Wednesday, February 1

Will Barcelona cruise to league glory once more? Previewing Spain’s Liga F as 2022-23 season approaches


A brand new period begins in girls’s soccer in Spain this weekend, however Barcelona stay the group with the goal on their backs.

The Primera Division, beforehand organised by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), is now within the arms of the newly fashioned Professional Women’s Football League (LPFF) and has turn out to be the primary feminine competitors within the nation to acquire skilled standing. The 16-team league formally launched at an occasion in Madrid on Tuesday, and has been named Liga F (F for “Femenina”) because the seek for a sponsor continues.

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Barca could have to hunt motivation in changing into the inaugural winners of Liga F as a result of they’re working out of challenges domestically. They have gained the previous three league titles, shedding only one sport throughout these three seasons. They had been unbeaten via 21 matches when the marketing campaign was curtailed as a result of pandemic in 2019-20, misplaced simply as soon as in 2020-21 after which gained all 30 video games final season, scoring 159 targets and conceding simply 11.

So, Barcelona will win it once more?

It is sort of unimaginable to see a situation during which they do not. Barca did not drop a single level final season, ending 24 factors away from second-placed Real Sociedad. Never thoughts asking if they may lose their crown; first, they need to lose a sport.

There have been some modifications over the summer time at Barca, although, and they are going to be with out their captain and star participant, Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, for a lot of the season after she tore an ACL earlier than Euro 2022 whereas on obligation with Spain. The membership’s file scorer, Jenni Hermoso, has additionally moved on, becoming a member of Mexican aspect Pachuca on a free switch, whereas Dutch winger Lieke Martens, a earlier winner of FIFA’s The Best, has joined Paris Saint-Germain.

However, to maintain profitable, most nice sides evolve step by step annually and Barca will hope that’s true for them this season. England right-back Lucy Bronze has joined from Manchester City and midfielder Keira Walsh adopted for a €400,000 world file switch payment for ladies’s soccer. Brazilian striker Geyse, the joint-top scorer in final season’s Primera Division, has additionally signed from Madrid CFF, whereas Real Sociedad left-back Nuria Rabano has arrived so as to add depth on protection.

A clutch of gifted kids have are available in, too, together with Salma Paralluelo, who has given up a profession in observe and subject to concentrate on soccer, however the previous guard will proceed to supply the platform for achievement. Goalkeeper Sandra Panos has Mapi Leon and Irene Paredes defending in entrance of her, whereas midfielders Patri Guijarro and Aitana Bonmati look primed to step up in Putellas’ absence. Mariona Caldentey, Caroline Graham Hansen and Fridolina Rolfo will all have vital roles to play as properly.

The Champions League will pose the true problem for Jonatan Giraldez’s squad. Barca twice broke the attendance file in girls’s soccer final season as over 90,000 followers stuffed Camp Nou for wins over Real Madrid and Wolfsburg in Europe. They ultimately got here up brief within the ultimate, relinquishing the crown they gained in 2021 to Lyon, leaving them desperate to go one higher this season.



Julien Laurens reacts to Keira Walsh becoming a member of Barcelona for a world-record payment.

Who might problem them?

Real Madrid are more likely to be Barca’s greatest challengers. They launched Marta Cardona, who joined Atletico Madrid, and Sweden striker Kosovare Asllani, however have added Scotland midfielder Caroline Weir, who joined from Manchester City on a free switch.

Madrid ended third final season, behind Sociedad, however that was primarily right down to a poor begin. They had been tenth on the finish of November when David Aznar was sacked, quickly rising up the league following the appointment of Alberto Toril. They have already knocked Man City out of the Champions League this season and now face a two-legged tie in opposition to Rosenborg for a spot within the group stage for the second season working.

Meanwhile Atletico, who gained three titles in a row themselves earlier than Barca usurped them in 2020, have had a busy summer time as properly. Signing Spain winger Cardona after her Madrid contract expired is a coup, whereas Irene Guerrero and Eva Navarro have each joined from Levante. Young defender Andrea Medina is one to look at as properly.

If they click on, Atletico might shock just a few, however there is a component of the unknown about Oscar Fernandez’s aspect as a result of there have been so many modifications. While they’ve signed properly, they’ve additionally misplaced Laia Aleixandri to Man City, whereas the skilled duo of Amanda Sampedro and Silvia Meseguer have each moved to Sevilla.

Anyone else to be careful for?

Sociedad had a exceptional season final outing beneath up-and-coming coach Natalia Arroyo as they completed forward of each large golf equipment from Madrid. Arroyo’s activity turns into tougher now the bar has been set so excessive.

La Real have misplaced each their full-backs to Barcelona — Rabano and Emma Ramirez, who was solely on mortgage — however the signing of Portugal midfielder Andreia Jacinto from Sporting Lisbon is an attention-grabbing one. Quite a bit may rely on how they progress within the Champions League, though a two-legged qualifier in opposition to Bayern Munich later in September won’t be simple.

Levante and Granadilla Tenerife have additionally finished properly in latest seasons, however Sevilla might be the shock package deal this time. With Monchi’s involvement rising — he’s the boys’s director of soccer but additionally works with the ladies’s group — they’ve recruited properly. In addition to Sampedro and Meseguer from Atletico, they’ve signed Cristina Martin-Prieto, who netted 13 instances for Granadilla final season, and now have gifted teenager Inma Gabarro coming via. Gabarro was the highest scorer at this summer time’s U20 World Cup, which Spain gained.

When does the season begin?

Barca kick off their title defence in opposition to newly promoted Levante Las Planas on Sunday, a small group from Barcelona, however the season begins Saturday with 4 video games and Atletico vs. Sociedad is the decide of the bunch. It’s some time till any of the massive groups meet: the primary Clasico between Madrid and Barca is firstly of November, with Barca enjoying Atletico a few weeks later. December brings the Madrid derby and Sociedad’s go to to Barcelona, final season’s runners-up in opposition to the reigning champions.

Some issues nonetheless for the league to handle

The league does nonetheless have points to resolve, beginning with the standing of the referees. Match officers, who’re offered by the RFEF, Spanish soccer’s ruling physique, haven’t but been afforded skilled standing and are even threatening to strike if their circumstances aren’t improved. Meanwhile, there’s nonetheless no collective settlement in place between the league and the gamers.

Barca winger Graham Hansen defined to ESPN earlier this yr why this settlement can be essential for bettering the competitiveness of the competitors. “We want to make sure that [every team] performs on [real] grass,” she stated. “There have to be sure requirements associated to stadiums. There have to be sure requirements associated to the contracts gamers are given and the period of time they’re coaching. All these small issues make an enormous distinction.

“If you may add that every one the video games can be televised, it will likely be an incredible product to promote as a result of there are a variety of good gamers in Spain who aren’t seen. They are reckoned to be unhealthy as a result of Barca win [big], however it’s not as a result of they’re unhealthy — it is simply because we’re excellent. It’s so vital that we professionalize so everybody will get the popularity they deserve.”

A tv deal has, at the least, been agreed, with DAZN paying €35 million for the worldwide rights to the league for the following 5 years. It will broadcast each sport, with one fixture every weekend to be on free-to-air tv in Spain. Puma will provide the match ball and additional sponsors are being sought, together with one to tackle the naming rights for the league.

However, the opposite points on Graham Hansen’s checklist are nonetheless pending. League president Beatriz Alvarez confirmed this week a decree to play on grass will probably come, though it is not been launched but. Negotiations are ongoing over the requirements of contracts and coaching time, however there’s hope the collective settlement can be in place earlier than later.

One space the place there’s readability includes the standing of non-EU gamers. In the boys’s LaLiga, golf equipment are solely allowed three gamers from outdoors the Union, however that quantity can be as excessive as 9 for ladies’s groups this season, then declining to 5 subsequent yr earlier than settling at three in 2024-25. Barca’s Bronze does not want to fret, regardless of experiences she couldn’t be registered on account of her non-EU standing. She has a Portuguese passport. Record signing Walsh, although, will occupy a non-EU spot following the United Kingdom’s exit from the frequent market.


2022-09-08 22:52:38

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