Football Features

La Liga title favourites: Contenders for this season’s Spanish top-flight title explained

By Chris Smith

Published: 18:00, 4 May 2021 | Updated: 15:55, 10 May 2021

The La Liga season is approaching its final sprint and we still have a close four-way title race on our hands.

Just two points separate the top three heading into the final three rounds of games of the 2020/21 campaign, while Sevilla cannot yet be written off in fourth place.

Find the latest La Liga winner odds* for the 2020/2021 season here:

Team Bet365 Sky Bet Betfred Betway
Barcelona 3/1 3/1 3/1 3/1
Atletico Madrid 4/5 4/5 8/11 4/5
Real Madrid 11/4 9/4 11/4 5/2
Sevilla 250/1 750/1 200/1 99/1
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds within this article are accurate at the time of writing (15:30, 10/05/2021). BeGambleAware.

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Who are the La Liga title favourites?

Atletico Madrid

Current position: 1st

Remaining fixtures: Real Sociedad (H), Osasuna (H), Valladolid (A)

Damaging defeats to Sevilla, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have seen Atleti’s lead, which once looked unassailable, cut to just two points. Their run-in isn’t exactly easy but they made it through their toughest test against Barcelona at the Camp Nou and emerged without a scratch. That 0-0 leaves it all in their own hands; win all three games and they’ll be champions for the first time since 2014. Would you bet against them at this point?

Key players:

  • Luis Suarez: Only a few players have scored more La Liga goals than Luis Suarez this season and regardless of how the title race pans out, Barcelona’s decision to let the Uruguayan leave for a direct rival still seems perplexing. Though not as quick as he once was, Suarez’s physical approach has lent perfectly to Simeone’s system and there will be a colossal amount of pressure on him to keep scoring the goals that will deliver the title for Atletico. It’s pressure he’s handled well in the past.
  • Jan Oblak: Atletico have let in the lowest number of goals (22) in La Liga in 2020/21 so far, despite conceding more shots inside the box than Barcelona, Sevilla and Real Sociedad, while Expected Goals Against suggested they should have conceded 12 more. Much of that over-performance is down to the goalkeeping heroics of Jan Oblak, who will need to continue his superhuman performances down the stretch. Having blanked Messi, including one truly incredible save to prevent the goal of the season, he’ll be confident now.

Barcelona

Current position: 3rd

Remaining fixtures: Levante (A), Celta Vigo (H), Eibar (A)

After a difficult start to the season, Barcelona dragged themselves right back into title contention by winning 13 and drawing one of their 14 La Liga games following the New Year, even as their Champions League hopes went up in smoke around them. The destination of the title was in their own hands but they lost to Real Madrid and then again to Granada before drawing against Atlético at home. They are just two points adrift of leaders Atleti and need both main title rivals to drop points for them to be crowned champions, but have something in their possession that no other side in the world does…

Key players:

  • Lionel Messi: That something, or more to the point, someone is Lionel Messi. He might be 33, but the six-time Ballon d’Or winner is still central to everything Barcelona do well and you need only browse over the basic numbers to see his influence. With 28 goals, he is 16 clear of Antoine Griezmann as Barca’s top scorer and seven clear of anyone else in the league, while he is responsible for 35% of his team’s La Liga goals in 2020/21. He’s also two ahead of Griezmann as Barca’s biggest assist provider, setting up eight goals so far this season. Messi is still mesmeric with the ball at his feet and ruthlessly effective in front of goal — there’s nothing stopping him single-handedly delivering the title for Barca.
  • Frenkie de Jong: Playing more minutes than any other Barcelona player so far this season, Frenkie de Jong will have a big say on whether or not Ronald Koeman secures the La Liga title. Barca’s passing metronome, De Jong’s ability to turn defence into attack with one precision pass or swift switch of direction also make him fail-safe against the opposition press. If De Jong is on form, Barca have a greater chance of establishing their dominance in the attacking half and the more time they spend there, the more Messi sees the ball. A simple yet effective formula.

Real Madrid

Current position: 2nd

Remaining fixtures: Granada (A), Athletic Club (A), Villarreal (H)

Real Madrid are the form team in the La Liga title race, unbeaten in their past 14 league games (winning nine) since a shock 2-1 home defeat to Levante in January. However, they still haven’t managed to hold top spot because they keep on drawing games. Since the Clásico victory gave them a superb chance to win La Liga, they’ve drawn three games and repeatedly given the advantage back to their opponents. They’re currently second on the head-to-head rule but with by far the trickiest run-in of the top four and a physically shattered squad they could just as easily finish fourth as win the title!

Key players: 

  • Karim Benzema: Like Messi at Barcelona, Karim Benzema shoulders a huge goalscoring burden at Real Madrid, netting 21 times in La Liga so far this season to leave himself 15 clear of his closest teammate. More than a mere goalscorer, Benzema’s habit of drifting over to the left flank not only creates overloads down that side, but it also leaves opposing centre-backs completely clueless about if they should follow him or not. Naturally, that confusion creates gaps for the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to thread the ball through, and for Vinicius Jr and Co to run into. Benzema carried Madrid to a title last season, can he do it again this time?
  • Casemiro: With Real Madrid still missing their first-choice defence, Casemiro will continue to play a huge role in protecting the stand-in centre-backs, though Eder Militao and Nacho have deputised well in the absences of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. The Brazilian has made more tackles and interceptions than any other Real player in La Liga this season and is the ultimate bulwark against opposition counter-attacks. Moreover, once he wins the ball back, it’s up to Casemiro to quickly distribute it upfield to Zidane’s dynamic attack.

Sevilla

Current position: 4th

Remaining fixtures: Valencia (H), Villarreal (A), Alaves (H)

Sevilla were an outside shout to win La Liga just a week ago but defeat to Athletic Club plus a failure to beat Real Madrid has basically made their victory impossible. They put up a fantastic fight against Los Blancos, however, and if they play with that intensity in their remaining three games they could at the very least punish the “big two” and finish second.

Key players: 

  • Youssef Ey-Nesyri: Despite making 14 of his 35 La Liga appearances as a substitute this season, Youssef Ey-Nesyri has still managed an extremely impressive 17 goals — the fifth-most in the league. The Morocco international is more of an old-fashioned finisher who, if he’s not trying to beat defenders himself, is happier waiting for chances to come to him. But when you’re as clinical as he is, coupled with some of the wonderful technicians playing around him, that’s just fine.
  • Diego Carlos: Jules Kounde (quite rightly) takes much of the credit for Sevilla’s defensive record, but their solidity simply wouldn’t be possible without Diego Carlos. The Brazilian centre-back is brilliantly measured in his defending, reading play to pop up in the right place at the right time, while he will stay on his feet as long as possible before committing to a tackle. That intelligence translates well to Carlos’ game on the other side of the ball too, with the 28-year-old brave and precise with his passing, moving Sevilla up the pitch quickly. If Sevilla are to pull off the improbable, Carlos simply must be at his best.