Spain's Top 42, Including Villarreal A & B

Sadly, Hércules and Drenthe are no more for the top flight.

The B team hosts Hércules next Friday evening in the official curtain-raiser to the Spanish football season. A rather drab choice, if you asked me, but at least it's a Valencian derbi involving Villarreal.

Below is a quick rundown of the departed and new faces in Spain's top two divisions:

Segunda A to Primera:

Real Betis: The Seville derbi is back in the Primera. After two long years in the desert, one of Spain's most popular sides returns to the big time in 2011-12. You can thank us for Javier Matilla and Jefferson Montero when you pay us for Jony Pereira, Sr. Ruiz de Lopera.

Rayo Vallecano: Madrid's long-time third team returns to La Liga after eight seasons. Have they been usurped by upstarts Getafe? Not based on fan support, that's for sure. I'm pulling for Rayo to stay up, but it won't be easy.

Granada CF: I find the Granada story a bit distasteful, but who am I to judge? A Segunda B side on the verge of bankruptcy is bought by Serie A side Udinese, who then loans a number of "surplus" players. Consecutive promotions later, Italy and the Pozzo family have a La Liga team. Voila!

Primera to Segunda A:

Deportivo de La Coruña: Two decades of top-flight football has come to an end in Galicia. The days of Super Depor are long gone, and the club's play last season was a real sight for sore eyes. Good luck to them, and may they enjoy the Segunda derbies with Celta de Vigo.

Hércules: The side that brought us Royston Drenthe came up in highly questionable circumstances. Its exit was swifter and quieter, in the end. Who could have imagined relegation after that famous 0-2 win at Camp Nou? This writer, sadly.

Almería: The Mediterranean side from Andalucía departs after a four-year spell in the top flight. Sadly, the club never recovered from the big money departures of Unai Emery and Álvaro Negredo. We may not hear from Almería for many years.

Segunda B to Segunda A:

Murcia: Welcome back to a mainstay of Spanish football. A one-year stay in Segunda B should not leave the club too much worse for wear. And it's nice to see that Chando is still around and banging in the goals.

Sabadell: Cataluña now has a fourth side in the second division. Sabadell has played 14 seasons in La Liga, the last of which came in 1987-88. Don't count on a reprise in 2012-13; survival will be enough of an achievement.

Alcoyano: Another Valencian derbi awaits Villarreal B. El Collao in Alcoy may be even smaller than the Ciudad Deportiva, which is saying something. For the sake of the Comunitat, best wishes. May you become another Villarreal success story.

Guadalajara: Not to be confused with the recent Mexican destroyers of Barcelona. The Spanish Guadalajara keeps Castilla y la Mancha well-represented in the Segunda. This will be the club's first season above Segunda B in its 64-year history, so 18th place and safety is the only goal.

Segunda A to Segunda B:

Salamanca: What goes up must come down. This physical principle also applies to Madrid-based teams, it seems. That's why striker Kike López now plays for Villarreal B. This was nearly our B team, but thankfully circumstances were different (like a timely managerial switch).

Albacete: A return to the third division after 21 years. The delightfully named "Queso Mecánico" from Castilla y la Mancha should return to relevance soon, if history is any guide.

Tenerife: Poor islanders. Consecutive drops means newfound obscurity. The honorable Mallorca and Las Palmas now must carry the torch for Spain's offshore possessions. And striker Nino is off to Osasuna. Sad.

Ponferradina: I didn't know much about them when they came up. That has not changed. One statistic should suffice: Ponfe won one match in Segunda A by more than one goal (3-0 over Córdoba). That will get you relegated.

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