By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
The time has come. La Liga gets underway once again on Saturday and it’s a new chance for all of the teams and players involved – an opportunity to be seized.
Barcelona and Real Madrid look set to fight it out for the title again, but the other 18 clubs will want to prove they can mix it with Spain’s top two, too. And there will be many players eager to make the coming campaign their breakthrough season in the Primera Division.
Here, Goal.com looks at the possible standout stars in La Liga for 2012-13, the players set to take their game to another level and wow the watching world over the next nine months. Take a look – and have your say in the comments section below.
|PACO ALCACER | Valencia, Striker, 18
Alcacer was touched by tragedy as he made his Valencia debut a year ago. After scoring in his first major match at Mestalla last summer, the 17-year-old striker left the ground with his parents – only to see his father collapse and die from a heart attack just outside the stadium.
A year on, Alcacer has been linked with a move away from Mestalla on loan, but the Spain Under-19 European champion has said he wants to stay at the club and new coach Mauricio Pellegrini recently revealed the youngster is part of his plans for the coming campaign.
The club, meanwhile, have rejected a string of offers for their prodigious forward and big things will be expected in 2012-13.
|BENAT | Betis, Midfielder, 25
Benat Etxeberria was a surprise inclusion in Spain’s provisional list for Euro 2012 and impressed in the friendly matches ahead of the continental competition.
The Basque was ultimately left out as the Barcelona midfielders came back in after the Copa del Rey final, but he did enough to show he can be part of the international set-up in future and he will be a key player for Betis in their second season in the top flight this term.
Benat has been linked with a move to Athletic Bilbao as a possible replacement for Javi Martinez, if the latter leaves this window, but could attract even bigger sides next summer as he approaches his peak.
|JOSE CAMPANA | Sevilla, Midfielder, 19
Another talent set to shine in Seville is Jose Campana. The young midfielder captained Spain’s Under-19 side to European Championship success earlier this summer and will now look to make his mark in the Primera Division.
Campana made 15 appearances last season, but is still learning the trade and coach Michel has asked for more from his young talent, who can operate in defence or in midfield but is at his best when spraying balls around the park in a creative capacity.
If he can add maturity to his game, the youngster could take La Liga by storm this season and eventually force his way into the senior Spain side. He has the talent.
|GERARD DEULOFEU | Barcelona, Forward, 18
Deulofeu is the first La Masia graduate born after Barcelona’s European Cup success in 1992 to make his debut in the Catalan club’s senior side.
The 18-year-old played a sole match late last year for former coach Pep Guardiola, who admitted the young forward was not ready to step up to the first team. He is now though.
Another key member of Spain’s Under-19 triumph in July, Deulofeu has looked bright in pre-season for Tito Vilanova’s side and scored in the new coach’s first match in charge – a 2-1 win over Hamburg. Now the stage is set and he looks to be Barcelona’s most exciting young talent for some time. Which is saying something.
|ANTOINE GRIEZMANN | Real Sociedad, Forward, 21
Still only 21, Griezmann has made a name for himself in La Liga already. However, the French flier is set for a new role at Real Sociedad next term as he adopts the position of playmaker in chief at the San Sebastian side. And the result could be devastating.
Griezmann has attracted interest from all over Europe with his impressive displays in the north of Spain, but will remain part of what looks a very competitive Sociedad side in 2012-13 and his precocious talent looks set to flourish even more at Anoeta this term.
With the Frenchman firing, expect the Basques to be challenging nearer the top of the table than the bottom in the coming campaign.
|RAPHAEL VARANE | Real Madrid, Defender, 19
Varane has been compared to former France defender Laurent Blanc and ex-Madrid man Fernando Hierro. Many observers, however, believe he will be better than both.
Manchester United were keen on signing Varane from Lens last summer, but Madrid sent Zinedine Zidane on a charm offensive to the Ligue 1 outfit and the awe-struck defender duly chose the Spanish side.
Expected to play only a minimal part in his debut season, Varane made a creditable 15 appearances for Jose Mourinho’s side and has now become the club’s third-choice centre-back, behind Pepe and Sergio Ramos. But it won’t be long before he’s an automatic starter and when he does get in, he will surely stay in the side for as long as he wants. Following a promising debut, this season looks set to be his breakthrough campaign at the Bernabeu.
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