Once again in Spain, the title appears to be a two horse race between Real Madrid and Barcelona with most bookmakers unable to split them. A lot will depend on who signs who in the next month and who manages to keep their best players. Real have a strong squad whilst Barcelona must replace ageing players and the rest of the teams must pray for a miracle! It is very difficult for me to come up with anything really inspiring here so all I can do is give you some brief thoughts on the top teams and hopefully update you in four to six weeks as we see the final signings and the way teams will set up. Obviously taking the top two out of the equation then signings or players leaving can be crucial to that team’s chances so for example should Valencia add another couple of experienced players, then their chances of a top four finish would greatly improve.
10/11 REAL MADRID undoubtedly have the strongest squad and have added Dani Ceballos from Betis and Theo from Atletico, who had been on loan at Alaves last season. They have loaned James to Bayern and sold Alvaro Morata to Chelsea and Danilo to Manchester city but still look very strong. Rumours of Bale to Manchester Utd seem wide of the mark and expect Zidane to add maybe one or two players before the window closes. They score too many goals to lose many games and that will again be their strength.
10/11 BARCELONA are the only conceivable dangers and a lot will depend on what happens to Neymar. Nobody can doubt the brilliance of the team going forward with Messi, Suarez and Neymar if he stays but there appears to be a problem between the Brazilian and some of his team mates and he looks likely to leave for PSG paving the way for Coutinho to arrive from Liverpool. They have made a decent signing in Nelson Semedo from Benfica but I feel we need to see a couple of landmark signings before the season starts if they are to challenge. New coach Ernesto Valverde will have to get the formation and tactics right straight away or they could end up dropping vital points.
50/1 ATLETICO MADRID have tried and succeeded in recent seasons winning the title four years ago, but despite the presence of Griezmann, Godin, Saul Niguez and Koke, they will once again need a monumental effort to succeed. They will as always be tough to beat at home provided the new stadium doesn’t affect them and that has happened to good teams before. Expect them to keep tabs on the main two but just miss out in the last few weeks.
250/1 SEVILLA played some great football last season and looked like challenging the top two until the players realised what they were achieving and then the pressure got too much. This season will probably be about the Champions League again where they went well last year. They have been busy in the transfer market, Vitolo to Atletico but they have recruited well with Nolito from Manchester City, Muriel from Sampdoria and Corchia from Lille as well as Pizarro from Mexico and the return of Banega from Inter. I can see them challenging Atletico for the third place but no better than that.
500/1 ATHLETIC BILBAO not much to say about their squad, as of yet, nothing much has been happening. They will as usual bring in some Basque youngsters and new coach Ziganda will aim to continue their home form where they have always been tough to beat. If they can do that then they will again be challenging for a Europa League position.
500/1 VALENCIA have added a couple of decent signings and must play better than last season, they could be the dark horses this time around. Orellana from Celta Vigo is a player who can make things happen and Zaza will need to up his goal scoring if they are to aim at the top four but I can see them causing a few surprise results against the top boys.
500/1 VILLARREAL the sale of centre back Musacchio to Milan has afforded coach Escriba the luxury of bringing in a couple of top class signings as the club look to build on last year’s fifth placing and also go well in the Europa League. Defender Ruben Semedo will replace Musacchio and they have also added Turkish striker Unal and Pablo Fornals a creative midfielder from Malaga. Top six challengers again.
500/1 REAL SOCIEDAD did well to finish sixth last year but will be pushing it to finish that well this season. Januzaj is in from Manchester Utd and Diego Llorente from Real Madrid but they will need to have an immediate effect and if they lose Carlos Vela as the rumours suggest then they could struggle for goals.
Of the rest………………………..
Clearly none of them can finish top four and I don’t really see any of these teams causing a lot of problems. The three new teams aims will be all about consolidation, Getafe and Levante have been here in recent seasons and should be fine but Girona may struggle, at present they have a small squad and it will be a tough season. Eibar and Alaves over achieved last season but should have enough along with Celta, Real Betis, Espanyol and Malaga. Las Palmas will rely on home form and that leaves Deportivo and Leganes, both of whom may again struggle and along with Girona are my three for relegation. If I was forced to have a bet at this time, the 6/4 with Betfred about Leganes being relegated appears to be a touch too big. Their first five games are all against sides that they will be looking to take points off, Alaves, Getafe and Girona at home and Espanyol and Eibar away. If they don’t get at least seven points from those, it could be a long hard season and that 6/4 will be long gone. I will be attending some matches this season so hopefully that will help with our trading and betting