LA LIGA resumes shortly with Barcelona in apparent crisis and Real Madrid enjoying a rare title triumph. Alex Jones (@AlexJ0nes9) has analysed the ante-post markets, sharing his best bets ahead of the 2020/21 big kick-off.
WLB Season Preview 2020/21 | La Liga
After less than two months since the 2019/20 La Liga season came to a close, the 90th La Liga season will commence on Saturday.
The bookies have Real Madrid as 4/6 (BetVictor) favourites, which is hard to argue with, especially with the current turbulence surrounding Lionel Messi’s future at crisis club Barcelona (15/8 Betway).
The Catalans’ preparation to regain the Spanish title took a torrid turn after their 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, with uncertainty with the club’s directors and board that could easily hinder their chances of a fast start.
Who is best equipped to challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona?
Sevilla were the side who dominated the headlines in the latter stages of the 2019/20 campaign, defeating Inter Milan to win their sixth Europa League – the most of any team. The side from southern Spain last lost a match on 9th February, with Julen Lopetegui’s charges finishing the domestic season strongly.
Los Nervionenses finished level on points with Atletico Madrid in fourth, four goals worse off than Atleti. This makes the 3/1 (Betfair) on Sevilla to win La Liga without Real Madrid and Barcelona in the frame a nice price.
The Andalusians’ confidence is at an all-time high, and as they look like they are keeping star man Lucas Ocampos, the Argentine could help guide them to a high-placed finish.Sevilla have experience across the park, with the likes of club stalwart Jesus Navas helping youngsters such as Jules Kounde develop into a great centre-half.
I fancy Lopetegui’s troops to get even better over the next year and challenge towards the top end of the table, meaning the 3/1 on them here appeals, especially so following the eye-catching return of former star Ivan Rakitic.
Sevilla will face competition for at least a Champions League qualification berth with Atletico and perhaps Villareal. Atleti were the kings of the draw last season, playing out more stalemates than anyone in the division with 16 (42%). Expected Goals (xG) had the capital club underachieving and Villareal were another who fell short of data expectations.
The Yellow Submarine finished 10 points adrift of the top-four, despite finishing third on the xG table. The bookies have them at 3/1 to improve next season and regain a place in the Champions League, and that is tempting considering the arrival of Dani Parejo and Takefusa Kubo to bolster their options under new manager Unai Emery.
Villarreal have finished fifth three times out of the last four seasons yet there is plenty of room for optimism. The Yellows traditionally play attractive football, score plenty, and if Gerard Moreno continues his fine form then it could be a season to remember at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
If the Submarine were to find the right balance under Emery, the 3/1 on them to finish in the top-four could be worth adding to ante-post portfolios.
Alaves expected to struggle
The bookies have the three promoted sides, Huesca, Cadiz and Elche, as the relegation favourites. Elche, who defeated Girona in the play-off final just over a week ago, only have less than three weeks to prepare for their first La Liga campaign since 2014/15, following a breach of financial fair play.
Elche are of course expected to drop straight back down, with limited resources and an ageing squad. However, it is important to note that they did not concede a goal in their four play-off matches, and their organisation, spirit and passion may give them an extra edge over their rivals.
One side who failed to find any sort of rhythm when La Liga resumed in June was Alaves. The team from Vitoria, the Basque country’s capital, lost eight of their 11 games after the restart, narrowly avoiding the drop thanks to their form before Christmas.
As well as conceding 22 goals in that period, Alaves only notched five themselves, with West Brom loanee Oliver Burke failing to adapt to the centre-forward role.
With both the lowest possession (43.2%) and the lowest shots per-game (8.2) in the 2019/20 campaign, Alaves really failed to shine on the data. As a result, they decided not to offer short-term coach Juan Muniz a new contract and appointed former Sevilla and Espanyol manager Pablo Machin.
Machin was sacked by Sevilla in 2018 following a shock Europa League exit. He then only lasted a few months at Espanyol, with the side in bottom place, winning only 26% of his games. This could be his last chance at a job in Spain’s top division and he will need to get his players scoring and creating much more fluently, after sitting third bottom of the xG table last term.
I do think Alaves could struggle again. BetVictor seem to be the only bookmakers offering prices on La Liga relegation, but it is fair to say the Vitoria-based outfit at 5/1 looks generous. BetVictor have seven other teams more likely to be relegated and that seems a little strange, all things considered.
The upcoming La Liga season should be a great watch, with both the stories coming from Barcelona over the next few weeks and the fairytale narrative of Cadiz’s first La Liga season in 14 years unfolding.