The bookmakers have the title as a two-horse race and many will be swayed to either Barcelona or Real Madrid when making their bets, but I think that the third best team in Spain, Atletico Madrid, have a real chance of bustling up the big two and may have been underestimated a little, particularly the 16/1 that had been available with William Hill when this article was composed. The price has been trimmed in to 12/1 which is clearly not the same value but worth a small investment. In keeping last season’s squad together, Simeone has clearly convinced the likes of Griezmann that they can challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid. Last season they were thirteen points behind Barcelona but got off to a shocking start with too many draws, five in their first ten games. They were ahead of Real Madrid by three points and it is difficult to believe that with all the changes at the Bernabeu, that Real will prove strong enough challengers for the title. If Barcelona are to be challenged I’m convinced that Atletico will be their main rivals this season. Behind the front three, Sevilla were too hit and miss last season to be seriously considered and it looks like Valencia will once again fill the fourth spot.
Of the others, Villarreal and Real Betis could get caught up in their European campaigns but both are strong at home and Real Sociedad could also go well especially if they can shore up last seasons leaky defence.
The main battle in La Liga this season will be for relegation and a few teams, possibly as many as eleven, fall into this category. Obviously the three promoted teams will be fancied to go straight back down, they are favourites to do so, but I’m pretty convinced that a couple of them could hold their own and that two of last seasons Primera teams may struggle.
The promoted teams are Huesca, Valladolid, and Rayo Vallecano and the last two named have previous experience at this level and will put that experience to good use. Home form will be the key but there are teams in La Liga who are no better than the two of them. Huesca will struggle as I cannot see them scoring enough goals despite looking solid at the back, as the top teams will expose them. The main two teams I am looking at for relegation are Levante and Leganes. The former have not convinced me either last season or in pre-season. They drew too many games and had a negative aspect about them and in my opinion picked up some “cheap points” at the back end of the season against teams that hadn’t much left to play for. They have a fairly comfortable start to the season but if they fail to pick up points in those games, they could be facing a long hard season. Leganes problem last season was a lack of goals and that is difficult to address for the smaller clubs like them with limited resources. Their first six games include the short trip to Real Madrid and a visit from champions Barcelona, so they don’t have the easiest of starts and that could set the tone for the rest of the campaign.
Eibar hit a purple patch last season with six wins from seven games around the end of November and they will need to be more consistent to stop themselves being dragged into a relegation fight and Alaves will need to continue their strong home form against teams that are around them in the table. Getafe could be a factor if we consider that they won five of their last six away last season (when the season was over) and without those wins they would have finished just above the bottom three. It could be argued that they had the ability to win those games when needed but the teams they played had little to play for and this season they play Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Villarreal in their last six games so need to be well clear before then. At around 5/1 they might be worth a speculative small bet, but I prefer to take the 5/2 available on both Leganes and Levante. One relegated makes us a profit and if we get both then it would be a good season. There may also be opportunities to trade as the season goes on.