The 2021/22 La Liga season is well and truly underway and with the campaign now three games old, it looks set to be just as close as it was last time around.
There’s already six teams level on seven points at the top of the table in Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Mallorca. Three of those teams in Real, Barcelona and Atletico, are the bookies’ favourites to win La Liga this season.
They are the three perennial title contenders in Spain with the league title being won by one of the trio in each of the last 17 seasons. Valencia were the last team outside of the exclusive club to win the title when they did so in the 2003/04 season.
An incredible summer transfer window has affected all three of the giants of Spanish football and not necessarily for the better. It leaves the title race wide open and a hugely intriguing season for the neutral.
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Below, we will be assessing the three major team’s chances of winning La Liga this season and the odds of each team to win.
Real Madrid – 11/10
Despite winning just one La Liga title in the last four seasons, Real Madrid are the heavy favourites to finish top of the tree at 11/10. They finished just two points off title winners Atletico Madrid in the table last season and have overseen a managerial change in the summer with Carlo Ancelotti replacing Zinedine Zidane.
Ancelotti was unable to win the La Liga title in his first spell as Madrid boss but was hugely popular after winning the Champions League and the long awaited La Decima in the process.
Still, his team are the odds-on favourites despite a summer that also saw them lose their long-standing defensive stalwarts in Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. David Alaba has arrived to help fill the gap left by the pair, while the hugely promising Eduardo Camavinga arrived from Rennes on deadline day.
Had they been successful in their late bid to sign Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe – who now looks likely to join the club on a free at the end of the season – then they would perhaps be at an even shorter price.
Losing club captain Ramos is certainly a big blow both on the pitch and off it, but there is still plenty of quality retained in the squad. Striker Karim Benzema has found his best form since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and scored 30 goals in all competitions last season, while the formidable midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric still have plenty to offer.
The joker in the pack is Eden Hazard, who hasn’t come close to his potential in his two seasons at Madrid thus far.
Atletico Madrid – 5/2
Last season’s champions Atletico Madrid are currently second in the betting ranks at 5/2 and that represents good value for Diego Simeone’s team. Their victory last term was the second time that Simeone has won the La Liga title in his career, with it ending a seven-year wait since their last one in 2013/14.
They had finished second in two of the three seasons prior but finally got over the line with a two-point advantage over city rivals Real, with the signing of Luis Suarez playing a huge part in their success. Arriving on a free transfer from Barcelona, he made his former club pay for giving up on him so soon by scoring 21 league goals en route to winning the title.
They have strengthened again this summer with a number of notable signings in Rodrigo De Paul, Matheus Cunha and the shocking return of Antoine Griezmann on a season-long loan from Barcelona. All three players will add real value to their squad and the signing of De Paul will help to cover for the loss of Saul Niguez, who has joined Chelsea on loan.
You can always be sure that Atletico will play with plenty of grit and ruggedness, taking on the characteristics of their relentless manager. Unlike some of their contenders, Atletico arguably look stronger this season and have a great chance of retaining their title.
Barcelona – 11/4
Having missed out on the La Liga title in each of the last two seasons, it’s no surprise that Barcelona are the third out of the three contenders. It’s even less surprising when you consider the tumultuous summer that has taken place at the Nou Camp, with the small matter of Lionel Messi’s departure from the club.
Messi left on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain due to the club’s financial situation and the void left by the Argentine is one that will never be filled. It really leaves Barcelona coming into the season on a real low and there are still plenty of doubts surrounding manager Ronald Koeman, who is still to win over the main bulk of the Barcelona fanbase.
In addition to Messi, Barcelona have also allowed Griezmann, Miralem Pjanic, Francisco Trincao, Junior Firpo and Emerson Royal to leave the club. They haven’t spent a penny on transfer fees in bringing in Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Luuk De Jong, none of which on paper appear to move the needle in their direction significantly.
Barca finished seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid last term despite scoring a league-high 85 goals. They have lost 43 of those goals in Messi and Griezmann and there is huge pressure on some of their youngsters to produce. The likes of Pedri and Ansu Fati are expected to play a significant role for the club this season and are the club’s main hopes for the future.