Prior to taking up the Manchester City job, Manuel Pellegrini was at the helm of Malaga and in his final season at the Andalusian outfit he guided them to the quarter-final of the Champions League, where they were seconds away from making the semi-final at the expense of Borussia Dortmund, but it wasn’t to be. Soon after, money from the owner Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani dried up, but under Javi Gracia they did miraculously well on a shoestring budget and eventually finished ninth in the league standings. This season, they again look a tough nut to crack.
The Asturian outfit were staring at administration in the 2014/15 season and there whole existence depended upon promotion to the Spanish top flight. Under the management of former Barcelona defender Abelardo Fernandez, they gained promotion to La Liga after finishing second in the Segunda Division through pure grit and determination, and the same qualities were on full view when they held Real Madrid to a scoreless draw in their opening match of the 2015/16 season. They subsequently played out another scoreless draw against David Moyes’ Real Sociedad, and will be eager to prolong their foray in the Spanish top flight by the time the season comes to an end.
Paco Jemez has done an absolutely remarkable job with this Madrid-based outfit. Their budget is one of the lowest in the league; as a consequence, they are forced to rely upon free transfers and a few loan deals to keep fighting their way through, and here’s the caveat: they do all this while playing attractive, possession-based football. One of the endearing things about Los Franjirrojos is their strict adherence to attacking football no matter the opponent.
The less illustrious Catalonian team are a side that never give up. Although Espanyol are not a club that keep defeating the bigwigs of the Spanish league, but they keep grinding out points from the matches that they are expected to and continue their top flight status. However, they are renowned for taking their game to a whole new level whenever they face Barcelona whether home or away. They have never finished above fourth in the league standings, but at the same time of the 84 years of La Liga, they have only spent four seasons below the top flight – a good reflection of their resilience.
Eduardo Berizzo guided Os Celticos to an outstanding eighth-place league finish last term and it is testament to their belief that the Galician outfit are eyeing a spot in European football despite their meagre budget. Celta Vigo were greatly aided by the stellar form of Nolito – he scored as well assisted 11 goals in the league – last term and the striker as well as the team have started in the same fashion this season. The former Barcelona forward has scored twice and Celta Vigo sit atop the league table after the first two games. No matter where they finish in the final standings, one thing is for sure: they will be hard to get points off.