Who are the top coaches in LaLiga for the 2022-23 season? Simeone, Ancelotti, Xavi...
Will the likes of Atletico Madrid and Sevilla be able to mount a serious tilt for the LaLiga title or will it be a two-way tussle between Barça and Real Madrid?
The 2022-23 LaLiga season is underway and despite talk of the competition being tougher with more parity between the top flight sides, it’s hard for even the football romantics to see beyond the traditional ‘big two’ in Spanish football being serious title candidates.
We take at a look at the four serious contenders for the LaLiga title and the coaches masterminding the benches of the favourites ahead of the new season.
Real Madrid-Carlo Ancelotti
Real Madrid head into the new LaLiga Santander season with the key objective of retaining the title, something the Santiago Bernabeu club has failed to achieve since the 2007-2008 season. The club are also Champions League holders and coming to terms with the major disappointment of failing to sign French striker Kylian Mbappe with just two summer recruits in the shape of Antonio Rüdiger and Aurelien Tchouameni.
Contrary to many predictions before the start of last season, Real Madrid under Carlo Ancelotti (back at the Spanish club for his second spell on the bench) were one of the the most compelling teams on the continent. Their incredible comebacks in Europe and their consistency in La Liga were more than enough to complete an extraordinary season that raised the bar that the club itself surely imagined.
The Italian coach has been able to get the best out of an aging squad with his laid back approach and the club are enjoying a lengthy purple patch from Karim Benzema -44 goals in 46 games at the age of 34-, in a team with the tireless Luka Modric at the heart of the midfield with the attack line boosted by a now more self-confident Vinicius who has blossomed under Ancelotti.
The Italian now is faced with the task of repeating last season’s league success, a feat they have not managed this since 2007-2008, when they retained the LaLiga crown won in 2006-2007 with Fabio Capello under Bernd Schuster.
Carlo Ancelotti has already demonstrated how well he can manage the roles in a dressing room, but has shown in the past to suffer difficult second seasons with the Italian already confirming that this spell at Real Madrid will be his last in management.
FC Barcelona-Xavi Hernandez
FC Barcelona faces the new 2022/23 season boosted with by signings such as Robert Lewandowski and Jules Kounde, with the hope that this extra quality will give Xavi Hernández, in his first full season on the bench, more options to maintain the competitive spirit and spur the side on the quest for silverware.
Joan Laporta has possibly been the busiest club football president in the world this summer as he wheeled and dealed in the transfer market activating the now famous economic ‘levers’ - leading to a shower of millions in exchange for part of the television rights or part of the ownership of ‘Barça Studios’ in his endeavour to give Xavi a more complete and competitive squad, one capable of at least allowing the club to fight for those longed-for titles.
In autumn 2021 Laporta finally opted to dispense with Ronald Koeman and give the keys to the team to Xavi Hernandez. The coach from Terrassa adapted to the existing squad, to the Dutchman’s now famous ‘it is what it is’. In January, the squad was improved with the arrival of Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, among others. And Xavi responded with changes in the game, for the better, and a climb up the LaLiga Santander standings.
However, Xavi’s first season on the Barcelona bench since making the move from QSL side Al-Saad ended without titles. The Catalan coach was unable to avoid elimination from the Champions League in the group stage, although he had little room for improvement. Then, in the Europa League, they came up against an Eintracht side that bossed Barça out of the competition. Xavi’s men ultimately ended the season second in the league 13 points behind Real Madrid, whom they beat at the Bernabéu (0-4) in possibly the high spot of Xavi’s spell on the Barcelona bench.
With Xavi, in LaLiga, the team went on to 16 wins, 5 draws and 4 defeats - with 48 goals scored and 23 conceded - to finish second. The reality was that; an improvement in the overall sensation at the club. This time around, Xavi’s first full season should help the Terrassa native to show his skills as a coach and to find out if he can really mark an era in the dugout as he did on the Camp Nou pitch as a player.
Atletico Madrid-Diego ‘Cholo’ Simeone
After a disappointing season, Atlético Madrid will try and contest for the LaLiga Santander title again looking to make a mark as they did in the Covid ravaged 2020-21 season where the ‘Colchoneros’ were proclaimed champions. With very few changes in their squad, the club will, once again look to Diego Pablo Simeone as their beacon in challenging champions Real Madrid and a renewed FC Barcelona in order to try to repeat what they achieved in the season before last.
El ‘Cholo’ Simeone is heading into his twelfth season at the helm of the ‘rojiblanco’ bench, and assuming all goes well for the Argentine, he is expected to surpass Luis Aragonés as the coach with the most matches in the club’s history, as he needs only 34 matches to reach the 612 that ‘El Sabio de Hortaleza’ and become even more of a legend for the ‘colchoneros’.
However, such a long stint on any club bench leads to wear and tear, and this is already been perceived at different times last season when the team was in a negative streak and certain dissident voices began to sound for a change from the ‘Cholismo’ regime that has had to reinvent itself in order to keep the team competitive at the top table domestically and in Europe.
Atlético seem to be more settled this season with the team’s two additions being Axel Witsel and Nahuel Molina.
In addition, Simeone has already confirmed that Antoine Griezmann will continue at the club along with midfielder Saúl Ñíguez and striker Álvaro Morata back, after their spells at Chelsea and ‘Juve’ respectively.
All in all, Simeone will have a more experienced team with the only significant departess over the summer being that Luis Suárez and Mexican midfielder Héctor Herrera.
Sevilla FC-Julen Lopetegui
Sevilla are very much the outsiders when it comes to naming potential candidates to lift the 2022-23 LaLiga trophy and most fans of the club would settle for a top four place and will have to fend off the list of aspirants to play in the Champions League football, jockeying with the likes of Betis, Real Sociedad or Villarreal.
This will be a challenging season ahead for Julen Lopetegui’s side, with the Sanchez Pizjuan side securing a UCL spot since the 2019-2020 season. After calls for the Basque coach to leave last season from the demanding ‘Sevillistas’, an indifferent pre-season with a 6-0 defeat by Arsenal combined with an opening day defeat in LaLiga away to Osasuna will have done little for the Basque coach in deterring his detractors.
Lopetegui will have to face a new test in front of his demanding fans with a team that has lost its two defensive pillars, Jules Koundé, signed by FC Barcelona, and Diego Carlos, who left for Aston Villa. Two necessary sales for the club’s economy, which has alleviated these departures with the signing of Brazilian center-back Marcao, the loan of left-back Alex Telles and, above all, the exciting arrival of Isco Alarcón, ready to revive his career under the guidance of one of his great admirers in Lopetegui.
Lopetegui can count on a solid squad with plenty of depth, Sevilla fans will be hoping for more from Argentine Lucas Ocampos this year and hoping that the goal-bug bites Moroccan Youssef En-Nesyri again after the forward siffered last season with a litany of injury issues.