season preview / line ups

  Manchester City – Southampton FC  


Man City

Transfer in: Emanuel Adebayor (Tottenham – return from loan), Roque Santa Cruz (att), Betis – return from loan), Jack Rodwell (Everton)
Transfer out: Owen Hargreaves, Stuart Taylor, Wayne Bridge, Vladimír Weiss, Greg Cunningham


Transfer in: Jay Rodriguez (Burnley), Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham), Steven Davis (Rangers), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace)
Transfer out: Dan Harding, Bartosz Bialkowski, Lee Holms, Ryan Doble, David Connolly, Radhi Jaidi, Aaron Martin

Wigan Athletic vs Chelsea 



Transfer in: Ivan Ramis; Fraser Fyvie; Ryo Miyaichi ( loan from Arsenal); Arouna Kone (Levante)
Transfer out: Hugo Rodallega, Mohamed Diame, Hendry Thomas


Transfer in: Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) Eden Hazard (Lille), Thorgan Hazard (Lens); Oscar (Internacional); Yossi Benayoun (return of loan from Arsenal)
Transfer out: Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Romelu Lukaku; Jacob Melli, Jose Bosingwa

Umbro Athletic Bilbao Home Shirt 2012/13 Athletic Bilbao v Real Betis 


Athletic Bilbao Season Preview

The escapades of last season surely ranks as one of the greatest years in Bilbao’s recent history as they watched their prodigious squad reach two major finals (Europa League & Copa del Rey) as well as challenge briefly for Champions League qualification. Alas however Los Leones failed in all three pursuits, having the carpet pulled from underneath just as glory beckoned.

Pride remains the predominant keyword associated with Bilbao despite the agonising lengths the club went to in their unsuccessful efforts for victory. Born and bred Basque blooded battlers both on and off of the pitch, the cantera policy ensures that the historic morals of the club remain. Far from xenophobic, the loyalty shown within the San Mames is astonishing as the production line continues to develop exciting players for both Athletic and Spain.

Of those, Iker Muniain is the next youngster causing a stir in Europe. Present in the first team squad since the age of 16, Muniain made the top European clubs really take notice last season as his stellar performances in the Europa League propelled Athletic to the final. Now 19, the hot Pamplona prospect featured in 58 games for the club last year, scoring 9 times from the wing but assisting Fernando Llorente’s goalscoring greatly. He’ll be the main threat for Bilbao this season.

Along with Llorente, Javi Martinez, Markel Susaeta and Ander Herrera, Muniain is the next Bilbao talent to be linked with a  big-money move. Each player from the list has been subjected to transfer speculation so often that it’s difficult to believe that they could still remain at Bilbao for the upcoming season.

Sadly however, Bilbao are heavily reliant on the income from transfers as their new stadium drains funds, giving coach Marcelo Bielsa a headache.

Despite this, the club renewed the contract of their Argentine boss after the impressive 2011/12 season. Bielsa conjured up some insane sorcery to not only guide Bilbao so far but he instructed them to play a brand of football so pleasing to watch which could devastate opposing sides, like Manchester United found out in the Europa League.

As for this year, Bilbao would yet again perform miracles to match the standard of last season. The continual struggle to keep their talented youth products may prove too elusive and the lack of depth could again cause untimely fatigue at the crucial stages of the season. Despite that, Bilbao will play their exciting style of football and will be a danger in domestic competition. Write them off at your peril.

Last Year:

La Liga: 10th

Europa League: Runners-up (Lost 3-0 to Atletico Madrid)

Copa del Rey: Runners-up (Lost 3-0 to Barcelona)



Ismael Lopez free from CD Lugo

Aritz Aduriz €2m from Valencia


Igor Gabilondo Free to AEK Larnaca

Pablo Orbaiz free to Rubin Kazan

One to Watch: Iker Muniain

Prediction: 7th

Betis Season Preview

Returning to La Liga following promotion in 2010/11, Betis’ season of consolidation was about as much as could have been asked of them. A whirlwind start of five wins from their first five games triggered fans to dream and took them to the summit of the league, but inevitably it wasn’t to last. A run of six straight defeats then followed until their results became more sporadic and Betis hovered above the relegation zone for a while.

Avoiding the drop back down to the Segunda straight away was the first objective outlined at the start of the season and it was duly achieved as the Andalucian side finished six points ahead of 18th placed Villarreal.

That target will surely remain once again for the folowing campaign.

Betis were once a force in Spain, regularly challenging for Europe. Those ambitions have been put on hold in recent years however and despite being back in the top tier, the aim of European qualification remains a little farfetched, but not impossible.

Levante were the surprise package of last season and nearly gained qualification for the Champions League. The emergence of Malaga has made that ambition much tougher for the less financially-endowed clubs but the Europa League can still be targeted by Pepe Mel.

Avoiding ‘second season syndrome’ must be conquered prior to that however and if it appears that another season in mid-table beckons for Betis then a late surge could put them into contention. La Liga poses many teams of similar ability though and Betis must be wary of being sucked into the relegation mix before they make a break for 7th.

Currently, Betis appear inferior to surpass the likes of Osasuna, Mallorca, Athletic Bilbao and local rivals Sevilla for those European spots. Whether or not they go on to disprove that depends much on how prolific Ruben will be.

Ruben has spent the majority of his career below La Liga but finished as third-top Spanish scorer in the division last year with 16 goals. He seems to have found his home south of Deportivo at last having been so nomadic during his six year spell in A Coruna. He and Jonathan will aim to improve upon the 47 goals Betis ammounted last season, the highest behind Rayo Vallecano in the bottom half, but the loss of Santa Cruz back to Manchester City will be a blow for the club.

Nevertheless, Betis have Benat behind these two supplying the ammunition.

Benat capped an impressive season by earning a call up to the Spanish squad in May. The 25 year old Bilbao graduate has attracted attention from teams across Europe as he looks to build on last season and remain in the ‘fringe player’ category of the European Champions’ team.

Betis claimed just eight draws to their name last season, most likely attributed to the amount of goals conceded in the final 15 minutes (17). Against a fatigued Atletico Madrid, Betis mauled the Rojiblancos throughout but conceded a 94th minute equaliser and in the process dropped two points. If they can keep it tight for the full 90 minutes and supply Ruben with enough chances then Betis could be an outside bet for the top 10 if the dreaded second season syndrome doesn’t kick in.

Last Season:

La Liga: 13th

Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Cordoba 2-2 on away goals)



Paulao Santos free from Saint-Etienne

Joel Campbell loan from Arsenal

Juan Carlos Perez loan from Braga

Ruben Perez loan from Atletico Madrid


Iriney Santos free to Granada

Inaki Goitia free to CD Mirandes

Ezequiel Calvente loan to Freiburg

Juan Calahorro free to Alcorcon

Javier Matilla loan to Murcia

One to Watch: Benat. Also look out for Mario, sent off thrice in 12 games last season!

Prediction: 12th

 Real Madrid vs Valencia 


Real Madrid Season Preview

Last season Real Madrid accumulated a record 100 points to clinch La Liga and, in doing so, they wrestled the domestic Spanish title off arguably the greatest club team in European football history. It will count among Jose Mourinho’s greatest achievements in football management and, for someone with the Special One’s track record so far, that is some accolade. Mourinho has now won domestic titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, which is a first for a top level coach. It would have been easy for Mourinho to walk away having achieved that feat, but he is determined to remain with the Spanish giants until he has won his third European Cup medal in a third different country. Looking at the players the Portuguese has at his disposal, why would he ever want to leave. Although Barcelona may argue that their first eleven is still untouchable, Madrid president Florentino Perez has assembled possibly the greatest squad of players in the history of club football. Real Madrid have a first team which stuns and dazzles – as they showed recently in a 5-1 demolition of Italian giants AC Milan during their pre-season tour of the US – but they could also field a second eleven which would surely finish third in La Liga were they to compete separately and might just win every other domestic league abroad under different circumstances. In lieu of their strength, Real Madrid’s transfer movement this summer has been unprecedentedly quiet. At the time of writing, they hadn’t actually made any new signings from outside of the club entity; the only addition so far is young forward Alvaro Morata, who has been promoted permanently from Real Madrid Castilla. Only one member of the first team squad from last year, Hamit Altintop, has left the club and it looks as though there will be very few changes in 2012-13. It would be very strange if we reached the end of the transfer window and nobody had come in. The Merengues are known to be chasing a second right back to compete with Alvaro Arbeloa for a starting berth and another midfielder to take some of the pressure off the ever-present Xabi Alonso. Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur is thought to be the main target and that could lead to the departure of Nuri Sahin – on a loan deal at least – who was plagued by injuries on his debut season at the Bernabeu last year. Whatever happens, Real Madrid will be the team to beat this season both in Spain and in Europe, as they look to retain their La Liga title and end their obsession with earning a tenth European Cup title. They scored a record number of goals last season and, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain furthest forward and Angel di Maria, Kaka and Mesut Ozil offering support, they will have a good go at breaking that record once again.Target:
Winning La Liga is massively important just to keep Barcelona in their place but their burning obsession with winning the Champions League for a tenth time is no secret.

Last Season:

La Liga: 1st

Copa del Rey: Quarter-finals (lost to Barcelona 4-3 on agg)



Sergio Canales & Fernando Gago €5million each to Valencia

Hamit Altintop €3.5million to Galatasaray

Pedro Leon loan to Getafe

One to Watch: Ronaldo

Valencia Season Preview

Can Valencia win La Liga?

I was always told it was best to begin with a joke. Maybe humour isn’t my strong point…

The fact that the question above is usually followed by an instant dismissal of Valencia’s title dreams, almost as quick as Messi changes direction, makes glum reading for Valencia supporters.

Only in a handful of leagues will the 3rd placed team not have a significant hope of challenging for the title. It’s a dismal situation for Valencia, struggling for success amidst the league, cup and European duopoly of ‘Bardrid’ as Valencia finished a whopping 30 points adrift of runners up Barcelona!

Perhaps a more suitable query would be to ask whether Valencia are the greatest challengers to the La Liga giants. Now I bet that has a few of you scratching your head and/or chin.

Atletico Madrid have strengthened within the last 8 months to become a Champions League contender and we all know about the spending of Malaga (up until now as it seems it could all go up in smoke), no less Valencia who sold Isco and Joaquin to the South coast side last summer.

Atleti halted Valencia’s European run in the semi-finals of the competition on their way to winning it, probably the turning point in the Valencia-3rd place dynasty.

Valencia have always been a selling club, losing key players annually. Jordi Alba departed for Barcelona in the summer yet Atletico maintained their squad from last season, looking to go from strength to strength. Valencia constantly have to rebuild and the resurgence of Atletico and the pressure of an immeasurable Malaga side could begin the club’s downfall after clinging onto 3rd for so many years.

Unai Emery, frequently chastised by the fans, has departed too paving the way for previously inexperienced Mauricio Pellegrino. Things aren’t looking too promising already. Why can’t Rafa Benitez just drop at the gates of the Mestalla?

Pellegrino may be the next best thing however having assisted Rafa at Liverpool and Inter. Can Benitez’s disciple bring similar success as his predecessor? If so it will probably be bigger than the next coming of Jesus!

Pellegrino may have lost Alba and Aduriz but his incoming transfers help ease the loss of the duo. Joao Perreira, Fernando Gago and Sergio Canales are handy players and are likely to be perfect at setting up Roberto Soldado (should Valencia not lose grip of their star man).

The gap, sadly, is growing between the top two and the chasing pack. Valencia simply cannot match the sort of revenue Real, Barca or even Atletico Madrid manage to bring in. The club face a struggle to keep their grip on 3rd place but Champions League qualification should still be attainable. They’ll just have to watch over their shoulder for Atletico Madrid and not focus on the inevitable yardage between themselves and ‘Bardrid’.

Last Season:

La Liga: 3rd

Copa del Rey: Semi-finals (lost to Barcelona 3-1 on agg)

Europa League: Semi-finals (lost to Atletico Madrid 5-2 on agg)



Andres Guardado free from Deportivo

Sergio Canales & Fernando Gago both €5million each from Real Madrid

Joao Perreira €3.7million from Sporting Lisbon

Jonathan Vieira €2.5million from Las Palmas


Hedwiges Maduro free to Sevilla

Michel free to Levante

Angel Dealbert free to Kuban Krasnodar

Bruno Saltor free to Brighton

Aritz Aduriz €2million to Athletic Bilbao

Jordi Alba €14million to Barcelona

Mahmet Topal €4.5million to Fenerbahce

Miguel Angel Moya €1.8million to Getafe

One to Watch: Joao Perreira

Prediction: 3rd

 FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad 


FC Barcelona Season Preview

Last Season:

La Liga: 2nd

Copa del Rey: Winners (3-0 over Athletic Bilbao)

Champions League: Semi-final (lost to Chelsea 3-2 on agg)



Jordi Alba €14m from Valencia


Henrique free to Palmeiras

Seydou Keita free to Dalian Aerbin

Ruben Mino free to Mallorca

One to Watch: Messi

It was the end of an era. Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s legendary midfielder of the 1990s, managed Los Cules during the most successful spell in the club’s history. Barca won 14 major honours in just four seasons under the Catalan boss, including three successive La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies. Now breaks the dawn of a new era under Guardiola’s assistant Tito Vilanova and his first task is to wrestle control back from Barcelona’s great rivals Real Madrid, who usurped Barca as the kings of Spain under controversial manager Jose Mourinho in 2011-12. How the Catalan giants respond to that humiliation could define the success of the club over the next few years. Vilanova will be under an intense spotlight, but there have been no paradigm shifts in the club’s policy to suggest that the blaugrana army will be any weaker under the new management. The players claim nothing has changed and that the Tito Team has very much the same style and approach of the Pep Team; unsurprising when Vilanova has been schooled by Guardiola over the past four years. The team does not look any weaker, either. Even though there has been a slowing down in the transfer market in Spain, brought about inevitably by the deep economic depression the country finds itself in, Barca look stronger if anything having signed Jordi Alba to replace liver tumor victim Eric Abidal at left back and have seen just one senior player, supporting midfielder Seydou Keita, leave the club. Barca expect to be stronger this season thanks to the variety of promising young players who continue to pour out of La Masia. Gerard Deulofeu, Sergi Roberto, Martin Montoya, Marc Bartra and Cristian Tello could all figure prominently this year to supplement the senior veterans. Meanwhile, apart from Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez, nobody is in danger of slowing down due to age – those two (especially Xavi) still lead the way when fit. David Villa’s return to full fitness is like having a new 40 million euro signing so Vilanova will have plenty of options and he is still likely to sign a top class centre back before the transfer window closes. A season preview of Los Cules wouldn’t be complete without mention of the fact that they still have the best player of all-time leading the attack and Lionel Messi, who scored a whopping 73 goals in all competitions for Barca last season to smash all previous records, has looked even sharper in pre-season than he did last year. 

Barcelona will aim to win everything but the main priority will be bringing the league trophy back to Catalunya. Along with Real Madrid, they will also start the season as Champions League favourites and they will look to live up to that billing.

Real Sociedad Season Preview

Media hype and excitement has been largely focused around two or three teams in the build up to the new La Liga season and that probably suits Sociedad. In fact if it could continue for the remainder of the season then I don’t imagine hearing too many complaints from Philippe Montanier as his team aim to slip beneath the radar.

Levante surprised us with their determined stance last season and it appears that Sociedad are well placed to follow in their path with a vibrant squad centred around an attacking quartet which could bring many admirers.

Northern Spain plays host to many teams who enjoy playing the game in a fluid manner (with the exception of Osasuna at times). Largely overshadowed by their neighbours Bilbao, Sociedad have quietly crawled their way back amongst the chasing pack in La Liga and now possess a dangerous squad which could progress within the next few seasons.

Antoine Greizmann is the gem within the attack-minded midfield. The Frenchman at just 21 is an integral figure in Sociedad’s team and often chips in with crucial goals and assists. He’s also a team player; when through one-on-one against Racing and on a hat-trick, Greizmann set up a teammate to make the score 3-0.

Carlos Vela is another youngster who excelled last season and will look to Greizmann and Xabier Prieto as his folly when in the mood for goals next season. Arsenal finally allowed the Mexican to leave for Spain after a few difficult years there and should capitalise on his 12 goals last year while on loan. Vela formed a destructive partnership with Imano Aggiretxe last year, scoring a combined 24 goals in league and cup competitions.

Youth isn’t just an isolated feature in the attacking department; all of Sociedad’s first XI are under 30 after Mikel Aranburu retired last season. Aranburu spent his whole career with Sociedad and sadly hung up his boots at the climax of the last campaign. His absence should introduce 19 year old Ruben Pardo to the squad, another exciting central midfielder who has been blooded through the famous youth system, Bilbao kept at an arms length constantly (notoriously famous for their predation of Sociedad’s youngsters).

And defensively Sociedad have strong, youthful players in Martinez and Estrada, as well as Mikel Gonzalez. Martinez has attracted plenty of attention following a solid season and was named in many pundit’s teams of the year. The youngster is unlikely to begin the season however as he will be part of the Spanish Olympic football team for the early weeks in August.

Montanier has a strong, youthful squad at his disposal and more importantly one which can score goals. The only forseeable problems could be having to cope with the loss of Aranburu and the lack of experience available and the all important opening game. Barcelona.

Sociedad can quite easily challenge for Europe this season but a number of injuries could alter the shape of the whole team. Getting the first game out of the way and putting together a consistent run of results will be the tricky part but they have plenty of quality and look a good bet to be the surprise package of La Liga this season.

Last Season:

La Liga: 12th

Copa del Rey: Round of 16 (lost to Mallorca 6-3 on agg)



Gonzalo Castro free from Mallorca


Mikel Aranburu retired

Borja Viguira free to Alaves

Vadim Demidov free to Eintracht Frankfurt

One to Watch: Carlos Vela

Prediction: 9th

 Levante vs Atletico Madrid 


Levante Season Preview

Who says La Liga is boring and predictable? Ok the title race proved a pretty elitist affair in contrast to the rest of the division and Real Madrid and Barcelona’s finances do explode off the chart compared to their 18 fellow Primera amigos, but when teams like Levante surprise us all by finishing 6th then much of the previous becomes insignificant.

To understand the scale of what Levante achieved last year, try to imagine Wigan leading the Premier League for a bit, beating Manchester City in the 3rd game and maintaining their charge to finish in a Europa League position. And that their transfer budget amounts to half a million pounds over the last four years combined!

Spectacularly enough, all of that happened, albeit in Spain where Los Blancos rule and the Blaugrana clean up elsewhere. Ignoring the overwhelming dominance of two indomitable presences, Levante proved to Europe that success didn’t necessarily have to be built on the quickly-disappearing Euro. You might agree that a touch of Madrid’s limelight deservedly shone on Levante as their fairytale season came to an end.

In his first season with the club, Juan Ignacio Martinez took Levante to the top of La Liga and into Europe for the first time ever. Considering the team had managed a 14th place finish last term with almost all of the same players, the achievement speaks for itself. His team surprised many and managed to finish above the likes of Bilbao, Sevilla and Villarreal.

An overwhelming surprise package, Martinez’s tactics are quite the opposite. Vehemently sticking to basic orders of defending stoutly and working hard when out of possession, Levante managed to carve out wins irrespective of the growing age of their squad.

Many expected naivety to settle in whilst the team clung onto their lofty position. Fatigue and a lack of cojones became frequent words to fall from bedazzled pundit’s gaping mouths yet none of those factors affected the determined Valencian outfit. For much of the season Levante barely fluttered an eyelid and beat Real Madrid, Malaga and Atletico Madrid in the process despite the lack of chances that came their way.

Reborn, Arouna Kone became the revelation of the season. Emile Heskey’s goalscoring record looked like Lionel Messi’s compared to the Ivorian’s but 17 goals later, posting a tidy chance to goals strike ratio, and Kone had become a revered man in La Liga. Thankfully for Levante, his deal has become a permanent one this summer as more expectation lies upon his shoulders.

As impressive as they were last season, Levante surely can’t expect a similar season to the last. Limited resources will peg back the club as an extended European season beckons. A faded smugness has returned in journalist’s pieces as the joyous period in Levante’s history is predicted to return to normal. And even if it does then a season in Europe might just be the best treatment.

Martinez’s team will stick to similar tactics and Arouna Kone will again be the dangerman. Growing knowledge of a simple strategy around La Liga could affect them this year and Kone will be lucky to get as much space as he did last year as a result. Yet their impressive resolve shown last season by no means labels them as a one hit wonder.

A long drawn out season in the Europa League could prevent them from mounting another 6th placed challenge and the resulting fatigue could make relegation an issue but Levante are organised and bullish. They’ve set the bar high and the achievements of last year won’t perish their self-belief. Avoiding relegation is vital and anything else would be a bonus. Levante just want to enjoy as much of this golden period as they can.

Last Season:

La Liga: 6th

Copa del Rey: Quarter-finals (lost to Valencia 7-1 on agg)



Arouna Kone free from Sevilla

Angel Rodriguez free from Elche

Michel free from Valencia

Pedro Rios free from Getafe

Keylor Navas €200,000 from Albacete

Nickolaos Karabelas free from AEK Athens

Pape Diop €200,000 from Racing


Valdo free to Atlante

Ruben Suarez free to Guizhou Renhe

Javi Venta free to Villarreal

Xavi Torres €0.5m to Getafe

One to Watch: Michel

Prediction: 14th

Atletico Madrid Season Preview

Monaco is the venue where two managers who were given similar tasks last year will meet to discuss how they fared. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo managed to steer his beloved club to a maiden Champions League victory against all odds in Munich last May whilst concurrently Diego Simeone guided Atletico Madrid to an emphatic Europa League final win in Bucharest and both will be vying to win the European Super Cup on August 24th.

Simeone had only been in charge since the winter break ended in late January but revitalised the club and leads them into another season of European football and a brighter future.

Tactics were tweaked and Madrid began to turn more defeats into draws, sometimes better. The team, languishing in mid-table obscurity, made a sharp dash for the Champions League qualification spots but were pipped by Malaga in the end. Nevertheless, another campaign in Europe, with retaining their Europa League crown a secondary goal, provides the stepping stone so to ensure that the Champions League doesn’t elude them once again.

The 3-0 success over Athletic Bilbao gives Simeone time and confidence within the boardroom and the platform to go on and battle with Malaga and Valencia for 3rd and 4th spot.

Simeone deploys stubborn tactics which aren’t always easy to watch, but are supremely effective. If Madrid can prevent the opposition from scoring then they certainly have a chance to sneak a win through Falcao and Adrian.

These two scored 55 goals between them last season and pose a real threat to any opposition. It has taken time for their partnership to blossom but next season could result in even more goals. However, an injury to either one would be damaging to Atleti’s ambitions so another striker might be necessary ahead of the season opener against Levante, despite winger Cristian Rodriguez arriving from Porto.

Financing a transfer for an able striker might be tricky however as the club are currently millions of Euros in debt and are forced to sell key players on a regular basis. Highly rated central-defender/right-back Alvaro Dominguez was vital to the club’s success last year but has since been sold to German club Borussia Monchengladbach for €8m. A young, versatile player, Dominguez’s absence will be felt significantly in the Atleti back line, especially as Cata Diaz is likely to be his replacement. The 32 year old signed for €1m from Getafe but will surely struggle to match the standards Dominguez set in his time at the Vicente Calderon.

Defensively, Atletico still appear resolute. Diego Godin and Miranda create a strong presence in the middle whilst despite the loss of Antonio Lopez to Mallorca, Filipe is more than capable at left back. In goal, Madrid once again have Thibault Courtois between the posts as he extended his loan from Chelsea for another year.

As a result, matches can be won at both ends of the pitch with supreme firepower upfront and stern defensive bodies behind them, not forgetting exciting players such as Juanfran and Koke in midfield. Simeone has a powerful squad at his disposal but is likely to continue playing a mundane style of play. If it proves effective enough then he shouldn’t hear too many complaints. Atletico haven’t been as effective as they should have in recent years and that’s one reason why they have failed to qualify for the Champions League so often. Will this season be any different?

Last Year:

La Liga: 5th

Europa League: Winners (3-0 over Athletic Bilbao)

Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Albacete 3-1 on agg)



Thibaut Courtois loan from Chelsea

Cata Diaz €1 from Getafe

Cristian Rodriguez free from Porto

Emre free from Fenerbahce


Perea free to Cruz Azul

Fran Merida free to Hercules

Leandro Cabrera loan to Hercules

Eduardo Salvio €10m to Benfica

Ruben Perez loan to Betis

Antonio Lopez free to Mallorca

Ruben Micael loan to Braga

Alvaro Dominguez €8m to Borussia Monchengladbach

One to Watch: Torn between Thibaut Courtois and Adrian Lopez

Prediction: 4th

Friendly, Napoli (Ita) – Olympiakos Piraeus (Gre)

NAPOLI (3-5-1-1): 1 De Sanctis; 14 Campagnaro, 28 Cannavaro, 5 Britos; 11
Maggio, 85 Behrami, 88 Inler, 17 Hamsik, 6 Aronica; 24 Insigne; 29 Pandev. A
disposizione: 83 Rosati, 21 Fernandez, 20 Dzemaili, 18 Zuniga, 8 Dossena, 23
Gargano, 9 Vargas. Allenatore: Mazzarri

OLIMPIACOS (4-4-2): 42 Megyeri; 2 Maniatis, 8 Fejsa, 6 Papazoglu, 20 Cholevas;

18 Fetfazidis, 23 Siovas, 22 Tatos, 35 Torosidis; 93 Abdoun, 29 Mitroglou. A
disposizione: 1 Carrol, 9 Pantelci, 14 Castillo, 7 Fernandez, 27 Greco, 190
Torrijos, 3 Modesto. Allenatore: Valverde.

ARBITRO: Damato di Barletta

Jupiler league

Jupiler League – Season Guide 2012/2013

Also known as Eerste Divisie – look at league format

AGOVV Apeldoorn

Bakx (att) (FC Den Bosch), John (att) (Osnabruck), Godee (mid) (Sparta Rotterdam), Fischer (def) (Emmen), Cruz Vicente (def) (Veendam), Brouwer (gk) (FC Twente, loan), Hengelman (gk) (Heracles Almelo), Oosterhof (gk) (Heerenveen), Langeveld (mid) (FC Twente), Brouwers (att) (FC Utrecht), Kaak (mid) (De Graafschap), Tissingh (def) (Zwolle), Schulmeister (att) (Almere City)

Van Erwijk (mid) (Graafschap), Krohne (att) (HHC Hardenberg), Kerr (mid) (Wiedenbruck), Krul (gk) (Valletta), Wille (mid) (SC Genemuiden), Siers (def) (Helmond Sport), Schwiebbe (mid) (Volendam), Cairo (att) (DETO Twenterand)

After a disastrous previous campaign, which AGOVV concluded at the 17th position in the table, the team of coach Andries Ulderink can only do better. Last year’s coach, Hans van Arum, left in anger after supporters and eventually the players turned their back at him. AGOVV conceded a terrifying 94 goals last season and has signed three new goalkeepers and a few defenders to strengthen their defense. Brouwer, Oosterhof and Hengelman are all three young goalkeepers, who joined from the reserves of various Eredivisie teams. It remains to be seen who is getting the privilege to start in AGOVV’s first match of the season, away at Fortuna Sittard. Perhaps the most significant reinformcents of last year’s unbalanced squad include Joey Godee and Sander Fischer, who came from Sparta Rotterdam and FC Emmen respectively. Godee is a striker, who scored 10 goals for Sparta in the 2010/2011 campaign. Fischer was Emmen’s best player last season, playing 32 games in which he scored three goals. Cruz Vicente and Tissingh are other important additions to the squad of AGOVV, where mediocre players such as Wille, Krohne, Van Erwijk and Cairo all had to leave. AGOVV’s friendly campaign in the lead-up to this season was not free from problems. Results in friendly matches were not so encouraging and the team management struggled to find competitive opponents. Nevertheless, AGOVV is expected to do better than last year and perhaps play for a spot in the top-half of the table

Winning a period title, conceding fewer goals, finishing in the top-12 of the table

Almere City FC

Guerain (def) (PSV), Gentenaar (gk) (VVV Venlo), Dissels (att) (Cambuur Leeuwarden), Lilipaly (mid) (FC Utrecht), Van Zaanen (att) (Willem II), Beekmans (mid) (Goldcoast United, AUS), Toivomaki (def) (Ajax), Keller (def) (Neuchatal Xamax)

Misidjan (def) (Go Ahead Eagles), Ozturk (att) (Spakenburg), Rosheuvel (att) (AZ), Burgzorg (mid) (Ludogoreta, BUL), Malone (def) (ADO Den Haag), Schulmeister (att) (AGOVV)

At the annual press day, the Almere team management set the bar quite high for the upcoming campaign. Almere hope to finish in the top-8 of the table, even though last year’s three best players all left the team. Without Rosheuvel, Burgzorg – who left for a Bulgarian team – and Malone, Almere coach De Boer needed to build his team from scratch. Sander keller is the most important defensive addition to the team. The 32 year-old defender played in Switzerland for the past few seasons, but has a solid track record in the Dutch Eredivisie, where he played for FC Utrecht for nine seasons. Offensively, Almere appear to be a bit stronger than last year, with Charles Dissels and Rowin van Zaanen being new names. The 36 year-old goalkeeper Dennis Gentenaar will compete with Erwin Friebel for a starting place under the bar. Gentenaar played more than 200 matches in the Dutch Eredivisie. Last season, Almere finished at a disappointing 16th position in the table after finishing the first half of the season in 8th place. This year, more constancy is demanded from the team management, which expressed its confidence in coach Dick de Boer, now entering his third season at the club. A top-8 ranking may prove overly ambitious, but Almere won’t have to fear for relegation. Friendly matches during the summer gave a mixed impression. Almere defeated Eredivisie team FC Zwolle (0-1), but lost to fourth-tier team Harkemase Boys in their last friendly match, just a week before the start of the season.

Finishing in the first half of the table, qualification for promotion play-offs

Cambuur Leeuwarden

Dennis Telgenkamp (gk), Heracles – loan), Tim Bakens (def), St Gallen), Leonard Nienhuis (gk), Groningen – loan), Oebele Schokker (mid), Harkemase Boys), Michiel Hemmen (att), Westerlo), Yuri Rose (mid), De Gaafschap), Johnny de Vries (mid), Heerenven Jong), Leon Broekhof (def), Roda), Mark Diemers (mid), FC Utrecht – loan)

Sandor van der Heide (mid), Sneek), Robert van Boxel (def), Sparta Rotterdam), Leon Hese (def, Spakenburg), Oguzhan Turk (VVV Venlo), Robbert te Loeke (gk), Veendam), Mark de Vries (att), Sneek), Kevin van der Meulen (gk), Charlie Dissels (att), Almere City), Jasar Takak (mid), Dennis van der Wal (def), Bob Scheppers (att), Utrecht – end of loan), Marco Bizot (gk), Ajax Jong – end of loan)

Cambuur prepare for the new campaign hoping that their continuing attempts to clinch promotion to Eredivisie bear fruit this time around. The Blue and Yellow Army have not had much luck in the play-offs over the last couple of seasons and will hope that this changes in the upcoming season. They were cruelly beaten 4:3 by VVV Venlo with a goal in added time at the end of last season and thus were denied a place in the play-off final clash against Helmond Sport. Alfons Arts’ men performed really well in the two games against VVV and there is little reason for them not to challenge for top places in the upcoming campaign. They have been one of the most consistent teams in the division over the last three or four years and will feel that the upcoming campaign represents a good chance to have a tilt at promotion given that the quality of the teams coming from the upper echelon is lower than the ones that clinched promotion last season. Arts lost plenty of experience in his squad during the summer as Sandor van der Heide and Mark de Vries stopped their professional careers and dropped to amateur football. Moreover, Bob Scheppers, Leon Hese and Marco Bizot are no longer with the team. However, the biggest lost may be Robert van Boxel who was excellent last season whether in midfield or defence but opted to join prospective title rivals Sparta Rotterdam. The man expected to bring the goals in the new season is Michel Hemmen who had an awful last 12 months but fired 20 goals for AGOVV in 2010/11. Leon Broekhof comes with a decent pedigree from Roda Kerkdrade and will be expected to shore the defence while Yuri Rose has good experience and will be expected to add composure in midfield where Erik Bakker stood out last season and is still with the club with a week of the season left. The rest of the signings are youngsters from top-flight clubs and some local talent with Arts hoping some of them make the step up. Overall, the quality is there for a serious push for promotion but Cambuur will need to sort their away form and be more consistent than last season.

Play-off spots are well within grasp but automatic promotion is very unlikely

De Graafschap

Lazic (att) (Turnhout), Van Erwijk (mid) (AGOVV), Vincken (att) (Excelsior), Tarfi (mid) (Anderlecht – loan), Van der Meulen (def) (Bayern München, reserves), Hulst (att) (Dordrecht), Van Kouwen (def) (Eindhoven),

Sreckovic (mid) (Frederikstad), Gyasi (mid) (FC Twente), Kaak (mid) (AGOVV), De Leeuw (att) (FC Groningen), Wormgoor (def) (ADO Den Haag), De Winter (gk) (AZ), Poepon (att) (ADO Den Haag), Rose (mid) (Cambuur), Saeijs (def) (HBS)

After a completely unexpected knock-down in the first round of the relegation play-offs last season, De Graafschap are now up for the tough task of rebuilding their squad, just two years after they finished first in the Jupiler League and thereby claimed promotion. During the summer break, the entire offensive line left the club, but productivity hadn’t been their greatest strength anyway last season, and with new players such as Lazic, Vincken and Hulst, it’s unlikely that De Graafschap have lost much in terms of quality. The team kept relatively quiet on the transfer market and will start the season with a young and largely unexperienced squad. Pieter Huistra is the new coach of De Graafschap, having left his previous club – FC Groningen – after a terrible season. For Huistra as well as for De Graafschap, the upcoming season is about taking revenge for the misfortune and mistakes of last season. Only three players in the small squad of De Graafschap are over 30 years old, and experience may well prove decisive in the race for the title. Still, De Graafschap are likely to finish in the top-5, even though their last friendly match – against the modest Bundesliga side of Fortuna Dusseldorf – resulted in a humbling 4-0 defeat.



Richard Stolte (mid), Heerenveen), Kevin van Diermen (def), Vitesse), Daan Smith (def), Feyenoord Jong), Rangelo Janga (att), Willem II), Daan Blij (att), Feyenoord Jong), Mats van Huijgevoort (def), Feyenoord Jong – loan), Rick Kruys (mid), Volendam)

Joost Broerse (mid), Zwolle), Jason Oost (mid), Norichio Nieveld (def), Zwolle), Tim Vincken (mid), De Graafschap), Luigi Bruins (mid), Nayib Lagouireh (att), FC Eindhoven), Samuel Scheimann (mid), Maccabi Haifa), Martijn de Vries (def), Sparta Rotterdam), Andrea Fileccia (att), Leen van Steensel (def), Capelle), Mitchell te Vrede (att), Feyenoord), Edwin de Graaf (def), Kevin Jansen (mid), Feyenoord – end of loan)

Excelsior Rotterdam are back in Jupiler League after two seasons fighting out against the big boys in Eredivisie and will be looking to launch an immediate return. The Kralingen outfit suffered agonising relegation last season when they suffered a few costly defeats courtesy of late goals towards the end of the season and were made to pay dearly for that. They are starting anew now though and have a new manager in Leon Vlemmings. He was a coach with AEK Larnaca last season and ha good pedigree in this division. He has had a difficult task assembling a squad capable of challenging for the top places on shoestring budget and currently it is a leap of imagination to see the team really getting a promotion. Summer signings have been a mix of Feyenoord youngsters and reserve players in other Eredivisie clubs. And with the likes of Edwin de Graaf, Jason Oost and Joest Broerse leaving in the summer, a lot of quality has gone from the squad. Excelsior will hope for a good start of the campaign and given the lack of clear favourite for the title, they will fancy their chances but in general it will be a difficult season for them and they should focus on consolidation and stability.

Challenging for promotion but a title charge will be difficult and likely out of their reach

FC Den Bosch

Justin Tapahary (def, FC Eindhoven), Emre Bilgin (mid, Telstar), Wouter de Wogel (mid), ADO Den Haag, loan), Jelle de Bock (def, FC Eindhoven), Enzio Boldewijn (att, FC Utrecht – loan), Rinke Pennings (mid), FC Eindhoven), Anthony ter Hurk (att), Jong PSV), Moreno Rutten (def), Jong Feyenoord), Randy Wolters (mid), FC Emmen)

Paco van Moorsel (mid), Groningen), Jeffrey Fortes (def), Gevaro Nepomuceno (att), Fortuna Sittard), Danny Verbeek (att), Standard), Nick Netten (mid), Genemulden), Kees van Buuren (def), Willem II), Jordens Peters (def), Willem II), Stijn de Looijer (mid), Den Bosch), Ronnie Reniers (att), Zwolle), Osama Rashid (mid), Werder Bremen U21)

FC Den Bosch will be launching another attempt to reach promotion in the coming season having come ever so close to their ultimate goal a few months ago. A tense and nerves-filled two games against local rivals Willem II ended with a 2:1 aggregate win for the team from Tilburg and the Blue and White Dragons were left to contemplate their narrow loss. They did really well over the season to get so far and will believe that they stand a good chance of making the big step this season. They played some of the most enterprising and sophisticated football in the league over the season and now the task of new manager Jan Poortvliet will be to further the work of Alfons Groenendijk. The former must be relishing the chance to work with a superior squad than the one he has at Telstar in the last two seasons and will believe that a challenge for promotion is feasible. Important players like Paco van Moorsel and Danny Verbeek have left for bigger clubs but top scorer Tom van Weert is still around and the likes of Wouter de Wogel, Randy Wolters and Jelle de Bock are very good additions to a versatile and deep squad. Thus, Den Bosch have the personnel to at least put themselves in contention for the top places. It is just a matter of whether they will gel quickly enough and get a decent start that will help their confidence.

Top six and a play-off final

FC Dordrecht

Warner Hahn (gk), Ajax Jong), Garry Mendes Rodrigues (mid), ADO Den Haag – loan), Adnan Alisic (mid), Debrecen), Lars Veldwijk (att), FC Utrecht – loan), Niels Konijnenburg (gk), Heerjansdam), Ricardo Samoender (def), ADO Den Haag Jong), Rogiel Molhoek (mid), VVV Venlo), Davi Lizardo (mid), Ajax Jong)

Nick Coster (def), FC Volendam), Cecilio Lopes (att), Renaldo Jongebloet (att), Jermaine van Pijkeren (att), Salif Diao (mid), Nick van der Ploeg (gk), Stef Doedee (gk), Santy Hulst (mid), De Graafschap), Giorgio Achterberg (att), end of loan – ADO den Haag), Wouter de Wogel (mid), end of loan – ADO den Haag), Shabir Isoufi (mid), end of loan – Telstar), Tom Beugelsdijk (def), end of loan – ADO den Haag), Donny van der Dussen (mid), end of loan – ADO den Haag), Kevin Tano (att), end of loan – ADO den Haag)

FC Dordrecht are preparing for the new season amid the backdrop of the news that their manager Theo Bos has permanently stepped down from his position due to continuing battle with pancreatic cancer. The tactician has been on a medical leave since January and his assistant Virgil Breetveld has taken charge since. Bos initially returned for the start of pre-season but soon the news came that he is no longer able to continue. The news came as a shock to both fans and players but with time running out ahead of the new season, the club from the historic town close to Rotterdam need to really step up their preparation for the upcoming season. They appointed former club icon Hans van der Ham as a caretaker manager just two weeks before the start of the season and he will look to hit the ground running ahead of the new season. Dordrecht were denied a place in the play-off on the last day of the regular season last year but it looks hard to see them challenging for a play-off place again this year. Talismanic striker Cecilio Lopes parted ways with the club in the summer having scored 38 goals in 88 appearances over three different spells and his place will be hard to fill. Roger Molhoek is the most impressive of the summer additions and will bring solidity and poise in midfield. Overall, the squad will be mostly filled with youngsters and the manager will be looking to nurture the sort of spirit and togetherness that got the team some good results the latter stages of last season.

Avoiding being dragged into the relegation scrap and possibly reaching the play-offs

FC Eindhoven

Meeus (mid) (Turnhout), Van Leer (gk) (PSV), Ospitalieri (mid) (PSV), Lagouireh (att) (Excelsior), Verkoelen (def) (PSV), Durwael (def) (Genk)

Rossen (mid) (Sint Truiden), Pennings (mid) (Den Bosch), Swinkels (gk) (PSV), Vansimpsen (att) (Dessel Sport), Van Son (def) (Sparta Rotterdam), Tahapary (def) (Den Bosch), Van Kouwen (def) (De Graafschap), De Bock (mid) (Den Bosch)

In spite of excellent results in friendly matches – including draws against PSV and Heereveen and a narrow 2-1 loss against RKC Waalwijk -, FC Eindhoven are not yet ready for the start of the season. After last year’s campaign, the best in more than two decades, a true exodus of key players took place during the summer break. Eindhoven’s entire defense, so successful last year, left in its entirety and it is still uncertain who are going to replace Tahapary, Van Kouwen, Rossen, van Son and De Bock, five of Eindhoven’s regularly starting players. In addition to the defensive weakening, Eindhoven also lost their most talented player, the 19-year-old rising star Rinke Pennings, who left for Den Bosch. So far, only a small number of relatively unknown youngsters from reserve squads in Dutch and Belgian first-tier teams have arrived, of whom defender Durwael is perhaps the most promising name. Durwael played three seasons for Racing Genk, in which he was fielded a meagre 9 times in total. As Eindhoven enters a new season in the Jupiler League, several test players will be participating in training sessions until the end of the transfer window. Apart from a much needed defensive reinformcent – goalkeeper Swinkels also left – some experienced players would be more than welcome. Currently, the 26 year-old midfielder Van Geele is the oldest player in the entire squad. After the departure of success coach Ernest Faber, John Lammers arrived in Eindhoven. Lammers does however not have a particularly impressive track record. Last season, he relegated with Excelsior.

A top-9 ranking would be satisfactory, qualification for the promotion play-offs

FC Emmen

Al Mubakari (att) (Heracles), Mamedov (att) (Zwolle), De Wit (mid) (Go Ahead Eagles), Van der Vlag (gk) (Go Ahead Eagles), Bakkati (def) (Zwolle), Van der Linden (def) (Heracles), Marvin Wijks (att), Bannink (mid) (FC Twente), Mazzetti (def), Rustenberg (def) (AGOVV), Weghorst (att)

Huntink (att) (Scheveningen), Fischer (def) (AGOVV), Koenders (mid) (FC Zwolle), Bemba (mid) (Ethnikos), De Vries (att) (Cambuur), Jongebloet (att) (Lisse), Wolters (att) (Den Bosch)

“Never again”, was the motto with which the Emmen team management went into the summer break after a traumatizing season in which the team finished last in the Jupiler League. Especially the second half of the season made even the staunchest supporter turn away in despair, with Emmen scoring only 1 goal in 10 matches and recording their worst ever season in the Jupiler League. This season, it can only get better and a look at the revamped Emmen squad warrants at least a bit of optimism. Fischer is perhaps the most important player who left this summer, but most of Emmen’s other players left such a dismal impression last season that there were few other teams interested to sign someone. At the same time, the Emmen team management went onto the transfer market with empty pockets but with the promise of a new start. Experienced defenders such as Antoine van der Linden and Said Bakkati were lured to Emmen, in addition to several young players such as striker Weghorst and defender Rustenberg. Defensively, Emmen seems to be quite well prepared for this season. Offensively, doubts remain. Emmen’s complete offensive paralysis of last season – the team scored only 24 goals – has not yet been forgotten and it remains unsure which player is going to be responsible for goals this season. Weghorst is a new striker in the squad, but perhaps more importantly, Ruud ter Heide returned after a 6-month period in Zwolle. Ter Heide scored 106 goals in 250 matches in Dutch professional football and was Emmen’s topscorer in the previous two seasons. The friendly campaign prior to the new season was not without problems for Emmen. The new coach, Joop Gall, admitted that the large number of new players still have to get used to eachother. Devestating defeats against Ajax and Twente (0-5) were not offset by much better results against FC Groningen (1-0 defeat), third tier team WKE (1-1) and Cambuur Leeuwarden (2-1 deafeat).

winning back spectators and sponsors by finishing in the top-12 of the table

FC Oss

Joep van den Ouweland (mid), Go Ahead Eagles), Wesley Deenen (att), NEC Nijmegen – loan), Ruud van der Dungen (mid), De Valk), Cayfano Latupeirissa (att), NEC – loan), Mitch Stockentree (def), Jong Twente – loan), Ferhat Görgülü (def), Veendam), Luuk Koopmans (gk), NEC)

Christopher Bieber (att), Würzburger Kickers), Milad Intezar (mid), Zdenko Kaprálik (def), Banik Ostrava), Kevin Huijsman (def), IJsselmeervogel), Sebastian Sumelka (def), SC Wiedenbrück), Charlie van den Ouweland (mid), Cees Keizer (mid), Vincent van Trier (gk), Tim Nelemans (att), Mark Redshaw (att), Ryan van Dijk (def), Marc Roebbers (def), Joost Ebergen (def), Jean Black (mid), Antonio Stankov (mid), Roda – end of loan), Aleksandar Stankov (att), Dammyano Grootfaam (def), NEC – end of loan)

FC Oss start the campaign with little reason for optimism or high hopes. The small club from Brabant did better than expected in the previous campaign and the then newcomers at one point even challenged for a play-off spot. They tailed off quite badly in the last couple of months though and there was an air of despondency over the club. Moreover, one of the most loyal servants the club have had in manager Dirk Heesen left his position. Anton Janssen was handed the reins having been in charge of amateur club VV Gemert and being assistant at neighbouring club NEC Nijmegen last season. The new challenge is a serious one for Janssen, a European Cup winner with PSV in 1988, and most of the squad from last season has been let go. Reinforcements have been scarce and will fill the fans with little belief ahead of the season. Important players like Zdenko Kapralik and Christopher Bieber have left while the only two players among the new signings with any sort of experience in professional football are Joep van den Ouweland and Ferhat Gorgulu who have hardly set the world alight with Go Ahead Eagles and Veendam. There could a few new faces coming before the start of the campaign but as of now Oss may well be battling against the drop given that the two clubs that were worst last season, AGOVV and Emmen, have improved over the summer and are expected to do better.

Beating the drop but it will be a challenge with the current squad

FC Volendam

Pistoor (gk) (Helmond Sport), Schouten (def) (AZ), Coster (mid) (Dordrecht), Fafiani (att) (Telstar), Schwiebbe (mid) (AGOVV),

De Loor (mid) (FC Lisse), Hoogvliets (def) (Telstar), Ruiter (gk) (Utrecht), Kees Tol (att) (Noordwijk)

After a very quiet summer break, Volendam kicks off for a new season with a home game against Cambuur Leeuwarden with a largely unaltered squad. The most significant loss of the summer period was the departure of goalkeeper Ruiter to FC Utrecht. Roy Pistoor, the reserve goalkeeper of Helmond Sport, will now battle with Sonny Stevens for a spot under the bar. Overall, one couldn’t say that Volendam have gained much quality during the summer break. The most significant signings include midfielders Coster and Schwiebbe, who both played for low-profile Jupiler League teams last year. Hans de Koning is the new coach of Volendam, who experienced a highly disappointing second half of last season, resulting in the sacking of coach Gert Kruys. De Koning performed excellently last season with Helmond Sport and hopes to bring Volendam back to the first half of the table. Volendam played a large number of friendly matches against reasonably strong opponents, but did not win any of those games. VVV Venlo (1-0), ADO Den Haag (2-1), Helmond Sport (3-1) and FC Groningen (4-0) were all too strong for a team that has modest financial means and probably has to adjust its expectations for this season accordingly.

Finishing in the first half of the table

Fortuna Sittard

Nepomuceno (att) (Den Bosch), Briels (mid) (Genk), Cevik (att) (Luik), Hendrickx (att) (Luik), Khalouta (att) (VVV Venlo), Rajcomar (att) (MVV),

Stolte (mid) (Excelsior), Geenen (def) (Hansa Rostock), Danny Schreurs (att), Rowin van Zaanen (att)

Fortuna Sittard kept very quiet during the summer break and their new coach, Wil Boessen, is feeling the pressure of supporters who are getting nervous. Last season, Fortuna had an excellent second half of the campaign and only nearly missed the play-offs for promotion. However, the two driving forces behind the remarkable success of Fortuna after the winter break, Danny Schreurs and Rowin van Zaanen have ended their period on loan in Sittard and are no longer part of the club. As a result, Fortuna have lost much offensive power, as became painfully clear in a series of friendly matches that were played prior to the start of the season. Fortuna failed to score in all of four friendly games against professional football teams, including three Belgian sides. Fortuna are ever more orienting themselves on Belgium, with three new faces in the squad coming from Luik and Genk respectively. Fortuna now have six Belgian players in their squad, among whom Ferhat Kaya who hopes to become the team’s new first goalkeeper this season. In the first few weeks of the campaign, several test players will try to prove their value to coach Boesen, but a difficult first half of the season seems almost unavoidable.

Staying clear of the relegation zone

Go Ahead Eagles

Jop van der Linden (def), Helmond), Rico Wolven (def), Veendam), Michel Mulkes (def), Excelsior ’31), Kevin Spanjaard (mid), Glanerbrug), Deniz Türüc (mid), De Graafschap Jong), Nick Marsman (gk), Twente – loan), Cas Peters (def), Twente Jong – loan), Teije ten Den (att), Rohda Raalte), Guyon Philips (att), Vitesse Jong), Joran Pot (att), Zwolle), Sjoerd Overgoor (mid), De Graafschap), Cendrino Misidjan (def), Almere City)

Karim Fachtali (att), RKC Waalwijk – end of loan), Michael Jansen (def), retired), Oscar Lopez (def), Glenn Kobussen (mid), Joep van den Ouweland (mid), FC Oss), Patrick Gerritsen (att), Frank van der Zwan (att), Scheveningen), Niklas Tarvajärvi (att), Dave Bus (def), Yannick de Wit (mid), FC Emmen), Peter van der Vlag (gk), Emmen), Michal Janota (mid), Korona Kielce)

Go Ahead Eagles start the new season with expectations and another new coach having failed in their bid for promotion last season. A late charge after the emergency appointment of Scott Jimmy Calderwood resulted in a play-off clash against Den Bosch which was lost 3:1 on aggregate. Calderwood probably had a right to feel aggrieved for being let go at the end of the season having revived the team after the rubble that was left after Joop Gall was fired. Yet, the board decided to go for young coach Erik ten Hag who was the assistant to Fred Rutten at both Twente and PSV. This is his first appointment as a first-team manager and the 42-year-old will be keen to make a good start. The squad underwent a pretty major surgery with a big number of players leaving. Ten Hag focused on young signings like youngsters Cas Peters and Nick Marsman who come from neighbours Twente on loan deals. Jop van der Linden seems like a coup in defence after a great season at Helmond Sport and indeed shoring up the defence will be one of the key objectives ahead of the campaign. It is difficult to predict how well the team will do with basically a new set of players and untried but ambitious coach but still the Eagles are one of the better clubs in the division overall and should be in the top six come the end of the campaign.

Pushing for a play-off spot but likely to miss out on promotion

Helmond Sport

Ter Horst (def) (Heracles), Brouwers (att) (Lommel United), De Regt (def) (VVV Venlo), Siers (def) (AGOVV), Francke (def), Hattu (def)

Pistoor (gk) (Volendam), Van der Linden (def) (Go Ahead Eagles), Haastrup (def) (Willem II), Joppen (def) (VVV), Altheer (mid) (VVV)

Helmond Sport left a solid impression in friendly matches during the summer break, yet it remains uncertain how the team of the unexperienced coach Erik Meijers will cope with the departure of last year’s entire defense, including star player Jop van der Linden. Meijers joined Helmond Sport from Achilles 29, the third-tier Topklasse team, with which he won the title last year. The Helmond team management refused to spend a penny on reinforcing the squad, being afraid of running into financial troubles. The result is that Helmond will start the new season with a very young defense, comprised of largely unknown players. Francke and Hattu joined from regional youth teams, while Ter Horst came from the reserve team of Heracles Almelo. Charles Kazlauskas and Aart Verberne stayed and hope to get more playing time than last year, when they weren’t assured of a starting spot. Considering the departure of important players, a top-9 position would be satisfactory for Helmond, yet most fans will remember that the team started last season too without the best players of the previous season and still finished at an impressive fourth position.

Qualification for the promotion play-offs


Bram Castro (gk), St Truiden), Cor Gillis (def), Dender), Leroy Labylle (mid), Standard), Nathan Rutjes (mid), Sparta), Mark Veldmate (att), Sparta), Yannick Derix (gk), PSV ’35)

Fabio Caracciolo (att), Vise – end of loan), Prince Rajcomar (att), Zalaegerszeg – end of loan), Laurent Castellana (def), Jerome Beckers (def), Michael Tambak (att), Bjorn Eppinga (mid), Job Bulters (gk), Marc Eberle (def, Echt), Tom Daemen (mid), AEK Larnaca), Collin van Eijk (gk)

MVV Maastricht have had a pretty satisfactory season last year and will be hoping to gravitate in mid-table in the upcoming campaign and secure a play-off spot. They have failed to progress in their previous two attempts but promotion is not really an objective for a team with little resources to compete. Rene Trost’s side played some good football on a number of occasions last season but they have lost some key personnel over the summer. Tom Daeman is off to Cypru while strikers Fabio Caracciolo and Prince Rajcomar are back at their parent clubs after the end of their loan deals. The regular keeper Job Bulters and Laurent Castellana left as well which meant a number of gaps to fill. Few of them have been actually filled though. Bram Castro will be the new number one keeper but he has not played a first-team game for Saint Truiden since early October last year. Former Sparta Rotterdam’s squad players Mark Veldmate and Nathan Rutjes could be useful players but are unlikely to make much of a difference. Still, Trost creates useful teams and will hope that some of the academy players make the step up over the coming months. Realistically, MVV are likely to be water-carriers for another season and a place in the bottom half of the table beckons.

Finishing in mid-table and possibly challenging for a play-off spot

SC Veendam

Mc Kinnon (def) (Alloa Athletic, SCO), Martens (mid) (Willem II), Deul (mid) (Bayern München reserves), Pedro (def) (FC Groningen), Timmermans (gkl) (SWZ), Hutten (att) (Willem II), Schmelz (att) (Sparta Rotterdam), Te Loeke (gk) (Cambuur Leeuwarden), Katschner (att), Overtoom (mid)

Gorgulu (def) (FC Oss), Cruz Vicente (def) (AGOVV), Wolven (att) (Go Ahead Eagles), Kluin (att) (Rijnsburgse Boys),

With a reinforced squad, Veendam are ready for the kick-off of a new season in the Jupiler League. Last season was an outright disaster, even though few fans had dared to hope at the outset that the miraculous fourth position of the 2010/2011 season could be repeated. Nevertheless, the 16th position at which Veendam concluded the 2011/2012 campaign was much worse than even the greatest cynic had predicted. Scoring was Veendam’s main problem last season and it remains to be seen whether a remedy has been found. Sidney Schmelz is Veendam’s new offensive leader, but the former Sparta Rotterdam player scored only six goals in his entire professional career so far, comprising 60 games in 4 seasons. Opoku, last year’s topscorer in Veendam, stayed, but may lose his starting place to new men such as Deul and Overtoom, whose arrival is expected to be confirmed before the start of the season. In spite of last year’s abysmal results and fierce criticism from the fans, coach Heerkens stayed in Veendam. This season, he will no longer be allowed to hide behind excuses of a poor and small squad. Veendam is definitely not the best team in the Jupiler League – as a series of defeats in friendly matches proved -, but supporters and sponsors demand a place back in the limelights of the Jupiler League, for example by claiming a period title and staying clear of the relegation zone.

Staying clear of the relegation zone, aiming at a period title

Sparta Rotterdam

Jens van Son (mid), FC Eindhoven), Pieter Nys (def), Leuven), Quenten Martinus (att), Heerenveen – loan), Donovan Deekman (att), Lokeren), Martijn de Vries (att), Excelsior), Roald van Hout (att), RKC Waalwijk), Danny Buijs (mid), Kilmarnock), Marco van Duin (gk), NEC Nijmegen), Robert van Boxel (def), Cambuur)

Ruud Kras (def), (Rijnsburgse Bоys), Anthony Bentem (def), Joey Godee (att), AGOVV), Marten de Roon (mid), Heerenveen), Sidney Schmeltz (att), Veendam), Tom Overtoom (mid), Nathan Rutjes (mid), MVV), Jeroen Veldmate (def), Heracles), Mark Veldmate (att), MVV), Rubin Dantschotter (gk), Cercle – end of loan), Jeremy Bokila (att), Zulte Waregem – end of loan)

Sparta Rotterdam finished last season at second place and will feel that they missed a good chance to earn promotion back into the top-flight. A dramatic 2:1 aggregate defeat against Willem II meant that they will have to spend a third consecutive season in a division where they feel they do not belong. However, the positive definite outweighed the negative for the Red and White Gladiators during the last season as they played some enthralling football and were the best team in the second half of the season. They just ran out of steam in the last month in the chase of eventual champions Zwolle but Michel Vonk has built a solid base and will look to push on over the coming season. However, the three key players from last season, Jeroen Veldmate, Maarten de Roon and Jeremy Bokila are not around any more and the biggest task will be replacing them. Vonk has not attracted major names but Jens van Son and Robert van Boxel are useful players at this level while Donovan Deekman and Roald van Hout could well make a very good impression if given the chance to impress. Sandro Calabro will be the man expected to replace Bokila having joined in March last season while the likes of Mario Bilate and Jaime Bruinier will look to continue their good development. It is debatable whether Sparta can reach the heights of last season but if they gel well, the Rotterdam club will take some stopping and should be considered one of the big contenders for promotion.

Challenging for promotion and the title is definitely feasible


Rhys Murphy (att), Arsenal), Leandro Resida (att), Chabab), Kevin van Essen (mid), Argon), Shabir Isoufi (mid), Feyenoord – loan), Gal Sapir (def), Ironi Rashon), Geraldo Hoogvliets (def), Volendam), Gaston Salasiwa (def), Bintang), Oliver Rifai (def), AZ Jong), Daniël Zuiverloon (def), AZ Jong)

Nick Kuipers (def), IJsselmeervogel), Andrew Ornoch (att), Yacob Sason (att), Ryan Marveggio (def), Emre Bilgin (def), Den Bosch), Kevin Brands (att), Willem II), Armand Neeskens (def), De Meern), Danny Schenkel (def), Johan Plat (att), Hansa), Raymond Fafiani (mid), Voldendam), Melvin Holwijn (mid), Lisse), Sead Mazreku (mid), AZ Jong – end of loan), Gerson Sheotahul (att), Willem II – end of loan)

Telstar start the season hoping for better things to come after an underwhelming campaign last season. The modest club has always relied on top clubs sending their promising youngsters to get some first-team experience in Velsen. And experienced manager Jan Poortvliet has managed to get the best of them and get the team playing some decent football. Last season that happened too rarely for comfort and the team ended in the lower half of table, on a poor run of form. The announcement that Poortvliet was leaving well before the end of the season may have contributed to that. Nevertheless, the task facing new manager Marcel Keizer, is an unenvious one. He has done well in amateur football over the last couple of seasons but will be facing much sterner and better resourced opponents over the coming months. The eye-catching signing of the summer of them has been former Arsenal youngster Rhys Murphy who is looking to revive his career having fallen considerably over the last couple of season. Shabir Isoufi is a decent signing as well, on loan from Feyenoord, while Israeli Gal Sapir was a regular in the top division of Israel last season but otherwise the signings comes from lower division clubs and with no experience in professional football. Top strikers Kevin Brands and Johan Plat have left the club but keeping midfield duo Sjaak Lettinga and Frank Korpeshoek will be important and Kaizer is likely to build the team around them. Overall, the White Lions will do well to finish above 15th again and a push for the play-offs is hard to envisage.

Avoiding relegation and finishing in mid-table