Ancelotti, Xavi, Simeone… the great battle of the Spanish benches



Madrid, Aug 8 LaLiga Santander 2022/23 promises a lot of entertainment on the pitch, but also on the benches. Carlo Ancelotti, Xavi Hernández and Diego Pablo Simeone, although they are not the only ones, will face multiple challenges and battles that, for different reasons, will require the maximum of the technicians, among which the debut in Spain of Gennaro Gattuso with Valencia, the return of Ernesto Valverde to Bilbao or the return of Diego Martínez (Espanyol), Rubi (Almería), Pacheta (Valladolid) or Míchel (Girona) to Primera.

In the case of Ancelotti, the coach of Real Madrid and current League champion, the challenges are more than clear. Collectively, maintaining the hunger to win titles will not be easy, with a satiated squad after last season, in which they won the Champions League, the League and the Spanish Super Cup.

To do this, he will have to continue trusting and betting on the leadership of the experience of the veterans, reborn and improved since his arrival last year, and on the energy of the youngest, with Vinicius Jr. at the helm, and the new signings , eager to obtain titles with the white jacket.

In addition, on an individual level, ‘Carletto’ must try not to fall into the complacency that success offers in order to find the motivation that drives him to improve himself personally, achieving for the first time in his career repeating a League title (he has won the five major leagues European, but all on one occasion), or expanding his legend in the Champions League, where he is already the coach with the most trophies (4) and most finals (5).

One of their main rivals will be FC Barcelona, ​​with Xavi Hernández leading the Blaugrana squad in his first full season. His beginnings on the Camp Nou bench were as abrupt as the departure of his predecessor, Ronald Koeman, and the impact of his arrival was not enough to fight for titles, although it improved the general image of the team and revitalized the morale of the locker room and the hobby.

The one from Terrassa has now been able to count on a complete preseason to prepare his pupils for everything to come, perhaps the most important course in Barça’s recent history if we take into account their financial situation, the enormous investment made and the recent failures in the League and in Europe, although the campaign will also be full of expectations and desire for revenge.

Xavi, being a man of the house, raised and educated in La Masía, has before him a commendable undertaking, that of returning Barcelona to the pinnacle of Spanish and world football, and the huge number of reinforcements, a priori of quality, that received this summer places him in a difficult situation, which offers him all the tools to put together a highly competitive team, but leaves him (and the club’s board) with no excuses in the face of failure.

Another coach with the desire, but not the need, to vindicate himself after last season is Diego Pablo Simeone, who will celebrate his eleventh anniversary at the end of 2022 as a tenant of the Metropolitano bench, whose parish idolizes him as one of its most appreciated legends.

Practically becoming part of the athletic shield, the ‘Cholo’ will seek to expand a list of winners that already places him, with eight titles, as the most successful coach in red-and-white history, while maintaining and reinforcing the competitiveness and essence of the values ​​of Atlético de Madrid and its validity as one of the great clubs in Spain and Europe.

However, his great pending issue, and therefore his greatest challenge, is outside the Spanish borders, in the Champions League, although he will not take his eyes off a League of which he was champion in 2014, and more recently, in 2021 .

Being champion of the League is exactly what Sevilla has been pursuing for a few years, in which, led by Julen Lopetegui, they fought until the end. Although always with a drop in performance, critical to condemn the team to fourth place. You will look for regularity and consistency, especially in the physical preparation section, the only remaining ingredients to reach higher levels of success.

Meanwhile, his neighbors from Real Betis will start the campaign with Manuel Pellegrini in the team’s engine room, in his second season as a Verdiblanco, after having returned a national title such as the Copa del Rey to Benito Villamarín 17 years later, while fighting until the end their qualification for the Champions League. He has in his hands the not insignificant task of unseating his eternal rival from the places that grant access to the Champions League, almost unknown territory for the Betis, who only participated in the 2005-06 season.

Another team that yearns to return to the top continental competition is Real Sociedad, whose project will continue to grow hand in hand with its coach, Imanol Alguacil, raised and trained in the Zubieta facilities, which continues to qualify him as the best candidate to occupy the txuriurdín bench, after having given the alternative to more homegrown players than any other team or coach in recent years.

Imanol’s great challenge this season will be to improve the regularity of a team whose football is as brilliant as it is intermittent, which has prevented them from taking another step that places them in the absolute elite, to even fight for the League as happened in the early stages of last season, and that makes them dream of a new title, after the Copa del Rey won in 2020.

Closing the European quota of the last championship, Unai Emery will continue to lead a Villarreal with whom he made history in the Europa League, first, and in the Champions League later, relocating the ‘yellow submarine’ again notoriously in the panorama national and European football. Meanwhile, in the League his goal will be to continue growing to confirm the sensations of the last courses, with a squad full of changes in its composition like every summer, to finish laying the foundations of his project and directly access the Champions League.

Outside European competitions, the first team on the list is Athletic Club, which will have a new tenant on its bench, after the departure of Marcelino, and the start of Ernesto Valverde’s third stage. His return has had as its epicenter the elections for the presidency of the club, in which Jon Uriarte won. After training Barça and a two-year break, he returns home with the need to keep the Basque club’s very particular philosophy intact, and the adjacent need to revolutionize the team and take a step forward to return the ‘lions’ to European competitions.

Another team that has a new coach, for the third consecutive summer, is Peter Lim’s Valencia, who ruled out the continuity of José Bordalás just one season after his arrival to bet on an unknown player from the Spanish League, with more international renown for his career as soccer player: Genaro Gattuso. The Italian arrives in Spain accompanied by the classic topics associated with his person and his character, with a background as a coach that offers both lights (Coppa champion in Italy with Naples) and shadows (he left Fiorentina without directing a single game due to disagreements with sports management).

At Osasuna, the sporting objective is clear, although there will be competition to achieve it: to maintain the category. Anything positive that comes after will be welcome with Joseba Arrasate, who will have to keep his team’s seal of identity, grit and intensity intact, and once again turn the El Sadar stadium into an impregnable fort for rivals.

Another coach who will continue to occupy the same bench is the Argentine Eduardo Coudet, who will be in charge of Celta de Vigo for two years in November. He will try one more season to get his team out of the insignificant area of ​​the table to relive past times with the club in Europe .

Quoted by half of Spain this summer, last season’s revelation coach, Andoni Iraola, nonetheless decided to continue directing the revelation team in the League last year, Rayo Vallecano, whose most attainable objective within the difficulty will be to save the category a year more, after doing it with solvency in 21/22. Meanwhile, Espanyol makes a new coach after saying goodbye to Vicente Moreno, betting on Diego Martínez, who did not manage any team last year due to the lack of attractive projects.

Francisco Rodríguez will also continue at the helm of Elche, after a season in which he replaced Fran Escribá and which ended with salvation. Getafe gives continuity to Quique Sánchez Flores after his arrival in October 2021 by Míchel González, to reward his good work for taking the team out of the red lantern until he saved it, a feat that he will seek to repeat this course.

Formula that Mallorca continues on its bench, which dispensed with Luís García Plaza with nine days to go, to give the controls to “Vasco” Javier Aguirre, who managed to stay after taking the third-last team. In the same way, Cádiz maintains confidence in Sergio González, the coach who picked up the team in January after the departure of Álvaro Cervera, and added 25 points in 17 games, including the first victory for the Cádiz team at the Camp Nou, to save Cadiz.

Already among the newly promoted, UD Almería, champion of the Second Division, will keep Rubi as the leader of his project on his return to the highest category of Spanish football seven years later. Ronaldo Nazario’s Real Valladolid will continue to be entrusted to José Rojo Martín “Pacheta” and Girona makes the leap with the unmistakable stamp of Miguel Ángel Sánchez Muñoz “Míchel”, with a thorn in the First Division.

David Villen Morales





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