European League Preview Capsule: Primera Iberdrola
After an eventful and busy summer for women’s soccer, players have returned to their European clubs to get league play started for the 2021-22 season. Some leagues have expanded, while others have brought in extra stars, as they all seem to gain exposure each year. This is the final installment of a five-part series looking at some of the top leagues in Europe.
2020-21 Champion: Barcelona – 99 points (34 games)
2020-21 Golden Boot: Jenni Hermoso, Barcelona – 31 goals
How to watch: Team websites
First match: Granadilla Tenerife at Barcelona, 6 a.m. ET, Sep. 4
Final matchday: May 15, 2022 (30 games)
Barcelona just had one of the greatest years ever, and it managed to add more talent than it's losing, so it makes sense to name the Blaugranes the favorites of the league once again. Maybe go ahead and crown them the champions already. UEFA Player of the Year finalist Jenni Hermoso is back to lead a loaded front line that includes, oh look, another UEFA Player of the Year finalist, Lieke Martens, while transfer from Wolfsburg Fridolina Rolfo and Sevilla wonderkid Claudia Pina join the party as well. Don’t forget the midfield though, where, you guessed it, another UEFA Player of the Year finalist, Alexia Putellas, leads the way. She will still be playing alongside vice-captain Patricia Guijarro, plus they will get the help of another former Wolfsburg player as Ingrid Engen joins the midfield. The defense didn’t want to be left out and has added Irene Paredes from PSG. The talent on this team is too much to keep up with, but just make sure to watch them whenever you get the chance.
It’s hard to choose a true challenger in this league because it is tough to see anyone coming close to Barcelona, but Real Madrid has made several impressive strides since its rebrand last summer. The club made the jump from 10th to second in the league table last season. While catching Barcelona may be too big of a leap right now, they could still gain some ground. Kosovare Asllani has proven herself at the club level and international stage, and it does not appear her form will be dropping anytime soon. She’ll lead an attack that now includes new No. 10 Esther Gonzalez, who moves to Madrid from Levante. Marta Cardona scored 15 goals in her first year with Real Madrid, and she hopes to continue in that role this season. The club may not have the depth to compete with Barcelona across an entire season, but the talent is there to at least put Barcelona on upset watch during head-to-head matchups.
Players to Watch:
The three obvious players to watch this season are the three players competing against each other to be named the best player in Europe. But Spain offers talent outside of the two clubs mentioned above. Laia Aleixandri was a mainstay in Atletico Madrid’s backline, and she has only gotten better since her debut as a teenager in 2018. Ludmila will be back to lead Atletico’s attack after scoring 15 goals to go with three assists last year. Lucia Garcia is a veteran for Athletic Bilbao and is coming off her highest goal-scoring total (15) of her career.
Newcomers to Watch:
Atletico Madrid actually led the way in the transfer market over the summer as they try to keep pace with Barcelona. PSG defender Benedicte Simon joins on loan to help out the Atletico backline. The club also added goalkeeper Lola Gallardo, who could immediately see first-team minutes with the starting job up for grabs. Experienced midfielder Linda Bakker is joining Valencia after spending the last four seasons at Ajax. Levante also bolstered its midfield by adding Tatiana Pinto from Sporting CP.