Liga F: 2023/24 season preview

FC Barcelona Femení teammates celebrate.
FC Barcelona teammates celebrate during the UEFA Women's Champions League quarterfinal against Real Madrid at Camp Nou on March 30, 2022. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

After Spain won the Women’s World Cup for the very first time last month, there should have been a real sense of excitement heading into the new domestic campaign. Unfortunately, the disgraceful actions of Luis Ruibales following the final win overshadowed the celebrations, while the build-up to the Liga F season has also been dominated by a dispute between the footballer’s unions and the league.

Strike action saw Matchday One postponed, and the second round of games looked to be heading towards a similar fate. But, last Wednesday, a breakthrough in negotiations brought the positive news that the 2023/24 campaign will get underway with Matchday Two.

Barcelona aiming for fifth consecutive Liga F title

After winning their fourth consecutive Liga F title last season, Barcelona head into the new campaign as overwhelming favourites to retain their league crown. While Geyse and Laia Codina have swapped the Spanish top flight for the Women’s Super League, Barcelona have strengthened their squad with the additions of Ona Batlle and Esmee Brugts.

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Alexia Putellas missed the majority of the 2022/23 campaign, but after returning to action in April, the two-time Balon d’Or winner is ready to play a leading role once again and make up for lost time. Not only do the reigning champions possess the current Balon d’Or holder, but they can also call upon the favourite to win this year’s award, midfield maestro Aitana Bonmatí. Fresh from winning the Golden Ball Award and UEFA Women’s Player of the Year, the 25-year-old enters the new campaign in irrepressible form. All signs point towards another dominant season for the Catalan giants.

Can Real Madrid mount a title push?

Barcelona’s closest challengers will be their Clásico rivals, Real Madrid, who are preparing to begin their fourth season in women’s football. Having finished 15, 30 and 10 points adrift of Barcelona in the last three seasons, they will need to improve significantly to challenge the European champions for the league title.

Since the curtain came down on the 2022/23 campaign, Real Madrid have bid farewell to their all-time leading scorer Esther González, who has swapped Spain for the US and signed for Gotham FC on a free transfer. 

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In an attempt to close the gap to Barcelona, Las Blancas have delved into the market to make four new additions. Goalkeeper Mylène Chavas has signed from French outfit Bordeaux, while World Cup winner Oihane Hernández has arrived from Basque side Athletic Club. Alberto Toril has also bolstered his attacking options with the additions of former Manchester City player Hayley Raso and Denmark international Signe Bruun. After netting 19 goals and 12 assists in her first Liga F campaign, Scotland’s Caroline Weir will continue to be integral to Real Madrid’s efforts.

Top-three race

Levante secured Champions League qualification after finishing in third place last season. Alba Redondo netted 27 times to finish the campaign as Liga F top scorer, while Mayra Ramírez and Tatiana Pinto scored 26 goals between them to fire Levante into the top three. However, their European journey proved to be a fleeting one after they squandered a two-goal lead against Twente to lose 3–2 in the first round of qualifying. Levante will have to pick themselves up for their league campaign where they will be targeting European qualification once again.

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Atlético Madrid will be growing frustrated with their habit of missing out on Champions League qualification after finishing in fourth position for the third consecutive season. In truth, Atleti lagged behind Levante and ultimately fell nine points short of the top three. The campaign would have still been viewed as a success, though, as Atlético beat their local rivals Real Madrid on penalties to win the Copa de la Reina. 

Ones to watch

Madrid CFF head into the new campaign in a buoyant mood after recording their best-ever league finish last term. They picked up 56 points from their 30 matches to round off the season in fifth position. They also racked up 65 goals to make them the league’s fourth-highest scorers, highlighting the very reason why they are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the top flight. Madrid CFF have been home to a number of promising talents over the years, including Manchester United’s summer addition Geyse and her compatriot Kerolin. While those names may have long departed, Madrid CFF still boasts a number of talented players in their squad, including Zambia international Racheal Kundananji.

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Meanwhile, Real Sociedad hope to bounce back from a disappointing campaign after mustering an eighth-place finish last term. That result was a far cry from the success of 2021/22 when the Basque side claimed second spot and a place in the Champions League. While mounting a European push may be slightly ambitious, Real Sociedad certainly have the players to better last season’s performance. Natalia Arroyo still has an abundance of quality in her squad, especially with the likes of Amaiur Sarriegi and Nerea Eizagirre at her disposal.

Two newcomers

Newly promoted Eibar and Granada have replaced Deportivo Alavés Gloriosas and Alhama in the top flight for the 2023/24 season. Barcelona’s B side were crowned champions of the second division, but the reserve team were ineligible for promotion, which ultimately led to second-placed Eibar being assured of a spot in Liga F. While Eibar celebrated automatic promotion, Granada battled their way through the playoffs, beating Osasuna and Deportivo La Coruña to secure their place in the top flight.

The play-off winners have been extremely active in the transfer market, as they look to assemble a squad capable of competing in the top flight. The two promoted sides, who will be involved in a relegation battle, will go head-to-head on the pitch at the of September when they face off in Andalucía. Before they can focus on that fixture, Eibar and Granada will both have to negotiate the opening fixtures against Levante Las Planas and Real Sociedad, respectively.

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