The 2016/17 Spanish La Liga begins. After beating Sevilla 2-0 in last weekend’s Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona will look to carry that momentum into the new season. The Catalans, who are targeting a third straight league title, will play host to Gustavo Poyet’s Real Betis on Saturday. Jorge Sampaoli’s new-look Sevilla, who won 14 from 19 home games last season, will welcome Espanyol to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
On Sunday, Atletico Madrid will welcome newly-promoted Deportivo Alaves to the Vicente Calderon. After finishing just three points behind Barcelona last season, Diego Simeone has signed a host of talent in an attempt to emulate their 2013/14 title success. Zinedine Zidane heads into his first full season as Real Madrid boss after guiding Los Blancos to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup success, and losing La Liga by mere point last season. Real Madrid will be hoping to hit the ground running when they travel to Eusebio’s reborn Real Sociedad on Sunday. There are other exciting matchups to look forward to and of course lots of money to be made. Let’s get straight to it.
Friday 19 August
Malaga 13/20 | Draw 26/10 | Osasuna 9/2
Last season it took Malaga seven weeks to get their first win in La Liga, but with Juande Ramos at the helm, they’ll be looking to hit the ground running. Ramos won a host of trophies during his time at Sevilla and will be hoping to emulate that with Malaga. They finished 8th last season thanks to a solid second half of the campaign, but this season they can fight for the Champions League places. With a very solid squad, good signings and manager that knows what he wants to do, Malaga could be up there with the best and pose problems to all sides in La Liga. They’re up against newly-promoted Osasuna on Friday, one of the favourites to go down this season. Los Rojillos are winless in their last five friendlies, losing four times. The home win is a top bet.
Deportivo 21/20 | Draw 22/10 | Eibar 28/10
Deportivo will be hoping to improve on last season’s 15th place finish and with six wins from their eight friendlies, there is a great sense of optimism. The club have appointed former Eibar boss Gaizka Garitano to bring new found success to the historic club. Last season, Depor were a side which amassed a large amount of draws (18) and Garitano’s target will be to turn those draws into wins. The loan arrivals of Carles Gil (from Aston Villa) and Marlos Moreno (Manchester City) will bring creativity to the side. Eibar improved on their 2014/15 season by finishing 14th last campaign, finishing a place above Deportivo. Mendilibar will be hoping to build on that season, but could find it very difficult after last season’s 18-goal star Borja Baston – who was on loan from Atletico Madrid – completed a move to Swansea. Depor are unbeaten in their last five meetings against Eibar, winning three times. Back the home win.
Saturday 20 August
Barcelona 1/12 | Draw 9/1 | Real Betis 25/1
Barcelona will be confident of a strong start to new season as they boast an excellent record against Real Betis. The reigning champions haven’t lost a league match to Betis since 2008. In their previous 10 meetings, the Catalans have won eight times; including six on the spin and Betis’ last victory at the Camp Nou came in 1998. Luis Enrique’s side come into the match high on confidence after beating Sevilla 2-0 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Enrique has made good signings this transfer window – Lucas Digne, to challenge Jordi Alba for a left-back spot, Samuel Umiti to provide cover for the aging defensive duo of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano, Denis Suarez to give some much-needed back-up to MSN and their most expensive signing, Andre Gomes. Barcelona won 4-0 at the Camp Nou last season and are tipped to Win By Three Or More Goals at 13/20.
Granada 33/20 | Draw 21/10 | Villarreal 18/10
Granada's ambitious new Chinese owners appointed former Rayo Vallecano coach Paco Jemez to improve last season’s 16th place finish. After the departures of key players Adalberto Penaranda, Isaac Success, Youssef El-Arabi and Ruben Rochina, Jemez has made five loan signings. Jeremie Boga, Victorien Angban, Jon Toral, Gabriel Silva and Guillermo Ochoa have joined on loan and Tito has followed his former coach from Rayo permanently. Los Nazaries will face a tough test against Villarreal, who have beaten them in the last three meetings. The Yellow Submarine will be looking to build on last season’s fourth place and Fran Escriba has brought in some top talent. Villarreal have signed Roberto Soriano, Alfred N'Diaye, Denis Cheryshev and Alexandre Pato, along with securing loan deals for Jose Angel and Andres Fernandez. Their squad is a lot stronger than Granada’s and are well worth a punt at 18/10.
Sevilla 6/10 | Draw 3/1 | Espanyol 9/2
Sampaoli’s new-look Sevilla will be hoping to start La Liga off with a bang after losing the UEFA Super Cup to Real Madrid and losing the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup to Barcelona. They host Espanyol on Saturday, a side that beat them 1-0 in Catalonia – their last meeting. Los Rojiblancos will be happy to be playing at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan where they were so dominant last season, winning 14 from 19 games played. Sevilla are unbeaten in their last eight home games against Espanyol with seven wins, scoring 21 goals, while conceding four times. Although that record doesn’t bode well for Espanyol’s chances, they will provide a tough test for Sampaoli’s side. Quique Sanchez Flores has been appointed coach and he’s side look ready for battle. Periquitos went unbeaten in pre-season, winning three of their six friendlies and held Southampton and Juventus to draws. Sevilla’s new players still need time to gel together and I think Espanyol can earn a point here.
Sunday 21 August
Sporting Gijon 28/10 | Draw 47/20 | Athletic Bilbao 1/1
Last season’s La Liga survivors Sporting Gijon will play host to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. Abelardo Fernandez’s side have looked poor during the pre-season friendlies. They’ve lost five first-team players, while the signings they’ve made seem quite average. It looks like another fight for survival for Gijon, so a strong start could help the journey very much. Ernesto Valverde guided Athletic Bilbao to fifth position last season, securing Europa League qualification. Athletic’s aim will again be to qualify for Europa this season, and if possible a consistent run in the Copa del Rey, a competition they have been runners-up in twice in the last five seasons. The Basque side will also be hoping for a strong start to the new campaign after winning just one of their opening six league games last season. Pre-season has been somewhat uninspiring for Valverde’s side, with draws against Huesca, Bordeaux, Nantes and this weekend’s opponents, Sporting Gijon. The Lions have been quiet in the transfer market with no major incomings or outgoings in the squad. Athletic will rely on key men such as Aritz Aduriz and Raul Garcia for goals this season. The away win is tipped at even money.
Real Sociedad 34/10 | Draw 28/10 | Real Madrid 15/20
Real Sociedad, who finished ninth in La Liga last season, will face a stern test against last season’s runners-up Real Madrid. Eusebio Sacristan’s side have won just once in their last 19 meetings with Los Blancos, losing 15 times including three on the trot. After losing La Liga to arch-rivals Barcelona by a mere point last season, Zinedine Zidane will be hoping to lead Real Madrid to league honours in his first full campaign. The Frenchman will do his very best to maintain his record of just two losses in half a season as Real manager. Zidane has guided the club through a largely successful pre-season campaign, barring the blemish of a 3-1 loss at the hands of Paris St. Germain. Los Blancos have a ludicrously talented squad, including their lethal BBC trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. They’ll also benefit from the added depth provided by returning academy graduate Alvaro Morata, who the club brought back to the Bernabeu from Juventus via a buyback clause. Real Madrid will be looking to hit the ground running and should make easy pickings of their opponents.
Atletico Madrid 2/9 | Draw 47/10 | Alaves 13/1
Atletico Madrid will get their 2016/17 campaign under way on Sunday, when they entertain newly-promoted Alaves at the Vicente Calderon. The new campaign will be Diego Simeone’s fifth full one in charge of a club that have cemented itself firmly among Spanish football’s top three. Atleti conceded a record low of just 18 goals in their 38 league matches last season as they pressed Barcelona and Real Madrid all the way, eventually finishing just two points behind their city rivals and three adrift of the champions from Catalonia. Atleti failed in their attempts to bring Diego Costa back to the club, but they have strengthened their attacking options with the acquisition of striker Kevin Gameiro from Sevilla and Argentine winger Nicolas Gaitan, who has arrived from Benfica. Antoinne Griezman was the star performer last season, scoring 22 goals in La Liga. Last season’s Segunda winners, Alaves, may have won 21 matches, but 15 of those victories were by a one goal margin, which tells you a little about how narrow the margin was between their success and potential failure. Atletico will prove too strong for their opponents but are too short at 2/9. Back them to Win By Three Or More Goals at 19/10.
Monday 22 August
Celta Vigo 6/10 | Draw 29/10 | Leganes 47/10
Last season’s sixth placed Celta Vigo will welcome newly-promoted Leganes to the Balaidos on Monday night. Eduardo Berizzo impressed with his Celta side last campaign, and will look to continue to progress. They won nine of their 19 matches at home, drawing six times with four defeats. Celta were inconsistent in pre-season, but will be confident of a strong start against Leganes. The Segunda runners-up, won eight from their 21 games on the road, drawing seven times with six losses. Getting ready for La Liga, the club has secured the services of former Valencia head coach Mauricio Pellegrino and added Colombian midfielder Daniel Torres from Independiente Medellin. Leganes have also strengthened their backline with the signing of Algeria’s experienced captain Carl Medjani. The 31-year-old made 14 appearances during a short stint with Levante, who were relegated from the Spanish top-flight last season. It will be interesting to see how they fare in La Liga, but Celta Vigo should prove too strong here.
Valencia 7/10 | Draw 26/10 | Las Palmas 39/10
Valencia will be hoping to banish the memory of last season, but they could be set for more disappointment. Los Che, who finished 11th in La Liga last season, have lost most of their best players. Andre Gomes has left to join Barcelona, Sofiane Feghouli to West Ham, while Pablo Piatti, Alvaro Negredo and Denis Cheryshev have gone out on loan. To make things worse, Skhodran Mustafi is close to joining Arsenal and Paco Alcacer is been linked with a move to Barcelona. Pako Ayestaran’s side come into the season with back-to-back friendly wins, including a 2-1 win over Fiorentina. Las Palmas finished 11th on the log last season and Quique Setien will be hoping to build on that success. They look very well prepared with five wins from their seven pre-season friendlies. Setien has brought in Ghanaian international Kevin-Prince Boateng on a one-year deal. Las Palmas are tipped to earn a draw at 26/10.
Written by Chadley Nagel @Hollywoodbets