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Sunday, 24 August 2014, 20:00

Spanish Primera BBVA

Tough to tip

With new managers at Barcelona and Real Madrid it is impossible to predict next season's La Liga winner, says Gaizka Mendieta.

Last Updated: 31/07/13 at 19:03 Post Comment

Tito Vilanova stepped down from his post at the Nou Camp this summer to continue his battle with cancer while Jose Mourinho has returned to Chelsea after a frustrating three years with Real Madrid.

Barcelona, who won La Liga last season, made the surprising move of appointing Gerardo Martino as their new coach, a manager who has only worked in South America and whose only experience of Spain's top flight is 15 league games for Tenerife as a player in 1991.

However, while Martino is a relative unknown in Europe, Mendieta believes he is a wise selection by the Barca board as he is committed to the club's football philosophy.

"Martino has been the manager of Paraguay and Newell's Old Boys and he always tries to play nice football," the former Valencia and Barcelona midfielder told the Football Season Preview Show.

"He likes to work physically as well but he knows what he's getting at. He says 'I'm coming to this team to learn and to try to add to it with my knowledge', but the team works around Lionel Messi and he knows that as well."

Respect

Meanwhile, Real typically opted for a big-name boss with a proven track record in the Champions League with their appointment of Carlo Ancelotti.

After the tumultuous Mourinho-era, Jamie Redknapp believes the Italian will heal the factions in the Madrid dressing room and instantly command respect from the Los Blancos line-up.

"In the modern era the manager just has to keep players happy," said the former Tottenham and Liverpool man.

"Ancelotti seems pretty inoffensive and he doesn't fall out with his star players, which is what happened with Jose Mourinho.

"Carlo was a fantastic midfield player and that gains the respect of the players, as well. He'll go in there and a lot of the players, such as Sergio Ramos, will feel they have had their fill of Mourinho and are looking forward to the new manager coming in and things going back to how they were before."

Mendieta agreed and suggested the former Chelsea boss - who won the Premier League in his first season with the Blues - will also adapt Real's style.

Whilst Mourinho favoured a counter-attacking mentality, the Spaniard expects Ancelotti to encourage a more attacking philosophy.

"There will be a change in the direction of how Madrid want to play this season.

"They want to forget about the counter-attack and go back to playing nice football. The way they want to win is clear in the players they've signed," said Mendieta, alluding to Madrid's costly summer acquisitions, playmakers Asier Illarramendi and Isco.

"Ancelotti has done it before with Chelsea, so it's not a problem for him going to a new team, setting it up and winning titles."

Promising

Outside of the top two Mendieta cannot see any clubs mounting a title challenge but reckons Atletico Madrid, who have recently bought David Villa from Barcelona, are the best of the rest.

"Villa is a very good signing for Atletico and they also have a few youngsters who are playing in the U20s and U19s for Spain who look very promising," he said.

"Valencia, meanwhile, have to wait and see what happens with Roberto Soldado because if he leaves for Spurs or somewhere else then it will be a big challenge for them to challenge for the Champions League spots.

"I'd say Malaga and Real Sociedad are the teams to count on for the remaining Champions League places."

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