The title race in La Liga is really starting to hot up with Clasico rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid locked in a two-horse race for Spanish supremacy.
Find the latest La Liga title odds for the 2022/2023 season here:
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2022/23 La Liga: Overview and betting tips
There were no shortage of talking points before the 2022/23 La Liga season kicked off. Real Madrid came into the campaign as the defending title-holders (and European champions). Barcelona, after some financial gymnastics, once again have had the look of a world-class team. The rest of the top third, however, is now looking ripe for a shuffle. In the middle of the pack, storylines abound, at somewhat lower stakes. And, of course, we’re likely to be in for a lively relegation battle!
Who are favourites to win La Liga?
It appears that we already have a two-horse race for the La Liga title and it’s Barcelona who are leading after 16 games.
Barca president Joan Laporta spent his summer sufficiently ‘activating financial levers’ (selling stuff) that the recently-teetering Blaugrana were able to go on a monumental shopping spree, laying out a whopping €153 million for Jules Kounde, Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski, while also adding free agents Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen, and renewing Ousmane Dembele’s contract.
Given everything going on behind the scenes, there were some doubts as to whether Barcelona would have the capabilities to keep up in the title race, and these won’t have been helped by an opening weekend draw with Rayo Vallecano. However, since that draw, Barcelona have won 13 of their 16 La Liga matches with the only slip a defeat to Real Madrid in El Clasico.
Despite that defeat, Barcelona remain three points clear at the top of the table with the second-best attack in the league (35 goals scored) and the best defence (only six goals conceded).
Barca, of course, have a renewed sense of superiority after besting their rivals in the recent Spanish Super Cup. Teenage sensation Gavi was the standout star and opening scorer in the Saudi Arabian showpiece, leading Sergio Busquets to describe him as an “animal”.
He told Movistar following the win: “Gavi is a competitive animal, at that age most players are in the youth team, but he’s here, playing at an incredible level, scoring goals and giving assists. I would tell him to keep on learning and listening. I hope he marks an era for Barca.”
Sticking close to Barcelona are, of course, defending champions Real Madrid. After a stunning start to the season which included the 3-1 Clasico win in October, Carlo Ancelotti’s men suffered slightly just before the World Cup break which saw them slip.
With 12 wins from their opening 16 matches, only Barcelona have managed more victories than Real Madrid. However, their defence has let them down at times with 16 goals conceded — including no clean sheets in five of their past six matches.
Three of those matches also saw Real Madrid drop points, first in a 1-1 draw with Girona before Los Blancos were beaten 3-2 by Rayo Vallecano and most recently suffering a 2-1 loss to Villarreal — with their worrying form compounded by the weekend’s Spanish Super Cup loss.
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Who will finish in the top four in La Liga?
There is already a big gap opening between the top two and the chasing pack, who will no doubt be involved in the race to finish in the top four. Atletico Madrid are, of course, among those challenging for Champions League football — but Diego Simeone’s men currently sit inside the top four only on goal difference (though head-to-head comes into play towards the end of the season).
Sure, they’re still fourth, but they have only collected 28 points from their opening 17 games, their lowest such tally in a full season under Simeone. The Argentine will want to ensure his side don’t allow their worrying form to become a consistent trend throughout the second half of the campaign.
Los Txuri-Urdin have been formidable under Imanol Alguacil and currently sit third in the table. The Basque Country club are one of only three teams in La Liga this term (alongside Real and Barca) to record double digits for wins — and they are unbeaten since October. There were fears Sociedad would have struggled this campaign after Alexander Isak left for Newcastle, but Erling Haaland’s Norwegian team-mate Alexander Sorloth has been scoring for fun this term and looks determined to alleviate the Swede’s void.
Despite Unai Emery leaving for Aston Villa before the World Cup, Villarreal have remained fiercely competitive in La Liga. Quique Setien has returned to the dugout for the first time since his ill-fated Barcelona tenure, and the esoteric tactician has El Submari Groguet riding the currants with merit. The club are unbeaten in four and have claimed three wins in that time, including a 2-1 triumph over Real Madrid to ring in the new year.
Bilbao were flying high just before the World Cup but their form has come to a shuddering halt in the new year. Regardless, ex-Barca boss Ernesto Valverde still has his side only two points off fourth, and he will feel confident of making up the ground in the coming weeks. A top tactician, Valverde has all the necessary tools to turn the tide and get Bilbao back on course to challenge the top four.
Real Betis were doing well in La Liga before a poor run of form saw them drop out of the top four before the World Cup break. Like Atletico, Betis — who sit sixth — managed just one win from their final five matches before the break though that was a big victory over Real Sociedad. They suffered a similar slip last season after starting well, which ultimately saw them miss out on the Champions League, so Betis will want to up their game to avoid a repeat.
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La Liga 2022/23 relegation battle
At the other end of the table, Elche already look cut adrift as the only side yet to record a victory in La Liga this season. Their points have come from five draws, while they unfortunately have the worst attack in the league and the worst defence, conceding 35 goals.
That record may be okay for some if the other teams were closer to team, but Elche are already 10 points behind 19th-place and 12 from safety. It won’t be impossible for them to recover, but they’ll need to switch on immediately.
Joining Elche in the relegation zone are Cadiz, sitting on 16 points after 17 games with just three wins and seven defeats. They have the second-worst attack, scoring just 12 goals in the league — with three of those coming in a 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid at the end of October.
At the moment, nobody expects Sevilla to be relegated but it’s worth a mention as they are currently 19th in the table. Like Cadiz, Sevilla have won just three of their 17 league matches so far and have said goodbye to Julen Lopetegui, who was replaced by Jorge Sampaoli. He’s not had the best start to life back at Sevilla though with just two wins from 10 in the league.
Race for the ‘Pichichi’: Who will be La Liga’s top scorer?
Last season, the ‘race’ for the Pichichi – or the top goal scorer in the Spanish top flight – was anything but. With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo no longer around, one could have been forgiven for assuming that the league’s other goal-scoring talents would go toe-to-toe for the honour. As it turns out, like his predecessors before him, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema was having none of it. The Ballon d’Or winner lapped the field, with an awesome 27 strikes in just 32 league appearances. His closest competition was Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas, who had 18, followed by his teammate, Vinicius Junior, and Espanyol’s Raul de Tomas (17 each), and Getafe’s Enes Unal and Juanmi of Real Betis, who had 16 apiece.
This season it’s looking like a similar procession, only this time it’s Robert Lewandowski leading the way. The new Barcelona man has scored 13 goals in La Liga so far, three more than his closest rival Joselu (the only two players with double digits for goals). Benzema, meanwhile, has struggled with injury issues to net eight goals.