Luis Suarez is a walking headline. Whether he is lashing them in past a hapless keeper or gnashing on a defender’s shoulder, the Media can’t get enough. So, even though he’s banned from all football until October, it is still his move that is gnawing away at us all.
Barcelona to Rely on "S N M" Attack
Suarez's 75 million pound transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona has set off a domino-esque transfer scramble. Before we come on to who Liverpool will buy, let’s look at La Liga.
Barca now have Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi as a front three. Staggering by anyone’s standards. But, the World Cup threw up biting, back problems and below-par performances, so could the embarrassment of riches just become an embarrassment?
To me Barca’s problems may stem from further back, even if they do also get Colombian assist machine Juan Cuadrado, to supply the bullets for "S N M" to fire at nervous goalies. Losing Puyol and Valdes is huge. Look what happened to Manchester United when they started to lose stalwarts on and off the pitch. Add to that the hint that maybe, just maybe the likes of Xavi and Iniesta are on the downslide to football punditry and golf and I wonder if the pressure will be on the South America Three to just score more than they concede.
Luis Enrique has signed a new keeper in German international Marc-André ter Stegen and is after Marquinhos from PSG (or failing that Vertonghen from Tottenham) to bolster the defence. They may well need them and more.
Los Blancos to Repeat as League Champions
Over in Madrid stand the Catalans club’s two rivals. Let’s look at Real Madrid first. La Decima was a defining season and with the shackles off, I believe now they will set about taking the league title from Atletico. Last season Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale helped Real score 104 league goals. They grabbed 63 between them. Now add James Rodriquez to that and a more settled Bale and I see that as better than Luis, Neymar and Lionel – based on the fact Suarez has a ban and there is a lot of work to be done there moulding them into a consistent trio or partnership.
One of the stars of the World Cup, and of Germany’s unique win on South American soil, was Toni Kroos, who Carlo Ancelotti has added to his midfield. Bayern Munich must detest Real at the moment, taught a lesson in the Champions League semi-final and then they take Kroos too.
Going further back in the line-up and it looks like Keylor Navas will be repeating his Costa Rica heroics for Ancelotti. As I write this, reports are everywhere that they will pay Levante the release clause. Madrid have got themselves into a bit of a mess with the keepers ever since Mourinho dropper Iker Casillas. Last season they had a Cup and League stopper (which didn’t work out that bad to be fair).
I see Real Madrid winning La Liga this season, but defending the Champions League may be a step too far.
It seems harsh to come to the reigning champions third, but that’s where I think they will finish. The last time a team broke the big two’s dominance was in 2003/4 when Valencia won La Liga, they followed it up with a seventh place finish the next time out. I’m not saying Atleti will drop that far, but it’s tough to repeat such an amazing feat, especially when you probably haven’t quite replaced like-for-like with Mandzukic coming in for Costa. The Croatian scored 10 fewer goals last season and as with all new players you have to build in the settling-in factor.
At the other end Diego Simeone has moved to replace the very impressive 1m 99cm (6ft 5) Thibaut Courtois with 1m 86cm (6ft 1in) Slovenian stopper Jan Oblek. I know size isn’t everything when we’re talking about between the sheets, but we’re talking something more serious here … clean sheets.
Free Soccer Picks: There is obviously plenty of time to go in the transfer window, so it would be foolish to make predictions in July, but who cares, I’ll go Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico for my tricast.