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Editors Note

Its been a familiarly long summer for fans of European football but the light at the
end of the tunnel is getting closer. While weve had the Copa America and European
Under-21 Championships to fill the void of domestic action this year, its fair to say
the new league season cant come soon enough.
2014/15 will be remembered as the year that Barcelona returned to the fore in
Europe, with Luis Enriques treble-winning side very much the team to catch on the
continent once more. In England, Chelsea regained the Premier League crown at
something of a canter, while beaten Champions League finalists Juventus and Pep
Guardiolas Bayern were even more dominant in their respective leagues.
PSGs bottomless resources ensured another Ligue 1 title, despite valiant
competition from Lyon, there was an historic 20th Super Lig title for Galatasaray and PSV put an emphatic
end to Ajaxs four-year dominance of the Eredivisie under Frank de Boer.
In terms of looking ahead, as with any new season come new names to look out for, and that is certainly
the case in 2015/16.
Fans of Europes top 5 leagues will have the chance to cast their eye over six top-flight debutants, with
AFC Bournemouth promoted as Championship winners to the Premier League. There are two newcomers
in Serie A, to the dislike of a number of league officials, with Carpi and Frosinone claiming the two
automatic promotion places from Serie B. Meanwhile, the Bundesliga welcomes Ingolstadt to its ranks for
the first time and Ligue 1 will host Gazlec Ajaccio.
In this season preview well bring you all you need to know ahead of the campaigns kick-off in England,
Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands and Turkey, and all of the summer signings to keep an eye on.
We hope you enjoy it!

MARTIN LAURENCE WHOSCORED.COM CONTENT MANAGER

action at the tournament (6.24). Hes


but their tendency to ship goals away
unlikely to be afforded too much
from home (24) led to 5 defeats on
playing time despite a considerable
the road. An improvement is certainly
pay packet though, with Diego
needed from captain Vincent
Costa hoping to build on a 20-goal haul Kompany (6.86 rating), along with the
having forged a superb understanding likes of Fernando and Fernandinho,
with fellow new arrival last summer, who face competition following Fabian
Cesc Fbregas.
Delphs arrival.

Its been an interesting summer as


far as the Premier League is
concerned, with teams having
benefitted substantially from the
dramatic increase in TV revenue. It
has allowed those previously unable
to compete with the financial
powerhouses of the league to make
some eye-catching signings, which
should make for a highly entertaining
2015/16 campaign.
Champions Chelsea, who strolled to
the title somewhat unopposed for
much of the season, will rightly be the

strong favourites given their


dominance in the previous campaign
but to now they have been quiet in the
market. Clearly content with much of
his starting XI, and
understandably so, Jose Mourinho is
hoping to replace Filipe Luis with hot
prospect Baba Rahman, and
departing stalwarts Petr Cech and
Didier Drogba have made way for
Asmir Begovic and Radamel Falcao
respectively. The signing of the latter
certainly ranks among the most
contentious across Europe.
The Colombian
followed a thoroughly
underwhelming
season at United netting just 4 goals with an equally
disappointing showing
at the Copa America
this summer. Falcao
secured the third
lowest WhoScored
rating of all
outfielders to amass
over 270 minutes of

If the two Spain internationals link


up like last season, with Fabregas to
Costa representing the most frequent
assist to goalscorer combination in
the league (6), Chelsea - aided by
their superb defensive record - will be
tough to beat once more.
The Blues closest challengers are
again expected to be Manchester City,
with the club having gone all out to
secure the services of Raheem
Sterling this summer. The former
Liverpool youngster will add pace and
energy to the attacking ranks at the
Etihad, where so much of that burden
rested on the shoulders of top scorer
Sergio Agero (26 goals) last season.
City were the top scorers in 2014/15

Meanwhile, many believe that


Arsenal have taken a significant
stride to a serious title challenge
courtesy of the signing of Petr Cech,
who is tipped to solve a
long-standing goalkeeping issue
at the Emirates stretching back
to Jens Lehmanns departure. At
33 there is plenty left in the tank,
with an 80% save success rate from
7 league appearances enough to
rank second last season - albeit to
Arsenals David Ospina - and his
experience and leadership
qualities could prove invaluable. If
Alexis Snchez and Mesut zil - back
to his best after injury - can pick up
where they left off last term, the
Gunners have a chance.

It's Manchester United and Liverpool


that have no doubt made the biggest
splash in the transfer market this
summer. While the former will be
hoping their significant arrivals will
lead to a title bid, Liverpool's
spending shows a real intent to push
for a return to the Champions League
at the very least.

Liverpool's decision to spend big on


attacking duo Roberto Firmino and
Christian Benteke was a result of a
modest tally of 52 goals last
season - almost half that of their
2013/14 haul (101). Both have the
quality to increase their attacking
output significantly but arguably

Bastian Schweinsteiger is arguably the


biggest name making the move to the
Premier League this summer, but the
captures of Morgan Schneiderlin and
Memphis Depay could prove
equally critical.
The Frenchman has been one of the
strongest midfield performers in
England for two seasons now,
amassing 209 tackles in that time,
while the youngster who goes by the
name Memphis Depay is
expected to make a real mark in
England. At just 21 the Dutch
international scored more goals over
the past two Eredivisie seasons
combined than any other player (34),
securing a sensational WhoScored
rating of 7.92 last time around.

impressive signings of Andre Ayew


and Jordy Clasie respectively will
bolster their chances, while Palace
and West Ham have also pulled off
notable coups this summer.
In terms of a relegation battle Aston
Villa, who finished just above the drop
zone last season, will be expected to
feature once more. The sales of key
men Delph and Benteke are likely to
hit Sherwood's team hard, as well as
the departures of Vlaar and Cleverley.
However, signings of the ilk of
Jordan Veretout, Idrissa Gueye and
Jordan Amavi - who secured the
second highest rating in Ligue 1 last
season (7.74) - should at least restore
some excitement to Villa Park if not
success.

Automatically promoted outfits


Watford and Bournemouth look to
play expansive stuff and while the
Hornets have chosen to add top-flight
experience to their ranks, Eddie Howe
has opted for emerging talent in the
form of Tyrone Mings and Christian
Atsu. Respective top scorers Troy
Deeney (21 goals) and Callum Wilson
(20 goals) may need to hit the ground
running in their first shot at the
Premier League if either are to
survive, but both teams should
provide plenty of entertainment
regardless.
It's certainly shaping up to be a
memorable campaign and, from a
neutral's perspective, here's hoping
it's more competitive at the top this
time around.

represent a confused strategy given


their contrast in style. James Milner,
however, is perhaps the most savvy
signing of the summer, joining on a
free from Manchester City.
Everton will be hoping for an
improvement on last season's
11th-placed finish while the likes of
Swansea and Southampton should
also be expected to compete with
Spurs for Europa League berths. The

Premier League the Canaries may


struggle for goals, with Cameron
Jerome's impressive Championship
figures having struggled to translate
in the top-flight in the past.
Nevertheless, they possess one of the
young managers - in Alex Neil - and
young players to watch, with Nathan
Redmond a much improved performer
since his last bash at the big time.

Newly promoted trio Norwich,


Watford and AFC Bournemouth - the
latter making their top-flight debut will also be expected to be there or
thereabouts. Like last time out in the

Ahead of Bournemouths first ever top-flight


campaign Eddie Howe has targeted young
talent, along with a few old heads to add to
his ranks. The Cherries main priority was
arguably keeping hold of star performers
such as Arter, Ritchie (15 goals, 17 assists) and
Wilson (20 goals, 7 assists), so in that sense
its been a successful summer.

Despite a quiet summer for the Gunners, the


arrival of Petr Cech is expected to increase
their chances of a sustained title challenge.
Arsenal have been through a string of modest
goalkeepers in recent seasons and, though
Ospina was solid in the most part last time
around, the former Chelsea man is certainly
an upgrade.

Tyrone Mings is bright prospect, while were yet


to see the best of loan signing Christian Atsu in
England, who could shine given ample playing
time. The arrival of Sylvain Distin adds a wealth
of Premier League experience, while the club
are also thought to be in hot pursuit of
Saint-Etienne forward Max Gradel.

The feeling is that Wenger is still a star striker


away from regaining the Premier League
crown, and he may still want to add muscle
to his midfield. Elsewhere its a big year for
England internationals Wilshere, OxladeChamberlain and Walcott, who amassed a
combined total of just 30 league starts last
season.

The Ligue 1 quartet of Gueye (7.42 rating),


Amavi (7.74), Veretout and Ayew were all strong
performers in France last season. Meanwhile
Richards arrival on a free could yet prove a
masterstroke if he can avoid the injury problems
that have stunted his potential up to now, while
Rudy Gestede netted 20 goals for Blackburn last
season and may be tasked with replacing top
scorer Benteke.

Player to watch: Christian Atsu

Player to watch: Mesut zil

After a disappointing season last time out


Roberto Martinez has looked to bring in players
he has worked with in the past to help
Everton climb the table. The permanent signing
of Gerard Deulofeu may prove to be superb
business if the Spaniard can get his young
compatriots attitude in order, while Martinez
held a long-term interest in a reunion with Tom
Cleverley, whom he had at Wigan.

Its hard to justify any summer in which a


team has lost its best players as a success but
Villa have pulled off some real coups thus far.
Theyre unlikely to avoid another relegation
battle following the departures of Delph
and Benteke but there remains reason for
optimism.

Chelsea were not in need of wholesale changes


this summer but both the signing of Radamel
Falcao (6.61 rating) and sale of Petr Cech havent
sat particularly well with the fan base.
Nevertheless the first XI that proved so effective
last term is likely to remain largely unchanged.

As far as Palace are concerned their fans are


still understandably swooning over the signing
of Yohan Cabaye. Its little surprise following his
success under Alan Pardew at Newcastle,
earning a WhoScored rating of 7.48 ahead of a
move to PSG in 2013/14, and despite a
disappointing spell in the French capital his
arrival marks a real statement of intent.

Securing the services of some up and coming


youngsters is certainly on the agenda, with Baba
Rahman and John Stones identified as targets,
though Chelsea are likely to take a more
considered approach to such signings. The likes
of De Bruyne, Salah and Cuadrado all struggled to adapt to Mourinhos demands in recent
seasons, though we should see more of Kurt
Zouma.

The renewal of Danns contract and loan signing


of Patrick Bamford, who netted 17 league goals at
Boro last season, will also help consolidate the
Eagles status. The impact of Pardews
appointment is likely to wane but Palace should
still be safe, with Alex McCarthy vying for a place
in goal.

Player to watch: Jordan Amavi

Player to watch: Willian

Player to watch: Yannick Bolasie

The biggest change at Leicester this summer


has seen former Chelsea manager Claudio
Ranieri replace Nigel Pearson. The experienced
Italian hasnt settled anywhere for very long
since leaving the Premier League and though
his predecessor was a divisive character, he
seemed to have the players on side.

One of the busiest sides in the window, perhaps


understandably so given the drop off in
performance levels from 2013/14, Brendan
Rodgers is likely to live or die by this
summers transfer dealings. On paper, then,
there remain signs of life in terms of the
Ulstermans long-term future at Anfield.

Having fallen way off the pace of Chelsea last


season there has been a bridge to gap for
Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean has attempted
to do just that by pulling out all the stops to sign
Raheem Sterling, with many questioning the
astronomical fee attached to the youngster.

After a second successive summer of elaborate


spending there appears to be far more
method to Uniteds dealings this time around
than madness. They have strengthened
impressively whilst ridding themselves of
strikers that were certainly on the decline,
though a replacement is now needed.

Much of Evertons prospects may boil down to


John Stones future at the club, with Chelsea
ready to test the Toffees resolve. With Distin
having also left the club another centre-back
may be high on the wish list.

The Foxes ended last season in spectacular


fashion but may struggle to replicate that form.
Though the arrival of Shinji Okazaki (12 goals, 3
assists) is a notable signing, Leicester may yet
find a departure from Pearsons approach has a
detrimental effect. However, the impressive
capture of NGolo Kante - who produced the most
tackles in Europes top 5 leagues last
season - will give them a fighting chance.

Firmino (7.79 rating) and Benteke (42 goals, 8


assists since 2012/13) add real quality in attack,
Clyne is a significant upgrade at right-back and for a decent price - and Milner strengthens
their midfield options. It remains to be seen
whether they can break into the top four but the
Reds have given themselves a fighting chance.

Nevertheless, Sterling adds a more direct threat


in possession than Nasri or Milner - who has
headed in the opposite direction - and an upgrade in quality on Navas, having completed 103
dribbles last season (4th in the league). Fabian
Delph has also added to the homegrown quota
but, whilst providing competition in midfield,
isnt a signing likely help City regain the title.

Player to watch: Ross Barkley

Player to watch: NGolo Kante

Player to watch: Roberto Firmino

Player to watch: Raheem Sterling

Elsewhere Louis van Gaal has a plethora of


options in midfield, with Schneiderlin and
Schweinsteiger likely to be in the Dutchmans
favoured XI, while Matteo Darmian adds quality to
a problem position at right-back last season. Its
Memphis Depay that could prove to be the real
gem, securing the second highest rating in the
Eredivisie last season (7.92), though
centre-back options remain a concern.

Player to watch: Memphis Depay

After a woeful second half to the 2014/15


campaign it was little surprise that John Carver
was replaced at the helm this summer, with
Steve McClaren tasked with ensuring a higher
finish than 15th. Adding fresh, young talent to
the spine of the side, the Magpies are certainly
equipped to improve on last seasons 39-point
haul.

The hugely impressive nature of Norwichs


form since Alex Neils arrival at Carrow Road
in January cannot be understated, leading the
Canaries to 17 wins from 25 matches.
Norwichs modest activity in the transfer
window to now, however, should rightly be
considered a concern.

Its been a familiar story for Saints this


summer, losing two of their star players, but
once more they have made shrewd signings to
ensure they keep pace in the race for European
football. Koemans side strike as one of the
teams that are most comfortable within their
playing style and are extremely well organised.

The Potters made significant strides under


Hughes last season and could be an outside
bet for a European place but they are one of a
number of teams likely to be hard to separate.
The loss of NZonzi may well be keenly felt, so it
will be interesting to see how loanee
Marco van Ginkel gets on.

Eventually convincing his wife that he should


stay at Sunderland beyond the end of last
season, Black Cats fans are optimistic following
Dick Advocaats progress with the side. They
could do with offloading some deadwood but
thus far there has been some solid business at
the Stadium of Light.

Anderlecht pairing Chancel Mbemba and


Aleksandar Mitrovic swell the defensive and
attacking ranks respectively, and both have the
physical attributes to succeed in the North East.
However the capture of Georginio Wijnaldum is
most impressive, with the midfielder captaining
PSV to Eredivisie glory last season, weighing in
with 14 goals from midfield.

Its true that much of the side relegated two


seasons ago have stuck together, but they were
relegated after all. The signings of Mulumbu
and Dorrans from WBA add further experience
to their ranks but they may still struggle at
both ends. The signing of Robbie Brady will give
them good balance, on the opposite flank to
Redmond, while this may be a make or break
season for Andre Wisdom.

The sale of Schneiderlin is a blow but the


arrival of Jordy Clasie should effectively offset
his departure, teaming up with Wanyama in
a strong midfield. A replacement for Clyne
remains a concern, so Cedric Soares will need
to adapt quickly, while Steven Caulker has been
signed to make up for the departure of
Alderweireld.

Jack Butland is set to be the new number one


at the Britannia following the sale of Begovic
and almost seems like a new signing. The
arrival of striker Joselu looks to be their best
business, earning a WhoScored rating of 7.21
last season, and he should adapt well to
English football, while Ibrahim Afellay is the
latest former Barca player to join Stoke, hoping
to reignite his career.

Having played a key role in their survival in the


closing months of the season the permanent
signing of Sebastien Coates - who garnered the
highest rating for the club (7.22) - should not be
underestimated. Meanwhile Jeremain Lens can
be considered a real coup and he adds electric
pace and a goal threat from wide areas that has
been lacking.

Player to watch: Georginio Wijnaldum

Player to watch: Nathan Redmond

Player to watch: Jay Rodriguez

Player to watch: Jack Butland

Player to watch: Sebastien Coates

After a record breaking points haul last season


Garry Monk, who renewed his deal at the
Liberty Stadium this summer, has set the bar
high for his side to overcome. Keeping all of his
first team players and adding real quality,
however, will give the Swans a chance of
bettering last seasons tally.

The fact that Spurs have rid themselves of


plenty of deadwood is arguably the real positive
of their summer thus far, with more still likely
to follow. Mauricio Pochettinos first season in
North London wasnt overly memorable, but his
side are slowly adapting to his demands.

Watford have been the most active of the


promoted sides this summer by some distance,
also seeing a change of manager following the
appointment of former Atletico boss Quique
Flores. It remains to be seen how the Spaniard
will adapt to English football but hes clearly been
keen to make his mark on the squad.

Were it not for the top-flight knowhow of


manager Tony Pulis one might consider West
Brom to be in trouble ahead of the upcoming
campaign. Theyve had a relatively quiet
summer but have at least managed to keep
hold of prized asset Saido Berahino.

Its been a real summer of change for the


Hammers, who are gearing up for a move to
the Olympic Stadium in 2016. Former West Ham
player Slaven Bilic has been appointed after
the expected departure of Sam Allardyce, and
the club have made significant strides in the
transfer window.

Having adapted well to the Premier League


following the sale of Wilfried Bony much may
rely on Bafetimbi Gomis efforts, though some of
the attacking burden will be taken off by
Andre Ayew. A superb acquisition from
Marseille, the Ghanaian international had
a great goalscoring record in Liege 1, while
Franck Tabanou is another upgrade
at left-back.

Player to watch: Andre Ayew

The main priority in terms of strengthening the


squad has clearly been to bolster the defensive
ranks after shipping 53 goals last season, and
their signings should help bring that tally down.
Toby Alderweireld stands out from the trio of
new defensive arrivals thus far and could forge
a decent partnership with compatriot
Vertonghen, while Trippier is an interesting
signing, putting pressure on Walkers place.

The Hornets have acquired plenty of international


experience in the likes of Prodl, Holebas, Nyom
and Behrami, while record signing Capoue will
hope to revive a career that stagnated at Spurs.
Its an existing player from last season that may
prove decisive though, with Troy Deeney looking to
make the transition to the Premier League, while
Berghuis and Jurado will add quality on the flanks.

Player to watch: Nabil Bentaleb

Player to watch: Troy Deeney

James Chester was an expensive transfer but


should prove a solid partner for Lescott at the
back, while James McClean is an option for a
side that didnt play with natural wingers often
last season. The capture of Rickie Lambert from
Liverpool may well be underestimated and the
experienced forward could help get the best out
of Berahino.

Player to watch: Saido Berahino

The arrival of Dimitri Payet - who created more


chances than any other player in Europes top
5 leagues last season (134) for a whopping
17 league assists with Marseille - stands out
among them as impressive business.
Meanwhile Italy international Angelo Ogbonna
will compete with Reid and Tomkins, Pedro
Obiang is a useful addition in midfield and
Manuel Lanzini adds real flair.

Player to watch: Dimitri Payet

Derby Countys capitulation when


it really mattered was one of
the most enduring memories of
last season. For some time they
looked in prime position,
alongside Bournemouth, for
promotion only to fall apart in
dramatic fashion, plummeting
rapidly and eventually missing
out on the playoffs despite
having what many considered the
leagues strongest squad.
Now, after regrouping and under
a new manager, Paul Clement,
who has finally taken a leading
job after 19 years as a successful
and revered coach, they must try
again. The pressure may even be
greater they are the
bookmakers favourites. The
players who under-performed
through their horrific run of 2
wins from the final 13 games,
including that final day
embarrassment to a Reading
side with nothing to play for, now
possess a collective requirement
to prove they are not a bunch of
bottlers.
The defence has been
strengthened, with Alex Pearce
and Jason Shackell joining from

Reading and Burnley


respectively, while Scott Carson
may assume the position as No1
from a calamitous Lee Grant.
Andreas Weimann is another
decent acquisition, while Tom Ince
will be expected to star having
made his move permanent
following a spell on loan last
season in which he seemed to
carry Steve McClarens side at
times, scoring 11 goals in 18
appearances.
Middlesbrough are joint favourites
with the Rams but after suffering
playoff heartache against
Norwich, also have a job to pick
themselves up from the floor.
Overly reliant upon Patrick
Bamford for goals last season

(17 in the league), who has joined


Crystal Palace on another loan,
they still appear short of a player
capable of scoring
regularly enough to lead them
to a top two place.
However, the return of Stewart
Downing from West Ham, where
he was considered surplus to
demands under their new
manager, should have a
galvanising effect and there is
a sense of now or never for
the manager, Aitor Karanka.
Of the sides relegated from the
Premier League, Burnley look
best set for an immediate return
even if the loss of Danny Ings, top
scorer with 11 goals last season,
and right-back Kieran Trippier is
a blow. Apart from that they
have retained the solidity which
served them so well when
winning promotion two years ago
and the signing of Jelle Vossen,
who spent last season on loan at
Middlesbrough, from Genk could
be very astute indeed.
QPR and Hull are in various
degrees of turmoil, though both
have a core capable of at least
achieving a playoff place if
off-field concerns do not affect
them on the pitch though the
former may still lose their top
scorer Charlie Austin before the
summer window closes.
Daryl Murphy remains the trump
card for Ipswich, who still have
an element of shoestring about
them; despite making 8m from
the departure of Tyrone Mings to
Bournemouth there has not yet
been reinvestment. The Brentford

experiment presents much


intrigue: the dismissal of
Mark Warburton, now at
Rangers, seemed quite cruel on
the face of such relative success
and it means their analytical
approach led by the new
manager, Marinus Dijkhuizen,
will be judged immediately in
some quarters.

managed 1 goal per game


last season and there remains
a lack of quality in attack. Away
form, too, could be their
downfall having won only three
times on the road last season.
Charlton look weak, while of the
newly promoted teams, Preston
and MK Dons will have a primary
aim of survival.

Wolves could be the dark horse.


Bristol City should obtain a
Kenny Jacketts team were close
mid-table place and could even
to a playoff berth in their first
repeat Wolves feat by challenging
season back in the Championship in the top half having demolished
and despite the loss of Bakary
their League One opposition last
Sako, scorer of 15 goals last
season, but will be in a rush to
season from the wing, there is
get Kieran Agard to full fitness
a familiarity to the squad, while
after he picked up a knee injury
the experience of last season will
at the beginning of July.
serve younger members well.
Aaron Wilbraham will be keenly
Nottingham Forest and Fulham
watched, while they are a major
are outside shots and could reach
threat from set pieces no
the playoffs but both will need
defender scored as many goals
strong starts and a degree of
as Aden Flints 14 last season.
consistency that has been
absent for some time.
At the bottom of the table,
Rotherham appear the most likely
to go down again this season
despite surviving with a 5-point
buffer last time out. They only

12

will surely stay in closer touch with the


duopoly this time around.
Sevilla will remain competitive for
their upcoming Champions League
campaign, with coach Unai Emery
also committing his long-term
future to the project at fortress
Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The inaugural campaign of the


tridente has already passed, with
Barcelonas star trio of Lionel
Messi, Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez netting a combined

81 La Liga goals - left


with the question of whether they can
transform their combined
talent into a legacy and another
league title. Doubt shrouded Luis
Enriques short-term future at the
outset of the summer, despite a La
Liga title contributing to the second
treble in the Blaugranas history, but
now-permanent club president
Josep Maria Bartomeu moved to tie
down the former Celta Vigo coach to a
contract until 2017. Indirectly, Enrique
managed to usher in change at title
contenders Real Madrid as a product

Atletico may have lost


of his own success, with
aforementioned Turkey international
Carlo Ancelotti making way for a
Arda, but Diego Simeone has
tearful Rafa Benitez at the Santiago
ensured that Los Colchoneros quick
Bernabeu. As has been well
transitions will be something to fear.
documented, Barca are unable to
Mario Mandzukic, who ended last
register any new players for first-team season with a disappointing goalless
action until January 2016, but that
spell of 13 games, has walked out of
has not stopped Bartomeu and the
the exit door. Jackson Martinez and
pre-election supervising board
Luciano Vietto are more than worthy
snapping up Sevillas Aleix Vidal and
replacements, if not improvements.
Atleticos Arda Turan ahead of
New signing Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco is
the new season.
another wildcard option for the league
champions of two seasons ago, who
Real Madrid have kept the bulk of
their squad together, with Portos
Danilo finally able to join up with his
new teammates after a long wait since
his transfer was officially announced.
Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez are both
prodigal sons, having spent last
season on loan elsewhere.
Despite scoring 28 goals in La Liga
since joining Los Blancos in 2013,
more is still being demanded from
Gareth Bale. Having had a direct hand
in a goal every 117 minutes last season
compared to every 77 minutes in his
debut campaign, Benitez must get the
best out of the Welshman once more.

Monchi has once again flexed his


negotiating muscles and managed to
snare interesting players for
reasonable prices, with the likes of
Steven NZonzi, Yevhen Konoplyanka
and Ciro Immobile bolstering a strong
squad, with other bit-part signings
such as Mariano and Sergio
Escudero ensuring sufficient depth to
attack the new campaign on both
domestic and continental fronts
despite the sale of last season's top
scorer Carlos Bacca (20 league goals).

13

Optimism appears to be
Athletic Club will have to contend with
Despite finishing last season on 41
restrictions on their transfer
eternal at the Mestalla, as has been
injury problems for Inaki
points and in 13th place, the club
business. While they may boast the
characteristic during Nuno Santo
Williams and Iker Muniain, while Celta have been unable to repay debt nor
oldest stadium in the country, there
Espiritos tenure at Valencia, with
Vigo have seen poor contract
pay their players, which has led to
is nothing antiquated about the
Peter Lims contacts within
management cost them both Santi
demotion from the Spanish
personnel employed by their coach
Portuguese football securing some
Mina and Michael Krohn-Delhi.
top-flight. Eibar are the team to
Abelardo,who steered the Asturian
new imports to add to an already
profit, with the Basque minnows now
side back to the big time with an
competitive squad. A lack of goals
readying themselves for their second
average squad age of 23.
from a central striker was a
ever Primera calendar under new
continual worry last season, but Paco
coach Jose Luis Mendilibar, despite
Real Betis will head out of the
Alcacer and Alvaro Negredo will look
being considered relegated on the
tunnel on the opening day of the
to repay their managers faith in them,
final day of action in 2014/2015.
season with confidence, having
while new young signing Santi Mina
strode to the second division title last
has the potential to play up top. Los
campaign. After making the marquee
Che have already shown that they can
signing of Rafael van der Vaart, the
compete against the leagues best and
experienced Dutchman could prove
will take that belief forward.
Levante and Rayo have also suffered,
to be a vital well of advice and magic
with last seasons top goalscorers
if the going gets tough.
David Barral and Alberto Bueno
heading off to Qatar and Portugal
Las Palmas have been renowned
respectively, while Granada have
for playing the game the right way
watched both Jeison Murillo and
while in the Segunda, but whether
Allan Nyom depart from their back
their possession-based approach will
four. The former was named the
bear fruit in the competitive arena
young player of the tournament at
of the top-flight remains to be seen.
this summers Copa America with a
Juan Carlos Valeron is set to pull his
rating of 7.63 and has left for
boots on at the age of 40, completing
Inter.
something of a fairytale return to La
Liga, a league within which the
Meanwhile Javi Gracias
midfielder has already amassed 390
For the vast majority of the leagues
Malaga must face the new campaign
Eibar will not be rejoining the
appearances during a lengthy career.
other competitors, it has been more
without Samu, Samuel and Juanmi, Primera alone, however. Three teams
a case of assets lost than quality
with the trio heading off to
with rich top-flight
gained. Espanyol allowed for
Villarreal and Southampton
history will look to cement their
Sergio Garcia, Lucas Vazquez and Kiko
respectively. A theme which was
place amongst Spains elite, with
Casillas departures, with the former
constantly prevalent in the build-up
Sporting Gijon, Las Palmas and Real
pairing earning the sides highest
to the new Primera campaign was
Betis making the step up from the
WhoScored ratings last season (both
the question of whether Elche would
Segunda A. The former find
7.17), while Villarreal were powerless
be permitted the chance to maintain
themselves dependent on young
to resist when Viettos minimum fee
their place in the division.
talent and fighting spirit, as
release clause was activated
Sporting enter La Liga with
by Los Colchoneros.

Despite departures of a number of former first


team regulars Atletico look likely to be a force
again next season, replacing the likes of Arda,
Mandzukic, Miranda and Suarez impressively.
Simeone coped well with the loss of a number
of star players from their title-winning 2013/14
campaign and will be looking to put up more of
a fight again this time around, with Filipe Luis
having returned to the club.

Despite the fact that they are unable to register


new players until the New Year Barcelona have
still been active in the transfer market. In reality
theyve had little need to strengthen after a treble
winning-campaign saw them set the benchmark
in Europe once more, but an increase in
competition should only push the
Blaugrana on further.

Having moved up one place from their 2013/14


finish to 8th last season Celta Vigo will be hoping
for an outside shot at a European berth this time
out and may have a shot. After an
impressive debut season managing in Spain
Eduardo Berizzo will have to make do without
Michael Krohn-Dehli and promising youngster
Santi Mina this season but has acted wisely in the
transfer market.

Having secured survival on the final day of last


season Depor will be hoping for a more
comfortable finish this time around and have
made some decent signings to ensure they climb
the table. The culmination of loan contracts for
centre-back Sidnei - the highest rated player
for the side last season (7.12) - midfielder Celso
Borges and top scorer Lucas Perez (6 goals),
however, may hurt.

Jackson Martinezs arrival has certainly raised


expectations, while youngsters Luciano Vietto
and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco - who registered
10 assists for Monaco last season - add to the
attacking options. Stefan Savic has also been
brought in, while the progression of young
centre-back Gimenez (7.52 rating last season)
will be worth keeping an eye on.

There was an emotional farewell for club legend


Xavi this summer, while Barca made a u-turn
on their decision not to offer Dani Alves a new
contract, and he will begin the campaign as
starting right-back again. The versatile Aleix Vidal
is expected to provide competition to the
Brazilian come January, though it remains to be
seen where Arda Turan will fit into the midfield.

With the departure of one Danish international


comes the arrival of another, and Daniel Wass
may prove to be a real bargain from Evian,
offering a goal threat from midfield having scored
8 times last season. Iago Aspas return will have
excited the fans after netting 12 times in 2012/13
ahead of a disappointing spell at Liverpool, while
the free transfer of John Guidetti is an extremely
shrewd addition.

Victor Sanchez has opted for experience in the


most part this summer, with the free transfers of
winger Cani and centre-back Fernando Navarro.
Pedro Mosqueras arrival from Elche will add
bite to the midfield, while it will be interesting to
track Luis Albertos progress and worth keeping
an eye on another loanee in Fede Cartabia, who
impressed with Cordoba last time out.

Player to watch: Aymeric Laporte

Player to watch: Ferreira-Carrasco

Player to watch: Luis Surez

Player to watch: Nolito

Player to watch: Luis Alberto

Having only retained their top-flight status due to


Elches financial misdemeanours, finishing 18th
last season, most still think Eibars unexpected
stay in La Liga will be brief. The club have been
very active in the transfer market, though all
of their signings thus far have either been free
transfers or loans.

After a solid mid-table finish last time around


you can expect more of the same from Espanyol,
with their hopes likely to be scuppered by some
disappointing departures. The teams two top
rated players from last season, top scorer Garcia
(14 goals) and exciting winger Vazquez have left,
with the latter returning to Real Madrid, joined by
first choice keeper Casilla.

Getafe may well find themselves in a relegation


battle again next season but have made some
interesting acquisitions this summer,
particularly on loan. Nevertheless, theyve failed
to address their problems up front thus far, with
Alvaro Vazquez likely to need to improve on a
modest top-scorer tally of 7 for his side to climb
the table.

Having narrowly avoided the drop last season


Granada are likely to be there or thereabouts
again, particularly having lost two players from
their backline. Right-back Allan Nyom has
joined Watford following the culmination of a
loan spell, while promising centre-back Jeison
Murillo has moved to Inter.

Promoted via the playoffs to the top-flight for the


first time in 14 years, Las Palmas will be hoping
to stick around for longer than their two-year
stint in La Liga at the turn of the century. They
will fancy their chances of retaining a place this
time out following the permanent signings of key
players on loan from last season.

23-year old Francesco Bardi has signed on loan


from Inter to replace Casilla, with plenty of
pressure on the Italian to succeed. Hernan Perez
has been signed from Villarreal in an attempt
to make up for the loss of Vazquez, along with
Real Madrid youngster Burgui, who will be worth
watching out on the wing. Meanwhile young
centre-back Enzo Roco has joined on loan
following a season at Elche.

That said, the arrivals of youngsters Moi Gomez


from Villarreal, Alvaro Medran from Real Madrid
and Bernard Mensah, who only secured a big
money move to Atletico this summer, may mean
Getafe are something of a surprise package this
season. Elsewhere Damian Suarez and Santiago
Vergini add to the defensive ranks, with Emiliano
Velazquez (7.08 rating last season) extending his
loan from Atletico.

Owner Giampaolo Pozzo has been busy this


summer, looking to add to the ranks with loans
and free transfers. Slovenia international Rene
Krhin has been added to the midfield from Inter
following a loan spell at Cordoba last season,
with Edgar Mendez adding graft in wide areas.
Meanwhile young Gabon international Yrondu
Musavu-King has been signed on a free to
replace Murillo having started last season
brightly at Caen only for injury to curtail his
impact.

Undoubtedly the most notable among them,


23-year old forward Sergio Araujo has made
the move from Boca Juniors having scored the
second most goals in the Segunda Division last
season (24), and he is certainly worth keeping
an eye on. Elsewhere Jonathan Viera and Alfredo
Ortuno have stayed on, while the acquisition of
experienced keeper Javi Varas is shrewd and
support striker Willian Jose joins on loan.

Player to watch: Ruben Duarte

Player to watch: Moi Gomez

Player to watch: Robert Ibanez

Player to watch: Sergio Araujo

Athletic Club should shape up with a similar


side that finished in a Europa League
qualification berth last season. However they
will begin the campaign without both Iker
Muniain and Inaki Williams, with the young duo
out through injury, while former captain and
stalwart Andoni Iraola has left for MLS.
Ernesto Valverde has recruited Eibar
right-back Eniko Boveda to make up for the
loss of Iraola, with the 26-year old set to
provide competition for Oscar De Marcos.
Gorka Elustundo has also signed on a free from
Real Sociedad, while as of yet hot
prospect Aymeric Laporte remains at the club,
who will again rely on the goals of 34-year old
Aritz Aduriz.

The only meaningful departure is the loss of


right-back Boveda, though the arrivals of Antonio
Luna, Ivan Ramis and Mauro dos Santos should
bolster a defence that struggled after the sale of
Raul Albentosa. Up front, the pressure will be on
new signings Sergi Enrich and Borja Baston to hit
the ground running having scored 39 goals in the
Segunda Division between them last season.

Player to watch: Sergi Enrich

Despite finishing 14th last season Levante were


just two points off the drop and could be in
trouble this season if their new signings dont
make a real impact. Top scorer David Barral (11
goals) has left on a free, so Casadeus will be
competing for a starting spot with new arrivals to
the team up front.

Having made decent progress under Javi Gracia


Malaga will start the upcoming season without
a number of key attackers from the previous
campaign. Wingers Samuel and Samu have both
made the move to Villarreal, while last seasons
top scorer Juanmi (8 goals) has joined
Southampton.

Ever the entertainers given their expansive style


of play, Rayo will have to make do without their
top scorer from last season. Alberto Bueno
netted 17 league goals last time out but his
contract expired at the end of the campaign,
allowing him to move to Porto on a free transfer.

Nabil Ghilas has signed on loan from Porto


having spent last season at Cordoba, scoring 7
goals, while Lucas Alvarez has taken a chance on
Deyverson, who failed to make an impact on loan
at Cologne but had a good record in Portugal.
Meanwhile the ex-Almeria pairing of Ruben
and Verza will compete for places in goal and
midfield respectively, with former keeper Diego
Marinos loan spell ending.

Nordin Amrabat, who had a direct hand in 10


league goals on loan at the club last season, has
made his move from Galatasaray permanent.
Following an excellent goalscoring record in his
native Croatia, Duje Cop is an interesting loan
addition having struggled to settle in Italy with
Cagliari. Elsewhere 22-year old winger Adnane
Tignadouni could be an impressive signing
having scored 14 goals for NAC Breda last
season, while Raul Albentosa will bolster the
backline.

Player to watch: Ivan Lopez

Player to watch: Ignacio Camacho

Player to watch: Patrick Ebert

Embarking on their first full season with David


Moyes at the helm, La Real made decent progress
under the Scot last time out. The former Everton
boss will be able to rely on the services of all of
his first team regulars from last season and has
made some notable acquisitions.
20-year old winger Bruma can play on either flank
and will provide pace and trickery on loan from
Galatasaray. Meanwhile the arrival of 22-year
old Porto centre-back Diego Reyes, already a full
international with Mexico, on loan may prove an
excellent capture. Elsewhere teenage prospect
David Concha has signed from Racing, while
Jonathas is a great addition from Elche and could
forge a partnership with Vela having registered 14
goals and 7 assists last season.

Having narrowly missed out on a Champions


League berth through their league finish last
time out Unai Emerys side will have a shot at the
big time regardless after retaining their Europa
League crown. Having lost Rakitic last summer
Sevilla will have to make do without top scorer
Carlos Bacca next season (20 goals) but have
made a number of strong signings.

Promoted from the Segunda Division having lost


just two matches all season, Sporting Gijon will
rely on the players that performed so admirably
last season to keep them afloat. They were the
draw specialists of the second-tier, playing out
19 stalemates, depending on an outstanding
defensive record as opposed to Betis and Las
Palmas firepower.

Mariano, Gael Kakuta and Yevhen Konoplyanka will


add strength on the flanks, while Steven NZonzi
adds further bite to an already strong midfield.
The pressure is on Ciro Immobile to make up for
Baccas absence, joining on an initial loan having
struggled to settle at Dortmund, and he will
hope to recapture the form that saw him end the
2013/14 campaign as the Serie As top scorer
(22 goals).

The centre-back pairing of Bernardo Espinosa


and Luis Hernandez is an area of real strength
and does offer them some hope of survival.
There are a number of prospects to watch out
for in this young side too, including 20-year old
forward Carlos Castro, who scored 9 times last
season, winger Jony and Pablo Perez, while
Sergio Alvarez is a key figure in midfield.

Centre-backs Mustafi and Otamendi forged an


excellent partnership but both have attracted
interest in turn, with the latter seemingly ready
to force through a move to Manchester United,
so reinforcements may yet be needed. Loanees
Gomes, Negredo and Rodrigo have made their
moves permanent, with the club certainly paying
over the odds for the latter pairing, though the
arrivals of youngsters Santi Mina and Zakaria
Bakkali, along with keeper Mat Ryan, are very
encouraging.

The squad still looks a little short in attack


though, with Leo Baptistao the only centreforward arriving thus far, on loan from
Atletico. Nevertheless the double swoop for
Malaga pairing Samuel and Samu adds strength
on the wings, while promising young PSG keeper
Alphonse Areola, who spent last season at
Bastia, provides strong competition for a starting
berth with Sergio Asenjo.

Player to watch: Diego Reyes

Player to watch: Grzegorz Krychowiak

Player to watch: Carlos Castro

Player to watch: Jose Gaya

Player to watch: Eric Bailly

Manchester United flop Bebe failed to score a


single goal at Cordoba last season so his loan
signing doesnt inspire great confidence.
However the really key arrival is that of Patrick
Ebert. The German joins from Spartak after a
disappointing spell in Russia but if he can
recapture the form that saw him have a direct
hand in 21 goals in 36 appearances for
Valladolid, his free transfer will prove
a real coup.

Bouncing back into the top-flight at the first time


of asking having secured the Segunda Division
title last season, many will expect Real Betis to
survive the drop this time out. Under Pepe Mel,
reappointed as manager back in December, the
side lost just once in the league before securing
their promotion, with veteran strike pairing
Gonzalo Castro and Jorge Molina netting a
combined 51 goals last season.

Its been a quiet summer for Real Madrid on the


transfer front, with the real headlines
surrounding the decision to replace Carlo
Ancelotti with Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard was not
a particularly popular choice despite his success
with Valencia and Liverpool and will have to win
over large sections of the support.

Now 34 and 33 respectively, Castro and Molina


will do well to get close to those figures but still
possess plenty of La Liga knowhow. Elsewhere
the club have made impressive signings, with
midfielders Foued Kadir and Didier Digard
arriving from Ligue 1 and Rafa van der Vaart
signing on a free transfer from HSV,
amongst others.

The major signing is that of right-back Danilo,


who may well be first choice ahead of
Carvajal. Elsewhere club legend Casillas has left
for Porto, replaced - in the short term at least - by
Kiko Casilla, who will fight for a place with Keylor
Navas, with David De Gea now looking more likely
to sign next summer. Elsewhere Casemiro is back
from loan to replace Khedira in midfield, with
wingers Denis Cheryshev and Lucas Vazquez also
returning to the Bernabeu.

Player to watch: Gonzalo Castro

Player to watch: Jese Rodriguez

Earning a Champions League qualifying berth


on the final day of last season, Valencia only lost
more matches (5) than champions Barcelona.
It was a hugely successful debut campaign in
charge for young coach Nuno, with Peter Lims
backing helping Los Che become a real force
again.

Having secured a strong 6th place finish once


more Villarreal will again have to balance
domestic and European duties, and its been
a summer of notable changes for Marcelinos
men. The sale of youngster Vietto, who had an
excellent breakthrough campaign, is a blow but
the Yellow Submarine have reinvested following
the added departures of Gio dos Santos and
loanee Denis Cheryshev.

17

completed by both speaks


volumes and such naked
ambition means there is
nowhere to hide.

By the end of last season,


Rudi Garcia had significantly
changed his tune. After
announcing we will win the
Scudetto months earlier, he
seemed to retire Roma from
the next title race before it had
even begun. He said there was
a risk of Serie A turning into
the Bundesliga with one team
dominating the league. Garcia
argued that the gap between
them and Juventus, which
finished at 17 points, would
probably be even greater next
season. They are just too good
as a team and as a club.

upon Juventus after Andrea


Pirlo and Carlos Tevez left a
year before their contracts
were up and the right offer
arrived for Arturo Vidal, will
have prompted a revision of
his assessment.

Even if Roma finalise deals for


Mohamed Salah and Edin
Dzeko, Garcia will likely remain
cautious rather than get
everyones hopes up only to
risk letting them down. His
willingness to keep a low
profile contrasts starkly with
the attitude of the Milan clubs.
Their circumstances are
different. For them the only
Romas owners didnt share
way is up and, after years of
Garcias point of view and
depression, confidence is
wished hed kept his opinions
returning. The scale of
behind closed doors. But it was
business already
obvious that, rather than
believe everything he said,
Garcia was managing
expectations to unburden
Roma of the pressure that had
contributed to the derailment
of their title challenge. One
wonders if the revolution that
has, to an extent, been forced

Although they have a lot of


ground to make up, both
Milan clubs have taken big
strides forward this summer.
After signing Carlos Bacca (20
La Liga goals last season), Luiz
Adriano and Andrea Bertolacci,
AC Milan are a centre-back and
a playmaker away from being
legitimate title contenders
under Sinisa Mihajlovic.

without a trio of players that


came to symbolise their most
dominant era in eight decades.

Inter already look ready after


completely rebuilding the
defence, making Geoffrey
Kondogbia, whose 83%
dribble success rate was the
best in France last season,
their most expensive purchase
since 1999, and surrounding
Mauro Icardi with other
danger men
like Stevan
Jovetic.
Mihajlovic
insists
Milan can no
longer fly
under the
radar.
Roberto
Mancini
believes
Juventus will lose
something in the
beginning while they
figure out how to win

Napoli shouldnt be ruled out


either. Maurizio Sarri was
arguably coach of the year last
season. If he can bring the
balance to Napoli
that his
Empoli side
displayed between
solid defensive play
and
wonderful
The great potential of Paulo
passing
Dybala (13 goals, 10 assists),
football then
Simone Zaza and Daniele
Napoli will
Rugani has been added to the
improve,
that of Paul Pogba, Stefano
particularly
Sturaro, Kingsley Coman,
after the steps
Roberto Pereyra and Alvaro
they have taken
Morata. If Julian Draxler joins,
to complete an
Juventus will have nine players
incomplete
born in the 90s competing for a
squad.
starting role. The future is
bright but the question for
Juventus
many is: are they ready to
coach Max
deliver in the present?
Allegri

expects the league to be more


balanced this season. The
champions have fewer
guarantees than at any time
since Antonio Conte delivered
the first Scudetto of this cycle.
But the club should be
applauded for its succession
planning and the generational
transition it is overseeing.
Juventus are seeking to avoid
the team going stale and
entering decline like Inters did
soon after winning the treble.

18

difference makers like


Fourth in each of the last three
Bertolacci and Iago Falque.
years, Fiorentina might fall
Samp were greater than the
away a little unless Giuseppe
sum of their parts under
Rossi stays healthy for the
entire campaign having started Mihajlovic. Will they be under
Walter Zenga?
just 19 Serie A games since a
move to the Viola in 2012. This
Palermo have more stability
has been a turbulent summer
on the bench than ever before
in Florence. The dismissal of
but can no longer count on
Vincenzo Montella, his
Dybala to combine with Franco
replacement by Paulo Sousa Vazquez - WhoScoreds highest
a former Juventus player rated player in Italy last season
Salahs betrayal and the
(7.74). Another brilliant
exits of Neto, Stefan Savic,
partnership has been broken
David Pizarro and Alberto
Aquilani mean it will be a tough up at Sassuolo after Zaza took
Typically the team coming up
Might one of these teams be
his talent to Turin, where
ask to do as well.
via the play-offs struggles the
drawn into the relegation
Domenico Berardi will likely join
Unless you class Milan and
most. They have gone straight
battle? It seems unlikely but
him next season. Meanwhile in
Torino have the most
Inter as prospective
back down in four of the last
it is certainly not beyond the
Verona another double act has
continuity of the Europa
revelations, there is less likely
five years but Bologna, a
realm of possibility. Empoli
been put back together with
League hopefuls elsewhere
to be a surprise podium
Roma-lite, have the backing
look the most vulnerable now
finisher than at any time in the and look to have improved the Giampaolo Pazzini reunited with
and expertise to
that Sarri and Mirko
Capocannoniere Luca Toni
last five years when Sampdoria, collective after the departure
consolidate themselves in
Valdifiori have gone. Atalantas
(22 goals).
of one individual [Matteo
Udinese and Lazio reached the
mid-table.
scare last season doesnt
Darmian]. Genoa coach Gian
Champions League
inspire confidence and
Piero Gasperini has lost
preliminaries. It also remains
With the teams that have
remember its not often these
to be seen how the latter cope
fallen so short of Juventus
days that all the new boys from
with the added expectation and
Serie B go straight back down. high standards all strengtening
an extra front this season.
this summer, the least
predictable season in years will
All but one of the Cadetto
undoubtedly make for
champions have survived in
compelling viewing.
the last decade, which bodes
well for top-flight debutants
Carpi, who will want to follow
the examples of Chievo and
Sassuolo. As will runners up
Frosinone who are also making
their first ever appearance in
Serie A and, like Carpi, have
momentum after back-to-back
promotions.
A core remains to mentor
the youngsters and transmit
exactly what is expected of
them at Juventus. Further
Champions League winning
experience has also been
grafted on in the form of Sami
Khedira and Mario Mandzukic.
On paper, this looks like
a model rebuild. Its
responsible and not lacking in
courage either. Juventus are
thinking ahead. But make no
mistake - and the fewer they
make the better - this is a
delicate time.

Though unconvincing in their return to the


top-flight, only promoted following a draw in a
play-off final with Pescara due to a Serie B
ruling that sees the higher ranked team
promoted in that instance, Bologna will be the
favourites of the three newcomers to stay up.
Nevertheless there havent been too many
notable signings thus far, with the club still
battling it out for Portos Juan Quintero.

Embarking upon their first ever Serie A


campaign after a hugely impressive and
surprising title winning campaign last time out,
Carpis resources are clear given that they
havent splashed out on a single transfer fee
thus far. Nevertheless, the players that earned
them promotion are deserving of a shot, with
young striker Jerry Mbakogu one to watch, and
they have made some interesting signings.

Centre-back Rossettini has been signed from


Cagliari, while further experience has been
added in the form of veteran midfielder Matteo
Brighi and former Parma keeper Antonio
Mirante. Meanwhile the arrivals of young Inter
duo Ibrahima Mbaye, signed permanently after a
brief loan spell, and Italy under-21
international Lorenzo Crisetig on loan
are promising

Francesco Benussi, Gabriel Silva and Nicolas


Spolli add top-flight experience in goal and at
the back respectively, with Andrea Lazzari a
decent box-to-box acquisition in midfield. Luca
Marrone stands out as a strong addition and, at
25, must now look to kick on after emerging as
a real prospect at Juve, while right-back
Wallace has arrived following loan spells with
Inter and Vitesse from Chelsea.

Player to watch: Alejandro Gomez

Player to watch: Ibrahima Mbaye

Player to watch: Jerry Mbakogu

Player to watch: Paul-Jose Mpoku

A string of five successive wins to end the


season was enough for Fiorentina to claim a
Europa League place and they begin a new
chapter under Paulo Sousa following the
dismissal of Montella. Mo Salah, who proved
crucial to their success after a loan move from
Chelsea, has since left the club in controversial
circumstances.

The second of two Serie A debutants, Frosinone,


like Carpi, are relying on an injection of youth
from loan signings in an unlikely attempt to
secure their top-flight status. Theyll rely on the
goals of strike pairing Dionsini and Ciofani, but
while both have scored goals regularly in the
second tier they have yet to really have a taste of
top-flight football.

After a superb season, marred only by a 7-game


winless streak halfway through the campaign,
Genoa finished in a Europa League place but
were denied a UEFA license and will do well
to match last seasons 6th placed finish. The
departures of two key figures in the form of
Bertolacci and Falque will take their toll, and
keeping hold of Diego Perrotti will be key.

Mancini, having had a full summer to prepare


his squad after returning to San Siro midway
through last season, will rightly be hoping for a
far better finish this time around. With a number of notable signings already, the Nerazzurri
should be fighting for a Champions League
berth.

Following the departure of former goalkeeper


Neto, Fiorentina have signed Napolis Luigi Sepe
- who spent last season at Empoli - on loan to
provide competition for Tatarusanu. Elsewhere
the Viola made an impressive profit on Savic but
are now short of defensive cover, while Mario
Suarez has moved in the opposite direction from
Atletico and should prove a solid signing.

Giant centre-back Modibo Diakite has signed on


a free but hasnt had too much playing time in
recent years, while temporary solutions have
been looked to elsewhere. Young goalkeeper
Nicola Leali will be worth keeping an eye on on loan from Juve - and should take a starting spot, with midfielder Raman Chibsah and
teenage forward Daniele Verde also hoping to
impress.

Gian Piero Gasperini has an impressive record


in two stints at the club and should still be able
to secure another strong finish following the
impressive free signings of Goran Pandev and
Ezequiel Munoz. Meanwhile Leonardo Pavoletti
has signed on a permanent basis from Sassuolo
having ended the last campaign with 6 goals in
his final 7 appearances.

Geoffrey Kondogbia (7.26) is perhaps the highest


profile arrival, signed for a fee in excess of
20m, and his combination in midfield with
Kovacic will be intriguing. Elsewhere defensive
reinforcements in the form of Miranda, Montoya
and Murillo add real quality to the ranks, though
Stevan Jovetic could be the biggest signing for
the club, returning to Serie A having failed to
make the desired impact in England.

Player to watch: Giuseppe Rossi

Player to watch: Daniele Verde

Player to watch: Diego Perrotti

Player to watch: Geoffrey Kondogbia

Beginning a new era under former Inter


favourite Sinisa Mihaijlovic, concerns remain
that Silvio Berlusconi will always be the
puppet master at the club. Mihaijlovics arrival
is welcomed though, after failures with unproven coaches Inzaghi and Seedorf in the past, and
plenty of money has been invested to ensure
Milan are competitive once again.

Its likely to be another tough season for


Atalanta, who flirted with relegation last time
out, winning just 2 of their final 17 league
matches. The fact that they have lost two of
their top prospects in the form of Baselli and
Zappacosta doesnt bode well, so the likes of
Pinilla, Cigarini and Moralez may need an
impressive season to keep Atalanta afloat.

The priority was to bring in proven quality in


attack and they have done just that with the
arrivals of Carlos Bacca (20 La Liga goals) and
Luiz Adriano (9 Champions League goals). How
the duo will fit in alongside the likes of Menez,
Honda and Bonaventura remains to be seen,
while Andrea Bertolacci is also likely to need a
place in the team after a big money move from
Roma.

The arrival of Jasmin Kurtic will likely see Carlos


Carmonas place come under threat, while the
midfield ranks have swelled further following
the signing of Marten de Roon. The 24-year old
had an impressive campaign with Heerenveen
last time out, making more tackles than any
other player in the Eredivisie (130), and could
prove to be a strong addition.

Player to watch: Carlos Bacca

Empoli were a breath of fresh air in Serie A at


times last season and deservedly secured their
survival with time to spare but will have to do
without a number of key players from last time
around. Creator-in-chief Mirko Valdifioris
absence will be keenly felt, while promising
young centre-back Daniele Rugani has returned
to Juventus having formed an impressive
partnership with Lorenzo Tonelli.
The permanent transfer of Riccardo Saponara
from AC Milan is certainly a boost, scoring 7
goals from an advanced midfield position last
season. Meanwhile Polish goalkeeper Lukas
Skorupski is a strong addition on loan from
Roma, replacing Luigi Sepe, while former Italy
youth international Michele Camporese may
have the task of replacing Rugani having signed
from Fiorentina.

Player to watch: Riccardo Saponara

Rolando Maran has had very little funds to play


with this summer and in turn Chievo - last
seasons lowest scorers (28 goals) - will again
rely on an impressive defensive record. They
have looked to address a lack of goals with
some interesting arrivals but will likely still
depend on the form of frontman Paloschi.
Ervin Zukanovic, a strong performer for the side
at left-back last season (7.10 rating),
completed a permanent transfer from Gent but
was immediately sold for profit to
Sampdoria. Lucas Castro has arrived from
Catania and should add some flair to the side,
while Paul-Jose Mpoku is arguably the standout
signing, joining on loan with a sizeable fee upon
its culmination, having scored 3 times in a short
spell with Cagliari last season.

Following the departure of Benitez to Real


Madrid, Napoli have appointed Maurizio Sarri,
who enjoyed great success with Empoli,
securing promotion before ensuring survival
last time out. A veteran of the lower leagues in
Italy, this is a huge step up for Sarri, who has
looked to a familiar talisman to lead his new
side.

The big news surrounding Palermo last season


was Paulo Dybalas decision to leave the club,
with the fans getting a preview of life without
their prized asset at the end of the campaign
following his announcement. Thus far theyve
managed to keep hold of Franco Vazquez,
however, who excelled in Dybalas shadow to
earn league high rating of 7.74.

Its been a quiet summer for Roma, who tailed


off in the second half of last season and will
do well to protect their status as Juventus
main title challengers. Making a solid profit on
Andrea Bertolacci, having signed the midfielder
outright only to let him leave for AC Milan, was
astute business, with the starting XI expected to
remain much the same.

Bringing Mirko Valdifiori - who created more


chances than any other Serie A player last
season (89) - to Naples should prove to be an
excellent addition, while Sarri has also signed
the leagues top tackler from 2014/15. The
arrivals of Allan, partnering Valdifiori in
midfield, and Reina, signed permanently
following a loan in 2013/14, will mean Napoli
have a real chance at returning to the
Champions League.

The pressure is on Italy under-21 international


Andrea Belotti to step into Dybalas shoes with
no replacement bought in. However, the
signings of Oscar Hiljemark, who captained
Sweden to unexpected glory in the European
under-21 championships this summer, and
centre-back El Kaoutari, who earned a rating of
7.25 for Montpellier last season, are still
notable pick ups.

Former Spurs youngster Iago Falque has arrived


on loan from Genoa having notched 13 goals last
season, providing competition on the right after
a disappointing campaign from
Gervinho. Wojciech Szczesny is an interesting
arrival on loan from Arsenal and he may well
replace veteran keeper Morgan De Sanctis,
while the club will be hoping for much more
from Juan Iturbe.

Player to watch: Felipe Anderson

Player to watch: Lorenzo Insigne

Player to watch: Andrea Belotti

Player to watch: Alessio Romagnoli

Since promotion to the top-flight Sassuolo


have been heavily influenced by loan signings,
the most notable of which made a permanent
transfer to the club this summer. Simone Zaza
may have made the switch to Juventus but
Domenico Berardi will be staying at the club
following something of a surprise move that
could yet see the forward return to Turin before
long.

Having qualified for an unexpected Europa


League berth in 2013/14 following Parmas
ineligibility to play in European competition,
Torino performed admirably to balance their
efforts on the continent and domestic front with
a 9th placed finish. Their strategy this summer
has clearly been to invest in young talent.

After a poor second half to the season Udinese


will be looking for a considerable improvement
in 2015/16. Antonio Di Natale again turned back
on his decision to retire at the end of the
campaign and will captain the side for one last
time despite apparent interest from
MLS franchises.

Verona will be hoping to improve on a 13th


placed finish and have strengthened with a mix
of experience and youth this summer.
Meanwhile the return of Romulo, who failed
to make the grade at Juventus having scored
6 goals and registered 8 assists for Verona in
2013/14, will be a huge boost.

The departure of Allan for Napoli - Udineses


highest rated player last season (7.36) - will
be a significant blow, with Manuel Iturra signed
on a free as a replacement. Its Duvan Zapata,
signed on loan from Napoli, that could help the
side progress next season, netting once every
102 minutes in a peripheral role last time out,
while midfielder Gaspar Iniguez is the latest
arrival from South America.

The big name among the new signings is


Pazzini, who arrives on a free from AC Milan
and has netted 62 times in the last 6 Serie A
seasons. Elsewhere the arrivals of Swedish
centre-back Helander and midfielder Viviani,
who both featured at the U21 European
championships, will hope to make their mark,
while Luca Siligardi netted 10 goals in Serie B
with Livorno last season.

Player to watch: Duvan Zapata

Player to watch: Giampaolo Pazzini

Having had a settled line-up in each of the last


two seasons its been something of a
transitional summer for Juventus, who are
aiming to win their fourth successive Scudetto.
Key players such as Pirlo, Vidal and top scorer
Tevez (20 goals) have all left The Old Lady, but
there are some exciting new recruits.

After an excellent season last time out Lazio


have kept the faith with their existing squad in
the most part, with a few interesting additions
for very little cost. Keeping hold of Felipe
Anderson, who earned the highest rating in the
team last season (7.47), is undoubtedly the real
success story of their summer.

Allegri can call upon the services of Roberto


Pereyra again next season following his
permanent transfer from Udinese, while Sami
Khedira was an astute free transfer. Mandzukic
is an upgrade on Llorente while Dybala - one of
only three players to register double figures for
goals (13) and assists (10) last season - is the
really eye-catching arrival.

Elsewhere Dusan Basta has completed a


permanent transfer from Udinese, with
Barcelona B right-back Patric signed as cover
following the departure of Cavanda. Young
centre-back Wesley Hoedt has also been picked
up on a free, having earned an excellent rating of
7.44 for AZ last season, while former Ajax
youngster Ricardo Kishna is another
notable pick up from the Eredivisie.

Player to watch: Paul Pogba

Walter Zenga has returned to Italy following a


four-year stint in the UAE and has been busy
in the transfer window upon replacing AC
Milan-bound Sinisa Mihaijlovic. Samp have a
whole host of new players to bed into the side,
so they may take some time to settle before
what should be another strong campaign.
Loanees Silvestre, Coda and, most importantly,
Muriel have all completed permanent transfers,
though the impressive Alessio Romagnoli has
not stayed on at the club. Nicklas Moisander is
certainly an astute free transfer though, and
elsewhere the departure of Pedro Obiang for
West Ham has been covered by the impressive
capture of former Shakhtar midfielder
Fernando.

With respective tallies of 15 goals and 10 assists,


only Icardi and Tevez had a direct hand in more
Serie A goals than Berardi last season. The 20year old may be handed a more central role and
will carry even more of the burden for a side
that havent signed a single player over the age
of 22 as yet this summer.

Italy under-21 internationals Baselli and


Zappacosta have both signed from Atalanta,
with the latter serving as a direct replacement
for Matteo Darmian. Meanwhile Afriyie Acquah
and Inter-graduate Joel Obi add options to the
midfield, and Danilo Avelar is another solid
addition at full-back, with the Brazilian the only
full-back to create more chances in Serie A (44)
than the outgoing Darmian last season.

Player to watch: Luis Muriel

Player to watch: Domenico Berardi

Player to watch: Daniele Verde

22

divisions 'most valuable player' was


In sport it's often argued staying on
most certainly Memphis: impressive
top of the mountain is harder than
numbers aside he evolved into a
climbing it and that is the challenge
match-winner.It's that innate ability
facing Phillip Cocu and his PSV
to conjure something out of nothing
Eindhoven side in a season that just
that PSV will miss.
so happens to be the Eredivisie's
diamond jubilee. On their way
However true champions never
towards last seasons title (their 22nd)
stand still and sporting director
they were at times irresistible and
Marcel Brands has been active,
despite significant departures this
summer now increasingly difficult signing promising Uruguayan winger
Gastn Pereiro from Luis Surez's
for Dutch clubs to keep hold of their
old club Club Nacional (a reminder
prized assets in the post-Bosman
world the feeling is the champions for some that the Eredivisie remains
a gateway into Europe) and Davy
will come from a select group of two.
Prpper.

During a six-year spell at boyhood


club Vitesse the 23-year-old native
of Arnhem has developed into a
dependable midfielder. Operating
in defensive and attacking positions
Prpper has managed 21 goals and
18 assists in 162 games. His
development was rewarded in June
Heading into their first title defence
with a first Oranje call-up. Retaining
in seven years, if PSV are to win
his place in the international setconsecutive league titles it will be
up will be tough given the plethora
without two outstanding players.
of competition, most notably Davy
Both Memphis Depay and ex-skipper
Klaassen - the newly appointed
Georginio Wijnaldum have left North
captain of Ajax - and unsurprisingly
Brabant for Premier League riches.
it's the Amsterdammers who are
Combined they scored 36 of PSV's
PSV's greatest threat.
92 league goals (39%) last season,
and though Wijnaldum was named
'Dutch Footballer of the Year'
succeeding Daley Blind the

A combination of inconsistent
performances and a relentless
charge from PSV denied Ajax from
becoming the first club across
Europe's traditional 'top seven'
leagues to win five successive
championships since Real Madrid in
the early to mid-1960s. They
eventually finished second, with the
gap to the champions a mammoth 17
points. Frank de Boer deemed the
manner in which they relinquished
their crown as unacceptable. This
wasn't an arrogant statement as
nothing in football lasts forever but
alluded to the fact that there's a right
way to lose, in this case fighting to
the bitter end. PSV won the league
with three games to spare.

On the count of retaining their


major players as well as
strengthening what they already
possess De Boer's side are viewed in
some quarters as slight favourites.
The message coming out of
Amsterdam is nothing less than a
34th triumph will be enough, and
with the calibre at their disposal they
have every chance.

But what if neither PSV nor Ajax


(between them winning 44 of the
previous 59 championships) are
celebrating next May? The obvious
answer would be Feyenoord, the
other member of Dutch football's
'big three', however doubts linger
over the Rotterdammers, who fall
short in comparison with their two
rivals. However a change of
management club icon Giovanni
van Bronckhorst, previously assistant
to Feyenoord's last two managers,

taking the reins plus the


homecoming of cult hero Dirk Kuyt
has led to a renewed sense of
optimism.

Rome wasn't built in a day and given


they ended up fourth last time out
points wise closer to 15th place, out
of 18, than first Van Bronckhorst's
remit is ensuring a top-three finish.
If their destiny is to battle for the
final spot it could be against AZ and
Vitesse, both looking to build on last
season's momentum.Speaking of
the latter we'll be treated to the hotly
contested 'De Gelderse derby' as
NEC return after spending one term
in the Eerste Divisie (promoted as
champions).

Their mission is simple, preserve


their top-flight status, and its the
same for Roda JC, who are also back
up. Events at the bottom will be just
as interesting as those transpiring in
mid-table and at the other end.

As we've seen in the last few years,


what the Eredivisie lacks in star
power, compared to its more
illustrious neighbours, it makes
up for through its unique selling
point: flourishing young prospects.
The seemingly never-ending Dutch
conveyor belt, each campaign a new
talent seemingly emerges, combined
with the nation's footballing
culture of proactive football has
made the Eredivisie one of the
continents more enthralling top-tier
divisions. In 2014/15 it boasted the
highest goals per game (3.08) of any
major European league. Expect more
of the same in this upcoming
season.

23

24

Klopps replacement is more


than adept - widely acclaimed
as Germanys brightest young
coach and Thomas Tuchels
arrival already has the
makings of Klopp 2.0.
Following in the footsteps of
his predecessor, Tuchels rise
to fame came during his spell
with Mainz 05 and he has
spoken of the importance of
not changing too much given
the magnitude of Klopps
achievements. An early
Europa league start will be a
crucial test as he implements
his style of play, with pressing
from the front remaining key.

Bayern Munich, as expected,


disrupted by injuries. The
emerged as champions last
Dutchman still managed to
season, clinching their third
contribute towards 24 goals in
hoping to guide his pack of
against Bayern, dedicated to
successive Bundesliga title.
21 appearances &
Wolves to a serious title
tragically lost friend and
Nevertheless, some may
Guardiola will be hoping his
challenge.
teammate Junior Malanda.
deem the Bavarians season a veteran winger rediscovers his
disappointment after dropping
world-class form as the
The chasing pack will be
Wolfsburg were the most
Kevin De Bruyne was voted
out of both the Champions
Spaniard potentially sees out
hoping to tread on a few heels,
clinical team in the league
Bundesliga player of the
League and the DFB-Pokal at
the final year of his contract.
and Borussia
with a conversion rate of 13.7%
season
in
2014/15
having
the semi-final stages. The jury
Mnchengladbachs stringent
and a highly successful
aided
Wolfsburg
to
secure
is still out on whether
The departure of Jrgen Klopp
yet astute purchases over
season - securing a points
second
place.
The
highly
Pep Guardiola has proved to
was a big talking point ahead
the last few years have made
haul (69) equal to their
influential young Belgian
be a significant improvement of the summer, and there was
them a force to be reckoned
2008/09 title-winning
international accumulated a
on Jupp Heynckes, having yet
an emotionally farewell at
with. Talent in the form of
campaign along with the DFBmassive
20
assists
for
his
side,
to emulate the latters treble
the Signal Iduna Park for the
Granit Xhaka - pulling the
Pokal crown - will surely have
with
individual
highlights
winning feat prior to
much-loved coach. The
strings in midfield - and
left Dieter Hecking
including
a
virtuoso
taking over.
signs were apparent
Patrick Herrmann, will ensure
performance in a 4-1 win
that his 7 years in
Borussia Park Is not short of
Arjen Robben
charge at the
entertainment once more.
was
club had taken
certainly
their toll,
Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile,
Bayerns top
looking both
arguably played the best
performer,
mentally and
football at the start of last
securing
physically
season, and though
the highest
drained at times
finishing 4th- as well as
WhoScored
as Dortmund
exiting the DFB-Pokal
rating in the
found themselves
and Chapions League at
league despite
bottom of the
the same stages as the
having had his
league as late
season prior season
as February.

25

may indicate
stagnation, significant
improvements were
made in Roger
Schmidts first
term. He will
be hoping an
exhilarating
high press
will stand
the course
of the
season this
time around.

mutual consent, replaced by


former Paderborn manager
Andr Breitenreiter.

played a bigger part for their


side than Alex Meier last
season. He was the
Bundesligas top
goalscorer scoring 19 goals
in just 24 starts for Eintracht
Frankfurt - and his ability to
return from a serious knee
injury will be crucial to their
hopes of another top half
finish.

It may prove a
risky
appointment
and the coach
will look
towards
Julian Draxler
for
In hindsight, Werder Bremens
inspiration.
The 21 year-old
dire start to the season was a
Hannover, Stuttgart, Hertha
blessing in disguise,
has struggled with
Hertha Berlin also have cause
Augsburg were last
injuries, but the class Robin Dutt was dismissed after Berlin and Hamburg may all be for concern having not won any
relegation contenders again
seasons surprise package
gameweek 9 and in stepped
he possesses could be crucial
of their final 7 matches last
this
season.
Stuttgarts
and Markus Weinzierl
Viktor Skrypnyk, who
to theoutcome of Schalkes
season.
miraculous
escape
seemed
deservedly drew much of the
galvanised the side to produce
season, relying elsewhere on
an impossibility in the second
plaudits. The young coachs
5 wins during his first 9
their crop of impressive
Newcomers Ingolstadt, will
half of the season, but winning
highly efficient Bavarian side
matches at the helm,
youngsters.
be hoping to mirror previous
their
last
3
matches
ensured
a
secured a Europa League spot
transforming the team from
Bundesliga II champions FC
remarkable
recovery,
with
star
after narrowly missing out in
relegation to potential Europa
Elsewhere Bundesligas
Kln in avoiding the drop, and
performers
Filip
Kostic,
Daniel
the season previous but the
League candidates.
entertainers Hoffenheim will
a compact defence matched
Didavi and Daniel Ginczek set to
big challenge will be balancing
Skrypnyk will be hoping to
have to make do without star
with their counter attacking
play decisive roles once more.
competition in Europe and on player Roberto Firmino, hoping
build on his early success,
football may stand them in
the domestic front.
despite losing top goalscorer
that Kevin Volland can flourish
good stead. Meanwhile, backHamburg
again
had
to
fight
for
Franco Di Santo.
in a more advanced and
to-back promotions from the
their
place
in
the
league
in
a
The team arguably falling
significant role, while few
lower leagues mean Darmstadt
relegation play-off, this time
behind the pace of the
98 will also make the step up
against Karlsruher SC, and a
competition is Schalke. A brief
following a 33-year absence
dramatic
match
saw
Hamburg
spell in charge from Roberto Di
from the top-flight, though its
equalise
in
injury-time
before
Matteo saw his side
fair to say both promoted sides
going
on
to
score
a
winner
in
almost knock out Real Madrid
face a very tough task in their
extra-time to secure their
in a thrilling encounter in the
attempts to secure survival.
Bundesliga status.
Champions League. Asidefrom
that and the heroics
Meanwhile, Hannover look to
of Ralf Fhrmann,
be in trouble after losing
however, theres been little
talisman Lars Stindl. 96 went
to shout about for fans of The
on a barren run of 16 matches
Royal Blues. The
without a win, while
Italian has since left by

Markus Weinzierl is set to face one of his


biggest challenges in the upcoming season,
with the gap between the top four and the rest
threatening to widen. He possesses a squad
that boasts little depth considering 10 players
started 20 or more matches last season.

As the existing squad start to become more


accustomed to Roger Schmidts rigorous
demands, the manager will be fairly confident
that he has built a basis to work
towards his vision.

Bayern will look to win their third consecutive


title this season and the departure of club
legend Schweinsteiger arguably came at the
right time for both the player and club. His sale
prompted the signing of Arturo Vidal, who will
offer Bayern a fiery presence in midfield as the
Chilean makes his return to the Bundesliga.
This will probably leave youngsters such as
Rode, Hjbjerg, Gaudino and new boy Joshua
Kimmich on the fringes.

Dirk Schusters side have kept hold of Fabian


Holland and Jan Rosenthal from Hertha and
Frankfurt respectively following their valuable
contributions on loan. Darmstadt have also astutely added Mario Vrancic from Paderborn after
the midfielder fared well for the newly promoted
side, creating the most chances for his team
last season (61), with left-back Junior Diaz also
providing valuable experience
at the top level.

Player to watch: Thiago Alcntara

Player to watch: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Player to watch: Dominik Stroh-Engel

FC Cologne will look to build on their success of


last season. Anthony Modeste was used in
rotation for Hoffenheim but will surely get the
run of the mill at Cologne following the
departure of Anthony Ujah. The French forward
has scored 19 league goals over the past two
seasons.

The Bundesliga ever-presents have now


survived relegation for the second consecutive
season, and by the skin of their teeth too. With
much change needed, head coach Bruno
Labbadia will be hoping his second stint at the
club lasts considerably longer than the first.

Hannover look to have caught onto Freiburgs


fire sale following their relegation. Theyve
purchased German under-21 international Felix
Klaus, who showed flashes of class last season,
as well as Oliver Sorg, a consistent performer
over the last few seasons, capable of playing in
either full-back position or deep in midfield.

Sven Ulreich will provide ample cover in goal for


the usually faultless Neuer after his transfer
from Stuttgart, while Douglas Costa will be
hoping to emulate and eventually replace the
increasingly injury-prone Frank Ribery. The
Brazilian winger was brought in from Shakhtar
for around 30m euros.

Player to watch: Ral Bobadilla

Player to watch: Christoph Kramer

Gladbach are well on their way to


replicating their illustrious past and the
prospect of Champions League football this
season should provide a healthy platform for
their growth. Josip Drmic will look to revitalise
his career under Lucien Favre after a tough
spell at Leverkusen last season. Drmic was the
third highest goalscorer in 2013/14 and will be
looking to rediscover his form in the absence of
the departed Max Kruse.

The reappointment of Armin Veh has been met


with mixed reactions after a heroic first spell at
the club, gaining promotion to the Bundesliga,
was tainted in the fans view after he decided not to renew his contract at the end of the
2013/14 season.

Kramers presence in midfield will be missed,


but Lars Stindl, who was purchased for his
release clause at just 2.1m, looks set to be one
of the bargains of the summer. The influential
midfielder should pose a goal threat given his
all action style of play.

Player to watch: Josip Drmic

Veh has already acted to eradicate their


defensive issues by bringing in Hoffenheim
centre-back David Abraham and defensive
midfielder Stefan Reinartz. The latter made
close to 150 Bundesliga appearances for
Leverkusen and his experience at the top level
should bring a sense of tranquillity to the The
Commerzbank-Arena. The sale of goalkeeper
Kevin Trapp to PSG is a huge loss, and the free
transfer signing of Heinz Lidner from Austria
Vienna is a risky replacement.

Player to watch: Haris Seferovic

Darmstadt conceded just 26 goals, the


joint-fewest as they were promoted from
Bundesliga II and defender and club captain
Aytac Sulu will be hoping to play a crucial role
once again in their bid for survival.

Roman Brki will probably start the season


ahead of Roman Weidenfeller, and the Swiss
keeper was the second highest rated keeper
in the Bundesliga last season (7.09). Gonzalo
Castro came into superb form in the Rckrunde
last time out, gaining a WhoScored rating of
7.36 for Leverkusen, and the 11m fee for the
technically gifted midfielder should prove to be
good business given his versatility.

Acquisitions Jonathan Tah and Kyriakos


Papadopoulos could form a formidable
centre-back partnership for years to come,
especially if the latter puts his injury woes
firmly behind him. Tah received major acclaim
in his debut season for HSV in 2013/14 and the
19-year-old prodigy will be worth keeping tabs
on. However the most significant addition is the
return of World Cup star Christoph Kramer, with
a two-year loan spell at Gladbach enabling him
to develop into one of the leagues best
midfielders.

The extension of Daniel Baiers contract is a


huge boost and the underrated midfielder will
be reunited with Dominik Kohr following his
permanent move. However, losing promising
youngster Baba Rahman would leave Augsburg
with no real ready-made replacements for the
left-back spot in the ranks, while Weinzierl will
be hoping to recapture the services of Bayerns
Hjbjerg following an impressive loan spell.

Dortmunds transfer dealings have been relatively poor over the last two seasons. Following a few questionable signings they are still
yet to really replace Mario Gtze and Robert
Lewandowski. This window, however, may well
prove to be an improvement.

Milos Jojic could potentially be a real steal


despite making little impact during his spell
at Dortmund and the Serbian will certainly be
looking to prove a few people wrong this time
around having been signed for 2m. Another
former Dortmund outcast, Leonardo Bittencourt
will join him and while the midfielder has yet
to live up to his initial hype, this could be the
perfect platform for the 21-year old to thrive.

Labbadia has drafted in Gotoku Sakai,


reportedly costing just 500k, which is quite
incredible value in this day and age. The rightback averaged 2.7 interceptions per game for
Stuttgart last season. Elsewhere Albin Ekdal
will offer HSVs midfield a better balance as the
all rounder gained a rating of 7.16 last season
and will replace Valon Behrami, while Sven
Schipplock will hope for more chances than he
received at Hoffenheim.

Player to watch: Milos Jojic

Player to watch: Albin Ekdal

Forward Mevlt Erdinc has been brought in from


Saint-Etienne, along with teenage prospect
Allan Saint-Maximin, and the Turk had a
respectable record of 19 goals in 52
appearances for the French club. However 96s
summer has been disappointing following the
loss of target man Joselu, youngster Leonardo
Bittencourt and club captain, and often saviour,
Lars Stindl.

Player to watch: Hiroshi Kiyotake

Only goal difference separated Hertha from a


relegation play-off spot last season and Jos
Luhukays 31-month reign at the club came to
an end in February. Former player Pl Drdai
took charge and is still the interim coach.

Hoffenheim have not had to be over-reliant


on the financial backing of Dietmar Hopp this
summer despite the big money sale of Roberto
Firmino, which is reported to be the largest fee
ever paid to a German club. The Brazilian will
undoubtedly be a huge loss for Hoffenheim but
they have been shrewd with their reinvestment.

FC Ingolstadt are the newest top-level club


in Germany having only been formed in 2004.
Being backed financially by local yet world
renowned car manufacturer Audi has made
their rise to the top tier exptremely prompt, but
staying put amongst the big boys will
undoubtedly be their hardest task to date.

Defensive additions such as Swiss


international Fabian Schar and right-back Pavel
Kaderabek, who was a standout performer
during the Euro U21s, represent impressive
business. Offensively theyve opted for Freiburg
star Jonathan Schmid and Heerenveens Mark
Uth, who scored 20 goals and provided 11 assists
in the Eredivisie last season. Striker Joelinton
has also been brought in and will surely restore
some Brazilian flair.

Australian winger Matthew Leckie and USA


midfielder Alfredo Morales are two familiar
faces people may recognise, as well as Elias
Kachunga, who is a new arrival from
Paderborn. The forwards experience from the
Bundesliga last season may be useful, despite
having managed just 1 goal in his final 18
appearances following a bright start.

In order to replace the firepower lost up front,


Mainz have drafted in fellow Japanese
international Yoshinori Muto. Chelsea were
expected to wrap up a deal with FC Tokyo for
the striker but the J-League star opted to move
to Mainz instead. Fabian Frei has also been
brought in to fill the void in midfield. Both cost
considerably less than the club recouped for
their predecessors.

Player to watch: John Anthony Brooks

Player to watch: Kevin Volland

Player to watch: Pascal Gro

Player to watch: Yoshinori Muto

Whether new manager Andre Breitenreiter


will opt to use three centre-backs as Roberto
Di Matteo did for periods last season is yet
to be seen. However the purchase of Matija
Nastasic following his loan spell from Man City
will increase the competition at the back, with
Benedikt Hwedes, Joel Matip and Roman
Neustdter all vying for a spot.

Alexander Zornigers arrival at the club as head


coach, returning after a stint as assistant
manager in 2009, is a highly intriguing
appointment. The former RB Liepzig coach
resigned in February having lead his club to
consecutive promotions from 2013. However,
with no experience at the top level his
appointment is somewhat surprising.

Skrypnyks win ratio of 52.5% at the club has


probably left him fairly confident going into the
season, with just one notable signing to the
team. If Anthony Ujah is joined by Aron
Jhannsson the two could come directly into
the fold, though the pressure would be on the
pairing to hit the ground running, with the sale
of last seasons top scorer Di Santo a real blow.

This summer was expected to be a fight to keep


hold of Kevin de Bruyne for Wolfsburg and, for
the moment, it looks as thought the Belgian will
stay put. Nevertheless, its likely that the
rumours may well go on until the window
closes.

Ageing players such as Obasi, Fuchs and


Barnetta have all been allowed to leave on free
transfers, while Johannes Geis arrival is a
brilliant capture and the dead ball specialist
should adopt an influential role in midfield.
Meanwhile Franco Di Santos arrival will add
firepower up front as Schalke fight hard to
retain the services of Julian Draxler.

Stuttgart have decided to take a punt at Czech


under-21 international Jan Kliment following a
few eye catching performances in the European
championships this summer. The Swabians also
made a nice profit from the sale of youngster
Joshua Kimmich and decided Australian keeper
Mitchell Langerak, formerly of Dortmund, is a
suitable replacement in goal for Ulreich.

The extension of Zlatko Junuzovics contract


was vital for Bremen, with attention building
in the 27-year-old after he provided 12 assists
for Skrypnyks side last season. The sale of
20-year-old striker Davie Selke was a little
bewildering though, with Bremen deciding to
cash in on the rising star following a 5.6m bid
from second tier RB Leipzig.

Fans of Die Wlfe may be a little disappointed


that World Cup hero Andr Schrrle hasnt
had the explosive start envisaged after his big
money move, so big things are expected of the
former Chelsea forward. Schrrle will be joined
by Max Kruse after his move from Gladbach and
his attacking exploits have been highly
consistent over the past three seasons,
contributing towards 60 goals in the league
(34 goals, 26 assists).

Player to watch: Johannes Geis

Player to watch: Filip Kostic

Player to watch: Anthony Ujah

Player to watch: Kevin De Bruyne

Mitchell Weiser has made the switch from


Bayern to Berlin and the 21-year old can play
in a number of roles on the right flank. Sami
Allaguis return from loan at Mainz will be a
welcome addition, with Hertha having struggled
for goals, while Vladimir Darida has also been
signed from Freiburg. The 24-year-old scored 6
goals from central midfield last season so the
Czech is a sensible acquisition. Nevertheless
there are still underlying issues for Hertha to
address.

Mainzs policy has often been to buy low and


sell high. This summer they have received a
record amount in revenue following the
departures of highly regarded deep-lying playmaker Johannes Geis and top goalscorer over
the past two seasons Shinji Okazaki (27 goals).

An impressive debut campaign in France


from the Portuguese was followed up
with a noteworthy showing at the
European U21 Championship. No
Monaco player scored more league goals
than Bernardo Silva (9) last season and
he will understandably look to build on
that tally next term. Meanwhile, a total
of 27 successful dribbles was more than
any other player at Czech Republic 2015
and helped contribute to his WhoScored
rating of 7.73 at the tournament. Bigger
and better things are expected of him in
the upcoming Ligue 1 campaign.

After signing a new five-year deal at


White Hart Lane at the beginning of July,
Tottenham supporters are confident that
the only way is up for Nabil Bentaleb. A
mainstay in the Spurs starting XI at 20
years of age, the Algerian has all the
makings of becoming one of the best
central midfielders in Englands top tier.
The 20-year-old averaged more
passes per league game (61) than any
other Spurs player last season and he
will need to maintain or better his
impressive form if the North London side
are to secure a top-4 berth.

The departures of Andre-Pierre Gignac,


Andre Ayew and Dimitri Payet mean a lot
of the onus in attack will fall on
youngster Michy Batshuayi for Marseille
next season. The 21-year-old bagged an
impressive 9 goals last season, despite
making just 6 league starts for Marcelo
Bielsas side. Indeed, of players to score
at least 5 goals in Ligue 1 last term,
Batshuayi had the best minutes per goal
return (100 minutes). More playing time
is set to come his way and deservedly so,
with the Belgian certainly one to watch
next season.

One of the most highly-rated defenders


in Italy, both AC Milan and Arsenal have
been credited with an interest in Alessio
Romagnoli. The centre-back was key to
Sampdorias 7th-placed finish in Serie A
last term, with his average of 2.1
interceptions denoting a commendable
reading of the game, despite his young
age. 6.3 clearances per game was one of
the better returns in Italys top tier and
showcased his ability to be in the right
place at the right time to relieve danger
on the defence. After a somewhat
underwhelming Euro U21 campaign, the
pressure is on the 20-year old to quickly
move on from the disappointment.
Expect him to do just that having
returned to Roma.

A hugely impressive second campaign


for Everton has seen John Stones linked
with a big money move to Chelsea and
its hardly surprising that the Toffees are
keen to resist the temptation to sell one
of their prized assets. His pass success
rate (89.5%) was the third best of all
defenders in Englands top tier last term,
accentuating his WhoScored strength
of passing. Furthermore, of players
aged 21 or under, his WhoScored rating
(7.17) was the fourth best in the Premier
League. If Everton are to secure a place
in Europe next season, they will require
the services of their 21-year-old
centre-back, of that there is no doubt.

Manchester Uniteds first summer


signing, Memphis Depay is tipped for a
bright future at Old Trafford. 34 league
goals over the last two Eredivisie
campaigns is the best return of all
players, while a WhoScored rating of 7.92
was bettered only by teammate
Luuk de Jong (7.96) in the Dutch
top-flight last season. There is pressure
on him to transfer his performances over
to the Premier League, but his potential
to improve means United fans have every
right to be excited about the Dutch
international.

Left-back has been a problematic


position for Aston Villa for some time,
but they appear to have rectified the issue with the signing of Jordan Amavi.
Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (7.75) gained
a better WhoScored rating than the 21year old (7.74) in Ligue 1 last season.
Furthermore, his combined total of 305
tackles and interceptions was the best in
Europes top 5 leagues. The Frenchman,
along with the likes of Baba Rahman and
compatriot Layvin Kurzawa, is one of the
best young left-backs on the continent,
so certainly one to keep an eye on in the
upcoming Premier League campaign.

The previous campaign can rightly be


considered a breakthrough one for Marc
Stendera, who, after making 21 league
starts, has established himself as a first
team regular for Eintracht Frankfurt. An
average of 3 tackles and 0.2 accurate
through balls per game highlight the
youngsters impressive work both off and
on the ball, while his 5 league assists
was the joint best for Die Adler. Boasting
an eye for a defence splitting pass,
Stendera will be central to his sides
attempts to better their 9th-placed finish
next time out.

Monaco may have managed to hold onto


one of their top goalscorers, but lost
their main creator in Yannick
Ferreira-Carrasco. The Belgian
registered more assists (10) than any
teammate last season, while only Dimitri
Payet (17) and Javier Pastore (12) turned
provider for more goals in Ligue 1. An
average of 1.3 tackles and 1
interception per game highlight his work
off the ball, which will appeal to Atletico
Madrid manager Diego Simeone. It will
now be interesting to see how he links up
with his new teammates, in
particular Jackson Martinez, Luciano
Vietto and Antoine Griezmann.

FC Colognes respectable 12th-placed


finish upon their return to the
Bundesliga would not have been
guaranteed without Timo Horn between
the sticks. The 22-year-old is one of
many young German goalkeepers
coming through the ranks at present and
was among the better shot-stoppers in
his debut campaign in Germanys top
tier. Only two keepers had a better save
success rate than Horn (76.8%), while his
119 saves was also the third best return
in the Bundesliga last season.

31

The emphasis continues to be


on youth, with new arrivals Ivan
Cavaleiro and Adama Traor
still finding their way at club
level but excellent in summer
junior tournaments for their
countries. Cavaleiro rated 7.12
during Portugals run to the
Euro U21 final, and has shone
in pre-season.
Dimitri Payet (who provided
The coveted Alexandre
The key arrival could be
a league-high 17 assists last
Lacazette (27 goals and 6
Paris Saint-Germain, now Ligue
Their two primary challengers Stephan El Shaarawy, still only
assists in 2014/15) will probably time out) and Giannelli Imbula
1 champions three times in
- and its difficult to see anyone 22 and keen to put a period of
(3 dribbles per game, again a
stay, and it will be interesting
a row, remain overwhelming
injury frustration behind him. If
other than Monaco and Lyon
league high).
to see how he and Fekir
favourites to stretch their
he could reproduce his form of
making up the remainder of
incorporate new arrival Claudio
winning run to four, but they
2012/13, when he registered
the top three - have had
All in all, OM have lost
Beauvue, who scored 27 times
have a few issues to deal with.
16 goals in 34 starts,
contrasting summers. Its been
for Guingamp last season (17 players that scored 43 (and laid
then Leonardo Jardims
a spell of upheaval on Le
on another 26) of last seasons
in Ligue 1). Coach Hubert
Midfield is one, with Laurent
defensive-minded side could
Rocher, with mainstays such
76 goals. The loss of hardy
Fournier has already
Blanc unable to field his key
have a deadly new spearhead
as Geoffrey Kondogbia and
squad men like Jeremy
suggested the trio could be
trio of Marco Verratti, Thiago
nobody reached double figures
Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco
Morel and Rod Fanni (who
OLs answer to Lionel
Motta and Blaise Matuidi
in Ligue 1 goals for Monaco
among those sacrificed under
made 54 starts between them
Messi, Neymar and Luis
together as much as he would
last season.
owner Dmitri Rybolovlevs
last season) adds to the sense
Suarez, though further
have liked in 2014/15 - of the
updated financial model.
that Marcelo Bielsas second
defensive and midfield cover
three, Verratti started the
Lyon also have a youthful feel
season might contain less
is essential with the return to
most games (28). The addition
to their squad, but have spent
the Champions League on the entertainment as well as less
of ngel Di Mara should be a
their downtime securing the
success than his first.
horizon.
game-changing one - even in a
future by tying Nabil Fekir,
tentative season with
Anthony Lopes, Corentin
Below the podium, it looks like
Manchester United, he
Tolisso, Samuel Umtiti,
a best of the rest scenario.
provided 10 assists in 20
Jordan Ferri and Clement
Marseille were always going to
Premier League starts - but
Grenier to new, improved
experience high turnover this
a concern could be how to fit
contracts. Those players,
summer with Andr-Pierre
the new arrival in the same XI
after defying expectation last
Gignac (their 21-goal top
as Javier Pastore, who enjoyed
time out, have to try and avoid
scorer) and Andr Ayew
his best campaign in France to
second season syndrome and
leading the out-of-contract
date in 14/15. Pastore made 12
prove they can do it all over
players who walked for
assists in Ligue 1, after a
again.
nothing. Yet the failure to
previous best of 7 in 2012/13.
make the Champions League
also precipitated the sales of

32

additions of Kolbeinn
Sigthorsson, (7 in 13 Eredivisie
starts for Ajax last season) and
Emiliano Sala (5 in just 7 starts
on loan at Caen) are
worthwhile gambles.

Despite the loss of Franck


Tabanou, Saint-Etienne again
look strong, especially after
retaining coach Christophe
Galtier. Apart from Tabanou
who rated 7.33 on average and
also set up 5 goals last
season - the rest of last
seasons excellent defence
remains (30 goals conceded,
second-best only to Monacos
26), with former Tottenham
man Benot Assou-Ekotto
drafted in at left-back.
The replacement of Mevlut
Erding with Nolan Roux (
9 Ligue 1 goals last season,
compared with Erdings 8)
hardly suggests the former
Lille man is the answer to
their goalscoring difficulties,
so theyll struggle to crack the
top three. If leading scorer Max
Gradel (17 goals) walks, this
need will be even more acute.

Nantes could well be the


surprise gatecrasher to the
top six. Having finally served
their transfer ban, president
Waldemir Kita and coach
Michel der Zakarian have
wasted no time in getting in
appropriate reinforcements.
Les Canaris scored less than
anybody else in the division
last season (29) but the

Herv Renard will need time to


turn things around at Lille, and
will try to build around 21-year
old playmaker Sofiane Boufal,
who arrived in January to score
3 and provide 6 assists in 13
starts. Bordeaux have lost one
of last seasons stars in rightback Mariano (average rating of
7.06) after he joined
Sevilla, and transfer business
has been slow.
Rennes and Montpellier look
short of mounting a European
challenge, but useful pick-ups
for Caen (who won 31 of their
46 points last season after
Christmas), Nice (who finally

signed Hatem Ben Arfa) and


Guingamp should keep their
heads above water. Toulouse,
meanwhile, need to hang on
to Wissam Ben Yedder, who
scored 33% of their goals last
season.
The most obvious
candidates for the drop are
Gazelec Ajaccio whose 5m
annual budget was one of the
lowest in Ligue 2 last season
and Angers, who have lost their
leading scorer Jonathan Kodjia
to Bristol City.
Lorient only just escaped the
drop last season and look
vulnerable again, with Jordan
Ayew (who accounted for 39%
of Ligue 1 goals, via scoring
and assisting last season) now
gone. Elsewhere Reims have
done little to plug the divisions
leakiest defence (66 conceded).

Bastia coach Ghislain Printant


did a great job to keep his team
up last season but has lost a
raft of players including Ryad
Boudebouz, Junior Tallo and
goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
The Corsicans were only
allowed to keep their top-flight
status on appeal to the DNCG,
the league financial control
board, so theres no transfer
budget.
Ligue 1 has lost a number of
its breakthrough players from
last season so as ever it will
be intriguing to watch the next
batch of stars in the making.

Its likely to be a tough season for Bastia after


back-to-back mid-table finishes having lost a
few key players from last time around. In a side
that struggled for goals as it was, Giovanni Sio,
Junior Tallo - whose loan spells ended - and
Ryad Boudebouz have all left this summer, along
with young goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who
returned to PSG.

It was a strong season from Bordeaux last time


out, losing just 9 times, but they have struggled
to strengthen their ranks this summer and in
fact will have to make do without two defenders
from last season. Right-back Mariano will be a
big loss having signed for Sevilla and Tiago Ilori
has returned to Liverpool after an injury-hit loan
spell at the club.

Having picked up 8 points from the final four


matches of last season Caen secured survival
at the first time of asking. The loss of midfielder
NGolo Kante, who earned a rating of 7.36
having produced the most tackles in Europes
top 5 leagues, will be a significant blow having
also seen hot prospect Thomas Lemar
leave for Monaco.

Having secured second spot in Ligue 2 last


season GFC Ajaccio will be making their
top-flight debut this time around. Their success
relied upon spreading goals throughout the
team, with no player netting more than 8 times
last season, as seven players scored more than
3. Without a real star in the ranks, however,
they will struggle.

Last seasons top scorer Floyd Ayite, who netted


a modest 6 goals, will likely have to improve on
his return if Bastia are to avoid a relegation
battle. Elsewhere it will be worth tracking the
progress of teenager Francois Kamano, while
the arrival of FC Zurich striker Franck Etoundi
on a free is the only notable transfer given that
there has been no budget to play with.

In terms of new arrivals Willy Sagnol hasnt been


able to bring in any senior players thus far, with
teenage Serbian Milan Gajic the only newcomer.
Instead keeping prized assets at the club, most
notably top scorer Diego Rolan - who netted 15
league goals - and Wahbi Khazri seems to have
been the top priority.

The pick up of striker Andy Delort is an


interesting one, with the 23-year old enduring a
difficult season with Tours last time around. He
scored 24 Ligue 2 goals in 2013/14 and if he can
return to form Delort could prove an
excellent signing. Elsewhere Tunisia
international centre-back Syan Ben Youssef is
an astute free transfer.

Youngster Issiaga Sylla has arrived on loan from


Toulouse and offers versatility on either flank,
while centre-back Alassane Toure has been
signed from Tours. Meanwhile Croatian
midfielder Damjan Djokovic has joined from
Bologna having spent last season on loan with
Livorno in Serie B but none of their signings
have significant top-flight experience.

Player to watch: Gilles Suna

Player to watch: Francois Kamano

Player to watch: Wahbi Khazri

Player to watch: Andy Delort

Player to watch: Issiaga Sylla

Balancing life in the Europa League and Ligue 1


commendably to secure a mid-table finish last
time out, Guingamps hopes of kicking on this
season have been severely dented. Top scorer
Claudio Beauvue, who was one of the real
surprise packages last season, has signed for
Lyon on the back of a campaign in which he
netted 17 league goals.

The 2015/16 season is likely to be a


transitional one for Lille, who have lost a whole
host of players. Idrissa Gueyes departure to
Villa was compounded by the fact that les
Douges hottest prospect Adama Traore made
the move to Monaco. Elsewhere Origi and Lopes
have returned to England following loan spells,
with key defender Simon Kjaer and Nolan Roux
also moving on.

With very little to talk about on the transfer


front either to or from Lorient another tough
season looks set to lie ahead. Still very much in
a relegation battle in the closing weeks of the
campaign, Sylvain Ripolis sides survival owed
much to the goals of Jordan Ayew, who has
since completed a move to Aston Villa.

Falling off the pace at the top of Ligue 1 late on


having sat at its summit for some time, Lyon
will be hoping their young side can sustain a
title tilt next time out. After a fantastic debut
season with the side manager Hubert Fournier
has extended his contract along with a number
of the teams hot prospects including Umtiti,
Tolisso and Fekir.

As often occurs under the Argentines


stewardship, Marseille fell well off the pace in
the title race after a scintillating start to life
under the demanding Marcelo Bielsa. They
turned things around to end the season with
4 successive wins but by that point had
surrendered a Champions League berth,
meaning star men have left this summer.

In addition to Beauvues departure, Christophe


Mandanne, who hit a respectable 11 goals, has
moved on a free. Theres plenty of pressure on
new signings Nicolas Benezet and Sloan Privat to
hit the ground running then, while former Lyon
man Jimmy Briand looks a strong addition, and
it will be interesting to see how former
Belgium youth international
Nill de Pauw settles in.

Herve Renard has recruited plenty of young


talent in the form of forwards Guillaume (from
Lens) and Guirassy (from Laval), as well as
defensive midfielder Amadou. Meanwhile Eric
Bautheac is a strong addition having had a
direct hand in 13 goals for Nice last season, but
theres little question as to the one to watch,
with all eyes on Sofiane Boufal.

Ligue 1 top scorer Alexandre Lacazette, who


netted 27 goals last time out, looks set to stay
for at least another season and these are
exciting times for Lyon. Theyve added to their
already impressive attacking ranks with the
signing of Guingamp star man Claudio Beauvue
and will be entertaining to watch upon their
return to the Champions League.

Three of OMs top four rated players from last


season have left the club (Payet, Ayew and
Imbula) along with top scorer Gignac (21 goals).
The club have taken a risk on signing
injury-plagued Abou Diaby on a free transfer
and he is joined by another former Gunner in
Lassana Diarra. Meanwhile young centre-back
Karim Rekik is a strong addition from Man City.

Player to watch: Nill de Pauw

Player to watch: Sofiane Boufal

Player to watch: Corentin Tolisso

Player to watch: Benjamin Mendy

Sealing promotion from Ligue 2 on the final day


of the season, Angers are preparing for their first
season in Frances top-flight for 21 years. They,
however, have suffered a big blow this summer
having lost top scorer Jonathan Kodjia to Bristol
City, with no other player scoring more than 6
goals for the side.
Former Arsenal youngster Gilles Sunu has
signed from Evian having never really had a shot
since a move to Ligue 1 with Lorient in 2010 and
this may be his opportunity to shine. He and
Abdoul Camara should provide the width but
Angers are really lacking a focal point to their
attack. The defensive partnership of new signing
Ismael Traore and Romain Thomas could be key.

Alain Traore returns to the club following a


dismal spell at Monaco and has the natural
ability to return to form but has been hampered
by injuries and attitude problems. Meanwhile
the fact that, as of yet, Lorient have kept hold
of full-back Guerreiro is the real positive from
the summer, with the 21-year old having had a
direct hand in 10 goals last season.

Player to watch: Raphael Guerreiro

Monacos transfer strategy of aiming to sign


young talent before selling for a substantial
profit has continued this summer. Kondogbia
and Ferreira-Carrasco have both made big
money moves from the French principality,
financing the arrivals of the next batch of young
talent.
Chief among those newcomers is Stephan
El Shaarawy, aiming to reignite a career that
showed so much promise less than two years
ago with Milan. Meanwhile Jardim is insisting
on keeping hold of joint top scorers Silva and
Martial (9 goals) for at least one more season. It
remains to be seen whether significant outlays
on Ivan Cavaleiro (from Benfica), Adama Traore
(Lille) and Guido Carillo (Estudiantes) will bear
fruit, but they should be fun to watch.

After an impressive finish last time out,


recovering from a dismal 2013/14 campaign,
Montpellier will be hoping for more of the same
this time around. Star man Morgan Sanson
suffered a serious injury towards the end of the
season, keeping him out of the shop window for
this summer, though he will be missed at the
start of the campaign.
The loss of top scorer Lucas Barrios, who
opted to sign for Palmeiras following a loan stint
that heralded 11 goals for the club, will be a blow
and theyve yet to adequately replace the striker. The arrival of Ryad Boudebouz is a significant
capture for the club from Bastia though, and is
certainly the highlight from an otherwise
quiet summer.

After an excellent start to the campaign Nantes


had a disappointing second half to the season
last time out and will be looking to improve on
14th place. The loss of hot prospect Nkoudou
to Marseille is a blow, while first team regulars
Cissokho, Gakpe and Hansen have all left this
summer. Nevertheless its the departure of key
man Jordan Veretout that will hit Nantes the
hardest.
The signing of Icelandic international Kolbeinn
Sigthorsson ranks among the most intriguing in
the league and the striker may prove a coup for
the club. In a bit part role for Ajax the 25-year
old scored 17 Eredivisie goals over the last two
seasons, while youngster Adryan, who spent
last season on loan at Leeds, is an exciting
addition.

Nice may face a tough task in improving on


their mid-table finish last time out following the
departures of two key players. Left-back Jordan
Amavi was the second highest rated player
in the league last season (7.74) and has since
joined Aston Villa, while Eric Bautheac, who
played in front of the youngster on the wing, has
left for Lille.
Jeremy Pied returns to the side after an
impressive loan spell at Guingamp though,
while the most notable signing for Claude Puel
to integrate is undoubtedly Hatem Ben Arfa.
Once tipped as the next big talent to come out
of France, the 28-year olds career has hit the
rocks but if he can get his head down the trickster could be a real asset.

Aiming to claim the Ligue 1 title for the third


time running, this summer has been a relatively
quiet one thus far for PSG. There could still be
some major developments between now and
the end of the window though, with
Ibrahimovics future at the club unclear, while
Angel Di Maria will finally link up with the side
having hoped to sign for the club before his
disappointing spell at United.
Elsewhere the fans have had to make do with
an effective like-for-like trade in midfield,
seeing Spurs flop Stambouli take Palace-bound
Cabayes place as a deputy midfielder.
Serge Aurier is now a fully-fledged PSG player
and could make the right-back spot his own,
while you can expect Sirigu to come under real
pressure in goal from new signing Kevin Trapp.

Player to watch: Anthony Martial

Player to watch: Morgan Sanson

Player to watch: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson

Player to watch: Alassane Plea

Player to watch: Adrien Rabiot

Despite conceding more goals than any other


side in Ligue 1 last season Reims secured safety
courtesy of a decent goalscoring record. They
spread the goals throughout the team and will
need to do so again without a real star striker
to rely on. Keeping hold of the likes of Mandi,
Conte and Diego has been a boost in a quiet
summer.

Despite a disappointing final month to the


season Rennes had a solid campaign last time
around but struggled for goals, relying heavily
on the exploits of star man Paul-Georges Ntep.
The 22-year old had an excellent season from
the left wing, scoring 9 times and registering 5
assists, and keeping him between now and the
end of next month will be crucial.
Manager Philippe Montanier has added Ivory
Coast international Giovanni Sio to his
attacking ranks following a promising loan spell
with Bastia but has lost defensive
midfielder Vincent Pajot to Saint Etienne on a
free. Elsewhere, the signing of left-back Ludovic
Baal, who impressed to earn the highest rating
(7.24) for relegated Lens, should prove
shrewd business.

Although they finished just one place above the


relegation zone Toulouse were 5 points clear
of 18th-placed Evian and only 7th points adrift
of the top half given the competitive nature of
the league. Former player Dominque Arribage
made a decent impact upon his appointment
following the dismissal of Alain Casanova in
March and will be hoping for a mid-table finish
this time around.

After a comprehensive title win in Ligue 2 last


season, both scoring the most (61) and
conceding the fewest (24) goals, Troyes will be
well backed to secure survival. Having secured
promotion to the top-flight three times over two
spells as manager of the club, Jean-Marc
Furlan has a point to prove that he can keep
Troyes up for longer this time around.

The arrival of right-back Hamari Traore from


Lierse adds further youth to the defensive
ranks, while Olivier Guegan, who took charge
of the club following the dismissal of Jean-Luc
Vasseur in April, has also signed Frederic Bulot
from Standard Liege. The winger spent last
season on loan at Charlton, netting 5 times, and
could play in any position behind the striker.

Having narrowly missed out on an automatic


place in the Europa League on goal difference
Saint Etienne have had an early start.
Christophe Galtier may well have to make do
without Max Gradel, who is reportedly closing
a return to England with Bournemouth after a
fantastic second half of the season, ending the
campaign on 17 goals, while another blow saw
Franck Tabanou leave for Swansea.
The pressure will be on Nolan Roux to
recapture his best form following the sale of
Mevlut Erdinc having failed to really convince at
Lille, despite netting 26 goals in the last three
seasons. Meanwhile Vincent Pajot and former
Spurs left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto are solid
signings for no fee.

Top scorer Wissam Ben Yedder is thought to be


sought after but for now remains a TFC player
having scored 14 goals last season.
Following the sale of goalkeeper Zacharie
Boucher the club have signed Uruguayan shot
stopper Mauro Goicoechea to provide
competition for Ali Ahamada, while elsewhere
the team should remain largely unchanged.

Veteran midfielder Benjamin Nivet ended the


previous campaign as top scorer but may
struggle to have the same impact despite
proving a goal threat in Troyes last season in
the top-flight. Elsewhere Lossemy Karaboue and
Fabien Camus swell the attacking ranks, where
youngster Corentin Jean should star,
returning to the club on loan following a
transfer to Monaco.

Player to watch: Aissa Mandi

Player to watch: Paul-Georges Ntep

Player to watch: Loic Perrin

Player to watch: Uros Spajic

Player to watch: Corentin Jean

35

Galatasaray swept the board last


season,lifting the Super Lig title
for a record 20th time,winning the
double and earning the right to wear
their fourth star.The
festivities ensued for days butthe
carnival atmosphere on theGolden
Horn soon turned to
disappointment.
The talk of the town going into
the 2015/16 campaign are
Fenerbahe. The Yellow Canaries had
to sit through the excruciating pain
of watching bitter rivals
Galatasaray beat them to the
championship and it was so
unbearable that chairman Aziz
Yldrm and the board took a
surprise step back from footballing
matters to bring in a foreign
sporting director for the first time.
Feners willingness to embrace
changehas had quite an impact
already. Former Inter-man
Giuliano Terraneo has removed
most of the old guard - nine in total andbrought in eight players
without a hitch with the relaxing of
the foreign player limit playing a role.
Rarely have Turkish clubs been able
to make such high profile
signings without either overpaying or
having negotiations drag out.
Robin van Persie was signed from
Manchester United for 3.8m,
joining fellow United player Luis

Nani. Lille centre-back Simon Kjaer,


Brazil international Josef De Souza,
Turkish international Sener
zbayrakl and last seasons Sper
Lig goal king Fernandao (22 goals)
also joined on permanent deals,
while Porto duo Ba and
Fabianowere loaned in. Meanwhile
former manager Ismail Kartal was
replaced by Portuguese coach Vitor
Pereira, who won the double with
Olympiakos last season.
The Yellow Canaries have stolen the
limelight butGalatasaray cannot
be underestimated. The Lions are
the more settled side in contrast to
Fenerbahe, who could need time to
gel. Despite signingLukas
Podolski fans in general have been
underwhelmed by the Red and
Yellows lack of transfer activity.
Portuguese international Bruma

joined Rayo Vallecano on loan and


Nordin Amrabat was sold to Malaga,
with the Lions yet to find
replacements. There is of course
still plenty of time for Galatasaray to
strengthen.
Wesley Sneijder has established

himself as an influential member of


the team, while Fernando
Muslera demonstrated his quality
when it counted most - keeping 5
clean sheets in his last 6 games
considering Galatasaray only won
the title with a week to play.
Burak Ylmaz scored 16 league goals
whileSeluk Inan and Aurelian
Chedjou took a place in WhoScoreds
Super Lig team of the season.

could prove to be costly.

Besiktas are one of the traditional


big four so it would not be a huge
surprise to see the Black Eagles
challenge for the league title as
they did last season. The most
notable change next season will
see senol Gnes,the former
Turkish national team manager,
replace Slaven Bilic, and heis
renowned for his attacking
philosophy.

Trabzonspor kept their team intact


and added Europa League,
winner Stephane M'bia to their ranks,
whilekeeping hold of WhoScored
Super Lig player of the season
Mehmet Ekici (7.71 rating).
Manager Ersun Yanal has been
replaced by former Kasmpasa coach
Shota Arveladze, and how he copes
with the pressure of coaching a top
four side will be interesting, with the

The Bursaspor side Gnes was


in charge of last season scored
themost goals in the league (66).
The 63-year-old manager has a
history of developing and getting the
best out of players only to have weak
boards sell off his prize
assets.
Bursaspor have already sold
Fernandao, Sener zbayrakl and
Enes nal. On the transfer front
Besiktas top scorer Demba Ba
(18 league goals) has been replaced
by Mario Gomez. TheBlack and
Whiteswill need to take caution
where necessary with the Germany
international due to his fitness
concerns as the team have had
rotten luck with injuries in the past.
Central midfielders Veli Kavlak and
Tolgay Arslan have already been
ruled out until the NewYear, which

team capable of pulling off a


surprise if he gets the right
balance. Osmanlspor -named after
after the Ottoman Empire havethe flags of everymajor
Turkish empire from throughout
the ages showcased around their

stadium. The newly promoted side


will need to draw on the power of
their forefathers if they are to
remain in the top-flight next
season.
Antalyaspor hit the headlines
signingSamuel Eto'o and have been
linked with a number of ageing stars
such as Ronaldinho and Victor
Valdes. The Scorpions have
powerful backers andshould have
enough quality to stay above water.
Kayserispor are back in the Super
Lig after spending just one season
in the second division. The Kayseri
based side have a big, modern
stadium but no fans to fill it. It would
be a surprise for manager Kafkas to
be in charge of the team at the end
of the season. It would not however,
be a surprise for the Anatolian Stars
to be in a relegation scrap.