With La Liga making its return in just a few days, we'll take a look at all 20 of its competitors, from the title challengers to the new boys and everyone in between.
Can Valencia improve after a dismal 2013/14 season?
Valencia ended last season in eighth place a disappointing enough. but how far they were from many of their rivals would
They finished 10 points from Real Sociedad one place off them in seventh. 10 points was also the difference between Valencia and Osasuna who were relegated. 21 points away from Athletic Bilbao in fourth place 41 of champions Atletico Madrid shows how far off the pace Los Che were last season.
In: Joao Cancelo (loan), Rodrigo De Paul, Andre Gomes, Shkodran Mustafi, Lucas Orban, Rodrigo Moreno, Yoel (loan), Bruno Zuculini (loan).
Out: Phillipe Senderos, Victor Ruiz (loan), Michel (loan), Jeremy Mathieu, Seydou Keita, Vicente Guaita, Ricardo Costa, Fede Cartabia, Juan Bernat, Aly Cissokho, Dorlan Poban, Adil Rami.
Valencia have lost five quality defenders, and a decent goalkeeper, which left holes at the back. However the signing of World Cup-winning German defender Shkodran Mustafi for £7 million is a shrewd one.
The loss of Juan Bernat, seen as their brightest prospect would’ve hurt them, but youth player Jose Luis Gaya looks like he may get a fair crack of the whip, with the experienced Lucas Orban also joining to provide Nuno Esprito Santo a more solid option.
However it was at the other end of the pitch that they were found wanting. These attacking deficiencies have been addressed by Espirito Santo, with the loan signing of Rodrigo Moreno. With Helder Postiga returning from his loan spell at Lazio, Valencia have a multitude of attacking options.
Key Player: Sofiane Feghouli
The tricky winger has always been a catalyst for his side with his direct running and crossing ability. Much of the creative responsibility rests on his and Dani Parejo’s shoulders.
One to watch: Paco Alcacer
In the absence of Roberto Soldado, the 20-year-old stepped up and assumed the goal scoring responsibility, hitting a club high 14 goals in all competitions last season and outscoring senior striker Jonas. With a full season under his belt, the young Spaniard will only improve, and could form a frightening partnership with Rodrigo the year.
Hong Kong Rangers 1 – 3 Valencia
Valencia 1 – 0 Villarreal
SpVgg Bayreuth 1 – 5 Valencia
FC Burnberg 3 -1 Valencia
Alianza 2 – 2 (9-8 p) Valencia
Universidad Catolica 1 – 0 Valencia
AS Monaco FC 2 – 2 Valencia
S.L. Benfica 1 – 3 Valencia
Manchester United 2 – 1 Valencia
Valencia 2 – 1 AC Milan
Will they get into the top four?
It seems absurd that Valencia can make the jump from 8th to fourth and close a 21 point gap. However all the sides above them will be busy with European commitments, while Los Che are unburdened by such distractions.
Moreover, all their rivals have become considerably weaker after selling their star players. Athletic Bilbao lost Ander Herrera to Manchester United, Ivan Rakitic left Sevilla to Barcelona, and Griezmann made the switch from Real Sociedad to Atletico Madrid.
While Valencia do not have a squad capable challenging the big three, they are most certainly capable of a fourth-place finish.
The race for fourth place is always an interesting one in La Liga, and seldom do teams achieve the same feat twice in two years. Fourth place Athletic Bilbao finished 12th in 2013 and 6th place Villarreal weren’t even in the division a year ago.
With a new owner ready to clear their debts, a new stadium on the way and the clever acquisitions of Rodrigo and Andre Gomes, things are looking up for Valencia. In truth, fourth place looks a real possibility.
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