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La Liga Primera 2019/2020 season preview (starts 16th August)
In Spain there are almost three separate leagues, the three at the top who can win it, eight at the bottom who can go down, and nine in the middle who have chances of qualifying for Europe. It is possible, but would be a shock, if the league panned out in any other way.
THE TITLE? Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atletico?
Only one of these three can win the title according to the betting with 100/1+ any of the other sides. There may be some interesting possibilities further down the league in the betting without and relegation markets. This is a season when all the top sides are a little in transition, with perhaps Barcelona the least changed team and Real and Atletico the most revamped and it may take a while for the sides to become settled. If Barcelona do sign Neymar, and that is looking more likely by the day, they will have the strongest attacking line up in World football. Real Madrid will need to hit the ground running and hopefully the Bale saga will be sorted quickly so that Zidane can decide on a settled team. Hazard will be pivotal to his plans and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he could take this league by storm. It is the other ten players that may not yet be up to the job. I have loved the Diego Simeone style that Atletico have so successfully adapted the last few years, but this squad looks in transition, although writing off one of his sides is never a good idea. A lot of pressure could be put on the young shoulders of Joao Felix who signed from Benfica for over £120 million.
Assuming that we are correct with the top three, then we need to look at who are the most likely teams to finish in 4th, 5th and 6th. The obvious place to start is Valencia, as they finished 4th last season. They have lost goalscorer Zaza who has gone back to Italy and they have “swapped” goalkeepers with Barca, Cillessen coming in for Neto. They have replaced Zaza with the Uruguayan Maxi Gomez from Celta and his goals along with Gameiro and Rodrigo will decide how well Valencia do. The Champions League may also affect them, and they will do well to match last seasons 4th place. Sevilla have had a huge reshuffle with over £120 million spent in recruiting eleven players. If new manager Lopetegui can get them “gelled” as a team quickly, they could have a really good season. If he can’t then they could be playing catch up and that puts them under pressure. Keep an eye on their first few games. Local rivals Betis have made one of the best signings of the summer in French midfielder Nabil Fekir, also a target for Liverpool, and new coach Rubi will need to find a system that compliments his attacking style. If he can do, then they can go well, and a top six finish is on. Athletic Bilbao are interesting, but a lot depends on them unearthing a goalscorer, perhaps 21-year old Asier Villalibre can step up from the “B” side where he scored 23 goals last season. Villarreal should be better than last season although they will need to replace the promising Pablo Fornals, but they have a habit of unearthing some decent youngsters and they have a nice mixture of youth and experience in their squad. Of the others, there may not be a lot between Eibar, Alaves, Sociedad and last season’s over achievers Getafe, who may struggle as they are also competing in the Europa League. The one side who I expect to continue their improvement is Espanyol who finished a creditable 7th last season, and if they can add goals, they could challenge for fourth place, although the loss of Mario Hermoso to Atletico may affect their defence. They finished last season strongly and need to build on that.
The relegation battle will include all three promoted teams and their aim has to be to secure top-flight football again, for next season. Of the three, Granada may be the best equipped with a more solid defence than the other two, but Osasuna were the top scorers last season and won their last seventeen games at home. If they can make the Estadio El Sadar a fortress, they may take enough points to stay up. Mallorca are likely to struggle and for them, home form will also be vital. They were unbeaten in their last fourteen home games, but this is a different level and they start with two home games, that will set the tone. Granada were really solid away from home last season losing just five and conceding sixteen. If they can pick up home points and a few draws away from home, they should be fine. Of those who struggled in La Liga last season, Celta and Villarreal surely cannot be as bad again and it is more probable that Valladolid, Levante, and Leganes are the ones battling against the drop. With Valladolid not picking up enough points at home last season, winning only five times, they look the best trading option to go down, but the bookies are aware of their frailties and it is priced accordingly at 2.50.
There will be a number of signings and departures before the season starts and that may make a difference. Barcelona are the correct favourites but whether 1.67 is value is open to question but if you count out Atletico, who are sure to need time to let the new players settle in, then the only possible rivals to Barca are Real and they don’t appeal at 2.40. Those two sides make the book at around 109% so any other result should be a result, but it is hard to find any angle. We do not have to get involved in this market and if you really want a season long interest, a small stake on Sevilla w/o Barca and Real at 15.00 if you can get on, in the hope that Atletico have a transition season. Hopefully we could cover this later in the season if things go well.
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