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Sizing up La Liga title contenders

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno gives his take on the slow starts for both Barcelona and Real Madrid and believes there should be more concern at the Bernabeu than at Camp Nou.

For the first time ever, La Liga will have five teams in the group stage of the Champions League. Of course, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are the big names, while Europa League champions Sevilla and former Champions League finalist Valencia are also in the competition.

While there is an argument to be made that all five teams could very well advance into the knockout stage in Europe, the argument would not be as convincing when talking about all five teams having a chance of winning La Liga this season. With all due respect to Sevilla and Valencia, they will get an honorable mention and a participation certificate but will not do enough over the course of the season to challenge for the title. Breaking news: La Liga will be all about the big boys!

Here's a look at all three teams, including their strengths and weaknesses, and why they will or won't win the La Liga title.

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Real Madrid v Real Betis: Preview

Real MadridReal Madrid
Real BetisReal Betis
8:30 PM UTC
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Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez insists his focus is on Saturday's home match against promoted Real Betis and not on transfer market.

The Spanish press continue to speculate on the possible arrival of Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

De Gea has been strongly linked with a move to Real in recent months and according to Marca, the Spain international is unlikely to arrive to Real until Monday, transfer deadline day.

Benitez, whose side were held to a goalless...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to score this weekend -- projection

Messi or Ronaldo? The ESPN FC TV panel predict who will score more goals in La Liga this season.

After both were shut out on the season's opening weekend, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are tipped to find the net in their next games by ESPN's projection model, which predicts how the two scoring rivals will fare each week and over the whole season in La Liga.

On Saturday, Messi and Barcelona host Malaga at Camp Nou, while Ronaldo and Real Madrid welcome Real Betis to the Bernabeu.

Messi Ronaldo weekend 20150828
Last season, Messi did not score at home to Malaga while Ronaldo did not play against Real Betis.

2015-16 total goals projection

Ronaldo was the preseason tip to score more goals, but the latest projection...

Rafa Benitez defends Gareth Bale after poll says Real Madrid should drop star

ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop and Alexis Nunes discuss Manchester United's reported plans to make one last attempt to sign Gareth Bale from Real Madrid in the final week of the transfer window.
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale says his side were rusty in their opening day draw with Sporting Gijón, and that they will get better.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno gives his take on the slow starts for both Barcelona and Real Madrid and believes there should be more concern at the Bernabeu than at Camp Nou.
The ESPN FC crew discuss Rafa Benitez's decision to play Gareth Bale in behind the striker as opposed to playing out wide like he prefers.

Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez has defended attacker Gareth Bale, saying he is "surprised" by the debate around whether the Wales international should be in his starting XI.

Madrid were heavily criticised by many in the local media after their opening-day 0-0 draw at newly promoted Sporting Gijon last weekend, with Benitez's tactics -- and specifically his use of Bale as a roving No. 10 -- a major talking point among fans and pundits.

Some local reports claimed that fellow Galacticos Cristiano Ronaldo...

Gareth Bale thanks Real Madrid fans for support in Spanish interview

ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop and Alexis Nunes discuss Manchester United's reported plans to make one last attempt to sign Gareth Bale from Real Madrid in the final week of the transfer window.
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale says his side were rusty in their opening day draw with Sporting Gijón, and that they will get better.

Gareth Bale has spoken of his appreciation of the support he receives from Real Madrid's fans, in his first ever Spanish language interview which will be broadcast on Thursday.

Bale, 26, joined Madrid from Tottenham in a €100 million deal back in the summer of 2013, and despite scoring in both the Champions League and Copa del Rey final successes during his first season in Spain he has never really won over all supporters and pundits.

New Madrid coach Rafa Benitez has moved the Wales international...