With Real Madrid playing at the Club World Cup, all eyes in La Liga turn to Atletico Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao this weekend. It could be brutal...
Getafe have been a regular thorn in the side of Barcelona, and they repeated their trick to leave Luis Enrique's side four points behind Real Madrid. Things look pretty worrying...
So now it's the scented candle part of the summer, the post-World Cup whiffing when everyone takes a smell of Germany and tries to work out what made them so splendidly good. Four years ago, the Spanish aroma of possession-based, high-pressure football had all and sundry sniffing admiringly. In 2014 it is the muscular dynamism combined with sublime technique of Germany that is very much en vogue.
However, only a few countries in Europe have a genuine chance of stopping Germany in its tracks in the next big football-fest, the European Championships in 2016. One of those is France, with the hosts potentially nicely coming to the boil in time for the tournament. The other side is Spain, although an awful lot of reworking of some raw material is required first (that trio are first, second and third favourites with Paddy Power).
The disastrous performance of Vicente Del Bosque's side in Brazil had its origins in the destruction of Barcelona by Bayern Munich in last season's Champions League semi-finals, when the German side took advantage of old tactical tricks and lethargy. However, there is hope of a revival without too much rejigging required. All that the Spanish need to do is look north for its future blueprint.
Three seasons ago Athletic Bilbao were a mightily impressive outfit that combined physical finesse with fine technique. Manchester United and many others discovered this to their costs. The architects of that playing style, managed by Marcelo Bielsa, are still about and currently out learning new tricks in foreign climes.
A midfield core that could well be dominant at Bayern Munich - the 'in-club' for next season - may be pure Spanish with Martínez and the impressive Thiago Alcantara running the show. The former barely got a look-in at the last World Cup, whilst the latter was ruled out through injury. That might have been for the best. Combine that pair with fresher options such as Manchester United's Ander Herrera, and Atlético Madrid's dynamic Koke, and you have a midfield that has a bit of both fire and sauce about it.
If Asier Illarramendi can avoid being pushed out by even more incoming midfielders, the Real Madrid man could be another option in the centre of the park. His former Real Sociedad teammate in the Basque Country, Iñigo Martínez, is ripe for being drafted in to the centre of defence with the 23-year-old surely ready for challenging the lazy Gerard Piqué for his position. Like his namesake Javi Martínez, the stopper is another that has toughened up nicely oop north where La Liga has hair on its chest.
Up front, and Spain is stuffed with options as well. Another former Athletic Bilbao man, Fernando Llorente, was left out of the Brazil squad but another season leading the line at Juventus could see a swift recall with the Diego Costa experiment being rejected. Flanking him is the evergreen Andrés Iniesta, but also a new wave of forward players such as Isco and Jesé, but once again both may struggle for minutes at the Santiago Bernabéu.
The width of the side could be provided by Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal in the full-back positions with David de Gea finally getting his chance in goal, with Spain moving away from the Iker Casillas-Victor Valdés axis.
The previous Spanish model was born and bred in Barcelona, but a new look Roja outfit could have its DNA in the Basque lands but using talent and added inspiration from all over Europe. It will take an awful lot of trial and error and experimentation to reach a conclusion, but the raw elements are in place to make Spain great again.
A possible Euro 2016 Starting XI:
GK - David De Gea
RB - Dani Carvajal
CB - Iñigo Martínez
CB - Sergio Ramos
LB - Jordi Alba
CM - Javi Martínez
CM - Thiago Alcantara
CM - Asier Illarramendi
FOR - Isco
FOR - Jesé
FOR - Fernando Llorente (or Alvaro Morata as a long shot)