El Centrocampista

SEASON PREVIEW PART FOUR – Sevilla, Sporting Gijon, Valencia, Villarreal and Zaragoza


With the big kick-off almost upon, here is the final part of the season preview compiled by the writing team at elcentrocampista.com

We hope you have enjoyed our look at the 20 sides who will battle it out for glory this season and also hope you enjoy the season ahead!




Stadium: Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan

Nickname: Los Rojiblancos

Coach: Marcelino Garcia Toral

Finished last season: 5th

Players in: Piotr Trochowski, Emir Spahic, Coke Andujar, Manu del Moral,

Players out: Renato, Sergio Sanchez, Jose Carlos, Cala, Diego Capel, David Prieto, Lautaro Acosta, Romaric, Rodri, Arouna Kone, Didier Zokora

Sevilla have been one of the best teams La Liga in recent years, and will have high expectations once again heading into the upcoming season.

Looking to improve on last year’s fifth place finish, Sevilla named Marcelino its new coach and has added to their squad in the transfer market.

Winning the title may be a bit unrealistic, with Real Madrid and Barcelona likely hogging the top two spots, but Marcelino has already signaled that he expects them to challenge for a spot in the top three and a berth in next year’s Champions League.

Sevilla have brought in a few new players, most notably Piotr Trochowski a two-footed central midfielder from Hamburg.

The 27-year-old has been a mainstay in the Hamburg midfield and featured in four matches for Jogi Loew’s national side at the 2010 World Cup.

On the opposite side people are optimistic that extremely talented Spanish winger Jesus Navas can remain fit next season and avoid injury, having had most of his 10/11 campaign written off due to injury.
KEY PLAYER: Jesus Navas

When fit Navas can terrorise defences no matter what level and with Negredo up front he certainly has a guy who is not afraid to run in behind and attack crosses.

If Navas gets firing then I can only imagine the potential of this Sevilla side, especially alongside Rakitic who has shown over the years to be immensely capable at creating/scoring from midfield.

Alongside Perotti you can see why Sevilla fans are so expectant of this team, undoubtedly it has the quality to be amongst the top 5 come next February.


Nedredo has proven himself in the league with Almeria and has had one of the best footballing educations available at Real Madrid.

We all know his capabilities as does Marcelino, his strike rate is fairly sensational given the difficult circumstances he has been working under for the past 2 seasons.

El centrocampista prediction: 8th



Stadium: El Molinon

Nickname: Los Rojillos

Coach: Manuel Preciado

Finished last season: 10th

Players in: Oscar Trejo, Andre Castro, Ricardo Leon, Damian Suarez

Players out: Diego Castro, Rafael Sastre, Jose Angel

An unexpected 10th place finish was warmly greeted in Asturias last year, as the eccentric Manolo Preciado led them away from relegation in the second half of the season.

The highlight of the season will never be in doubt – ending Jose Mourinho’s 9 year, 150 game unbeaten home run at the Bernabeu. Miguel de las Cuevas’ strike in the 79th gave Preciado a win that he couldn’t have dreamed of – but it was of more significance than the 3 points.

Earlier in the season, Preciado and Mourinho had come to blows after the Real Madrid boss accused of Preciado of fielding a weakened side against Barcelona, much to the anger of the Gijon manager.

A second successive top half finish would be an unbelievable achievement but is somewhat unlikely given the money spent by other clubs this summer.

Gijon have strengthened, bringing in Oscar Trejo, Damian Suarez and Ricardo Leon, whilst last season’s loanee Andre Castro has returned for another year.

The big loss is left back Jose Angel, who has moved over to Italy with former Barcelona B boss Luis Enrique. Youth product Roberto Canella is the ready made replacement, but with Villarreal lurking, there could be real uncertainty at left back.

KEY PLAYER: Miguel de las Cuevas

The attacking midfielder hit the headlines with his winner at the Bernabeu – but there is so much more to him than just that goal.

A creative player, de las Cuevas was on the books of Atletico Madrid but failed to make the grade at the Vicente Calderon. A move to Gijon materialised in 2009 and he hasn’t looked back since.

He is very capable of chipping in with goals and supporting the frontman, making him one of the first names on the teamsheet for Preciado.

It’s a huge plus that they have managed to keep hold of him as he is a priceless member of the squad – but I don’t think it will be long before a bigger side looks to steal Gijon’s prized asset.

ONE TO WATCH: Alberto Botia

Another youngster who is building a reputation at Gijon, central defender Alberto Botia has impressed heavily not only in La Liga, but also for Spain U21’s.

Formerly of Barcelona, Botia is not only a strong and uncompromising centre half, he is also a very talented footballer, showcasing all the skills he learnt at La Masia – drawing comparisons to current Barca defender Gerard Pique.

He has forged a superb partnership with Gregory Arnolin at El Molinon and has become a mainstay at the heart of Preciado’s defence.

There is plenty of speculation claiming that Botia could move back to Barcelona to be backup to Pique and Puyol – a move which he could capitalise on if Puyol’s injury problems persist.

El centrocampista prediction: 14th



Stadium: Mestalla

Nickname: Los Che

Coach: Unai Emery

Finished last season: 3rd

Players in: Diego Alves, Adil Rami, Dani Parejo, Pablo Piatti, Sergio Canales, Cristiano Pereira, Anthony Lozano

Players out: Manuel Fernandes, Juan Mata, Miguel Angel Moya, Sunny, Michel, Asier del Horno, Joaquin, Isco, Marius Stankevicius, David Navarro, Alejandro Dominguez, Renan Brito, Nacho Gonzalez, Aaron Niguez, Cesar Sanchez

This season at the Mestalla promises to be an even more action packed, adrenaline pumping and much more enthralling than ever before.

With the rising tides in Andalucia on the back of heavy investment from middle-east oil tycoon for Malaga, and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Villarreal all making some bargain deals to improve on their squads, the competition in the league seems to be on the ascendency.

But much like recent seasons and what has now almost become a norm, it is Valencia who pose a more realistic challenge than any of the above teams, to challenge the Barcelona-Real Madrid hegemony that has ruled the Spanish shores.

The policy of financial consolidation last summer has proved fruitful this summer with promising signings such as that of French International defender Adil Rami and Spanish sensations Dani Parejo and Sergio Canales amongst others, has surely ushered a sense of belief in their set of fans.

Last season, the club finished as the ‘best of the rest’ in 3rd place in the league.

The season was overall a fairly successful one for Valencia as they made it through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League and also finished some way ahead of nearest competitors for 3rd and the final direct Champions League qualifications slot.

Diego Alves from Almeria for the price they signed him at has fixed a problem that has been ever present and visible since Canizares retired, they have lacked a consistent top class goalkeeper and in Alves they have one of the most talented and consistent goalkeepers of the past 3 seasons.

Another Almeria signing Pablo Piatti will prove to be, in my opinion, the bargain of the summer and I can see him showing his talent on the world stage for a long time to come.

If Valencia can win the crucial games versus Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atleti you do feel that they could mount a serious challenge to the top 2.

Consistency, solidity at the back and a strong head in the big games are the things to look out for with Valencia. Overall their prospects are extremely good going into the next season…

KEY PLAYER: Roberto Soldado

Soldado’s relative experience and eye for goal will be tested severely and the apparent need for more forwards during the last campaign when Soldado and Aduriz were injured in the same period and Valencia struggled.

Alcacer will possibly step into the 3rd striker role and may get an opportunity mid season to show whether he is ready to step up or not but Soldado will be Valencia’s main man next season no doubt about it.


Since Marchena departed, Valencia have lacked a strong minded centre back with ability and I do feel that Rami is the ideal man to step into the helm and lead from the back.

He will need to learn the tempo of the Spanish game but he will be a crucial player in the big games next season for Valencia, his experience and attributes will be just vital in stopping the likes of Messi, Villa etc baring down at will on Alves’ goal.

El centrocampista prediction: 3rd



Stadium: El Madrigal

Nickname: El Submarino Amarillo

Coach: Juan Carlos Garrido

Finished last season: 4th

Players in: Cesar Sanchez, Javier Camunas, Cristian Zapata,

Players out: Cicinho, Jozy Altidore, Juan Carlos Sanchez, Salva Perez, Cristobal Marquez, Santi Cazorla, Ivan Marcano, Javier Matilla, Jefferson Montero, Joan Capdevila

Villarreal enjoyed a successful, and somewhat frustrating, season last year.

They played some exquisite football, claimed the 4th spot for Champions League football, and made it to the Europe League semi-final. There is a feeling, though, that it could have been much more if it wasn’t for key injuries and lack of depth.

Unfortunately for the Yellow Submarine, they have lost key midfielder Santi Cazorla to free-spending Malaga. Although a huge loss, the squad still looks very strong – particularly the starting eleven.

They boast one of the finest passers of La Liga in the form of Borja Valero and possibly the best front two in Rossi and Nilmar.

The main problem is keeping hold of these stars whilst trying to add to the squad as a whole.

Both Rossi and Nilmar have been interesting Juventus and Roma this summer.

The hope is that they will be able to continue their fine form in the league whilst progressing further in Europe this time around.

The squad depth is an issue, but should that be resolved with a couple of players joining to go with the summer signings of Zapata and Camunas.

Key player: Giuseppe Rossi

Ex Manchester United forward has finally found his home…well, for now.

Rossi enjoyed a stunning season last year, bagging a total of 32 goals in 56 games, aswell as contributing 10 assists.

Now a regular in the Italy set up, Rossi looked set for Barcelona for long parts of the summer, before the move broke down and Barca went for Alexis Sanchez instead.

Following the departure of Santi Cazorla, Rossi is now expected to carry the creative burden on his shoulders, but his display against Odense in midweek showed he is capable of doing the job.

One to watch: Marco Ruben

After struggling to break into the Villarreal setup, Ruben got a bit more game time last year and contributed 5 goals.

This year could be Ruben’s big year, as Nilmar and Rossi continue to be linked with moves away.

17 goals in 31 games for the B side show he has a knack for goals, but can he replicate this at a higher level?

El Centrocampista prediction: 5th



Stadium: La Romareda

Nickname: Blanquillos

Coach: Javier Aguirre

Finished last season: 13th

Players in: Efrain Juarez, Roberto, Fernando Meira, Ruben Micael, David Mateos, Edu Oriol, Juan Carlos, Franco Zuculini, Pablo Barrera

Players out: Gabi, Guirame N’Daw, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Ander Herrera, Marco Perez, Matteo Contini, Raul Goni, Nicolas Bertolo, Carlos Diogo

With Javier Aguirre taking charge and attempting a revolution to the clubs structure, buoyed by Mourinho at Real no doubt, the club is embroiled in a power struggle between Aguirre and Iglesias (The club director) over transfers and who has control of them.

They have such a rich heritage in Spanish football and speaking as a Spanish football fan it is always nice to see Zaragoza in the top flight. Aguirre has made several demands, some heeded and some not so…

The only time, in fact, I have seen Zaragoza hit the headlines was Robero’s controversial transfer from Benfica which involved a third party paying 98% of Roberto’s 8m euros+ fee and still retained rights to the player despite his supposed ‘transfer’ to Zaragoza.

Expect to hear more about that as the season progresses…

The club also has big problems financially and earlier this summer, Zaragoza had to make themselves bankruptcy.

The court was ruled that due to it being a voluntary bankruptcy Zaragoza’s debt to creditors would be halved. (Convenient)

With Aguirre at the helm there can be no doubt that Zaragoza will be a tough team to beat especially at home, it’s an interesting project in itself to see how all of these ex Spanish youth players come together because we all labelled them talents a few years ago before they wandered into the proverbial footballing abyss…

KEY PLAYER: Fernando Meira

Fernando Meira will be crucial in acting as a solid foundation at the back, the guy has alot of experience and has dealt with pressure situations plenty of times throughout his career.

He has the cool calm head needed to keep this team clear of relegation, if he can be kept fit and man managed properly he could save Zaragoza 10-15 points for the season by himself.

A top drawer player who can help the youngsters around him much like Carvalho’s role at Real Madrid.


Edu Oriol will be very interesting to watch, having joined from Barcelona B the feeling around Zaragoza is the guy still has potential even at the age of 23/24 and he could be another outstanding bit of business by Aguirre.

El centrocampista prediction: 17th



1. Barcelona
2. Real Madrid
3. Valencia
4. Malaga
5. Villarreal
6. Atletico Madrid
7. Athletic Bilbao
8. Sevilla
9. Getafe
10. Espanyol
11. Osasuna
12. Sociedad
13. Mallorca
14. Gijon
15. Betis
16. Levante
17. Zaragoza
18. Santander
19. Granada
20. Vallecano

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