When the 2020/21 LaLiga Santander season begins each of the new boy’s SD Huesca, Cadiz CF and Elche CF will be confident they have the talent and ambition to hold their own and make an impression on Spanish football fans all over the world.
Recent seasons have seen plenty of success for sides coming into up from LaLiga Smart bank, and all three newly promoted teams have the players, coaches and structures to do well in the top flight next season when taking the place of the relegated teams: CD Leganes, RCD Espanyol and RCD Mallorca. Everything is ready now for the next season.
Athletic— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) August 24, 2020
The 20 teams for #LaLigaSantander 20/21! pic.twitter.com/gpLFjdWOWA
A late burst of form saw Huesca win the 2019/20 La Liga Smartbank title, passing local rivals Real Zaragoza on the way to gaining promotion as champions.
Founded in 1960, and formally known as Sociedad Deportiva Huesca, the club from the region of Aragon spent most of their history in regional divisions before reaching La Liga SmartBank level in 2008. ‘Los Oscenses’ made the final step to the top flight two years ago, but unsurprisingly found it tough to acclimatize.
Ex-Rayo Vallecano player and manager Michel took over as coach last summer and quickly rebuilt a well-organized side that were challenging for promotion all season and overtook Cadiz in the final stages to bounce straight back up. Top scorer was veteran Japan international Shinji Okazaki with 12 goals, while Spanish youngster Rafa Mir hit nine in 18 games after arriving on loan in January. In midfield, the experience of ex-Athletic Bilbao Mikel Rico and former Deportivo la Coruna Pedro Mosquera was vital, while former Atletico Madrid and Rayo defender Jorge Pulido was a rock at the back.
Having learned from experience, Huesca now has the structures and systems in place at their El Alcoraz stadium to push on and follow other ‘smaller’ teams such as Eibar and Villarreal who have established themselves at the very top level in recent years.
La Liga SmartBank leaders for most of 2019/20, Cadiz were the first team to secure promotion, bringing huge celebrations as top-flight football returns to the fun-loving Andalusian city for the first time in 14 years. Although established in 1910, one of Cadiz’s biggest contribution over the decades, no matter the category they were playing, was the traditional summer ‘Trofeo Carranza’ pre-season tournament featuring where many of the biggest Spanish and South American teams. Another of their biggest contribution is the hot, colorful, and funny atmosphere that their fans create in the legendary stadium Ramon de Carranza (25.000 seats).
Current coach Alvaro Cervera is a former Racing Santander player and coach who took over in April 2016 with the team in the third tier. He soon leads them to the promotion, and has made steady progress ever since. Nicknamed ‘el Simeone del Cadiz’, Cervera has described the team’s counter-attacking gameplan as “rob and run”.
41-year-old captain and goalkeeper Alberto Cifuentes has been with Cervera all through their rise, while former Sevilla, Getafe, and Las Palmas center-back Juan Cala, 30, and ex-Atletico Madrid, Schalke and Watford midfielder Jose Manuel Jurado, 34 also bring experience. Maybe the most talented squad member is former Real Madrid youth teamer Alex Fernandez, 27, who scored 12 goals last season from midfield, and it’s Nacho Fernández’s young brother.
Cadiz has already added former Spanish international striker Alvaro Negredo for the new season. While Cervera and his team will bring extra color to LaLiga Santander, they also plan to make a serious impression.
𝑆𝑂𝑀𝑂𝑆 𝐷𝐸 𝑃𝑅𝐼𝑀𝐸𝑅𝐴 pic.twitter.com/Ax1eBSE6Pu— Elche Club de Fútbol (@elchecf) August 23, 2020
Outside the top six for much of the La Liga SmartBank season, Elche timed their late burst of form perfectly to return through the play-offs to the top level for the first time in five seasons.
Formed in 1923 in their home city within the region of Valencia, Elche’s distinctive green and white stripes have bounced around Spain’s top three divisions for much of their history. The 1960s was their most successful decade, with an all-time highest finish of fifth in La Liga Santander in 1963/64, and an appearance in the 1969 Copa del Rey final (losing 0-1 to Athletic Bilbao).
The most recent La Liga Santander action at Elche’s 33,732 capacity Estadio Martinez Valero came in 2014/15 before the team was relegated due to breaches of La Liga’s important financial rules. They even spent one season down in the third tier in 2017/18, before rebuilding their finances under the shrewd leadership of director-general Patricia Rodriguez (a former Eibar club president).
Key to their promotion push last season was the hiring of former Espanyol midfielder Jose Rojo Martin ‘Pacheta’ as a coach in February 2018. Goalkeeper Edgar Badia was the stopper with the most saves in all La Liga SmartBank this season and conceded zero goals across the two-legged play-off semis and final. Evergreen 40-year-old striker Nino, the category and club’s all-time top scorer, scored the winner in the semi against Real Zaragoza. Winger Pere Milla was the hero of the final against Girona, squeezing in a 95th-minute header to secure promotion.
Such late heroics leaves Elche with little time to prepare for the start of the new 2020/21 La Liga Santander campaign, but all three teams promoted from La Liga SmartBank have through recent years shown an ability to roll with the punches and put their best foot forward. All that will be expected, and more, when the new Spanish season starts in the coming weeks.