The new season is on the verge of starting and like every campaign, there will some interesting teams on show. Certain dark horses who have the potential of upsetting the applecart. Sevilla and Villareal could be those teams in La Liga.
This article deals with two La Liga teams to potentially watch out for this season, besides the usual big guns in Spain's top-flight.
Make no mistake, by calling them dark horses they're not being tipped to win the league or anything. Real Madrid are definitely still the strongest contenders and both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have enough tools in the shed. Perhaps more so than Sevilla or Villarreal.
However, that also doesn't mean that these teams can be discounted. Sevilla especially have more than adequate quality for a sustained title challenge at the very least. For Villarreal, a title challenge might be a little too early but they can quite easily dump one of the big boys out of the Champions League places.
Everyone knows that Sevilla are quality. They just won the Europa League by beating teams like AS Roma, Manchester United and Inter Milan along the way. This is more about why you should be taking notice of them in a domestic and even Champions League context.
The Europa League holders may have lost Ever Banega, but have replaced him with Real Madrid youngster Oscar Rodriguez. They have also added club icon Ivan Rakitic to their ranks. The Croatian comes back to the club after having won everything there is to win with Barcelona and will further instill experience and a winning mentality in the dressing room.
Julen Lopetegui seems to have found the winning formula and this augurs very well for the club. Promising loanees Bryan Gil and Carlos Fernandez returning will only strengthen them. Meanwhile, they will be looking to sign Sergio Reguilon on a permanent deal but even if they aren't able to, Monchi will be trusted to get them someone great.
No one should expect Sevilla to win La Liga. A Chamions League spot will mean they have had a great season, but the potential they have is far greater. Barca are in tatters and Atletico haven't been the most convincing of late either. Real too have their own fallacies, often struggling to break teams down. Unless one of the big three run away with the title, Sevilla will be expecting to pose something of a title challenge themselves.
Now let's look at the Champions League. In just the last couple of seasons, the likes of Ajax, RB Leipzig and Lyon haved reached the semi-final stage. Sevilla are easily capable of that and more. On their day, they can beat anyone and especially if they get their way with some easier fixtures, do not be surprised to see Sevilla go deep into the Champions League.
Last season, Villarreal finished fifth in La Liga, albeit a massive 10 points behind fourth-placed Sevilla. Since then, they have lost their best player as Santi Cazorla left for Qatar to play under former Spanish teammate Xavi at Al Sadd. Still, there is a lot of cause for optimism. They replaced Cazorla with the equally-brilliant Dani Parejo on a free transfer from rivals Valencia. They also replaced Zambo Anguissa, who returned to Fulham, with Francis Coquelin, again from Valencia for a measly 8 million. And they didn't stop there.
Villarreal added to Samu Chukuweze with another young baller, Real Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo. Rulli was also brought in to provide depth between the sticks. Left-back has a problem position but they now look to be in pole position to sign Pervis Estupinan, one of the best young full-backs last season.
Again, will they challenge for the title? Almost certainly not. But are they capable enough of dumping one of the powerhouses out of the Champions League spots? Yes, definitely.
Again, let's look at the continental competitions. Villarreal have appointed Unai Emery this season and if there is something he knows, it is how to do well in the Europa League. He's won the competition four times and even reached the final with Arsenal. Emery has had a couple of rough spells with Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal but now that he's back in Spain, the language barrier is not there and he can be expected to do well.
In the Europa League, it wouldn't be surprising to see them go deep into the competition. On paper, they can match any of the favourites and with Emery's pedigree in the competition, don't be surprised if they do a Sevilla.Published 14 Sep 2020, 03:04 IST