La Lige is almost back – even though in this weirdest of years it does feel like it pretty much just ended. Looking at the markets there are – as usual – two main contenders for the crown, but sports in the Top 4 and for relegation seem a little more open.
Here are the BetXChange.com preseason predictions:
La Liga Champion
Real Madrid – 0.60
It has been 13 years since Los Blancos went back-to-back in title wins. It feels like this could be their best chance for some time with all the turmoil at Barca and after their worthy win last season. One thing to note is that Real have yet to strengthen their squad in any way and with Achraf Hakimi and Oscar Rodriguez already out of the door – perhaps to be joined by James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale – there should be some money to spend here. The return of Martin Odegaard after a highly successful loan spell at Real Sociedad will provide some spark.
Barcelona – 1.65
The elephant in the room here is that we really have no idea if the greatest footballer of all time will be wearing the red and blue of Barcelona next season. If Messi stays – and if he is committed to the cause as opposed to playing out the final year of this contract – then the Catalan giants will have a shot at dethroning Real. If he does not – and it really seems to be a coin toss right now – then it will be the start of a complete rebuild of an aging squad and Real will run away with the crown.
Atletico Madrid – 7.25
The main transfer news coming out of Atletico is that they might be losing destructive midfielder Thomas Partey to Arsenal. Rodrigo Moreno has moved to Leeds in a weird bargain deal for a top star, so this is a team that needs to add something. The potential transfer of Alexandre Lacazette is interesting, but it is hard to see Atletico finishing any higher than third this season.
Sevilla – 0.30
The Europa League winners (again) just added Ivan Rakatic to their squad in a shrewd piece of business. Sevilla never seems to threaten the very top of the table but they are a highly consistent upper top half team who will take some beating for a spot in the Champions League places.
Villarreal – 3.50
The fifth favorite for the top 4 – meaning only one team above them needs to underperform – is Villarreal. Poaching Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin from Valencia strengthens them while hurting a potential rival, but there have been significant losses with the departures of club legends Bruno and Santi Cazorla.
Cadiz CF – 0.65
Will their stay in La Liga for the first time since 2006 be a brief one? Alvardo Negredo will lead their attack, but this is a team that will need to put together a significant run of results early to avoid falling behind the pace.
SD Huesca – 0.65
Huesca were out of La Liga for just one year, so this is a squad with experience of playing in the top flight. They claimed the Segunda Division title on the season’s final day after a strong run of results to close the campaign. Former Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki’s goals will be key if they are to cause a surprise and stay up.
Elche CF – 0.75
Elche have slightly better odds than their two newly promoted contemporaries but they are still one of the favorites to go down. Relegated to the third tier for financial mismanagement in 2015, this is a team that snuck into the playoffs before a 96th-minute winner promoted them in the playoff final. They will be looking to ride that winning momentum to a strong early start behind the goals of 40-year-old striker Nino.
SD Eibar – 1.35
Those not backing the three promoted clubs to go down have been laying their money on Eibar. They finished 14th last year thanks to two wins and a draw in their final five games, but they need to make some significant signings if they are to finish that high in the table again this season.