As the clocks strike midnight and the fireworks begin, another new year is upon us and it promises to be an exciting one for Spanish football fans. Here are five talking points to look out for which could shape the narrative in 2022.
Will Real Madrid return to the top table?
Real Madrid are sitting pretty as winter champions at the turn of the year and it would be brave to bet against them winning the league title in 2022.
Carlo Ancelotti is bidding to become the first man to win the titles in each of Europe’s top five leagues, and things are looking good at the halfway stage.
With the anticipated arrival of Kylian Mbappe and the pursuit of Erling Haaland gathering pace, Los Blancos are looking formidable once more, and this rejuvenated squad looks ready to challenge on the European stage again.
Barcelona begin a new era
Xavi’s return has breathed new life and fresh optimism into Barcelona and their fanbase, after a couple of years of beleaguered pessimism.
His faith in youth is something to be encouraged by, and the acquisition of Ferran Torres is both a sign of intent and a demonstration that the financial problems are diminishing.
While they are a long way behind their rivals in the title race, there are three winnable trophies for Barcelona in 2022 – the Supercopa de Espana, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League. If they can win one, confidence in Xavi’s project will grow.
Real Betis to go from strength-to-strength
Real Betis are back where they want to be at the top end of La Liga and challenging in Europe. Manuel Pellegrini has arguably been the best coach in Spain in 2021, and the way he has been able to transform Los Verdiblancos without any transfer fee outlays is hugely commendable.
Their midfield is up there with the best in La Liga, and with Juanmi in the form of his life they have a reliable source of goals. They will be targeting a run in the Europa League knockouts as well as doing everything possible to stay in fourth and qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2005.
There is always a revelation team in any La Liga season, or an emerging coach who comes through to prominence within Spanish football. In the last couple of years, it has been Diego Martinez and Granada making waves in Europe, plus the growth of Basque coaches such as Imanol Alguacil.
2022 could be the year Rayo Vallecano and Andoni Iraola make history themselves. The club from Madrid are currently fourth in the table and were the best-performing home team in Europe’s major leagues up until Christmas. If they can maintain this level, European football is a very real possibility in the coming year.
Will Spain reign again?
Over the last 12 months, Luis Enrique’s Spain have gone a long way to silencing the doubters. They reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020, the final of the Nations League and qualified for the World Cup after an early stumble, so confidence is high.
Given that Lucho has been without multiple key players in almost every game, things can surely only get better. On paper, he has an abundance of options, and his belief in a wildcard selection like Gavi now looks shrewd in hindsight.
A new Nations League cycle in the summer is the first challenge before the main focus of the year – the Qatar World Cup in December. If Spain can reach their potential, we could be set for a special end to 2022.