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Real Madrid's opening five LaLiga fixtures
Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid (August 18)
Real Madrid vs Valladolid (August 25)
Villarreal vs Real Madrid (September 1)
Real Madrid vs Levante (September 15)
Sevilla vs Real Madrid (September 22)
Barcelona's opening five LaLiga fixtures
Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona (August 18)
Barcelona vs Real Betis (August 25)
Osasuna vs Barcelona (September 1)
Barcelona vs Valencia (September 15)
Granada vs Barcelona (September 22)
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid begin their campaign with a match at home to Getafe. They host Madrid rivals Real in the seventh round of games on the weekend of September 29 and are due to play the return derby at the Bernabeu on February 2.
Diego Simeone’s side face Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano on December 1 before going to Catalonia on April 26.
The season concludes on May 24, with Real at Leganes, Barca away to Alaves and Atletico at home against Real Sociedad.
Barcelona won LaLiga convincingly last season but Real Madrid should offer a much better title challenge as they’ve been bought a number of players including Eden Hazard from Chelsea.
The 2018-19 LaLiga season is finally over, and with the dust settled it’s time to pick talkSPORT’s team of the season from Spain’s top-flight.
To make things a bit more interesting, we’ve placed a limit of only one player per team.
3-4-1-2, in the style of Sevilla under Pablo Machin – a coach who should never have been sacked.
The Andalucians finished the season in the exact same league position as when they let go of Machin in March: sixth.
A hasty decision driven by the ego of a sporting director who thought he could do better as manager, but couldn’t.
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Jan Oblak (Atlético Madrid)
The almost unbeatable Slovenian has just wrapped up his fourth consecutive Zamora Trophy for the goalkeeper in LaLiga with the lowest goals to games ratio.
Atleti had the best defensive record in the league but the numbers are deceptive: unlike the days of old, it’s not down to an impenetrable backline, but rather, the exceptional consistency of the best keeper in the world.
Forget Antoine Griezmann’s impending departure from the Metropolitano this summer – extending Oblak’s contract until 2023 is of far more importance.
Getafe’s Togolese centre-back already looked encouraging last year but this season he has been exceptional.
Some defenders are reactive, but Djené is a rarer breed in that he excels at being proactive, predicting then snuffing out danger, weekend after weekend.
One of the vital cogs in a dream European finish for the Madrid side, a bigger club will surely come calling for the late bloomer, who at 27 doesn’t have a huge amount of time to waste.
Mario Hermoso (Espanyol) It’s not often Espanyol players get called up for Spain duty, and Mario Hermoso being a regular fixture in international squads since the autumn reflects a reliability that has helped elevate the Barcelona underdogs to their best year in over a decade.
The Blanc-i-blaus play attractive attacking football, but they’re also capable of digging in when required. Three clean sheets in their last three league games helped the Catalans get over the line and seal a European spot for the first time in 12 years. Their leader at the heart of the defence was vital in that.
Iñigo Martínez (Athletic Club)
Making the switch from Real Sociedad to Athletic Club is a controversial matter, but with each day Iñigo Martínez looks more like a throwback to the archetypal old-school Athletic defender, so it’s easy to see why the Basque giants were so keen to convince him.
Since Gaizka Garitano took over in December and brought back the more physical, direct style that Los Leones are known for, Martínez has flourished. Excellent in the air, sharp in his anticipation and capable of throwing his weight around to good effect in rattling opposition attackers, at 28 he should really tie down an international starting place soon.
Jonathan Silva (Leganés)
Logic dictates that a club with the modest resources of Leganés should not be capable of holding a better defensive record than Real Madrid, Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Athletic Club, but under Mauricio Pellegrino this season the Pepineros have done exactly that.
Pellegrino’s second most-used outfield player, Jonathan Silva is not only tireless in his covering at the back, but also capable of turning defence into attack, providing a regular threat going forward as the best modern full-backs should. Destined for bigger things.
The heart and soul of a Valencia side that turned a worrying situation around into one of their best seasons in years (more on that later).
Under Marcelino Parejo has flourished into a true leader, the first name on the teamsheet for Los Che and someone who isn’t only good when they’re good, but was also excellent even when his team were dire.
Valencia’s top scorer in the league this season despite playing a deep midfield role, Parejo is finally fulfilling the potential Alfredo Di Stéfano saw in him all those years ago.
Real Betis have tailed off disappointingly in recent months, but signing their midfield playmaker on a long-term deal in April puts them in an exciting position for the season ahead.
Lo Celso came of age on no less a stage than the Camp Nou in November, when he pulled the strings in a momentous 4-3 win for Betis that made everyone sit up and pay attention to the other Argentinian on the pitch.
A box-to-box style player with nine goals and five assists in the league, he could just be the dynamic midfielder Messi has been longing for in the Argentinian national team.
Pablo Sarabia (Sevilla)
In LaLiga, 23 goals and 17 assists are ridiculous numbers for a non-striker, and Sarabia deserves far more attention than he is getting for just how lethal he has been in the final third.
Whether behind the striker or on the wing the 27-year-old has proved a nightmare to defend against, troubling and scoring against the likes of Valencia, Atlético Madrid and Barcelona.
Sarabia likes scoring against the Blaugrana so much in fact that he decided to do it in three different competitions this season. All of that should be argument enough for boyhood club Real Madrid to come calling this summer, but even if they don’t, Sarabia’s €18million buyout clause is an invitation for anyone who is paying attention.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
No explanation needed when you score 36 goals and create 13 others in the league alone.
If ever there was such a thing as a one-man team it is Celta with Aspas this year.
The Galicians remained in danger of relegation until the final round of the season, yet for a third year running, Aspas finished as the highest-scoring Spaniard in the division.
Aspas’ 20 strikes in 27 matches account for almost 40 percent of Celta’s total goals in LaLiga 2018-19. With him in the team their loss percentage was 29 percent, without him it was 81. Celta had better hope their hero never retires.
Cristhian Stuani (Girona)
Girona sank like a brick after Christmas but they had hope until the very end thanks to one man.
Cristhian Stuani’s return of 19 league goals for the third poorest team in LaLiga is better than Antoine Griezmann’s for league runners up Atleti (15), Rodrigo Moreno’s for Valencia (eight), and €100million footballer Gareth Bale’s for Real Madrid (eight).
The 32-year-old Uruguayan has peaked late in his career but what a peak it is, including a brace that earned Girona an historic draw at the Camp Nou and a goal in an equally memorable club-first win at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Stuani has scored against every member of Spain’s top four in 2018/19, so he’s certainly too good to play second tier football next season.
There are a number of reasonable candidates for coach of the year in Spain, but what Marcelino pulled off in taking Valencia from 15th place in mid-December to fourth by the final round of the season is truly remarkable.
It could all have panned out very differently had the people behind the scenes pulled the trigger when things were at their worst, but the conviction with which key players defended their gaffer spoke volumes, as did the fact that a fan base with a reputation for being fickle never really wavered.
The final outcome was proof that standing by your coach can be just as fruitful a solution as mixing things up. This is the first time Valencia have managed to “defend” a champions league spot since 2011, and with a Copa del Rey final against a depleted Barcelona coming up this weekend, Marcelino’s last laugh could soon grow even louder.
Lee Roden’s LaLiga Team of the Season with a limit of only one player per team