The Struggle Near the bottom
Alaves, as a newly promoted team, will likely struggle all season. It will be very difficult for them to stay in the Primera Division. Their stars are young Spanish strikers Canabal and Dani, both ceded from Real Madrid. Gerard, midfielder is also a star, at the age of 18 he has found success at the youth international level. Alaves hopes that he can repeat the success in the upper division. He is on loan from Valencia and is a product of the Barcelona youth system.
Extremadura seemed to be the Cinderella team in the top division in 96-97, they came very close to staying in the top flight, but instead returned to the 2nd. This year they are back again, and the same persistence and will to win may keep them in the top this time. Bogdanovic joins from Atletico Madrid, and his goalscoring will be the key for the young team.
This year they are the lone Asturian team in the Primera. While their line-up is talented, their tendency is to fall short. This year it is looking very difficult for them to gain a spot in UEFA, yet they likely will not get relegated. Therefore they seem destined to no-man's land near the bottom of the table. Their defense is decent, with Argentine Gamboa and Spaniard Cesar. Their midfield consists of these players, among others: Onopko- the great Russian, Pompei- Argentine revelation of 97-98, and Paolo Bento- Portugese international. The forwards are promising- Dely Valdez, Dubovsky, Juan Gonzalez. Most promising is young Brasilian Fabio Pinto, who at 17 was the best player in the recent U-17 World Championship. He has been signed for 10 years, and is expected to turn many heads.
Santander is a small club trying to make it big. They have little chances of getting a spot in Europe, but they are capable of surprise. This year's new attraction is Argentine defender Schurrer. Vivar Dorado and Russian Bestchasnhyk are the forwards that will make the difference.
The Salamanca 98-99 team is filled with stars, and could be the surprise of the season. Thanks to the big teams, those dreams are far off, but possible with the proper attitude and some heart and spirit, all is possible. Bogdan Stelea is the great Romanian keeper, who showed the world his excellence with a great performance in France. The defense is led by Marco Lanna, the tough Italian, and features players such as Pavlicic and the skilled Basque Aizpurra. The midfield will be dotted by 2 new Romanian stars- internationals Marinesci and Munteanu. The star forward is Argentine Walter "El Cuco" Silvani.
Tenerife hopes to return to the big scene after a near-relegations last season. New signing Navarro "El Mono" Montoya, Argentine keeper, figures to be a key and influential member of the squad. The defense is very solid, and includes 2 star defenders that made it to France- Jokanovic of Yugoslavia and Pablo Paz of Argentina. Also there is former Dutch international Vierklau to keep the back solid. The midfield is fresh- with Emerson, the Brazilian playmaker; Slovak, the Slovakian star; Makaay, the Dutchman; and Hapal. The forwards are very good, and last season were very inspirational. Juanele has been a leader of the team and prolific scorer of important goals. Domingos, the Portugese international is longing to live up to his transfer fee after a disappointing 97-98. Finally, the great Bosnian Kodro, formerly of Barcelona, will be another great up front.
Perhaps Villareal has the toughest. They are likely the team that will go back to whence they came- La Segunda, the 2nd division. Their only big star is Romanian international Craiveanu, a veteran on a young team.