Football Features

Ranking La Liga’s title contenders from favourites to dark horses

By Muhammad Butt

La Liga title odds: Can Real Sociedad challenge Barcelona & Real Madrid?

Published: 10:30, 6 November 2020

La Liga is really getting into the swing of things heading into the international break.

The title race is as open as it’s ever been, with Real Sociedad sitting top of the table whilst Real Madrid are hot on their heels with a game in-hand. La Real were one of the form sides in in the division before the hiatus last season and although they struggled post-lockdown, they appear to have rediscovered that scintillating form now.

With David Silva back in La Liga after a decade in the Premier League and Mikel Oyarzabal playing superbly, the Basque side are flying high under Imanol Alguacil and their fans will be hoping that they can sustain this form over the entire season to clinch their first championship since they retained the title in 1982. Can they do it? Who knows, it’s been a wild season so far and there’s so much more to come.

With that in mind we’ve headed over to SBK and had a look at their rankings for the favourites to win the 2020/21 La Liga title. We’ve picked out the top four sides as decided by SBK’s percentage odds and profiled them here.

*Odds correct as of 09:30 on 6/11/2020. You have to be 18+ and GambleAware to sign up to SBK.

4. Sevilla

  • 2019/20 finish: 4th
  • Current position: 17th
  • SBK La Liga 2020/21 winner odds: 3.70%

Sevilla ended last season in furious form, going on a 21-match unbeaten run to clinch fourth spot and then a sixth UEFA Europa League. They entered this season superbly, came close to beating Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup, matched Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Everything was going so well, until it wasn’t.

Since the draw in Catalunya, Sevilla have lost all three league games they’ve played (winning and drawing their two Champions League matches) and thus slid down the table to an embarrassing 16th. Obviously you’d back Julen Lopetegui to get them back on track, and they do have two games in-hand, but the rocky nature of this spell does make you doubt their title credentials.

3. Atlético Madrid

  • 2019/20 finish: 3rd
  • Current position: 4th
  • SBK La Liga 2020/21 winner odds: 22.22%

Atleti have been a superb force in Spanish football ever since Diego Simeone took charge back in 2011. They’ve never recovered the same kind of energy they had in 2013/14 when they won the title, however, even though they’ve had more stacked squads since.

This summer their only major addition was Luis Suárez and whilst the striker has started life in Madrid well, the biggest thing his arrival has done is seemingly to unlock the potential of Atleti’s wonderkid Joao Felix.

The Portuguese had struggled in his debut season but look much brighter now and if he continues to play as well as he has been lately, and if Suárez’s fitness holds up, then Atleti have to be taken very seriously as a title threat. Obviously a lot of their impact is tied up in those two forwards so they’re not favourites, but rule them out at your peril.

2. Real Madrid

  • 2019/20 finish: 1st
  • Current position: 2nd
  • SBK La Liga 2020/21 winner odds: 42.74%

Los Blancos are the defending Champions and for that reason alone they become serious contenders. The thing is that’s basically the only reason they can be considered contenders since they didn’t substantially add to their squad in the summer.

Sure they brought Martin Odegaard back from loan but they also sold James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale who play that same position. And whilst they expect Eden Hazard to be fit and firing this season and thus “like a new signing” the fact remains that while they can be a solid defensive outfit they are often found wanting in terms of their attacking invention.

Further, although you rule out a side containing Sergio Ramos at your own peril (a man made of at least 50% winning mentality) you have to wonder if the lucky bounces and refereeing decisions that gave them the nudges they need to power to the 2019/20 title will reappear in enough volume to let them retain their crown for the first time in over a decade (and just the second time in the last 25 years).

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1. Barcelona

  • 2019/20 finish: 2nd
  • Current position: 12th
  • SBK La Liga 2020/21 winner odds: 44.64%

Barcelona have not started the season well, winning just two of their first six matches (and none of their last four). But they have had a tricky start to the season in terms of fixtures, and were unlucky against Getafe and Real Madrid. Ronald Koeman doesn’t necessarily fill the fans with confidence but he does have the side looking younger, hungrier and faster.

Obviously there are weaknesses; unrest at the club over what is likely an impending wage cut to avoid financial disaster incurred by the previous board won’t help morale, and the side does still need a striker. But beyond that the pieces are there for Koeman to make Barcelona a bright and inventive side.

However the main reason they are considered favourites is simple: Leo Messi. The Argentine has won La Liga 10 times throughout his career and only once in his 16 year career has he immediately failed to win back a title he just lost (2007/08, the year before Pep Guardiola’s revolution). Beyond that one spell, Messi wins the title every other year, and he didn’t win it last year.

Obviously Barcelona aren’t as strong as they used to be, even if they do have the capacity to be stronger than they currently are, but them being favourites (just about) makes sense when you realise how historically improbable it has been to win a 38-game marathon against the greatest player on planet Earth.