As we inch ever closer to the big kick-off of the Premiership tomorrow, I will turn briefly to Spain, as I take some wild stabs at how the league will finish next year. Obviously all eyes (at least here in the states) will continue to big on Barcelona and Real Madrid, where the big names and big feuds continue to dominate. Here are my picks:
2). Real Madrid
18). Real Betis
Not much explaining to do here, as the table is very close to how the league finished last year. Essentially, I just decided that I couldn’t deny how great the front line of Henry, Messi, Eto, and Ronaldinho looks, at least on paper. We’ll see how they do in real life in a few weeks. My heart is with Real Madrid, and I like many of the signings they’ve made this year, including their manager Bernd Shuster. But for Real this is their sixth manager in five years, and until they get some stability and consistency in that strange, madhouse of a stadium I think they are going to find the success they found last year to be elusive. Look out, however, if they let Schuster do his thing for more than a year; right now they are building a team, not a collection of galacticos.
I still like Sevilla in the top three (and close to the top) but we’ll se what happens with the rumors of Alves going to Chelsea, as if they need another attacking fullback. I have Zaragosa improving a little on last season and Valencia and Villareal rounding out the top six. I predict that two out of the three promoted teams, Almeria and Vallodlid, will be going back down.
As I said, there is a great slate of games this weekend as the Premiership kicks off once again. All eyes are on the cheerful Roy Keane as he makes his Prem debut as a manager, and fans wonder if, once again, the season will see a two (or four) horse race or whether other teams will be allowed to compete.
I will be back early next week with thoughts on opening weekend and also my final predictions column, on the Champions League! Finally, I will also be attending David Beckham's traveling roadshow on Sunday night as the LA Galaxy play the New England Revolution. If the big fella plays, I will give you the scoop.