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How Barcelona, Real Madrid and La Liga's top clubs will line up

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.

La Liga is back this weekend, with Spain's top 20 teams returning to action Saturday, Sunday and Monday as competition resumes again after three months off.

In May, 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 starts the defense of its title crown Monday at Rayo Vallecano, with Madrid in action the same night at home against promoted side Cordoba. Barca begins 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.


Athletic's policy for signing only Basque players means the Bilbao-based club is 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 has held on to all of its players this summer and the only real doubt in the starting side is in central midfield, with Benat likely to be first choice this time around following an impressive preseason for los Leones.

Gorka Iraizoz will start in goal, although the veteran shot-stopper could find himself under pressure this season from youngster Kepa Arrizabalaga. Captain Carlos Gurpegui, a midfielder, is set to continue in central defense 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 utilize a 4-4-2 this season as well as his habitual 4-3-3 in La Liga and the Champions League.


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

Simeone used a 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 season: with the former, Mario Mandzukic will be utilized as the lone striker, while the latter would see the Croat supported by Raul Jimenez or 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.


It has been a summer of change at Barcelona and it needed to be because the Catalan club will not be able to sign any players in 2015 after FIFA upheld its 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 defense, 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 season by using a 3-5-2 and even a 3-2-3-2 at times to maximize the side's attacking potential.

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


Like last season, Real Madrid is likely to use a number of different formations in the coming campaign, with a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 all set to be utilized 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 a 4-3-3 was the best bet, however, with Angel di Maria in a midfield role, and Ancelotti is set to repeat the system this time around — even if the Argentine leaves the club before the transfer window slams shut.

Toni Kroos looks likely to be a fixture in midfield, while fellow summer signing James Rodriguez will be utilized 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 claimed the Europa League last season and the Andalusian side looks set to compete both at home and in Europe 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.

In 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.


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 favored formation for coach Nuno this season, with the Portuguese using that system in the club's preseason 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 summer signing Rodrigo De Paul.

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