Spanish La Liga previews: Sunday 29 August
Deportivo La Coruna v Real Zaragoza, 16:00 BET NOW | opta facts & stats
A not-so-super second half of the season put paid to Depor's chances of playing European football this season, but then that was always the likely outcome given that the Galacians took their foot of the gas once they were mathematically safe from relegation. The same objective will be the aim this season, but they will have to do it without key defender Felipe, now of Atletico Madrid.
In to replace the Brazilian is Paraguayan Claudio Morel Rodriguez, formerly of Boca Juniors; an experienced defender but not in the same class as his predecessor and well past his prime.
Other than Jonathan Urreta, a promising young Uruguayan winger signed on a season long loan from Benfica, Deportivo (21/20) have failed to strengthen their squad- a move that will see them flirt a lot closer with relegation than they did last season.
Visitors Zaragoza (11/4) have seen several influential loan players return to their parent clubs, most notably Chilean maestro Humberto Suazo and goalkeeper Carrizo.
The goalkeeping spot has been filled by Leo Franco, but worryingly the club has not found a replacement for Suazo. Goals should therefore be at a premium until a new gem is uncovered.
Indeed a lack of goals sounds highly likely tonight so I'd expect under 2.5 goals (4/7) to be a popular bet amongst punters, particularly in the UK where the game will not be screened live on Sky Sports.
Recommendation: Under 2.5 goals (4/7) | Worth a punt: Deportivo 1-0 Zaragoza (11/2)
Barcelona's second best team have re-signed Pablo Osvaldo on loan from Bologna, a signing that will likely have a big effect on whether the Catalans fight for Europe or just fight relegation.
I hope it's the former, and while Osvaldo (9/2 to score first, 6/5 anytime) is not going to take the Pichichi trophy come the end of the season, he should get a few opportunities to get off the mark today.
For Espanyol's opponents, Getafe (13/5) will be very tired after progressing to the group stages of the Europa league on Thursday night- by virtue of Argentine defender Cata Diaz's extra time goal in Nicosia.
Madrid's number three club also have an unhappy manager in Michel- stemming from the club forcing his son Adrian out of the club against his wishes.
Still, I expect Getafe to have a decent season, even after the loss of vital contributors Soldado (to Valencia) and Leon (Real Madrid).
Like most teams in Spain, Getafe are not the best of travellers so there's only one verdict for me here.
Recommendation: Espanyol (11/10) | Worth a punt: Osvaldo to score first (9/2)
The boys from the bull fighting land of Pamplona have lost their best player to Marseille, right back Cesar Azpilicueta, and have not brought in an adequate replacement.
They have brought in midfielder Soriano from today's opponents Almeria, but failed to sign any players of note other than him. Osasuna (11/10) Coach Camacho has a tough job on his hands avoiding relegation this season, that's for sure.
If ageing stalwart Walter Pandiani (9/2 to score first, 6/5 anytime) can stay fit they have a chance, but that's a very big IF. Fingers crossed for the Uruguayan then.
Almeria (13/5) have brought a few youngsters in and can rely on the talents of diminutive Argentine forward Pablo Piatti (10/1 to score first, 7/2 anytime) who should weigh in with 8 or 9 goals and as many assists.
I'd expect Almeria to finish about 9th-14th dependant on injuries.
Tonight I think they'll get a draw.
Recommendation: Draw (11/5)
Though I'm dismayed that Real Betis were unable to return to the top flight, I'm delighted to see Basque club Real Sociedad return to it.
The current Segunda champions have endured a three year absence from the Primera, a division they won twice during the Basque dominated years of the early 80's.
In the late 80's they famously abandoned their Basque only policy by signing players such as Liverpool legend John Aldridge and later, Sheffield Wednesday striker Dalian Atkinson.
Besides throwing the league away when leading up until week 37 in 2002/03, Sociedad have not come close to achieving anything of note this century.
What is notable is that John Toshack has managed the club three times and was also responsible for bringing Chris Coleman in a few years ago. It may not have worked out for the younger Welshman but at least he had the testicular fortitude to go abroad and try- Something other British mangers should do more often.
Many will tip Sociedad to go down, but dependant on the fitness of Espanyol legend Raul Tamudo (13/2 to score first, 15/8 anytime) and former Villarreal target man Llorente (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime), I fancy a top ten finish.
I also fancy a home win today as Villarreal (13/10) are poor travellers and a weaker opponent than they were last season. They also played in the Europa league earlier this week.
Despite this opening day verdict, I think Villarreal will nick a Europa league spot come the end of the season. It will be hard given their small squad, but it's a realistic target nonetheless.
More on the Yellow Submarines next time, for now look for former striker Llorente to come back and haunt them- subject to injury, naturally!
Recommendation: Real Sociedad (11/5)
Worth a punt: Llorente, e/w first scorer (11/2)
Racing (12/1) are a team who constantly flirt with relegation, occasionally fitting in a top half finish every few years. After the departure of exiting youngster Sergio Canales, I think this is the year that they finally get relegated.
Barcelona (2/9) on the other hand are set for another La Liga and Champions league double in this writer's eyes. The Copa Del Rey will be won by Real Madrid as Mourinho must win something to merit his potential white hanky waving football.
The reigning champions have had cash problems, forcing a £150 million loan that is not expected to be paid back as quickly as other clubs may have to do if they were in the same situation.
Given this, they have brought in left back/left midfielder Adriano from Sevilla, with David Villa (9/4 first scorer, 1/2 anytime) signed long before Barca's financial problems came into the awareness of the general public.
Liverpool's Argentine defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano is due to join up soon and he's a far younger, better player than last year's third choice in that position, the departing YaYa Toure.
Saving wages through free transfers out of the club are Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, both of whom have joined New York Red Bulls in the MLS. Henry's transfer to America was the worst kept secret in Spanish football, but Marquez going there was somewhat surprising.
Barca could not offer enough cash to force Arsenal to sell Cesc Fabregas-that will come next year-and the future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still unclear at this stage, but what is clear is that Barca will win this game tonight and Messi (5/2 to score first, 4/7 anytime) will probably score first.
Recommendation: Barcelona to win and Messi to score first (11/4)
This matchup see's a complete contrast in footballing styles and mentalities. On one side you have the young, dynamic, attack minded Michael Laudrup while on the other you have the more experienced, pragmatic, master tactician that is Jose Mourinho.
Great Dane Laudrup is, beyond question, one of the best footballers ever to have played the game. An attacking midfielder blessed with god given vision and skill, he is one of very few players to be loved by the fans of both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The reason why I can't think of another player to enjoy this dual adulation could be that I'm writing this preview at 2:51 am on Friday night, more than likely it's because there isn't one.
High praise indeed, but what has he done as a manager? Well, he had domestic success with Brondby, took Getafe to their second cup final in a row a few years ago, and then led them to the quarter finals of the Uefa cup. He did this playing beautiful attacking football with, wait for it.....zero defensive midfielders!
If the Special One were to follow suit his teams would be a lot more watchable, that's for sure. However, Mourinho is a born winner and the only thing that will stop him becoming the most successful manager of all time will be the lack of worthy challenges in front of him. He won't win the league this year, mark my words, but he will win it the year after.
Primera Liga success would add to domestic crowns in England, Portugal and Italy. Realistically, what would motivate him after that other than International management? Along with the 2011/12 La Liga title, I think he brings home the Champions league that year, so he could then go back to England to chase a maiden Champions league victory in good old Blighty.
Whatever he chooses, tonight's game will not be as straight forward as it appears on paper. Laudrup has no firepower up front, but Mourinho teams have a habit of either going behind to lesser teams before coming back to win, or just taking a while to score their first goal.
I'm not naive enough to think there won't be games where Real score early and go on to slaughter their opponents, but I don't fancy it today.
Real Mallorca (15/2) and Real Madrid (2/5) have a history of one sided defeats against one another over the years, including a few 5-1's. There's no way that Mallorca can do that this time, but they can keep the scores level at half time.
Recommendation: Draw/Madrid (16/5)
Whatever you choose enjoy the action and don’t forget that you can bet In-Play with William Hill Online