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Spain's top teams have been busy strengthening over the summer and Goal takes a look at how they will compete over the next nine months

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

La Liga is back this weekend. Spain's top 20 teams return to action on Saturday, Sunday and Monday as competition resumes again after ending on May 17 last season.

Then, Atletico shocked Barcelona by claiming a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou to win the Primera Division from the Catalans, with Real Madrid in third place.

Diego Simeone's side start the defence of their title crown on Monday at Rayo Vallecano, with Madrid in action the same night at home to promoted side Cordoba while Barca begin on Sunday against Elche at Camp Nou.

Here, Goal takes a look at how those three teams and the rest of Spain's biggest clubs will line up in terms of tactics and personnel as the new season prepares to kick off this weekend.

ATHLETIC CLUB


Athletic's policy for signing only Basque players means the Bilbao-based club are restricted in the transfer market and, following the summer sale of Ander Herrera to Manchester United, this team pretty much picks itself.

Apart from Herrera, Athletic have held on to all of their players this summer and the only real doubt in their starting side is in central midfield, with Benat likely to be first choice this time around following an impressive pre-season for los Leones.

Gorka Iraizoz will start in goal, although the veteran shot-stopper could find himself under pressure this term from youngster Kepa Arrizabalaga. Captain Carlos Gurpegui, a midfielder, is set to continue in central defence alongside former Barca target Aymeric Laporte, while Andoni Iraola is an experienced head at right-back.

Markel Susaeta, Iker Muniain and Aritz Aduriz form a dynamic front three for coach Ernesto Valverde, who is also set to utilise 4-4-2 this term as well as his habitual 4-3-3 in La Liga and the Champions League.

ATLETICO MADRID


Atletico Madrid played 4-4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday in their Spanish Supercopa first-leg clash against city rivals Real, but coach Diego Simeone is likely to revert to 4-2-3-1 for the majority of the time this season.

Simeone used 4-2-3-1 initially at the Vicente Calderon, before switching to 4-4-2 to incorporate Diego Costa alongside Radamel Falcao in 2012-13. The Argentine has options in his squad to use both formations again this term: with the former, Mario Mandzukic will be utilised as the lone striker, while the latter would see the Croat supported by either Raul Jimenez or midfielder Raul Garcia in an advanced role.

Summer signing Antoine Griezmann, a subsitute at the Bernabeu, is likely to be a starter once he has adapted to his new team, with Koke and Arda Turan adding to the impressive array of attacking talent at the Calderon.

Miguel Angel Moya started in goal for the Rojiblancos on Tuesday, but fellow summer signing Jan Oblak is expected to make the position his own once he recovers from a troublesome hip problem.

BARCELONA


It has been a summer of changes at Barcelona and it needed to be because the Catalan club will not be able to sign any players in 2015 after Fifa upheld their transfer ban for irregularities in the acquisition of young players.

Coach Luis Enrique has moved to strengthen the side in key areas, with Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu coming in to boost the defence, Ivan Rakitic recruited to add creativity in midfield and Luis Suarez bought to complete an impressive attacking trident alongside Neymar and Lionel Messi. Meanwhile, Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andere ter Stegen (currently injured) will fight it out for the goalkeeping spot.

Luis Enrique is a former Barca player and appreciates the club's 4-3-3 system, but the Asturian is keen to mix it up this term by using 3-5-2 and even 3-2-3-2 at times to maximise the side's attacking potential.

Suarez is banned until October for his bite on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, but Barca are likely to stick with 4-3-3 initially, with Pedro or Rafinha on the right of the Catalans' three-pronged attack.

REAL MADRID


Like last season, Real Madrid are likely to use a number of different formations in the coming campaign, with 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 all set to be utilised by coach Carlo Ancelotti.

For the Italian, it is all about fitting as many of his elite players into the team as possible while also maintaining the balance in midfield, which was a problem at the beginning of last season.

The move to 4-3-3 proved the best bet, however, with Angel Di Maria in a midfield role and Anclotti is set to repeat the system this time around - even if the Argentine leaves the club before the transfer window slams shut later this month.

Toni Kroos looks likely to be a fixture in midfield, while fellow summer signing James Rodriguez will be utilised in a deeper position initially unless Ancelotti opts to switch to 4-2-3-1 or a midfield diamond which would allow the Colombian to operate in an advanced playmaker role.

SEVILLA


Sevilla claimed the Europa League last season and the Andalusian side look set to compete both at home and in Eiurope in the coming campaign, despite the summer sales of midfielder Ivan Rakitic to Barcelona and left-back Alberto Moreno to Liverpool.

To replace Rakitic, coach Unai Emery has brought in Ever Banega, a player he knows well from his time at Valencia, and promising Pole Gregorz Krychowiak should start alongside him in the double pivot after moving from French club Reims.

Further forward, Barca loanees Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu will be expected to provide service to Colombia striker Carlos Bacca, who impressed with 21 goals in his first season at the Sanchez Pizjuan in 2013-14.

At the back, Federico Fazio forms an exciting partnership with Nico Pareja, while Fernando Navarro will move across to the left following the departure of Moreno.

VALENCIA


It has been an eventful summer at Valencia, where Singaporean businessman Peter Lim is set to take over the debt-stricken club with a much-needed investment project.

That means more players are likely to arrive before the end of the transfer window, with the Mestalla outfit keen to recruit Benfica's Enzo Perez and Porto's Jackson Martinez.

Whatever the personnel, 4-3-3 looks like the favoured formation for coach Nuno this term, with the Portuguese using that system in the club's pre-season games.

In those, Andre Gomes impressed in midfield alongside Dani Parejo and Javi Fuego, while youngster Paco Alcacer is set to lead the line this season with support from the flanks via Sofiane Feghouli and loan signing Rodrigo.

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