Our writer previews the Spanish giants of La Liga and who will prevail as champions of the 2016/17 season.
The 2016/17 Spanish La Liga gets underway on Friday and I have predicted who will reign supreme come the end of the season. Of course, a winner can only be found from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid with the meetings between the trio proving vital in determining the title’s destination. It promises to be a thrilling three-way title race that should go down to the wire. But who will come out on top?
Reigning champions Barcelona are favourites to defend their crown at 7/10. With four trophies, a 39-match unbeaten run, 141 goals in all competitions between their ‘MSN’ attack as well as a nine-point La Liga lead by March, Barcelona enjoyed the perfect season – that is, if you excuse their spring slump, when they lost three games on the bounce and nearly lost it all, winning the League by just a point or their Champions League exit at the quarter-final stage. Luis Enrique has improved the squad depth to ensure his side don’t run out of steam this season. The Catalans have parted ways with Dani Alves but Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne have come in to strengthen the defence. Andre Gomes has been added to central midfield and Denis Suarez has been added to the attacking options. Barca will be looking to secure their third straight La Liga title but they’ll be pushed hard by Real Madrid and Atletico.
Real Madrid (15/10)
Real Madrid are in search of a first La Liga title since 2012 but with Zinedine Zidane in charge of his first full season, Los Blancos will be beaming with optimism. The Frenchman replaced Rafa Benitez in January, winning 21 of his 27 matches, securing the UEFA Champions League in the process – their second in the last three tournaments. Zidane has a wealth of talent at his disposal, including the glamorous attacking trident of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, who combined for 98 goals in 115 matches. Los Blancos will fancy their chances of lifting the league and are priced up at 15/10.
Atletico Madrid 10/1
Atletico Madrid have gone from strength to strength, and two Champions League finals in three years are a testament to their progress. Diego Simeone will roll out a team based on the now-familiar template in the coming season but with the addition of more firepower. Los Colchoneros have been the big spenders in La Liga, with President Enrique Cerezo happy to back Simeone to assemble a squad capable of challenging again at home and in Europe. Atleti have brought in a host of talent, including Kevin Gameiro and Nico Gaitan while last season’s top scorer Antoine Griezmann has signed a new contract. Atleti will be hoping to emulate their 2013/14 exploits and that seems very possible this season.
Verdict: Atletico Madrid (10/1)
I really believe this will be Atletico Madrid’s season in La Liga and possibly Europe too. They came agonisingly close to winning the UEFA Champions League – losing to Real Madrid on penalties – and finished just three points behind league champions Barcelona. After coming so close, Los Colchoneros will be hungry for success this season. Another thrilling race for La Liga is expected with Atletico Madrid to come out on top at 10/1.
Written by Chadley Nagel @Hollywoodbets