If oddsmakers are to be trusted, the ’20-21 season in Spain is going to look a lot like the one that ended in July.
2020-21 La Liga title odds
The ’19-20 campaign finished with Real Madrid in first place with 87 points, followed by Barcelona (82), Atlético Madrid (70) and Sevilla (70).
For the upcoming season, Los Blancos are substantial favorites to defend their crown (-134). Barcelona (+150) is considered the only club with a shot at upending Zinedine Zidane’s club.
Both Atleti (+1100) and Sevilla (+2500) are viewed as massive underdogs, and fifth-favorite Villarreal is +15000 (!!) For comparison’s sake, the fifth-favorite in the EPL is Arsenal at just +3300.
Interestingly, FiveThirtyEight strongly disagrees on the favorite, as they give Barcelona a 45% chance to win the league*, followed by Real Madrid (29%), Atleti (13%) and Sevilla (4%).
*I guess organizational stability is not the metric at the top of their list.
La Liga Champions League qualification odds
It’s hard to imagine Real Madrid finishing outside the top 4, but -10000 seems like a lot.
Barcelona (-3335) apparently doesn’t have to worry about its place in Europe, either.
Atleti is -590 to earn another UCL spot and Sevilla is -139. Hopefully this is a much more compelling race than oddsmakers expect. The two teams with a decent shot – no one else is better than +900 – to unseat one of the “big four” are Villarreal (+400) and Real Sociedad (+650).
Villarreal seems like a decent move if you’re dying to attach yourself to an underdog, but as much as I hate to say it, I agree with Vegas that there’s a drop-off after Sevilla. That is, however, more of an endorsement of a Sevilla team I like to challenge for third place in the league, if not second, than an indictment of the clubs expected to finish behind Julen Lopetegui’s club.
As for FiveThirtyEight, the analytics site sees a more competitive race for the top four, as it gives Barcelona an 89% chance, with Real Madrid (81%), Atleti (63%) and Sevilla (34%) as the teams most likely to join Barcelona. It’s also worth mentioning that FiveThirtyEight is currently giving Villarreal and Real Sociedad (both 22%), as well as Granada (13%), Getafe (12%) and Real Betis (12%) decent chances at top-four finishes.
The case for Real Madrid to win another title
On the surface, Zidane and Co. neither added nor lost anyone of significance from last season’s championship-winning roster.
The “addition” of loanee Martin Odegaard from Real Sociedad, though, should make this team that much deeper in the midfield and more dangerous offensively. 70 goals in 38 games was enough to win the league a year ago, but RM are going to need more offensive contributions outside of Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos to defend that title.
Between Odegaard, a “healthy” Eden Hazard in his second season with the club – which maybe we shoudn’t be counting on – and continued growth from Vinicius and Rodrygo, RM should have help for Benzema up top.
And we haven’t even mentioned Isco (15 starts in ’19-20) and Marco Asensio (3 starts in ’19-20), who should produce a lot more than the four goals and three assists (total!) they contributed last season.
Is Valencia a “dark horse” relegation candidate?
Bear with me here. I might just be offering this take because I’m disappointed in myself for agreeing with the oddsmakers on everything above.
Oddsmakers peg promoted sides Elche (-118), Cadiz (+150) and Huesca (+150) as the clubs most in danger of relegation. But I’d be sweating relegation if I were a Valencia supporter.
Last year’s team may have finished ninth, but it barely scored more than Getafe while playing below-average defense. Then they lost Rodrigo Moreno, Ferran Torres, Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo this offseason.
It’s also unclear whether they can afford to pay their players. Seriously, check out this report from August. Yikes. Barcelona (rightfully) gets all the headlines for their dysfunction, but Valencia’s somehow in a much worse spot organizationally.
Oddsmakers don’t view Valencia (+650 to be relegated) as a team that’s likely to drop to the Segunda. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they’re in that mix late in the season. It’s also hard to imagine new coach Javi Gracia making it the whole year. For the record, I’m not hoping the man loses his job! However, if Owner Peter Lim could sack Marcelino last fall (with the team en route to winning its Champions League group!), then Gracia’s job security is certainly questionable.
WHERE TO BET THE 2020-21 LA LIGA IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.