La Liga, Week 1 preview and fixtures: The curtain rises on the new season in Spain

Stanley Chou

Will Atletico Madrid challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid for the title? Can Real Sociedad repeat their success? Who will be the surprise teams? Who will be relegated? The road to answers for all those questions and more begins this week.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it's time for another season in Spain as the Primera División -- or La Liga -- prepares to kick off the 2013-14 season. Each week here in SB Nation Soccer's little corner of the Internet dedicated to Spain, we're going to preview the week's matches and break them down into three categories using the power of music.

I'll be offering my thoughts on which of the week's action into the "must watch", "if you have time" and "you can probably skip" matches for the neutral fan. To help with breaking things down, I'll be picking a band each week and three of their songs -- a great song, a good song and a "meh" song -- and matching them up with the corresponding category. It probably sounds way more complicated than it is and describing it ends up be way harder than just doing.

I'm confident you'll get the idea as the season goes along.

Remember this isn't an exact science. There will probably be weeks where all the "must watch" matches are duds and all the "you can probably skip" matches are instant classics. I'm just going to do my best to guide you towards the games that should be entertaining and important in the league table.

This week I'll be using Nine Inch Nails to help me preview the opening weekend of action in La Liga.

Please note that some of these songs may contain explicit language so please be aware of that before hitting play without your headphones on.

It's hard picking one particular Nine Inch Nails song as their best. It's a subjective choice but in my mind, it doesn't get much better than "Only" off With Teeth. It has what might be some of Trent Reznor's best lyrics and features the wonderful combination of rock and sampling that makes NIN's sound so unique.

So with that in mind, here's the week's must watch matches.

Real Sociedad vs. Getafe | Saturday - 1:00 pm ET, 7:00 pm CEST

We all know the talent on display when Barca or Madrid take the pitch but when it comes to attacking play and entertainment value, it's hard to beat Real Sociedad. Last year's fourth placed finishers managed to keep the roster in tact -- for the most part -- and are poised for another big season. They will probably show up in my "must watch" list a lot this season because they are a team you should be watching...because football is supposed to be fun and La Real are fun.

Real Madrid vs. Real Betis | Sunday - 3:00 pm ET, 9:00 pm CEST

Real Madrid enter the new season with a new head coach and some new, younger faces that will only make them more formidable. Whether you like Cristiano Ronaldo or not, you can't deny his skill and when you surround him with players like Mesut Özil and Isco, it's like getting a present every time they play a match. This is also a tough early season test for Real Betis who were in the Champions League mix for most of last season before fading late. We'll get to see if Pepe Mel has been able to improve his side over the summer.

Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid | Sunday - 5:00 pm ET, 11:00 pm CEST

Atletico Madrid won the Copa del Rey last season and qualified for the Champions League despite slumping a bit at the end of the season. Radamel Falcao is gone to Monaco but they remain formidable as Diego Simeone has brought in David Villa and Léo Baptistão to re-energize the attack. Atletico's defense was also the best in the league last season and will need to be top notch again if they want to push Madrid and Barca.

Unai Emery has rebuilt the Sevilla roster after their disappointing ninth placed finish last season. The attack has been bolstered by the arrival of Kévin Gameiro, Carlos Bacca and Marko Marin and the defense should be improved as well. This match will be an excellent chance for Sevilla to show their intent for the new season.

Barcelona vs. Levante | Sunday - 1:00 pm ET, 11:00 pm CEST

Barca typically are must watch just because they're Barcelona but when Lionel Messi might miss the match with a nagging thigh injury and they're playing Levante, one might expect them to drop out of the top flight of matches. When you're set to debut Neymar in his first meaningful club match in Europe, you guarantee your spot in the "must watch" category. It's also the debut of new head coach Gerardo Martino so it'll be interesting to see if there are any tweaks to Barca's style of play.

"Head Like a Hole" is a well known and solid song off Pretty Hate Machine. It provides a nice blend of driving sound, sampling and lyrics that embodies what makes NIN great. It's also a song, like "Closer" that suffers from radio overplay. So in my book, it's good, but not great. A solid choice for this week's "watch if you have time" matches in La Liga.

Real Valladolid vs. Atheltic Bilbao | Saturday - 3:00 pm ET, 9:00 pm CEST

Athletic Bilbao struggled mightily last season ending with a 12th place finish that flattered their overall performance. Marcelo Bielsa is gone, replaced by Ernesto Valverde and several new faces are on the roster as well. This will be our first chance to see Atheltic in a meaningful match to see if the offseason changes are moving the team in the right direction.

Valencia vs. Malaga | Saturday - 5:00 pm ET, 11:00 pm CEST

Valencia just missed out on Champions League football thanks in part to a loss on the season's final day, plus they sold their leading goal scorer to Tottenham. Malaga are suffering the repercussions of financial problems having lost their head coach and a ton of players. Bernd Schuster's restoration project begins in this match and we'll see how Valencia plays with a new look attack.

Almeria vs. Villarreal | Monday - 4:00 pm ET, 10:00 pm CEST

Typically a match between two newly promoted sides isn't worth you attention but Villarreal isn't your normal promoted side. Once a regular in Europe, the Yellow Submarine sunk to the Segunda Division in 2011 and had to scramble to resurface in the top flight after only one season. Now they're back and the expectation is that they'll comfortably avoid another relegation fight. They should be able to get off to a good start against Almeria.

Pretty Hate Machine is a fantastic album, easily one of NIN's best...but "Ringfinger" sucks. It's a skip anytime I listen to the album, every single time. So it works great for this week's matches you can probably skip.

Osasuna vs. Granada | Sunday - 3:00 pm ET, 9:00 pm CEST

Two teams that barely escaped relegation last season playing in the first week of the new season. Unless you have a rooting interest, you can problem miss this one.

Rayo Vallecano vs. Elche | Monday - 2:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm CEST

Rayo made a bunch of changes in the summer but still should compete for a spot in Europe. An opener against newly promoted Elche is a match they must win if they're serious about being more than a mid-table team. Unfortunately, that probably means a rather one-sided match for the neutral viewer.

Celta Vigo vs. Espanyol | Monday - 4:00 pm ET, 10:00 pm CEST

A match between to teams who both sold their best attacking player, and will probably be fighting against relegation all season. I'll pass.

Follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter | Like SB Nation Soccer on Facebook

More in Soccer:

Metalist Kharkiv banned from Champions League

Previewing the Europa League race in La Liga

20 Serie A previews in 20 days

Transfer rumours from SB Nation and our team blogs

Full coverage of the NWSL

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.