Perhaps the only time that optimism trumps the pessimism of a football fan is the summer. Hope springs eternal that the new signings will fit like a glove and the manager will find a way to manifest his ideal version of the squad onto the pitch. Even when making predictions, all of the problems that plagued a side last season shrink in the distance.
In terms of La Liga that is very much the case. Running the risk of looking a little silly, it seems as if the title race in Spain is shaping up to be as tight as it has been for several years.
Real Madrid cruised to the La Liga title last season having started off in lightning fashion, before staving off what seemed like an inevitable drop-off. Meanwhile Barcelona and Atletico Madrid languished down the European places for much of the season and ultimately failed to look like a stringent test for Los Blancos.
There is little to suggest that Real Madrid will drop off dramatically from their form last season, with Aurelien Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger adding increased depth to Los Blancos.
Yet it’s also true that Real Madrid have not retained a La Liga title since 2008, 14 years ago. In spite of their unrivalled success in European competition in the 2010s, consistency in Spain has been the stone in their shoe.
Their brightest stars Karim Benzema and Luka Modric are getting older, despite doubts, and the chance exists that injuries may not respect the Spanish champions next season. Carlo Ancelotti’s decision not to rotate heavily for most of the season paid off last time out, but whether he can repeat the trick twice will be the subject of much debate.
Regardless of the arguments that can be for a drop-off from the Champions, the analysis of their two likely rivals for the title is much easier to make. Neither Barcelona or Atletico Madrid should suffer the same atrocious runs of form as they did last season.
Atleti manager Diego Simeone will hope for a complete emotional reset, increased fitness of his key defenders and a recovery of the hunger that took them to the title two seasons previously.
Barcelona on the other hand are in complete rebuild, but are in a hurry to see some results. Even with a squad that lacked some of the requisite quality to challenge for titles, the Blaugrana did put together a sensational run of 15 games unbeaten between January and April, crowned by their 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid. That, at least, was a warning of what Barcelona are capable of, should they get it right.
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