New Year, new opportunities, they say. 2017 will be a year full of interesting developments, memories and moments of magic. The start of the year is the perfect time to set expectations and predict the future, as a lot can happen in the Spanish top flight in a calendar year. Here are some of the things I’ll be watching the closest during the next 12 months.
Valencia, how does the future look?
Los Che find themselves in 17th place in the La Liga table with just 13 points as the club sees its second manager leave the club this season. After just 90 days as Valencia boss, Cesare Prandelli left the job with a 28% win record in 10 games. With players performing way below expectations, and complete chaos off the pitch, the side is looking at a possible future in the Segunda Division, which would be a disaster for a club who have been in the top of Spanish and European football for a long time. I choose to look at a possible relegation in a positive way. A relegation could mean the club gets a chance to rebuild everything. New players, new directors and managers. If they stay up, however, it would mean the club has a chance of starting over, while still remaining in the highest division. This would need sane, proper people who are interested in the well-being of Valencia Club de Fútbol (editor note: similar to Hamburg SV in Germany). These are hard to find in football these days, but they sure as hell cannot be found in the club today. Can they turn it around in 2017? Hopefully.
Neymar, can he return to what he once was?
In the fall of 2015, Neymar was probably the best player in the world. In Leo Messi’s absence he led the Barcelona side and provided the team with everything Messi usually does. But as 2016 turned up, the Brazilian star didn’t. From the start of the year to the very end he performed significantly worse than the other two in that magical trident. Sometimes he was unlucky, others he was just awful. It sounds harsh, but after those magical months at the end of 2016, I expected him to be a serious competitor to Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at this point. I want to see that when we sit and summarize 2017.
Can we have this northern derby, please?
Sporting Gijon are at the moment in the relegation zone. With just 12 points after 17 games in La Primera Division, Rojiblancos are looking at a possible relegation which, in one aspect, would be terrible for the club, who were promoted to La Liga in 2015. But on the other hand, we would be looking at the first fixture in 14 years between Sporting and Real Oviedo. El Derbi Asturiano has seen way over 100 games and is a classic, but for almost a decade and a half these two sides have played on different levels, mainly because of Oviedo’s previous financial troubles. I have no problem with Gijon as a club, but I’d really like to see them relegated purely because of this fixture. So, shape up, Valencia! Daniel from Sweden wants to see a game.
Sevilla, how far can they go?
When Unai Emery left, I thought Sevilla would sink like a rock. But half way through the season the side find themselves in 2nd in La Liga and look favourites to go through to the quarter finals (in my opinion). While dangerously strong at home, the side has really improved their record away from home and as a result, they are at the moment in the title race. Right now, I see no limits for this incredibly talented team. I see no reason they can’t lift the league trophy later this spring. Maybe I’m getting a bit carried away, but this side has shown great potential for a few years now, and I think they’ve finally found their own little recipe for success. Jorge Sampaoli has taken this team to new hights in his first six months as manager. Imagine what we could be saying about his work when he leaves the club.
Yep, 2017 is going to be a good year.
Spanish Football Expert