La Liga begins their 2018-19 season later today and Serie A starts on Saturday, with two more of Europe’s big leagues debuting. In La Liga, it’s a similar story with the big three. Barcelona is defending champions with last year’s 2nd-place finisher Atletico and 3rd-place Real Madrid trying to change that. As many have pointed out since Wednesday, Atletico’s Super Cup win over Real Madrid seems like a statement of purpose. That could be of more concern to Barcelona than it is to Real Madrid.
Losing your coach and best player has to reset expectations for the three-time Champions League winner. Real Madrid’s situation didn’t lead them to try to replace Cristiano Ronaldo. What that might mean when the transfer window reopens in January is a good question. Their roster remains one of the best in the world, but it’s tough to absorb the loss of their primary scoring threat.
Barcelona is still the club of Lionel Messi, still a sizeable advantage. What it’s not is the club of Messi and Neymar, with Neymar’s choice to move to PSG a year ago still resonating. There’s also the issue of trading La Liga titles for Champions League titles. It’s tough to put the stress on winning in Spain when your biggest rival is winning in Europe.
For Atletico Madrid, it’s different season same story. They can’t get past both of the La Liga giants and the defending Europa League holders and Super Cup winners isn’t in the same category as the trophies Barca and Real have been lifting. Getting back to the Champions League final only to lose it to another La Liga team is now the nightmare scenario.
Meanwhile, Serie A is once again the league where Juventus reloads at the expense of everybody else. Playing up Inter Milan’s chances makes sense, but Juventus signed one of two contenders for best player in the world. Juve getting better is not a new scenario, though this time they did it by buying a player from another league. That’s not going to offer anybody else a lot of solace, especially since Juventus spent domestically to rework their defense.
How well Juventus does in the Champions League is the bigger question. They’re carrying the reputation of Serie A along with them, looking to do better than PSG last season after a big money reload. Napoli, Roma, and Inter are also in the Champions League, the likeliest contenders should Juventus somehow slip domestically. They only finished four points higher than Napoli last season, with a 14-point gulf between second and third.
Updating the La Liga playing games that count in North America story, Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre asks the right questions about the sanctioning process. Forbes’ Bobby McMahon takes issue with the message La Liga is sending with their plans to play in the United States and Canada. ESPN has the history of other leagues playing outside of their home countries.
The Columbus Dispatch’s Michael Arace with the city responding to the Austin news. The Miami Herald’s Michelle Kaufman talks to MLS Miami sporting director Paul McDonough. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Mark Zeigler on the issues with youth soccer and player development in the United States. Protagonist’s Phil Baki tells the story of the Kitsap Pumas.
FourFourTwo’s Thore Haugstad on youth player recruitment at Barcelona. Bundesliga Fanatic’s Brian Gilchriest looks at Eintracht’s issues. The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho happy with Paul Pogba.
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