Hola! Another quick and dirty guide to a European league.
Title: Barcelona cantered home by 14 points last season and whilst such a big winning margin again might not be so likely, they are by far the most likely of the three realistic contenders to show their best over a 38-game season and they can retain their title. The departure of Andres Iniesta is not going to be as deeply felt for them now Ousmane Dembele is fit and Philippe Coutinho has settled in, and Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez should be able to put away teams on the majority of the 38 game weekends.
Ernesto Valverde is the perfect manager for a league season and Barcelona have brought well over the summer, with Malcom and Arthur joined by Clement Lenglet, whilst Arturo Vidal adds real ballast to the midfield.
Atletico Madrid were 14 points behind but are worth saving on. Diego Simeone’s men have been overelaint on Antoine Grizemann for not only goals but also creativity, so a great summer window with Rodri Thomas Lemar and Gelson Martins arriving is a big statement of intent. Diego Costa feels like he’s never left after his double against Real in the Super Cup and with a side that has not only a rock-solid defence but a quality core of young players, they are worth having as a saver.
Real Madrid have won only one title in the last right seasons, and whilst there might be more of a league-based focus with Julien Lopetgui having replaced Zinedine Zidane. Zidane had finally mastered the club’s dressing room and hierarchy over the past few years and the change from Lopetgui will be pronounced, especially with the leadership.
Also, whilst Christiano Ronaldo had achieved everything possible with Real, his presence will be a keenly felt loss even if Gareth Bale ought to relish stepping up into the void left by him. There’s also the question of priorities – Madrid have mastered the format of Europe and the cup with big ears is so very often the number 1 priority for Los Blancos.
Advice: 3 pts Barcelona (4/5 general), 1 pt Atletico Madrid (15/2 general)
Top 4: Only one slot realistically up for grabs and if Valencia handle the rigours of European football then they ought to be too good for the rest of the divisions. They are a short price to do so however and Real Betis were level on points with Valencia for the second half of the season – making 10/1 look big. They would be an even better bet, however, for the Top 6 if the market shows itself.
Advice: 2 pts Real Betis to finish in the Top 6
Top Goalscorer: Lionel Messi is long odds on for a sixth top goalscorer title and He has never scored fewer than 26 league goals over the last nine seasons. However, in a win only market there could be some interesting pokes. Luis Suarez scored 25 goals last season so might tempt some, although the loss of Christiano Ronaldo means goals are going a plenty at Real Madrid and Gareth Bale is of interest. The Welshman will finally get the gametime he’s been angling so hard for if he stays fit and he scored 17 goals last year in a season truncated by injury and a lack of appearances.
Diego Costa played only 15 games last season for Atletico but he’s not playing for a side that’s got three quality wingers behind Antoine Griezemann and in his last full season he scored 20 goals for Chelsea. 25/1 is tempting enough for a small poke.
Advice: 1 pt Gareth Bale (8/1 general), 1 pt Diego Costa (25/1 Betfred)
Relegation: Real Valladolid are back after a four-year absence but the sale of Jaime Mata, who scored nearly half of Los Pucelanos’ goals in segunda last term (35 of 78), is a serious blow and there hasn’t really been a replacement. Betfred’s 13/8 makes more appeal than the long odds on for Huesca, who have performed miracles to reach this stage with their 7,500 ground. A number of teams finished very weakly, including Leganes. They present former Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino with a huge challenge after making 15 new signings and they could be strugglers.
Advice: 2 pts Real Valladoid (13/8 Betfred)