) to watch this season:

Jon: Martin Odegaard has been around forever but is still only 20. I'm looking forward to seeing him in La Liga at last. Hopefully he will get enough playing time to develop at Real Sociedad.

Feargal: Marcos Llorente. The summer move across Madrid went somewhat under the radar, given the big spending at the Santiago Bernabeu. He fits the Simeone profile perfectly, with a point to prove and he showed plenty of promise with Real, it remains to be seen if Zinedine Zidane's is correct in selling him.

David: Definitely Joao Felix. He looks irresistable in pre season and I believe he will bed in straight away like a duck to water in La Liga. Saying this even with my Betis hat off but Nabil Fekir has all the attributes to be a standout performer. I believe both Alexander Isak and Martin Odegaard will make their mark for Real Sociedad.

Cillian: Joao Felix might be the next best player in the world if he can replicate what he's been showing in pre-season. It's going to be a big year for Iñaki Williams who needs to back up his new nine-year contract and rid Bilbao fans of their worry of what will happen when Aduriz eventually retires. Liverpool were seriously considering going for Nabil Fekir last summer, and if he can stay fit and healthy, Real Betis could do amazing things this season. I'm looking forward to seeing Marc Cucurella's first season in European competition with Getafe, he looks like a brilliant young full back. Alexander Isak has bags of potential and I think could fit into life in La Liga well. And if Valladolid (or anybody else) can get Takefusa Kubo on loan, he'll likely provide plenty of moments of magic.

Best signing of the summer:

Jon: I know it's not very hipster but I'll go for Frenkie de Jong. He's young, versatile and talented – a signing that's both exciting and sensible.

Feargal: Alexander Isak. With big money sloshing around in La Liga this summer, it is best to look outside the top four for a value for money deal. Isak joined Real Sociedad on the back of a season long loan from Borussia Dortmund at Dutch side Willhem II. 13 league goals caught the eye, and those in the know in the Netherlands and Sweden have likened him to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

David: Again, from a football fan perspective, Nabil Fekir for the bargain he was and the quality he has.

Cillian: Joao Felix. Yes he was very expensive but he already looks a good enough replacement for one of the best players in the world, which is saying a lot.

Which team(s) will underachieve:

Jon: Villarreal. They should be competing for a Champions League place but I simply don't rate Javier Calleja as a coach. I felt he made them worse when he took over and it was a farce last season that he was sacked and reappointed. They can do better.

Feargal: Espanyol. A dramatic last day of action in 2018-19 saw the Catalan side seal Europa League football. The demands of Europa League qualifying rounds and the conpetition will take its toll on a thin squad. Losing their two key players Borja Iglesias and Mario Hermoso will hit them, particularly as they have struggled to side good enough replacements.

David: Even though I have put them as runners up, I think Real Madrid could struggle with too many players past their peak and upheaval with the morale of squad. I hope Getafe have a good season for the respect I have for their team and manager but juggling Europa League commitments could prove a difficult proposition.

Cillian: I think Real Madrid could have a similar season to last year, they still don't look like they've fixed the obvious problems in their camp even with the return of Zidane last season, but "underachieving" for them still means getting into the Champions League, just their squad should be expected to keep the pace with Barcelona better. Villarreal are usually held up as regular European contenders, but while I think Raul Albiol in particular will give them the solidity in defence to avoid another relegation scare, I don't see enough improvements in their squad overall to make much of an impact.

Which teams will be relegated:

Jon: Valladolid, Granada and Mallorca. Sorry but it is tough to survive when you get into La Liga. I'm backing Osasuna to get enough points at home to make it.

Feargal: Osasuna, Granada and Real Mallorca. It looks to be three from three for the newly promoted sides. Teams that struggled in 2018-19 are still to continue to slide, but none of the new sides have recruited enough players to create much excitement.

David: I think Granada and Osasuna will struggle to stay in the league and I would add Valladolid to that.

Cillian: Mallorca, Valladolid, Alavés.