On Friday night La Liga returns for another pulsating campaign of top-flight Spanish action.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are once again expected to fight it out for the title.
It seems unlikely that any other team will break that trilogy in the title race. Here is a lowdown of the big three in the Spanish title race:
Last season Barcelona looked imperious for much of the season until a collapse towards the end of the campaign nearly cost them dearly.
While that collapse coincided with a Champions League exit against Atletico Madrid, it did not stop Luis Enrique’s team from being crowned Spanish champions for a successive campaign.
The title race was made unnecessarily close last season by that poor run of form and in the end, the men from Catalonia finished just a point above Real Madrid and three above Atletico.
The Blaugrana have already collected silverware this season by beating Sevilla 5-0 on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup. Luis Enrique’s men will be highly confident of adding to that with more trophies this season.
Barcelona have strengthened some of the weaker areas of their team by adding French defensive duo Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne, while in midfield Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez will add competition for places.
One weak spot may be the team’s overreliance on their front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. If the trio fails to produce, then the Blaugrana have few attacking alternatives, although youngster Munir has made a case for a place in the squad least in pre-season.
Barcelona are still looking to add to their strike-force and may yet add a fourth striker to their squad this summer. It is difficult to argue with their status at title favourites at odds of 8/11 and they should enjoy another strong campaign.
Barcelona’s perennial nemesis enjoyed a fantastic end to last season, winning the Champions League on penalties against Atletico and winning their last 12 league games, only to miss out on the title by a point.
Like rivals Barcelona, Real Madrid have already won silverware defeating Sevilla 3-2 in extra time of the European Super Cup.
Club legend Zinedine Zidane helped instil a feeling of confidence in the players after Rafa Benitez’s ill-fated stint at the Bernabeu last season. The rookie Frenchman was only supposed to be a short-term option but now seems to have the backing of the Real hierarchy and fans.
Due to the rise in performance of the team towards the end of the campaign, Zidane must feel confident in his squad options, as Spanish striker Alvaro Morata is the only summer addition to the squad.
The striker has returned to his boyhood club after Los Blancos activated a buyback clause in his contract to bring him back to the Spanish capital. He will have a job on his hands getting in the team ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema though.
Real are likely to push Barcelona hard for the title and at odds of 6/4 they may not be a bad bet for La Liga glory. However, they may just once again fall slightly short.
Last season Los Rojiblancos finished third in La Liga and lost the Champions League final. It was enough to see Diego Simeone question his future with the club. However, the Argentine decided to stay with the Madrid club.
Simeone has had Atletico competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid in the past few seasons, despite his club having far less financial resources than their more vaunted rivals. Simeone’s team had the best defence in La Liga last season, as they conceded just 18 goals in 38 league games.
In French striker Antoine Griezmann they have a player capable of scoring the goals needed to fire them to a title challenge this season.
Simeone has brought in squad additions in the shape of France international striker Kevin Gameiro and Argentinian playmaker Nicolas Gaitan to add some creativity in midfield. Versatile Croatian international Sime Vrsaljko has also arrived from Sassuolo.
Gameiro could prove the perfect foil up front for his compatriot Griezmann, as Atletico look to be more prolific in front of goal.
As always Atletico will have to punch above their weight to win La Liga and are odds of 10/1 to repeat their feat of 2014 and be crowned Spanish champions.
Not much will change
None of the three La Liga title challengers have made many major changes to their teams or style of play. All three are likely to play in a similar way to last season and I can see that producing a similar result with the three teams finishing in the same positions as last season.
However, as with every adventure, it is the journey that matters and not the final destination and La Liga promises to be another entertaining journey full of excitement this season.
Who will win La Liga this season?