La Liga kicks-off a new season on Saturday. Will Barcelona be able to repeat the strong showing they produced last season or will Real Madrid make a splash in the transfer market and the standings? Before the action begins, TSN.ca takes a look at five burning questions heading into the 2013-14 season.
CAN LIONEL MESSI POSSIBLY DO THAT AGAIN?
Leo started the 2012-13 campaign by finishing some business, securing an all-time record 91 goals within a calendar year.
He wouldn't stop there, however, pouring in multiple-goal games at will and finishing the season with 60 goals across all competitions.
He was a huge contributing factor to Barca matching a club record 100-point output in La Liga and reclaiming the national title for the Catalonians.
There's no reason to think Messi can't pour in the goals, since his 46 La Liga goals actually marked a decrease from his 50-goal output from the previous season, with five less appearances to boot.
However, what will be interesting to see is how Messi pairs with the player expected to be the next great super-power in world football: Brazilian forward Neymar.
The 21-year-old Brazilian has crossed the pond from Santos and the hope is that he and Messi can form a lethal partnership up front.
But how quickly will the pair click, if at all?
WHAT WILL BECOME OF ATLETICO MADRID WITHOUT RADAMEL FALCAO?
Through the first three-quarters of last season it looked as though Atletico Madrid might be able to best their cross-town rivals and grab second in La Liga.
The team was riding a high that extended all the way back to the team's 2012 Europa League title and Radamel Falcao was scoring at a break-neck pace, netting hat tricks in his first two league games.
The Colombian was a force for Atletico and although he was not able to shepherd the team to a higher finish in the standings, he was instrumental in gaining at least one key victory over Real. In the Copa del Rey Final, Falcao turned to his playmaking skills, setting up a Diego Costa goal that helped turn the tide and give Atletico its first win in the competition since 1996.
Falcao would be lured off, however, in the off-season to AS Monaco who reached a deal with Atletico to the tune of an estimated €60 million transfer fee.
His former side has made an attempt to fill the void, acquiring David Villa from Barcelona. However, the 31-year-old's production has tailed off in the past two years.
Does Falcao's exit mean the end of the good times for Atletico?
BALE OR RONALDO: WHICH SUPERSTAR IS REAL GOING TO SINK ITS CASH INTO?
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Real Madrid could be on the verge of a very, very big purchase.
Gareth Bale exploded in the Barclays Premier League last season, racking up 21 goals for Tottenham. Now, the Welshman appears to be on his way to greener pastures.
The fee being requested by Spurs is believed to be north of 100 million pounds and Real has long been believed to be the team most actively after Bale, but so too has Manchester United.
Speaking of the Reds, should they not get into the act on Bale they could very well be involved in a corresponding move, with their interest in re-acquiring Cristiano Ronaldo having been rumoured all summer long.
So, what will Real do with all their cash? Will they continue down the path with Ronaldo now that Jose Mourinho has returned to England, or will they ship their superstar whence he came and welcome a new import to lead the offensive charge?
IS MALAGA ON AN EXPRESS TRAIN TO IRRELEVANCY AFTER UEFA SANCTIONS?
This season marks the first for Malaga under the sanctions imposed by UEFA for the team's inability to meet its debts.
Prior to 2011-12 the team dropped millions on the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Isco and Santi Cazorla. The influx of talent allowed Malaga to qualify for the 2012-13 Champions League, but after the team proved to not have sufficient funds to cover costs, UEFA decided to ban the team from its competitions for the next four seasons.
As a result, Malaga – who finished sixth last season – will not be taking part in Europa this season, nor the next, nor the next, nor the next.
Cazorla was shipped to Arsenal prior to last season and van Nistelrooy has since retired, leaving the team with little to show for its over-investment.
The team even had to part with the 23-year-old Isco this past off-season, gritting their teeth and shipping him to Real.
So, what's to become of Malaga? They've enjoyed 13 of their last 15 seasons in Spain's top division, but will they be willing to fight it out to stay there in the knowledge that they will receive no true rewards for finishing near the top?
WILL SOCIEDAD ONCE AGAIN FOLD UP AMIDST THE ADDED WORKLOAD OF EUROPE?
Congratulations, Real Sociedad. You finished fourth in la Liga last season and are one aggregate victory over Lyon away from qualifying for Champions League for the third time in the last 15 seasons.
Here's the problem: the last two times Sociedad qualified for Europe's top club competition they plummeted down the domestic standings the very same year.
Champions duties turned them from a third-place team to a 10th-place team in 1998-99 and took them from second all the way to 15th in 2003-04.
Now, there's still no guarantee that they will make Champions, since Lyon is no slouch, but they will be playing extra games, at worst in the UEFA Europa League.
So, will the side hold up amidst a heavier workload?
Carlos Vela has been linked with a return to Arsenal and Imanol Agirretxe has been hit by minor injuries in pre-season, but the season is long.
Still, it's not a good sign for a European contender to be dropping matches to a side like Southampton, even if it is a preseason away game.