Barcelona and Real Madrid to shine in this season's Primera Liga

MADRID, Aug. 25 -- FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are the big favorites for the Primera Liga title as Spain prepares for the new football season.

The "big two" look to be far more powerful that the remaining 18 sides in the Primera Liga and baring a major surprise, the league title should end up at either the Camp Nou or Santiago Bernabeu Stadium come next May.

Between them Barcelona and Real Madrid have spend twice as much money as the other 18 clubs in the Spanish top flight with Real Madrid spending four times more than Barcelona.

Barcelona's captain Carles Puyol raises the trophy after the team defeated Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final second leg soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona August 23, 2009.

Nevertheless, it is Barcelona that goes into the new season as the reigning Primera Liga, Kings Cup and Champions League holder. The team coached by Pep Guardiola was the best team in the world last season and outplayed nearly all of its rivals.

Partly because of that Barca has not carried out much business in the summer transfer market. Left back Maxwell and forward Zlatan Ibrahimovich have arrived at the club with Samuel Eto'o leaving for Inter Milan.

It remains to be seen whether or not Barcelona will miss Eto'o's aggression on the pitch, but Ibrahimovich's height will bring other options to the Barcelona attack.

The main problem for the Catalan side is that their success has brought a full fixture calendar with the European Super cup and the World club Championship added to an already busy schedule.

Guardiola will want to rotate key players such as Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi to avoid them breaking down during the season.

Real Madrid's Raul (L) and Jose Maria Gutierrez "Guti" hold up the trophy after their victory over Rosenborg during their Santiago Bernabeu trophy soccer match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid August 24, 2009.

Real Madrid meanwhile has captured all of the summer headlines with a summer spending spree previously unseen in the history of football.

The return of Florentino Perez to the club presidency saw the club spend over 250 million euros to sign players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso.

Real Madrid has spent more money that the other 19 Primera Ligasides combined and all of that attacking talent is certain to bring rewards with easy wins against lower and mid-table sides.

However, new coach Manuel Pellegrini will need time to form a unit and the team still looks fragile in defense.

Florentino Perez's last project ended in failure as he was unable to find a balance between his marketing aims and the club's footballing needs. The early signs are that he has not learned from his previous mistakes.

With the title seemingly destined to be a two-horse race, the remaining sides will have to battle for third and fourth position.

Sevilla finished third last season and has added striker AlvaroNegredo, midfielder Didier Zokora and defender Samuel Sanchez to its squad. Those additions and the attacking talents of Luis Fabiano and Freddy Kanoute should see the team challenge again, despite the tactical shortcomings of coach Manolo Jimenez.

Atletico Madrid has signed defender Juanito from Betis in an attempt to shore up a poor defense. Young goalkeeper Sergio Asenjoalso promises great things for a side that has maintained the Kun Aguero and Diego Forlan as its lethal strike force.

Atletico will no doubt produce some great performances mixed in with some disastrous ones, but anything other than a top six finish would be a surprise.

Valencia appears to have survived a summer filled with economic problems without losing key players David Villa, Juan Mata, Pablo Hernandez and David Silva.

Those four should assure enough points for a respectable finish and the side should be solid if unspectacular in the middle and in defense. A major problem with Valencia is its continued debt and ever demanding supporters who have been known to whistle and boo their players in the very first game of the season.

Villarreal has lost coach Manuel Pellegrini to Madrid, but replaced him with the impressive Ernesto Valverde.

Brazilian striker Nilmar will be the man to watch, but Valverde's brand of attacking football will make an already well organized Villarreal good to watch and a real contender for a top four finish.

With little money being spent elsewhere almost every other side is a candidate for relegation.

However, newly promoted Xerez looks to be the hot favorite to return to the second division due to a combination of backroom and economic problems which have left coach Jose Angel Ziganda relying on a squad of loan players after half of the promotion winning squad left the club over the summer.

Mallorca can also expect a difficult campaign after losing key players such as Juan Arango, Kleber Santana, Miguel Angel Moya, David Navarro and Jose Jurado and failing to replace them due to economic problems.

Coach Gregorio Manzano worked miracles to maintain the club last season, but this year's squad is threadbare at best.

Finally sides such as Almeria, Valladolid, Racing Santander and perhaps Malaga will all spend weeks in or near the relegation zone in a league where most attention will nevertheless be focused on the race for the title.