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La Liga 2016/17 Preview

La-LigaWe are again announcing Spanish La Liga as a league that gives the winners of both European competitions and according to that we can say that this is the strongest league in Europe. True, more money is spent in England, but the results are the measure, and therefore we are anxiously awaiting the new edition of La Liga, which will again offer a big fight on all fields. Just like before, we have decided to divide 20 teams from this league into three groups, first those who will be fighting for survival, than those that will probably avoid this fight and be in the middle with the ability to eventually fight for the European positions and finally those that are aiming for the championship title, or placement in the Champions League. We will not reveal anything new when we make the division and that is quite realistic, but there are always some positive surprises, just like Villarreal and Celta were last season, or negative, such as Valencia.

Three new Premiership clubs are certainly candidates for the lower rank, because their budget dictates it and objective quality, while we also in this group included four teams that last season struggled for survival and eventually ended up in the lower part. We have in a similar way determined the candidates for the middle of the table and there will also be seven teams, which should not get eliminated, although it is possible that some of them face certain problems, or that they make things harder for the six teams that we have designated as candidates for the championship title and international places. Of course, we should again emphasize that only three teams are objectively able to reach the league title, while the remaining three are fighting for the fourth place that leads to the Champions League and if they fail to do so, they must contend with Europa League.

Relegation

Like in previous seasons we expect that survival struggle brings a true drama and that nothing is over till the last round. It happened more than a few times before that several teams ahead of the last round were not sure about their destiny. The situation was less dramatic last season, or in other words there were fewer teams with uncertain fate. Worst case scenario happened to Rayo Vallecano and Getafe, Levante was lost case from before, while Sporting and Granada have saved their skin. We have three new La Liga teams out of which two are returnees, Alaves, which won the Segunda and Osasuna, which earned promotion after the play-off, while Leganes, which ended as second will play for the first time ever in La Liga. All these teams are among most serious candidate for quick return to the Segunda. We have said that Sporting Gijon have saved itself in the last round of previous season and we expect something similar this year too, just like for Granada. Eibar is holding for last couple of season and occasionally plays quite good but we again see them near the bottom of standings, just like Las Palmas which played well in the second half of last season, and that in fact spared them from relegation. In total there are seven teams that could easily fight a survival battle this season.

CD Leganes

LeganesFor the first time in it’s not so short history Leganes reached the elite league of Spanish football league system. It got there quite deservedly as the team played well for the most part of previous season, and was especially good in its second half when they made a breakthrough to the top of standings and was leader for a quite some time. Later on they moved down at second place which they kept in their possession after a streak of three wins at the end, which was enough for direct promotion to La Liga. They played especially well at home where they lost just two times and conceded only 14 goals. Leganes plays its matches at small stadium in Madrid suburb and it can be said that they are true successors of Getafe which was relegated last season from La Liga. It should be said that Leganes played for a long time in the Segunda Division B. They ended as 10th in their freshman’s year in the Segunda, while last season they made the historic breakthrough.

Leganes’ coach is Asier Garitano who he took over the team when they played in the Segunda Division B and naturally the club management didn’t what to replace him this summer. He didn’t have at his disposal a team worth of second place in the Segunda and now it cannot be said that are good enough for La Liga, but at least they managed to buy contracts for several borrowed players and those were in fact their best deals of the transfer window. Gabriel Pires and Bustinza have stayed, and they brought Marin to play at the left flank, Madjani at stopper position, Unai Lopez in the midfield and Guerrar in the top of attack. Out of players who left the team only midfielder Pena moved to another La Liga team, Eibar.

Probable lineups: Serantes – Bustinza, Pablo Insua, Mantovani, Adrian Marin – Timor, Unai Lopez – Omar Ramos, Gabriel Pires, Szymanowski – Guerrero

Forecast for the new season: At the first glance the team reveals absence of famous names and only couple of players had chance to play strong La Liga matches. The rest is fairly inexperienced, the team is in La Liga for the first time and it is quite logical why we see them as one of biggest candidates for relegation.

Relegation (bottom 3): 1.83 at bet365

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CA Osasuna

OsasunaOsasuna is back in La Liga after exactly two years of exile. They were relegated to the Segunda in 2014 and many were sorry about that as the team from Pamplona had its followers even among neutral football fans due to its combativeness. They had so many problems in the first year in Segunda and it needed just a bit to be relegated once more in the Segunda Division B which would equals to catastrophe. They saved their skin and started previous season with a wish to not let it happen again and a mild optimism that can reach La Liga even if they have to go through the play-off. At the end it happened exactly like that and they entered La Liga on back door, as they ended the regular season at sixth position which they reached in the very last round. In the promotion play-off Osasuna won Gimnastic twice and then in the final of play-off it won Girona two times, after which the celebration in their part of Basque country could start.

Enrique Martin took over the helm after relegation and he survived as coach the first, very stressful season. After the success in previous one he expectedly kept his job. Osasuna traded very little this summer and they lost their best midfielder Merin but they brought as replacements Causic, Merida, Faust and Romero, all midfielders but of different profiles. They will probably play more closed variant and relay on matches at home where traditionally play better. Pillars of the team are players from previous season; R. Torres, de las Cuevs and young forward Kodro.

Probable lineups: Nauzet – Oier, Bonnin, M. Flano, D. Garcia, J. Flano – de las Cuevas, Causic, Merida, R. Torres – Kodro

Forecast for the new season: The team is blend of youth and experience but those experienced players are in late active years and the brunt of season should be carried by younger players, for which La Liga is going to be a big bite to chew. It will not be easy, which is the reason why we put Osasuna in this group of team whose fate is uncertain till the very end of season.

Relegation (bottom 3): 1.91 at bet365

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Deportivo Alaves

AlavesAnother returnee in the elite club, although Alaves wasn’t there for full ten years and its path toward La Liga was very thorny. We need to remind you that Alaves played in the final of the UEFA Cup at the beginning of this century, when it lost to Liverpool. From that point starts their downfall and two seasons later they were relegated from La Liga but had returned on consequent year. They were again relegated to the Segunda after which they even reached the Segunda Division B, where they had spent full four seasons. After return to the Segunda they again had problems but last season they indeed shined and won the first place. They had certain troubles only at the beginning but after the start they only replaced first with second place in the standings and vice versa. They were undefeated in last eight rounds and that is how they won the first place. Alaves played equally good at home and away but it drew plenty of its matches.

It is interesting that they changed the coach despite promotion and instead of Pepe Bordles, who didn’t get along with the club management the new coach is Mauricio Pellegrini, who will lead the team through fairly certain survival struggle. Some, mostly older players have left the team this summer so their departure shouldn’t leave a mark, especially as they brought several very interesting reinforcements. Three new stoppers are Pantic, Feddal and Alexis, while the most expensive name is Columbian defensive midfielder D. Torres. Besides them also arrived Ibai Gomez from Bilbao, Sobrino from Manchester City, and forwards Deyverson and Santos. We expect to see many of the newcomers in the starting line-up and it must be said that Alaves will be a big unknown at the beginning.

Probable lineups: Pacheco – Kiko, Laguardia, Feddal, Raul Garcia – Manu Garcia, D. TorresSobrino, Barreiro, Ibai GomezDeyverson

Forecast for the new season: What Alaves did last season was surprising. The surprise would be even bigger if they manage to survive one more season in La Liga. At the first glance they traded cleverly and it is possible that the team is better than of some more regular La Liga teams. However, three teams are going to be relegated from La Liga and ahead of them is certainly a great battle that will last till the very end of season.

Relegation (bottom 3): 2.00 at Unibet

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Sporting Gijon

GijonBehind Sporting is a very stressful season and it was particular different in its finish. It is not surprise that Sporting found itself in the survival struggle as they had just returned to La Liga and despite very promising start and for example a draw with Real Madrid in the first round everyone knew that downfall is imminent. They had a series of six consecutive defeats which pushed them into the drop zone where they had been till the very finish. In the end Sporting had just one point more than teams that went into the abyss. Playing at home was their safe haven and they won most of points at their stadium, while they won just three matches playing away.

It is clear that they want to avoid a similar scenario this season but they would have nothing against if they survive one more season even at the cost of new drama. Sporting underwent significant reconstruction of its team as they lost their biggest stars, midfielder Halilovic and forward Sanabrie, who were anyway only borrowed. Stopper L. Hernandez left too, just like midfielders Jony, Barrera and Menendez, and forward Guerrerio. They brought solid reinforcements; goalkeeper Marino, right back L. Castellano, stoppers Babin and Amorebieta, midfielders V. Rodriguez and Moi Gomez, and forward Cop. That is quite a solid team for coach Abelard to work with, who managed to keep this job only to go through another survival struggle.

Probable lineups: Cuellar – Lora, Babin, Mere, I. Lopez – S. Alvarez, Cases – Ndi, V. Rodriguez, Burgui – Cop

Forecast for the new season: Perhaps this time the team will be more coherent being without famous names, like Sanabria and Halilovic were, and there will be no such ups and downs. Without the two Sporting might not be able to parry even to mediocre teams and if that indeed happens they are in trouble. Whatever happens, Sporting will probably go through another survival struggle.

Relegation (bottom 3): 2.63 at bet365

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FC Granada

GranadaGranada or cat with nine lives, has preserved a place in La Liga in the most difficult way in last couple of season and in the process it brought its fans to the brink of madness. Five seasons in La Liga are behind Granada, which was promoted to it in 2011 and their best position at the end of season was 15th place, not once but two times. Two times they ended as 17th and once at 18th place. They had spent the entire last season in the drop zone or just above it, and were the last for several rounds when it seemed that their days are finally finished. Two seasons ago they had to win at least one point in the last round against Atletico Madrid, while last season they had to face Barcelona in the last round. They couldn’t allow such risk and they triumphed in Seville one round before, which resolved everything, but given their individual quality they should have played better.

It has been happening for years now and they constantly fail to make the needed chemistry within the team. Perhaps that was reason to sell their biggest stars and they made a nice profit after selling Success, Rochini and Cordoba, whose contract was in fact just bought by Mainz. El-Arabi, the best scorer, left too, just like stopper Babin, goalkeeper A. Fernandez and a bunch of other players, out of which some were only loaned. It was impossible to cover such losses in full but they brought goalkeeper Ocho, than Tito, Saunier, Toral, Ponce, G. Silva, Boga and some other players who were mostly borrowed. It is very important to add that they brought new coach. It is Paco Jemez who thrilled everyone with daring management of Rayo Vallecano, so we can easily see new Granada this season.

Probable lineups: OchoaTito, Lomban, Saunier, G. Silva – F. Rico, Ruben Perez – Boga, Toral, Cuenca – Barral

Forecast for the new season: Granada didn’t do anything positive despite having a stronger team that it is the current one, in fact they barely survived. Now are objectively weaker and following logic it should be even harder for them. However, they have new coach whose philosophy is totally different and perhaps they will play better despite individually weaker team. We had to put them into this category but they might grow out of it, or on other hand to stay in the relegation zone till the very end.

Relegation (bottom 3): 4.00 at betsson

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SD Eibar

EibarThis is the third season in La Liga for Eibar and by itself it is a success for such small club from Basque country. When they were promoted to La Liga three years ago many forecasted their express return to the Segunda, however, this team didn’t surrender and they in fact survived last season without much trouble. Just like two seasons ago Eibar played well the first half of the season when were firmly positioned in the upper part of standings. Near the end they lost steam but not so much to make the situation alarming. Their problem was that they didn’t win in last five round, or they won just once in last 14 rounds, which was even worse. It didn’t bother them and 13th place was quite acceptable, which they would sign for in the new season right now.

Jose Luis Mendilibar will lead them for the second season in row but the team will not be the same as some important players have left. Those are forward Borja Baston, their first scorer, than Saul Berjon, Arruabarrena, L. Castellan, Anstoegija, experienced goalkeeper Irureta, as well as Keko on whom they earned some profit. Loans for some other players have expired, like Pantelic or Hajrovic and therefore they had to bring new ones. The biggest reinforcement is forward Bebe, and right behind him are stopper Galvez and Lejeune, while new goalkeeper is Y. Rodriguez. There is also Pedro Leon who arrived from Getafe. It is very important for them to start well again as they obviously have many problems in the second part of season. Playing away is also their weak spot, as they won just three times last season playing as visitors.

Probable lineups: Y. Rodriguez – Capa, Lejeune, Galvez, Junca – Dani Garcia, Escalante – Bebe, Pedro Leon, Inui – Sergi Enrich

Forecast for the new season: Every time we forecast for Eibar that will fight to survive but they do the opposite in the first half of season when they make a nice stash of points, so can play easily in the second half. We have again listed Eibar in the group of endangered teams and it is very probable that will again end in the lower part of the standing at the season’s end, although we are not certain that will be in danger of relegation.

Relegation (bottom 3): 3.50 at bet365

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UD Las Palmas

Las-PalmasThis is second season in a row for Las Palmas to play in La Liga. They definitely could be very satisfied how they played the second part of previous one and can only hope that can repeat all that at the beginning of new one. Beginning of previous season was pretty bad and they didn’t win in first four rounds and they won just once in first 10. They had touched the bottom at one point, which seemed to motivate them so they pulled themselves together and at one point even moved to the upper part of standings, very close to European positions but they couldn’t stay there for long. It is important to stress that Las Palmas reached quarter-finals of the Spanish Cup and like with most of smaller clubs playing at home was a great advantage for them.

Their best forward William Jose has left the team and there are no more Aleman, Lopez and Garrido. New forward is young Livaja from Rubin but it is hard to expect that he will be a started when Arauja is there. The most famous name among reinforcements is K.P. Boateng who arrived from Milano, although his form is it an open question. They bought contract for stopper Lemos and we will mention Helder Lopes who is supposed to play on left flank. Quique Setien has kept his job and this will be his first season that he leads Las Palmas from the first round, given that he arrived only in October last year and, as we have said, made a great job in the second half of season.

Probable lineups: J. Varas – D. Simon, Bigas, Lemos, H. Lopes – V. Gomez, Mesa – Boateng, Tana, Viera – Araujo

Forecast for the new season: Las Palmas showed two faces last season and their fate will be decided by face which will dominate the new season. Starting line-up shows that they don’t rely on reinforcements too much and that means they have enough self-confidence to believe that are good enough to secure their survival. There are teams which are weaker than Las Palmas and we believe that they objectively can survive, although they will probably end in the lower half of standings.

Relegation (bottom 3): 7.50 at Unibet

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Mid-table

For this group of teams we believe that the season will unfold in such way that they shouldn’t worry about their survival and possible they might make a breakthrough and get closer to European positions. Of course, line between mid-table and survival struggle is thin so it wouldn’t be a big surprise if some of these teams find itself deep in trouble, but it can happen that the season turn into a good one like it was case for Celta and Villarreal last year. This season we have again put Celta into this group, with teams which are traditionally in it, Espanyol and Malaga, which are true examples of teams that are always positioned around middle of standings. In it are two Basque teams, Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao that certainly have wish and ambition for something more but it is questionable how much those wishes are realistic. For the end we have left two teams that are perhaps closer to the top of standings but due to some sort of tradition we listed them here, and those are Deportivo and Betis. So, seven teams just like in group that should struggle to survive.

Celta Vigo

CeltaCelta left behind itself a very successful season that reminded at best days of this team, which was at the turn of the 21st century when it was positioned for several seasons in a row in the upper part of the standings. After that came a turbulent period marked with relegations and come backs from and to La Liga, while in last three seasons Celta was stable mid-table team although last year it made a progress when it ended as sixth and because of that it will play in the Europa League, which is their first season in Europe after 12 years of absence. Celta played excellently at the beginning of previous season and was undefeated in first eight rounds. In the period it even outclassed Barcelona. Later on came a slight downfall but they were never positioned lower than eight place, while in the end they were sixth, having four points fewer than fourth-positioned team, the last that qualifies for the Champions League.

Of course, they want to do it again this season but they sold their best player and by far the biggest star of the team, Nolito, which is a handicap, but we must not forget that this player skipped a large part of previous season due to injury and Celta didn’t fell apart. Nolito’s departure is the only worth mentioning change. They brought some new but less known players like midfielder Lamos and left wing Naranjo, who played in the Segunda last season, Danish Sisto from Mitdjylland, and stopper Roncaglio from Fiorentina. Coach Berizzo of course stayed as there was no reason to replace coach who made such a great job.

Probable lineups: S. Alvarez – Hugo Mallo, Cabral, S. Gomez, Jonny Castro – Diaz, Wass – Orellana, P. Hernandez, Aspas – Guidetti

Forecast for the new season: Everyone will pay more attention to this team after previous season and they should do that, as the team underwent very small changes and it is very possible that no newcomer will be in the starting line-up. So, all players are familiar with each other, there are no problem with coordination, the coach is the same and that is why Celta will be in the upper part of standings, again closer to European positions than the relegation zone.

Relegation (bottom 3): 45.00 at betsson

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Finish in the Top 6: 3.00 at Unibet

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Espanyol Barcelona

EspanyolIt was an excellent bet in several previous season that Espanyol will be positioned between 8 and 15 place, meaning that are fairly safe regarding relegation but far from European positions. Last season they were closer to the drop zone and that was one of weaker seasons, which could have been foreseen after departure of several important players last summer and absence of adequate replacements. That was reason why they had spent almost the entire championship in the lower part of standings, sometimes very close to the relegation zone. The never been into it, however, there were several crises, especially after a series of eight matches without victory. Espanyol changed coaches and was dreadful as visiting team, but in the end they pulled themselves together and survived without much drama.

New season brings new developments to this team from Barcelona. Those are new foreign investors who brought cash, so Espanyol will be stronger. Departures are almost irrelevant and we will mention only midfielders A. Gonzales and Canas, while Asensio who was anyway just borrowed. Arrivals are far more numerous and valuable; new forward is Baptistao, goalkeeper is Roberto, midfielders Jurado, Piatti, experienced Reyes and A. Fernandez. It is possible that will bring even more new players but almost all important players from previous season have stayed. Coach is new and that is Quique Flores, whose objectives will be higher than of his predecessor in previous season but he has a very good team at his disposal.

Probable lineups: Roberto – J. Lopez, Alvaro, O. Duarte, R. Duarte – Diop, V. Sanchez – Hernan Perez, PiattiBaptistao, F. Caicedo

Forecast for the new season: Fresh financial injection and numerous reinforcements don’t have to mean that Espanyol will make a big step forward. They are certainly stronger and for the beginning it should be enough to avoid last year’s situation when they feared a bit for their La Liga status. New coach should put all that together so they can join race for European positions, and that is why we again see them around mid-table, perhaps even closer to the top.

Relegation (bottom 3): 14.50 at betsson

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Finish in the Top 6: 8.00 at NetBet

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FC Malaga

MalagaMalaga is for years in La Liga but we have seen many different faces of this team. Mostly, it ends around mid-table with one exception when the team changed owner and Malaga ended as fourth and played very successfully next season in the Champions League. All that was short lived and only one more season they were close to the top after which came return to mediocrity and middle of standings. That is one of reasons why we put them in this group, but the team is indeed such that represent true example of an average La Liga team. They started badly last season and at one point were even the last in standings, however, they pulled themselves together and moved toward the upper part, ending at the eight place.

Main characteristic of the team was to play matches with few goals and many, many draws. We need to add that they were very unpleasant opponent for the best teams, especially when they played at home. Juande Ramos will coach the team in the new season, although his predecessor Javi Garcia wasn’t bad at all and he squeezed out objective maximum from Malaga’s players. They want more now and they brought several very interesting reinforcements. New stoppers are B. Kone and D. Llorente, new midfielders are Kuzmanovic, Keko and Jony, while Sandro Ramirez from Barcelona and M. Santos from River Plate will be in the top of attack. Boka, Cop, Filipenko, reserve goakeepr Ochoa, Horta, Tissone, Albentosa and experienced Santa Cruz have left. Those are numerous departures but if we take a look at quality we can say they didn’t downgrade in this transfer window. Although, the question how fast the team will play coherently remains to linger?

Probable lineups: Kameni – Rosales, Wellington, D. Llorente, M. Torres – Camacho, Recio – Keko, Jony, Sandro – Charles

Forecast for the new season: It seems that Malaga is stronger now than on previous season. Since they ended as eighth last year than this one could be a bit better, but it is questionable was it enough to reach European positions, which is the sixth place and up. Perhaps the seventh can do to and we see them around seventh and ninth place at the end.

Relegation (bottom 3): 24.00 at betsson

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Finish in the Top 6: 4.20 at NetBet

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Real Sociedad

SociedadAfter several very successful seasons the team from San Sebastian had several not so good ones, which was visible in their final position in the standing and developments in the championship in which Real Sociedad had big ups-and-downs, so it was no wonder that they brought new coach. They played badly in the first part of previous season when they mostly dwelled in the lower part of standings, sometimes even very close to the drop zone. Real Sociedad played better in the second half of season and it ended at ninth place, which was in fact the best position they occupied throughout the season. Their recovery started with arrival of coach Eusebio and it is probably the main reason why he kept his job. This time he has the team at his disposal from the very beginning and can prepare it in the way he finds it is best for them.

Therefore, their ambitions have increased although they didn’t bother much to bring new players; new arrivals are only forwards Willian, Jose and Juanmi, and goalkeeper Tono. They lost the most in the attack as Joanthas and Finnbogason left, as well as de la Bella and D. Reyes from defence. So, Eusebio has full confidence in the team from previous season and he probably hopes that Vela will be not so prone to injuries and that Agirretxe will be better prepared, but despite that they brought two reinforcements for the attack. Starting line-up will be very similar to its edition from previous season, especially in defence, unless they don’t lose very good goalkeeper Rullio in the meantime. Midfield is also very good, experienced and logically well-coordinated, given it stayed the same like previous year.

Probable lineups: Rulli – Zaldua, I. Martinez, M. Gonzalez, Yuri Berciche – Illaramendi, Xabi Prieto, Zurutuza – Vela, Willian Jose, Oyarzabal

Forecast for the new season: At the first glance Real Sociedad can go high as there are many good players in the team, but almost all of them played in previous seasons and weren’t able to reach the objective, which was the Europa League. The objective remains the same and it is possible that will come closer to it this year, however, competition is fierce and we wouldn’t bet that Real Sociedad will succeed.

Relegation (bottom 3): 29.00 at NetBet

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Finish in the Top 6: 5.00 at Unibet

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Athletic Bilbao

BilbaoSecond team from Basque country is a different story and it is not accidently named “Pride of Basque country” as only Basques play in it so it is clear how difficult is to assemble a good team, especially one that can parry to great Spanish teams and stay near top of the standings. They succeed in that, with occasional turbulences, and Athletic played in the Europe League in last three seasons, although three seasons ago they were fourth in the end and had played in the Champions League. In two previous seasons they qualified for the Europa League, last year from the fifth position which was very good and objective result. The Champions League escaped them for just two points, which together with the Europa League has additionally improved the final impression.

Beginning of season wasn’t good but the second half of it was very good, which brought them in the end the fifth position. Ernesto Valverde continues to coach Athletic Bilbao and indeed there was no need to replace coach that brought stability to the team. Their transfers are most interesting. We have said that only Basques can play in Athletic and they brought no new players, only those who returned from loans and several who were promoted from the second team. Forwards Kike Sola and Guillermo are returnees in the team and at the same time the biggest reinforcements, while only departures worth mentioning are of Ibai Gomez and Gurpegi who ended his career. It is very important that Athletic kept its biggest starts, stopper Laporte and forward Williams. If Iker Muniain doesn’t have too much problem with injuries, just like forward Aduriz, their job will be much easier.

Probable lineups: Iraizoz – de Marcos, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga – San Jose, Benat – Williams, Raul Garcia, Iker Muniain – Aduriz

Forecast for the new season: We didn’t put them this time in group of best teams because of just one reason and that is absence of reinforcements. Their starting line-up doesn’t seem weak but season is long and someone is always injured, which could be decisive for Athletic. It doesn’t mean that Athletic is not competitive enough, however, some of stronger teams need to underperform in order that Athletic reach one of first six positions.

Relegation (bottom 3): 86.00 at NetBet

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Finish in the Top 6: 1.60 at Unibet

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Betis Sevilla

BetisBetis had returned in previous season to La Liga and logically their first objective was to survive in it. They achieved that without much trouble although they had spent larger part of the championship in lower half of standings, however, Betis won enough points and objectively they were never in danger of new relegation. They had several not so good periods but they also had an undefeated streak of six matches. It is interesting that playing at home hadn’t been a palpable advantage for them last season, like it was the case in previous one, and they won just one more match at home than away, with relatively small number of scored goals, meaning that inefficiency was a problem. At the end Betis was positioned right in the middle of standings, at 10th place, and that was exactly what we had expected from them.

They could make a small step forward this season as they have brought some very good players; forwards Sanabrio and Zozuly, stopper Mandi, left back Durmisi and midfielders Gutierrez and Martin, including borrowed Musonde and Nahule, who are all good players. The biggest loss was departure of defensive midfielder N’Diaye, and also there are no more Westermann, J. Molina, Vadill and van Wolfswinkel. Gustavo Poyet is the new coach, so we expect to see new and improved Betis.

Probable lineups: Adan – Piccini, Pezzella, Mandi, DurmisiJ. Martin, F. Gutierrez, Ceballos – Joaquin, Musonda – Ruben Castro

Forecast for the new season: Betis’ first objective is to avoid problems with survival in La Liga but that shouldn’t happen anyway with such team as reserve players at all positions are also very good and we believe that anything weaker than last season’s result would be a failure for team that has Benito Villmarin in its ranks. It again means middle of standings but its upper part.

Relegation (bottom 3): 10.00 at betsson

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Finish in the Top 6: 11.00 at NetBet

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Deportivo La Coruna

DeportivoWe have deliberately left Deportivo for the end of presentation of teams which should be positioned around middle of standings as we had dilemma weather they deserve place in this group or are closer to one that will struggle to survive. Deportivo showed two totally different faces in first and second part of last season; excellent first part when they at one moment occupied high fifth place, which no one expected and where they had been till around middle of the championship. In the period they had an undefeated streak of eight matches, but then something happened to them and they had a series of even 13 matches without victory, which put them very close to the relegation zone and it seemed that once again they had to go through survival struggle, however they managed to stay clear from the drop zone.

Right because of very weak second half of season they have changed coach Victor Sanchez and brought Gaizk Garitan, whose main objective is to make Deportivo play like at last autumn. Numerous changes in the team were dictated by that imperative and some players left as loans for then have expired, while some have left Deportivo with free hands. So, there are no more goalkeepers Fabricio and M. Fernandez, than J. Dominiguez, Cani, Lopo, Luisinho, L. Albert, Cartabia, and so on. Reinforcements worth mentioning are goalkeeper Tyton, forward Andone, midfielder Gama, stopper Albenntosa and many other players who will probably not be in the foreground from the beginning. All in all, starting line-up is not so much changed, but at least three new players are in it.

Probable lineups: Tyton – Juanfran, Arribas, Sidnei, F. Navarro – Mosquera, Borges, B. Gama, Fajr – Andone, L. Perez

Forecast for the new season: In accordance with two faces showed last season we see Deportivo in this one as a team which will oscillate and then it is an open question which face will dominate. If the weak one got upper hand Deportivo will be closer to the drop zone than upper part of the standings. In the opposite case they could be positioned around middle of standings but not higher than that. It means that objectively Deportivo is in the boundary layer between survival struggle and mid-table.

Relegation (bottom 3): 7.50 at betsson

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Finish in the Top 6: 19.00 at NetBet

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Top 6 and Title

So here we have the best that La Liga has to offer, and those are their best six teams, precisely their great trio and a little less great trio, considering that we expect that the new champion will emerge from these three teams or perhaps even two, but we will not underestimate Atletico Madrid which was holding on pretty well with two giants, and two seasons ago they even took the title right under their noses. Last season, they were in the game by the very end and perhaps they will again keep up with the pace, with the proviso that a new or old champion is likely to be Barcelona or Real Madrid. Thus we have three teams in the Champions League, while the others will fight for fourth place, which was surprisingly won last season by Villarreal, so we now ranked “Yellow Submarine” among the giants. The other two teams in this group are Sevilla, which dedicated more attention last season to Europa League, and therefore they were only the seventh, while Valencia was the biggest disappointment last season, which will of course now be highly motivated, and we believe that the “Bats” can return at the top, where they objectively belong.

FC Barcelona

BarcelonaBarcelona is the current champion and Cup winner and the biggest favourite to defend both titles in the new season, with the proviso that the Catalans want to return the trophy from the Champions League to their cabinets. When it comes to La Liga, they were very close to the title last season and it seemed they would easier than expected become the champions of Spain. So, they started to celebrate a little early, but got into a crisis, which has cost them the elimination from the Champions League, already in the quarterfinals, and losing a lot of points in a row. After a draw and three consecutive defeats, things got even more complicated, so they were in a situation that they could not make the wrong step for five rounds. And thankfully they have not made it, in a way that they have not received a single goal, they made some safe victories and took the 24th title of the champions of Spain. Sometime later they also won the 28th trophy at Copa del Rey, but they regretted that they have not won the Champions League and that they lost the Spanish Super Cup, along with winning the European Super Cup. But, three out of five when it comes to trophies, is certainly something to be proud of, however, Barcelona wants it all.

Luis Enrique remained on the bench, because there was no reason to change him, but there were some changes in the team and it can be said that they, after long years of appreciable strengthening, now lost as much as they brought in the transitional period. It is true that they lost players who were mostly in the background, except Dani Alves, and those are Montoya, Vermaelen, Adriano, Bartra and Sandro Ramirez. However, their new reinforcements are not particularly attractive and the most famous name is midfielder A. Gomes from Valencia, while Denis Suarez returned from Villarrela and there are also center-back Umtiti and left back Digne. However, none of these reinforcements will take a place in the strongest lineup.

Probable starting lineups: Bravo – Vidal, Pique, Mascherano, Jordi Alba – Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic – Messi, L. Suarez, Neymar

Forecast for the new season: We all know that anything but the first place is considered a failure and it is not worth to say that Barcelona cannot be end up lower than the second position. However, that does not mean a lot to them, whether they are second or third, if they do not win the title. And they are certainly the closest, because they keep all their best players, and there is no reason to be weaker, so they can only play better.

League Winner: 1.80 at Interwetten

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Real Madrid

RealMadridThis waiting is too long when it comes to winning the title of champion of Spain for one giant like Real Madrid, and we believe that this “Royal Club” will this season focus just on the championship in order to finally (after 2012) win the title. Last season they were long before the end written off from the race with a massive 11 points behind, but they played perfectly in the finish of the last season and with some setbacks by their competitors, needed only a little to make this turnover. However, they were short by one point, with the proviso that they for the second time in three years won the championship of Europe and it has saved the season. But they still want the roof of Europe, however, not at the expense of weaker games in La Liga.

During the last season, they changed the coach, which rarely happens to Real, but now they kept Zinedine Zidane and we will see if he is as a perfect solution for all Real’s frustrations in the championship. They have not traded a lot during this summer and according to our last information they brought back their striker Morate from Juventus, while Jese left the team, but we can say that they are now even stronger in that part of the team and they finally have two top classic strikers. Also worth mentioning is the return of Asensio after his loan to Espanyol, the players who is one of the most deserving that Real already won the trophy in the European Super Cup. In that match, they played without a series of great players and this could possibly be an indication of the true strength when it comes to Real this season.

Probable starting lineups: Navas – Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo – Casemiro, T. Kroos, Modric – Bale, Benzema, C. Ronaldo

Forecast for the new season: As their biggest rival in Catalonia, Real Madrid will probably be first or second, but it is a huge difference, because they are tired of second and third places and they now want the title. If they play like in the finish of the last championship, then they are certainly the biggest favourites, but there were some very bad periods last season, so if they do not bring some sound reinforcements in the meantime, they will be a bit weaker than Barcelona.

League Winner: 2.63 at Sportingbet

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Atletico Madrid

AtleticoThe second club from Madrid, Atletico, is the only team that in the previous few seasons was able to spoil the plans of Real Madrid and Barcelona and therefore they already deserve congratulations. They were able to win the world title, while their city rivals twice in the last three years took the title of champion of Europe right under their nose. They lost two finals, the second last season, but only after the penalty, and before that they “helped” Real in a way that they eliminated Barcelona. They were holding on pretty good in the championship until the very end when they were defeated by Levante, which crashed their dreams of a new title, but they probably would not have won it after all, because Barcelona did not make a wrong step. But now Atletico wants to be in the running for the title until the very end and why not even win it, although it seems that they can get more easily to the finals of the Champions League, than the title of champions.

Maybe Champions League this season turns out to be their third time luck, but then they would not mind if they end up again third in La Liga, like they did last season. They are now even stronger as a team and this is another reason why they have the right to optimism. They brought a great striker Gameiro from Sevilla and now he and Griezmann are a deadly duo, while we must not forget the arrival of midfielder Gaitan from Benfica, and another side player Vrsaljko from Sassuolo, and midfielder Jota. Several other players have returned from their loans, while the departures were almost painless, because striker Vietti has not managed to impose last season, after he came from Villarreal. They sold some players who were on various borrowings and all in all they are certainly noticeably stronger, while we definitely should not forget the influence of great Diego Simeone from the coaching bench.

Probable starting lineups: Recent – Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez, Luis Filipe – Saul Niguez, Gabi – Koke, Griezmann, Gaitan – Gameiro

Forecast for the new season: It is clear that the placement below third place does not come into question. That is the bottom line, and the top is not set yet, because they want the title which is logical, but they are aware that Barcelona and Real have stronger teams. So far they countered them great and when we know that they are even stronger now, there is no reason why they should not be a constant threat and the candidates for the title this season.

Finish in the Top 4: 1.03 at betsson

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League Winner: 13.00 at BetClic

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FC Valencia

ValenciaValencia is one of those strongest Spanish teams, but last season they completely failed in all fronts, so logically they now want to fix everything and get back to the positions that lead in the Champions League, or even more if possible. They will not have European obligations and it is a good thing for them, while it already happened a few seasons that they finished only eighth in the standings. It helped because they were fourth in the next season, but they were 11th in the last season and it must not happen again. Their European performance was also pretty bad, so the only good achievement was at the Cup semi-finals. Pako Ayestaran will continue to lead this team from the bench who the third coach last season, after Santa and Neville.

Although they want a much better season, they have not traded much, at least in the last seven days before the start of the championship and the most famous name is Portuguese midfielder Nani, who is really a huge reinforcement, while the rest are less known players such as Medrano and Montoya. They lost another great midfielder, A. Gomes, while Feghouli, Barragan, Piattia and Negredo all left the team, even though Negredo was only on loan. When we wrote this article, center-back Mustafi was at the exit door, so we believe that the “Bats” will brings some more players, because the other rivals are very strong.

Probable starting lineups: Diego Alves – Cancelo, Santos, Abdennour, Gaya – J. Fuego, Parejo – Rodrigo, E. Perez, Nani – P. Alcacer

Forecast for the new season: They want the top four and that is the only goal, however, it will be very difficult to achieve this, because they need to have a stronger team and a longer bench for this venture. Their advantage is that they do not play in Europe, but we expect more reinforcements and then they can be competitive, while they should not end up below the sixth place.

Finish in the Top 6: 1.75 at Unibet

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Finish in the Top 4: 5.00 at Unibet

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League Winner: 151.00 at bet365

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FC Sevilla

SevillaSevilla cannot be satisfied with what they showed in the championship last season, because the seventh place is not what we expected from the Andalusians, but if that was the price for a new success in Europa League, it was worth it, because Sevilla will again play in the Champions League, and it seems that this team wins placement in the elite club competition much more easily through Europa League, than through La Liga, where they must be at least fourth. They are not succeeding in that, and the main reasons are their weak performances away and the fact that they failed to defeat anyone in their 19 away matches, really sounds embarrassing. Sevilla should never repeat this and we believe they are now better prepared for the new season and playing on three fronts. They have changed a lot, starting with Emery, who left the coaching position, even though Sevilla wanted him to stay but they now have a new coach, the Argentinean Sampaoli.

Their top striker Gameiro also decide to leave the team, although a similar situation happened when Bacca was leaving two seasons ago but it did not affect their game much. Krychowiak and Banega have left the midfield which is also irreparable loss, while the departures of veteran Reyes and defenders Coke and Figueiras are not as painful. New striker should be Vietti, but there is also Vazquez, who already proved himself in some games. In midfield they were significantly strengthened by the arrival of Ganso, Correa, Kiyotaka, Sarabia and Kranevitter, while we also need to mention that they brought striker Ben Yedder. So, this is one quite changed team, seemingly weak, but reinforcements may prove better than they look on paper and that is what Sevilla hopes for.

Probable starting lineups: S. Rico – Mariano, Rami, Carrico, Tremoulinas – N’Zonzi, Ganso – Vitolo, Vazquez, Konoplyanka – Vietto

Forecast for the new season: They are aware that they will have a difficult time to engage in the fight for the top and that fourth place is their main hope and consolation, however, if things again go well in Europe, it is possible they ignore La Liga in favour of European success. Realistically it will be very difficult to win Europa League for the fourth time in a row, because they are also starting in the Champions League, and therefore La Liga could still be a priority, and in this case, and with much better games as guests, they could be fourth.

Finish in the Top 6: 1.50 at Unibet

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Finish in the Top 4: 3.00 at bet365

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League Winner: 151.00 at BetVictor

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FC Villarreal

VillarrealFor the very end we have left “Yellow Submarine”, which is on the border of this group of teams and it is possible that they still drop down, but last season they were not given chances to be quite so high, but they surprised all when they won the desired fourth place, so they will now have the strong European commitments, with the championship ones. We believe that many neutral fans of football find the team of Villarreal very sympathetic, because they play nice and lovable football and there were not any major downs at their own game, except maybe at the very end of the championship when they almost secured the fourth position. And they were at the beginning of the season even the leaders for two rounds and it was the first time in the history of the team that they are first in La Liga. At the end of the first part, they slipped to the fourth place and stayed there, while we must also mention their placement in the semi-finals of Europa League.

The new season will be more difficult, because they are now defending the fourth place, and there have been some changes. Coach Marcelino left the team right at the start of the championship and that is never good, and the team was taken over by Fran Escriba, who will need time to familiarize himself with the team. A very bad thing is that their striker Soldado got injured and he will not be return until at least until half of the championship. Their biggest loss was the departure of their center-back Bailly, but they have earned a lot of money on him. They will certainly miss D. Suarez, Pina, Sam Garcia, Moi Gomez and Baptistao, who was only on loan, but there are some new reinforcements. They did not bring a replacement for Bailly, because they are good at the back if they are healthy. New striker is the Brazilian Pato, but they have strengthened the midfield the most and there are Sansone, R. Soriano and N’Diaye, while Cheryshev was bought from Real Madrid.

Probable starting lineups: Asenjo – Mario, Musacchio, V. Ruiz, J. Costa – J. dos Santos, N’Diaye, B. Soriano, Cheryshev – Bakambu, Pato

Forecast for the new season: Villarreal is defending the fourth place and it will not be an easy mission, because several teams want that position also, because the other positions are difficult to achieve. Villarreal also has obligations in Europa League, although they are now pretty covered in some positions. However, the unexpected change of coaches and the injury of their top striker might cost them dearly, so we do not actually believe that they will end up on higher than the fifth or sixth place.

Finish in the Top 6: 1.60 at Unibet

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Finish in the Top 4: 5.00 at bet365

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League Winner: 151.00 at bet365

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