Spanish football seems to be picking up an increasing share of fans in the UK, thanks to both its high concentration of the world’s top talents and its prominence on UK television networks. It can make a sophisticated, refreshing change to the helter skelter, fast and furious style of England’s Premier League which fans are most familiar with.
So as we look ahead to a new year in Spanish football and enter the second half of the season, it seems an apt point in time for us to stick our necks out, and make a few predictions:
1. Real Madrid Will Win The League
Without a title in four seasons, it is almost unthinkable that Spain’s most decorated club could go a fifth. At the time of writing Real (1/3) are four points ahead with a game in hand, and while they are the current Champions League holders, it seems likely that coach Zinedine Zidane will do everything in his power to prioritise their title push on a mission to become kings of Spain for the first time since 2012. Typically, Barcelona (11/4) are their main rivals, and the Catalans will hope to seal their domestic dominance with a third trophy in a row. But the stars seem to be aligning in Real’s favour, especially without an over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo this term – summer signing Alvaro Morata has emerged as somewhat of a hero among supporters and has weighed in with his fair share of goals.
2. Luis Suarez Will Be La Liga’s Top Goalscorer
Over many seasons, the accolade of top goalscorer in La Liga turned into a straight shootout between Ronaldo (5/2) and Barcelona star Lionel Messi (6/4). Such is the potency of the pair in front of the goal, with 600 La Liga strikes between them, you could not rule out the pair taking top spot in the scorer charts unless in the event of injury. But it is the form of Messi’s Uruguayan teammate Luis Suarez (11/8) which looks to be the most convincing. Even on days when Messi has not fired on all cylinders, it has been Suarez who has found the net to dig Barca out of a hole. His electrifying mix of pace, power and artistry have proved irresistible and as part of the famed ‘MSN’ strike force with Messi and Neymar (250/1), Suarez can rely on plenty of assists from his unselfish friends.
3. Atletico Madrid Will Win The Copa del Rey
Atletico (7/2) have not been able to mount a title challenge as they have in recent seasons, meaning the 2014 Spanish champions will be desperate to get their hands on the Copa del Rey, the Spanish cup competition which represents their most realistic chance of silverware. They will play rivals Barcelona (8/4) in the semi-finals and might fancy their chance of progressing over two legs, after coming away from the Nou Camp with a very credible draw in the league match between the two sides earlier in the season. Should Atletico make it through, they have more than enough firepower in their ranks to dispose of their opponent, the winner of the other semi-final between Alaves (25/1) and Celta Vigo (7/1).
4. Sevilla Will Be ‘Best Of The Rest’
At times La Liga has virtually contained a ‘table within a table’ as Barcelona and Real Madrid run away with the title race, and the rest battle it out for the other the spoils. Bet on Sevilla (11/10) to take this distinction this season, and be the best team outside of the ‘Big Two’. Los Rojiblancos have been in red hot form this side of the new year, buoyed by Jorge Sampaoli, and are finally replicating the form which has taken them to three successive Europa League titles in domestic football.
5. Gijon, Osasuna and Granada Will Suffer The Drop
La Liga’s bottom three – consisting of Sporting Gijon (3/10), Osasuna (1/16) and Granada (1/33) at the time of the writing – are already some way adrift of the rest of the table, and it would take a heroic fightback from any of these teams to survive the dreaded drop.