New faces in La Liga dugouts as new Spanish season prepares to kick off

Madrid, Aug 17 (IANS) There will be plenty of familiar faces when La Liga kicks off the 2016-2017 season this coming weekend, but while Luis Enrique, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Simeone and company remain in charge of their respective football clubs, eight sides in Spain’s top flight will have new men in their respective dugouts.

Perhaps the biggest shock was Villarreal’s decision to sack Marcelino Garcia just a week before his side’s Champions League qualifying round and replace him with Fran Escriba, reports Xinhua.

Former Elche and Getafe coach Escriba bounces straight back into club management just five months after being sacked by his former club Getafe, who ended up being relegated to the second division, La Liga 2.

Alaves were promoted from the second division, but the side from Vitoria still decided to replace Jose Bordalas, the man who led them to promotion, with Mauricio Pellegrino. Former Valencia, Liverpool and Alaves defender Pellegrino’s only experience of club management in Spain was an ill-fated spell at Valencia, where he was sacked before Christmas.

Betis have opted to appoint Gustavo Poyet as their new coach despite the excellent job done by Juan Merino when he replaced Pepe Mel midway through the last campaign.

Poyet played for Zaragoza, but his coaching experience has mainly been in England with Brighton and Sunderland.

Gaizka Garitano led Eibar to the top flight but last season saw him sacked before Christmas after a poor start at second division Valladolid. That failure has not put off Deportivo la Coruna naming him as the successor to Victor Sanchez. Sanchez left to coach Olympiakos in Greece where he lasted less than two months in charge.

Espanyol’s new Chinese owners have invested well over the summer and have appointed Quique Sanchez Flores to oversee their project. Former Getafe, Valencia and Atletico Madrid coach Flores returns to Spain after Watford bizarrely decided to part company with him after a successful campaign in England.

Another club with Chinese owners, Granada are aiming to avoid a battle against relegation this time around and named the combative Paco Jemez as their coach.

Jemez’s swashbuckling four years at Rayo Vallecano corresponded with Rayo’s longest ever spell in the Primera Liga, but ended last season with the drop. Granada hope Jemez’s all-out attack philosophy will keep them clear of danger this time around.

Juande Ramos has returned to Malaga after an absence of 12 years and will be looking to guide them towards a top-six finish, while former Chile national team coach, Jorge Sampaoli has the difficult task of replacing Unai Emery at Sevilla.

Emery led Sevilla to the last three Europa League titles. So to say he has left the bar high for the Argentinean at a club that has grown used to success is perhaps an understatement.

–IANS

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