El Centrocampista

SEASON PREVIEW PART THREE – Osasuna, Racing, Rayo, Real and Santander


With the strike over and another weekend without football avoided, it’s time to get down to business!

Tonight, finally sees the start of the 2011/12 La Liga campaign as 20 clubs battle it out for the crown (although, realistically make that two..).

Who will make it into the top four and grab an all-important UEFA Champions League spot? Who will have to settle for the UEFA Europa League? and which clubs will face the dreaded drop to la segunda?

Today see’s the final two parts of our league-preview to get you ready for the season ahead.

In our penultimate section, we look at the chances of Osasuna, Racing Santander, Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid and Real S0ciedad. 



Stadium: Reyno de Navarra

Nickname: Los Rojillos

Coach: Jose Luis Mendilibar

Finished last season: 9th

Players in: Ibrahima Balde, Ruben Gonzalez, Marc Bertran, Nino, Jukka Raitala, Raul Garcia, Roland Lamah

Players out: Oier, Jorge Galan, Carlos Aranda, Nacho Monreal, Josetxo, Fernando Soriano, Javier Camunas, Jokin Esparza

Osasuna enjoyed a magnificent tail end to last season winning four of their last six matches.

Despite not recording an away win in the league until March, Jose Antonio Camacho’s side peaked at the right time and mainly survived due to their formidable home record which saw them beat the likes of Real Madrid at their Reyo de Navara home.

Osasuna lacked somewhat of a regular goal scorer last season with peripheral figure, Kike Sola finishing as top scorer with just seven goals.

Camacho however appears to have acknowledged this need for firepower by bringing in striker Nino from Tenerife.

The number nine hit 60 goals over a three year period with the Islanders and could prove to be a useful addition for Osasuna.

KEY PLAYER: Javad Nekounam
If Nino does however fail to deliver the goods, Osasuna can call upon talented attacking midfielder Javad Nekounam.

The Iranian international hit six goals last year and was an integral figure for the Pamplona based side.

Both Nekounman and fortress Reyo de Navara will be crucial in the season ahead for Osasuna.

ONE TO WATCH: Ibrahima Balde
Signed from Atletico this summer, the imposing figure of Ibrahima is one that few defences will relish.

After starting his career in Argentina, he was moved to the Atletico B side, where he scored 8 goals in 18 games.

He was called in to the full side after the sale of Florent Sinama-Pongolle and proceeded to bag 3 in 18.

A loan spell to Numancia followed, where he again impressed, scoring 6 goals in 18 games before Osasuna pounced to snare him on a permanent deal.

Athletically talented, Balde should push main striker Kike Sola for a starting role this year.

El centrocampista prediction: 13th



Stadium: El Sardinero

Nickname: Los Racinguistas

Coach: Hector Cuper

Finished last season: 12th

Players in: Lautaro Acosta, Christian Stuani

Players out: Medhi Lacen, Alexandros Tziolis, Henrique, Ivan Bolado, Fabio Coltorti, Ramon Acras, Markus Rosenborg, Giovani dos Santos

Season 2010/2011 must surely go down as one of the most bizarre seasons in the history of Racing Santander.

However, it was not until the final ball of the season had been kicked that things began to turn a bit surreal.

Jose Angel Portugal’s side spent the first half of the season struggling in the bottom half of La Liga trying desperately to stay away from the dreaded drop zone.

Shortly after the league’s winter break, Indian businessman Ali Syed completed a takeover of the Cantabrian club and promptly sacked Portuagal replacing him with Marcelino.

This is perfectly understandable given Racing’s poor form under Portugal.

Marcelino brought in Mexican winger Giovani dos Santos and with the little Mexican’s help, Racing cemented a 12th place finish in the league.

This is however round about the time when the club began to resemble something of a soap opera.

It soon emerged that Mr Syed was not all he claimed to be. Players began to complain that wages had not been paid for months and threatened to report Racing to the Spanish FA, which would have resulted in relegation for the club.

Fed up of the nonsense, Marcelino decided to join Sevilla.

He has since been replaced by the experienced Hector Cuper but a number of key players have followed Marcelino out the exit door including Marcus Rosenberg and Medhi Lacen.

Unlike last year, Racing fans hope to remember the coming season for all the right reasons.

Key Player: Pedro Munitis. A club legend, the ex Real Madrid winger is the club’s most recognisable figure. Now at 36, the former Spanish international has made almost 300 appearances for Racing. He will need to use all his experience if Racing is to avoid the drop to Segunda.

One to Watch: Luque. Luque is a promising young forward who has been compared to Sergio Canales.

A product of the Racing youth system, Luque made a handful of first team appearances last year and looked quite impressive.

He could well play a bigger role this year under Cuper.

El centrocampista prediction: 18th



Stadium: Estadio Teresa Rivero

Nickname: Rayo

Coach: Jose Ramon Sandoval

Finished last season: 2nd, Segunda (promotion)

Players in: Sueliton, Alberto Perea, Michu, Roberto Trashorras, Mikel Labaka, Dani Pacheco, Raul Tamudo, Pedro Botelho, Jordi

Players out: Juli, Borja Garcia, Juan Quero, Brayan Angulo, Oscar Trejo, Coke Andujar, Emilio Armenteros, Antonio Amaya

Promotion should be followed by mass celebrations, optimism and the eventual hard work ahead of playing some of the biggest teams in world football.

Not for Rayo Vallecano.

Confusion has surrounded the Madrid side over the summer. The club has very little money and have barely been able to strengthen their squad, whilst the players that got them promoted haven’t been paid their wages since October 2010.

From ownership changes to tax related mysteries, Vallecano have endured a turbulent 5 years or so, eventually crowned with a return to La Liga.

It’s a real shame that this has happened, because it would seem that Vallecano could be this year’s whipping boys, especially as talented players Trejo and Emilio Armenteros are no longer there, whilst promising right back Coké has moved to Sevilla.

KEY PLAYER: Roberto Trashorras

In a team that looks like it should be in Segunda, much will rest on the shoulders of former Barcelona playmaker Roberto Trashorras.

After being on the books of Barca and then Real Madrid, there is clear talent to see from Trashorras. So why didn’t he make it? Commitment, drive, determination? He’s not the type of player to run around for 90 minutes.

Trashorras relies on his technical abilities to make a name for himself. Playing in what is often described as the ‘Classic No. 10’ role, Trashorras exhibits beautiful technique and passing skills, whilst being deadly from set pieces.

Now 30, Trashorras will be responsible for creativity at Rayo, and I would imagine he could be one of the few successes for them this season.

ONE TO WATCH: Pedro Botelho

Botelho is a Brazilian left wing back who will now be into his 5th year in Spanish football – all of which have been loan spells.

He is currently an Arsenal player, but due to competition for places and need for experience, Botelho spent two years at Salamanca, then a year at Celta Vigo, last season at Cartagena and now this year, for the first team, Botelho will take to the field as a La Liga player.

He is a very attack minded player, as huge question marks can be raised over his defensive capabilities.

He also possesses a sharp turn of pace, but Botelho’s problem is often his work rate.

It is widely considered that Botelho doesn’t work hard enough for the team – but his technical abilities make him an intriguing prospect.

Because of his defensive frailty, it might be that Botelho is used on the left hand side of midfield, so he can show off his attacking prowess.

El centrocampista prediction: 20th



Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu

Nickname: Los Blancos

Coach: Jose Mourinho

Finished last season: 2nd

Players in: Nuri Sahin, Hamit Altintop, Jose Callejon, Raphael Varane, Fabio Coentrao

Players out: Pablo Sarabia, Emmanuel Adebayor, David Mateos, Juan Carlos Perez, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Canales

Last year’s runners-up have made a lot of noise since Jose Mourinho was appointed – to no evail.

They ran eventual champions Barcelona close, but the 5-0 demolition a the Nou Camp was the ultimate humilation for Los Galacticos.

Mourinho has spent wisely again though, bringing in Nuri Sahin, Fabio Coentrao, Hamit Altintop, Jose Maria Callejon and young French defender Raphael Varane as they build what is widely considered as the strongest squad in world football.

The aim is clear for Mourinho this season – win either La Liga or the Champions League – two things that rivals Barcelona are holders of.

The Super Cup final showed that Madrid have improved massively on last season’s effort, but Barca still managed to come way with a 2-2 result.

Expect Madrid to fight Barca all the way to the final weeks of the season.

Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

The mercurial Portuguese magician just carries on dazzling football fans game by game as his trickery and eye for goal make him one of the best players in football.

His assault on the Pichichi last season led to him scoring 40 or 41 goals (depends on who you believe!) and his record now stands at a mind-blowing 86 goals in 89 for Madrid, and you can expect more of the same from the former Manchester United winger this season.

Madrid’s title hopes rest on his shoulders, which he himself knows – often leading to him claiming that Madrid would be nothing without him to his team mates – to much furore.

One to Watch: Nuri Sahin

A German-born Turkish international, Sahin has signed for Madrid on the back of a stunning season for Dortmund where he lifted the league title.

A diminutive midfielder, Sahin fits into the category of ‘deep lying playmaker’.

A superb passing range coupled with great defensive work make him a typical Mourinho player and will be a valuable asset for him over the season.

Sahin isn’t a goalscoring midfielder though, instead relying on other players to score – his 13 assists last season alone make this obvious.

It remains to be seen whether Sahin is seen as the natural successor to Xabi Alonso or whether the Turk will play alongside him, pushing Sami Khedira out of the side.

El centrocampista Prediction: 2nd



Stadium: Anoeta

Nickname: Los Rojillos

Coach: Phillipe Montanier

Finished last season: 15th

Players in: Carlos Vela, McDonald Mariga

Players out: Diego Rivas, Mikel Orbegozo, Francisco Sutil, Raul Tamudo, Mikel Labaka

The Txuri-urdin made a bright start at the beginning of last season following promotion back to La Liga under Martin Lasarte.

The season soon fell apart, though, and Sociedad endured a terrible run of results in the second half of the year, narrowly avoiding relegation.

Lasarte has since been replaced by the Frenchman Philippe Montanier, who has left his post at Valenciennes F.C for the job.

The squad is largely home-produced and contains some fantastic attacking talent.

Led by captain Mikel Aranburu, the likes of Xabi Prieto and Antoine Griezmann are superbly talented and able to produce opportunities for the team.

Fans at the Anoeta were dismayed at the decision to allow defensive midfielder, Diego Rivas to leave on a free and he will have to be replaced.

There have been no new signings as of yet with Montanier looking likely to promote players from the youth team in the hope that they will step up.

Despite a lack of transfer activity, there are high hopes for the team should they rediscover last season’s early form and stay consistent.

Montanier favours an attacking style, and with some new additions – primarily a striker and defensive midfielder – the Basque side could enjoy a much more productive year.

Key player: Xabi Prieto

The heartbeat of Sociedad, Xabi Prieto is in to his 10th season at Sociedad, joining his boyhood club as a teenager.

Possibly the first name on the teemsheet, Prieto demonstrates superb dribbling and technical ability on a weekly basis at the Anoeta, aswell as being a dead ball specialist.

He hit an impressive 7 goals from midfield last year and you would expect more of the same from the San Sebastian hero.

One to watch: Antoine Griezmann

Young French winger who has produced scintillating performances for Sociedad since breaking into the team in 2009.

Famed for his ‘car’ celebration last season, Griezmann has attracted interest from some of the biggest clubs in Europe for his wing play.

At just 20, big things are expected of Griezmann and this might just be his breakthrough season.

El Centrocampista prediction: 12th

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow us and get La Liga news right in your feed!