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Fanzone preview: Spain's La Liga

By Matthew Weiner for CNN
Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid's new coach, will attempt to wrestle La Liga supremacy from Barcelona this season.
Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid's new coach, will attempt to wrestle La Liga supremacy from Barcelona this season.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Real Madrid hire manager Jose Mourinho to help seize title back.
  • Barcelona add firepower with signing of David Villa.
  • Top two sides grow stronger as La Liga rivals are weakened.

London, England (CNN) -- Together they form the world's greatest team -- but now with the start of the La Liga season it's time for Spain to split into it's two bitter factions as Real Madrid and Barcelona once again fight for supremacy. With the self-proclaimed "Special One," Jose Mourinho, now at the helm for Madrid and football's deadliest striker David Villa signing for Barca, it's going to be an explosive season in La Liga. Fanzone reveals what to expect...

So what's new?
This season has the potential to be the fiercest ever battle - which is really saying something because it was only last season when Real Madrid -desperate to claw the title back from Barcelona - went out and spent $300 million on new galacticos, scored a record 102 league goals and gathered 96 points -- only to watch Barcelona go three points better and snatch the championship.

In the close season Los Merengues went shopping again and came back with something a little bit special: Jose Mourinho. Arguably the world's best club coach, the three times Champions League winner could be precisely the man to mastermind's Madrid return to the summit of Spanish football. Renowned for being tactically astute, a great builder of teams and someone who has the know-how to build a miserly defence, the Portuguese will have to be on top of his game if he is to wrestle supremacy from Barcelona.

The Catalans have been the dominant side in Spanish football for the past five years, winning two Champions League and four La Liga titles since 2005. Pep Guardiola remains in the management hot seat while club president Joan Laporta is replaced by former ally turned bitter rival Sandro Rosell -- the former Nike man renowned for having successfully brought Ronaldinho to the club

Key Players:
Of course, the Bernabeu wouldn't be the Bernabeu without a handful of exciting new attacking signings to boot. So, naturally Los Blancos have also spent over 30 million euros on new talent including tricky Argentinean left winger Angel di Maria, Spanish attacking midfielder Sergio Canales, the 19-year-old wonder kid who helped Racing escape from relegation last season and Pedro Leon, a talented Spanish winger from Getafe.

New season, same old story. There is no way Barca's dominance of Spain will end this year
--CNN's Pedro Pinto
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But it's not going to be plain sailing for Mourinho, as he is going to have to spend the first four months of his reign without the help of Kaka, who is recovering from a career threatening knee injury. The Portuguese will also be without the services of the former Real Madrid captain and arguably the club's greatest ever player Raul who has been moved on to Schalke in the Bundesliga.

Naturally, Barcelona haven't spent the last few months twiddling their thumbs. Incoming president Rosell managed to relieve Valencia of their deadly marksman David Villa. The Spaniard has averaged over 20 goals a season for the last five years and will no doubt make the Blaugranes even more ruthless in attack.

One player Barca weren't able to add to their fold was Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas -- which was particularly galling as he was originally captured from the Catalans' youth academy. Half the problem was Barcelona's lack of funds. A recent audit into the club's finances have revealed the club's debt is spiraling and the club recently had to take out a loan of after falling behind with the payment of player wages.

Key clubs:
The hegemony of the top two looks unlikely to be threatened this term. While Barca and Madrid spent the close season strengthening, the rest have only grown weaker. Third-placed Valencia who finished a whopping 28 points behind Real Madrid last year lost their two best players with Villa defecting to Barca and David Silva to Manchester City. Spanish Cup winners Sevilla, who ended up fourth, have been undermined by their loss of full-back Adriano to the champions while debt-stricken Real Mallorca have gone into administration. Only Europa League champions Atletico Madrid, who came fifth in La Liga, look to be improved. However, the purchases of Arsenal midfielder Fran Merida and Uruguay defender Diego Godin from Villareal will only look positive if they manage to keep hold of their star strikers Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero.

Expert view:
CNN's Pedro Pinto - "New season, same old story. In my mind, there is no way Barcelona's dominance of Spanish football will end this year, even if you consider Real Madrid will no doubt improve under the guidance of Portuguese coaching maestro Jose Mourinho.

"Barcelona picked up one of the best strikers in the world in David Villa to play alongside Leo Messi and Pedro up front, it means they will be virtually unstoppable.

"Also Real president Florentino Perez is obsessed with winning the Champions League, and Mourinho himself will prioritize Europe's top prize ahead of La Liga considering they haven't won it since 2002.

"It is tough to call who will finish below the top two because there are so many teams that could surprise this year, but I am going with Valencia. Considering they lost David Villa, David Silva and Nicola Zigic, many could believe Los Che would tumble down the league table in the coming campaign, but I believe they will still manage to qualify for the Champions League.

"Why? Well for starters, although they needed to sell some of their top players in an effort to balance the books, Valencia have a great head coach in place. Unai Emery is a diligent student of the game and proved last year that he has a knack for making his team better than the sum of its parts.

"Secondly, there is still plenty of talent in this squad. World Cup winner Juan Mata, Argentine midfielder Ever Banega and winger Pablo Hernandez are all exciting young players.

"Also their close-season signings were also very impressive. Strikers Roberto Soldado and Aritz Aduriz, who between them scored 28 goals for Getafe and Mallorca last season, should get plenty of goals at the Mestalla, and Portugal central defender Ricardo Costa is also a good acquisition.

"My verdict is that Valencia will finish fourth, behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla."