It was a highly eventful and incredibly tight Segunda División in Spain last season. A season, which lasted a full year, off and on, brought a highly unpredictable race for promotion to La Liga. It was a season where anyone was capable of beating anyone.
New Teams in La Liga
Tight at the Top for La Liga Spot
Incredibly, just ten points separated CF Fuenlabrada in eighth place with first placed SD Huesca. And after a thrilling end to the delayed season, three clubs gained promotion to the elite of Spanish football: Huesca, Cádiz FC and Elche CF. So let’s check out how they made it to Spanish football’s top table.
Huesca earned promotion back to La Liga after a one-year absence. The team, based in the northeast of the country, finished with a flourish to win the Championship with three wins in their last four games. A key point in their promotion was a crucial win against Aragon rivals and bigger cousin Real Zaragoza in their La Romareda stadium. Above all, their 0-1 away victory gave them the belief to kick on and go on a late run. Huesca duly went from playoff contenders to capture the league title on the final day of the season.
Huesca play at the modest El Alcoraz. It has a capacity of just 7,638 but presents an intimate atmosphere for the opposition. Expect the majority of their points to be won on home soil.
Player to Watch: Shinji Okazaki
A familiar name to British supporters. Okazaki played an integral role in Leicester City’s march to the Premier League title in 2016. This season, he swapped England for Spain and was a key figure for the team. After all, his 12 goals in 37 games helped fire Huesca to the big time. Similarly, the Japanese international has played an impressive 119 games and scored 50 goals for his country. He will be the talisman for the Blue and Reds next season.
Eventful Season for Cádiz en Route to La Liga
The Yellow and Blues return to La Liga for the first time since 2006. Yet the team had a very strange season and didn’t make it easy for themselves to gain promotion. They were long time leaders of the Segunda, having had an early lead of 15 points. However, Cádiz blew their huge gap and slipped out of the playoffs. But the team found their feet again and rose to the top. Although they were piped to the post in the last round of matches to Huesca.
Their fabled Nuevo Estadio Ramón de Carranza stadium hosts many a summer pre-season tournament. An upgrade to the stadium over the past five years rose its capacity to 25,033. In addition, the ground hosted the Spanish national team when Spain took on Malta.
Player to Watch: Álvaro Negredo
The former Spain international has bags of La Liga experience with the likes of Almeria, Sevilla and Valencia. Also, his record demonstrates his knack of goals and scoring at a crucial time at each club. Cádiz will be pinning their hopes on the forward to maintain their La Liga status.
The Great Elche Escape to La Liga
Relegated for financial mismanagement in 2015, Elche are back in La Liga. It was an amazing end of their season, too. The club from the south-east of Spain sneaked into the playoffs by way of Fuenlabrada losing in injury time to Deportivo La Coruña. That was despite the Madrid based outfit only needing a draw to cement their playoff place. And Elche took full advantage by winning promotion to La Liga. The Green and Whites won against Girona in the play-off final 0-1 on aggregate with a 96th-minute winner scored in the second leg. It was a goal scored in dramatic fashion and headed in by Elche’s winger, Pere Milla.
But the team with the fifth-lowest budget in the division are on the lookout for a new coach after José Rojo ‘Pacheta’ decided not to extend his contract. He took the club from the third tier of Spanish football to La Liga in just three seasons. With only three weeks until the new campaign begins, Elche face a race against time to be ready.
Their Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero stadium has a capacity of 33,732. It was one of the biggest stadiums in the Spanish second tier and will be fit for purpose in La Liga.
Player to Watch: Juan Francisco Martínez Modesto (Nino)
With over 500 matches and nearly 200 goals, Nino is a prolific veteran striker. Remarkably, he is still in the goals in the twilight of his career at 40-years-old. Also, he is a legend of Elche with his career spanning two spells. Earlier in his football journey, he commenced his career with Elche. In addition, he would score 87 goals in 273 games over eight years. And in 2016, he returned to his spiritual home and in four years he has scored 38 goals in 154 matches. This included seven goals in 40 games this past season. Goals which included strikes in the playoffs to further enhance his folklore. Nino will feature in La Liga once more and be the experienced figure his team needs in their return campaign.