Karim Benzema, Real Madrid. / ROBYN BECK/AFP

LaLiga around the corner

It's hard to see understand the league will start a week later than others

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

It's a La Liga season that can't come quickly enough, but one that will take an unprecedented winter break and end in the heat of June. Let's have a look at the contenders alphabetically.

Almeria: Back in the big league after a seven-year absence. Will be reliant on keeping leading scorer Umar Sadiq.

Athletic Bilbao: The main news is the return of coach Ernesto Valverde. Stability is the key and not allowing Iñigo Martínez to leave.

Atlético Madrid: Strangely quiet. The biggest talking point is the worst-selling kit in history as they opt for swirls instead of stripes. No major incomings apart from Saúl and Álvaro Morata returning loans.

Barcelona: The great unknowns. Will they be able to register the fleet of new signings after some incredible financial gymnastics?

Cadiz: Just happy to be at the top table after surviving on the last day. Looking for consolidation to build a top-flight team.

Celta: Reliant on LaLiga's top scoring Spaniard, Iago Aspas. Cashed in on Brais Méndez and recruited Óscar Mingueza.

Elche: The epitome of average and they'll settle to keep top division football on the Costa Blanca.

Espanyol: Finished one place below Elche which was a disappointment for a club lacking excitement. They've signed Joselu to play alongside Spain striker Raúl de Tomás.

Getafe: With an average of less than 9,000 fans, Quique Sánchez Flores must squeeze everything out of a limited squad.

Girona: Used their links with the 'City Group' to take Herrera from Manchester City and Castellanos from New York City.

Mallorca: Still celebrating the last-ditch survival. In the capable hands of experienced manager Javier Aguirre.

Osasuna: Exceeded expectations with a top-ten finish last season. Reliant on their star Chimy Ávila finding full fitness.

Rayo Vallecano: A club that always defies the odds and internal wars. Watch out for them on the opening day when they could upset Barcelona.

Real Betis: My tip to break into the top four. The Copa winners have a very deep squad and a wise manager in Manuel Pellegrini.

Real Madrid: Avoiding the summer headlines and chaos after Mbappe made it clear he wasn't joining. They've only defended the title once in 32 years. The biggest issue is the reliance on Karim Benzema.

Real Sociedad: Wise signings in Kubo and Brais Méndez from Celta. Counting down the days until star player Mikel Oyarzabal recovers from his horrible ACL injury.

Real Valladolid: On the rise after promotion. The biggest star is the president, Ronaldo. Re-signed local boy Sergio Asensio after 13 years.

Sevilla: Not a great pre-season as they sold Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé. Julen Lopetegui has a tough task to hold onto his job despite a third-place finish.

Valencia: New manager Gennaro Gattuso has won over the fans, even though he hasn't won a game yet. The biggest achievement is hanging onto Gonçalo Guedes (for now).

Villarreal: Unai Emery was right to say no to Newcastle as the Yellow Submarines reached the Champions League semi-final. Looking to improve on 7th without a major European distraction.