We’re one week away from the opening matchday of the 2022-23 La Liga season. Several teams project as we might expect, though the Spanish top flight looks poised to throw up more surprises than usual this season.
Find the latest La Liga winner odds* for the 2022/2023 season here:
|Club||Paddy Power||Sky Bet|
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2022/23 La Liga: Preview and betting tips
There is no shortage of talking points ahead of the 2022-23 La Liga season. Real Madrid, coming off in a glorious domestic double, are eager (and favoured) to continue their success, Barcelona, after some financial gymnastics, once again have the look of a world-class team. The rest of the top third, however, looks ripe for a shuffle. In the middle of the pack, storylines abound, at somewhat lower stakes. And, of course, we’re likely in for a lively relegation battle!
As we count down the days to the start of the La Liga season, we’ve got a team-by-team preview, plus some picks for league winner, top four finishers, relegation fodder, and top goal scorer.
2022/23 La Liga: Predictions
|League Winner||Barcelona||137/100 with Betway|
|Top 4 Finish||Real Betis||5/1 with Betway|
|‘Pichichi’ (Top Goalscorer)||Robert Lewandowski||5/2 with Betway|
|‘Pichichi’ (Top Goalscorer)||Alexander Isak||33/1 with Betway|
|Relegation||Mallorca||5/2 with Betway|
|Relegation||Elche||3/2 with Betway|
All odds correct at the time of writing (4 August, 2022). 18+ Only. Terms and Conditions Apply.
Who are favourites to win La Liga (or break the top four)?
The sailing could not be smoother right now in the white half of Madrid. While Barcelona struggled, both on the pitch and at the bank, Carlo Ancelotti’s side completed a spectacular domestic double, in which they strolled to a 13-point victory in La Liga and ran a Manchester City-PSG-Liverpool gauntlet en route to a fourteenth European Cup/Champion League trophy.
Every key contributor from last year – most notably Ballon d’Or frontrunner Karim Benzema, Vinícius Junior, and the most-decorated midfield trio of all time, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos and Casemiro, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois – is back, and they’re joined by high-end reinforcements in defensive midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni (from Monaco) and ex-Chelsea centre-back Antonio Rüdiger.
Los Blancos are favoured to defend their La Liga crown, with odds of 6/5 at Betway. It is worth noting, however, that, for all of their strength and depth, Madrid are not exceedingly deep up front, where an injury to Benzema would be devastating. Also – not that this has anything to do with the here and now – since 1990, Madrid have only repeated as La Liga champions once (2007 and 2008). And, of course, there’s a side in the northeast of Spain that’s been doing some upgrading…
Barça 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 Koundé, Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski, while also adding free agents Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen, and renewing Ousmane Dembélé’s contract.
This group, added to a great young core of Pedri, Gavi, Ronald Araújo and a hopefully healthy Ansu Fati, veterans Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets, (despite the club’s efforts to push him out the door) Frenkie de Jong, and an attack that also already includes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres, with a full offseason under Xavi (who somehow only took over last November) has Barça dreaming not only of silverware, but of a return to the top of the sport.
Of course, it’s not that easy. There is the question of playing time. Xavi will be integrating some high-profile newcomers into a midfield and an attack that looked crowded before the offseason. Then, of course, there are the questions at the back. Last season, Barça were neither deep nor particularly stout at the back. Koundé and Christensen will certainly help, and should team up well with Araújo – though this will take some time and injury luck.
There’s a case to be made for and against each of Spain’s traditional top two in La Liga in 2022/23. Madrid are rightly favoured, but Barça are not only dramatically improved, but infused with optimism and desperate to reclaim a place at the top table. I wouldn’t bet heavily either way, but if compelled, am leaning toward Barça at odds of just under 7/5 (137/100) at Betway.
In a lot of ways, 2022-23, Atleti will resemble the many of the sides we’ve seen throughout the Diego Simeone era. For starters, the talismanic man in black is still patrolling the sideline. Also, goalkeeper extraordinaire Jan Oblak and midfield star Thomas Lemar renewed their contracts this summer. And hey! Antoinne Griezmann, Saúl and Álvaro Morata are around!
Of course, in a great many ways, this is nothing at all like the Atleti that we have come to know. For starters, believe it or not, a Simeone-coached Atlético side will be leaning on its attack to maintain its unquestioned spot in Spain’s top three. That attack is now led by João Félix, Ángel Correa and Matheus Cunha, with the presences of Griezmann, Saúl and Morata speaking more to their tough times at, respectively, Barcelona, Chelsea and Chelsea/Juventus, than anything else.
Also, the 43 league goals allowed in 2021-22 were the most allowed by Atleti since 2011-12 – Simeone’s first season as manager – with only one other side allowing as many as 30 (the 2012-13 group allowed 31). So, no less surprisingly, not only is this side’s calling card no longer its defence, far more troublingly, there are genuine questions to be asked at the back particularly in central defence, where the side struggled with injury and ineffective play. As no one’s been brought in to solidify the central defence (the only signings of note have been Axel Witsel on a free from Dortmund, and Udinese right back Nahuel Molina, as a replacement for Newcastle-bound Kieran Trippier), there’s a lot of pressure or the incumbents to stay healthy and in form.
Though many of the names and faces are the same, this is not Atleti as we know them. Though they’re overwhelming (1/4) favourites to finish in the top four and hardly longshots (13/2) to win a second La Liga title in three years, this could be a very disappointing season for Atleti, who could find themselves looking up at more than two teams at season’s end.
If any club in Spain ended last season feeling remotely as good as Real Madrid, it’s Real Betis. In 2021-22 Los Verdiblancos not only ended a 17-year trophy drought with a victory in the Copa del Rey, they finished fifth in the league, on 64 points, just five behind crosstown rivals Sevilla for La Liga’s final Champions League spot. That’s not all! Manuel Pellegrini’s men also took part in European competition, progressing to the last 16 in the Europa League, where they were defeated by eventual champions Eintracht Frankfurt.
That experience will come in handy in 2022-23, as the side, basically intact from a year ago (vitally, Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales, Juanmi and Borja Iglesias are all still around), looks to balance another Europa League run with a league campaign that could see Real Betis not only break up the Real Madrid-Barça-Atleti-Sevilla top four of the past three year (LOVE this at 5/1), but possibly even finish in the top three.
It’s tough to think of a better sendoff for the club’s talisman, Joaquin, in his farewell season as a player.
Recent seasons for Real Sociedad have followed a consistent, if maddening pattern: start strong, look a dark horse threat for top four, before falling away in the second half. 2021-22 was no different, though was a bit more strange. Sure, they still did the ‘start strong, fade away’ thing, but this time there’s a serious case to be made that La Real should have challenged for a Champions League spot.
Rarely does a team concede just 37 goals (only 9 at home) and rack up 62 points with a goal difference of… +3! Yep, these guys turned in an objectively successful top-flight campaign (sixth-place and a spot in the Europa League) while scoring just 40 goals! Two teams that got relegated scored more! In part, this comes down to the ACL injury suffered by Mikel Oyarzabal, who had nine goals (and remained the team’s leading scorer) before missing the season’s final two months. Beyond that, it simply comes down to being more clinical.
In terms of xG (your mileage will vary on this), La Real were good for just over 56 goals a year ago. Their underperformance of 16.09 goals was the most by any team in Europe’s top five leagues. As the stout defence of last season (minus Nacho Monreal) remains intact, the focus this summer has been on beefing up the attack. Oyarzabal is expected to be fit in the coming weeks, and will be joined by newcomers Brais Méndez from Celta Vigo and Take Kubo from Real Madrid in the wide positions vacated by Adnan Januzaj and Portu. Most important, however, will be somehow-still-only-22-year-old Swedish striker Alexander Isak.
In terms of physical and technical gifts, Isak is equipped to be one of the top strikers not only in Spain, but in all of Europe. The key, of course, is actually finishing chances. As he’s still so young, there’s reason to be optimistic that Isak can find that clinical streak. If/when he does, the goals could come in bunches (on the chance that you think it’s going to REALLY go right, 33/1 is fairly enticing, no?).
As ever, there are questions about whether Real Sociedad have the depth and top-end talent to maintain a top-four challenge. This season, despite some slippage among the teams ahead, they’ll likely still come up a bit short, though a jump into the top-five isn’t out of the question.
Let’s start with the good news. In Ivan Rakitić, Thomas Delaney, Nemanja Gudelj, Joan Jordán, Óliver Torres and Papu Gómez, Sevilla boast the most talented, deepest and most versatile non-Barça/Real Madrid midfield in Spain. Also, in Yassine Bounou, they’ve got a genuine star keeper who just won Marca’s Zamora Trophy in 2021-22, for having La Liga’s lowest goals-to-games ratio.
Alright, that’s that.
2022-23 promises to be an uphill battle for Julen Lopetegui’s side, which rode an excellent defence (fewest goals conceded in La Liga with 30) to a fourth-place finish. Unfortunately, the club’s top two centre-backs from a year ago, Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, are now employed by, respectively, Aston Villa and Barcelona. The only reinforcement that’s been brought in is 26-year-old ex-Galatasaray man Marcão, who’s never played club football at a level above Portugal or Turkey.
There’s no more optimism to be found in attack, where the inconsistent Youssef En-Nesyri and Rafa Mir (Sevilla’s only double-figure goal scorer last season) will lead the line, with little backup – especially with Luuk de Jong, who spent last season on loan at Barcelona, leaving permanently for PSV Eindhoven.
Even with the full squad intact, Sevilla’s foundation showed cracks down the stretch last season, as the side ranked just seventh in La Liga in points after January 1. With the back line having been gutted, and with little depth, consistency or real menace in attack, Sevilla’s outlook for 2022-23 is far less rosy than the bookies’ 5/4 top-four odds would suggest.
For a team that, over the past two seasons, has won the Europa League and defeated Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach the semifinals of the Champions League, there’s really not a lot of belief in Villarreal.
Now, strictly speaking, that’s not really true. The Yellow Submarine are regularly recognized as one of European football’s great overachievers. However, that their recent successes in Europe have been accompanied by a pair of seventh-place finishes in La Liga is really not an anomaly.
While organised, well-coached and reasonably talented, this is also a very prudently run club that doesn’t tend to splash cash on top-end talent or squad depth. 2022-23 is no different. Villarreal enter this season with an essentially unchanged squad. They will be counting heavily on star striker Gerard Moreno (who played just 17 league games last season) to stay on the field. Even if he does, however, there will still be pressure on a squad that’s no deeper than it was a year ago, and will likely be fighting on multiple fronts again, assuming an annoyingly long run in the Europa Conference League.
That being said, this side is good enough and experienced enough to hold down that now-familiar seventh-place spot, or even creep into sixth if Sevilla really tumble down on the table.
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Middle-of-the-pack La Liga 2022/23 sides who could become dark horses
Do you remember the Real Sociedad write-up above? Get ready for an ever so slightly less extreme sequel.
In 2021-22, Athletic, like their Basque rivals, simply didn’t concede goals (just 36 in 38 games; this shouldn’t change dramatically, since, despite overtures from Barcelona, star centre-back Iñigo Martínez is almost certainly staying) but also failed to scored many of their own (just 43), despite creating chances (they under performed xG by 14!).
Unsurprisingly, their season wasn’t one of thrills. Athletic never got higher than seventh, but didn’t dip below twelfth, and finished eighth, but without really threatening seventh. They did reach the semis of the Copa del Rey, so… that’s something, huh?
This year’s squad is basically unchanged, thanks largely to the club’s Basque-only transfer policy. On the bright side, back on the sideline, for a third stint with the club, is ex-Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde, who’s not only a beloved figure at the club, but has a track record of getting goals out of Iñaki Williams and Raúl García. There’s a chance that Valverde’s tactics and positive vibes vault Athletic into the top seven. However, given the squad’s limitations, that’s something to believe in only once we’ve got some evidence.
Getafe were a disaster at the start of last season, losing seven of their first seven, and looking destined for the drop. At that point, however, after turning to a former manager Quique Sánchez Flores, the side engineered a turnaround, losing just twice in their final 15 games at home, and clawing their way to a second straight fifteenth-placed finish. This clearly is not good enough for the club.
Looking ahead, Getafe are clearly determined to recapture their form of 2018-2020, when they finished top-ten three times, and even managed a fifth-place finish in 2018-19. To that end, the club have signed centre-back Domingos Duarte, talented midfielder Luis Milla, central midfielder in Jaime Seoane, ex-Real Sociedad winger Portu and left back Fabrizio Angileri from River Plate, and permanently signed striker Borja Mayoral (a loanee from Real Madrid), who worked so well with top scorer Enes Ünal.
There’s a lot of optimism around Getafe – and it’s well-deserved. This bolstered squad is ready to compete with any team, on any given day, and is far more likely to achieve a top-ten finish than to once again flirt with relegation.
Under Argentine coach Eduardo Coudet and new sporting advisor Luis Campos (who’s also working with PSG, and helped build league-winning sides at Monaco and Lille), Celta are looking to break out of mid-La Liga table monotony. Any such move will likely have to wait at least a year, since Coudet (who finished his first season at Celta in ’21-’22) is not one to rotate his squad. Celta survived with a small squad and positive injury luck last season, but have made a number of additions in the midfield and defence who will need to be worked into the side.
Up front, Brais Méndez is gone (to Real Sociedad), which will certainly sting, but the story is the same as it’s seemingly always been. Celta will once look to their talisman, Iago Aspas, who scored 17 La Liga goals last season, and has netted at least 14 in each of his past seven seasons. Aspas, who’s now 35 years of age, is sure to begin showing his age at some point, though that;s something that I (and, apparently, the bookies) will need to see to believe.
After a yo-yo trip to the Segunda, Espanyol returned to La Liga in 2021-22 with, more or less, a quintessentially Espanyol season: 42 points, 40 goals, 53 conceded, fourteenth in the table, with no serious threat of relegation.
This season, with much of the core returning, and the additions of youth and depth, there’s hope that more is in store. Adding to this is the hiring of Diego Martínez, a rising star in the coaching ranks after taking Granada from the Segunda to the Europa League in just two seasons.
Dampening the mood is news that Raúl de Tomás, last season’s top scorer (and tied for fourth in the league) with 17 goals (and a 25/1 shot for the Pichichi) has requested a move away from the club (Aston Villa and Sevilla have reportedly shown interest, but may not be willing to meets Espanyol’s €35 million demand). Fortunately, even before RDT asked for an exit, the club signed Joselu, who led now-relegated Alavés with 14 goals last year.
It looks as though Espanyol this year will basically be what they were last year. Not terrible, not great, definitely not memorable.
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There’s almost certainly no more depressing situation in La Liga than this one.
Despite Valencia reaching the Copa del Rey final and securing a top-ten finish, both president Anil Murthy and manager José Bordalás were shown the door by owner Peter Lim. To replace Bordalás, Lim has turned to Italian great Gennaro Gattuso. Gattuso’s will be (counting caretakers) the eighteenth managerial stint at the club since Unai Emery’s departure in 2012.
On the bright side, despite interest, the club has managed (for now) to hang on to star players at each level of the pitch: José Luis Gayà and Gabriel Paulista in defence, Carlos Soler in Midfield, and Gonçalo Guedes up front. However, Gayà and Soler, whose contracts both expire next summer, could be on the move. Their quality and experience could prove the difference between a solidly mid-table campaign, or something far more… yup, depressing.
Since their return to La Liga in 2019-20, Osasuna have finished tenth, eleventh and tenth. They’ve neither flirted with the European spots nor have they had to fight for their top-flight lives. This is a solidly mid-table outfit – though one with the quality in its ranks to aspire to more, with having recently had players on loan at Atlético Madrid and Villarreal, receiving interest from top-half sides for Jon Moncayola, and securing the signature of Villarreal winger Moi Gómez, to support an already-solid attack of Rubén García, Chimy Ávila and Ante Budimir.
This is still a quintessentially mid-table side. On the bright side, this looks like a good quintessentially mid-table side.
This is not your typical newly-promoted side. Under Saudi Arabian owner Turki Alalshikh, Almería have spent close to €20 million – a large sum for a newly-promoted side in Spain – on additions to what was last season’s most expensive second-tier side. The new arrivals include Lorient right back Houboulang Mendes, Partizan Belgrade striker Marko Milovanović and, most impressively, highly-rated 18-year-old centre-back Kaik, from Santos in Brazil.
Barring a crazy sequence of events, relegation should never enter the picture for this side. That should not come as a shock, since they’ve got the same (admittedly not great) odds of cracking the top-four as Celta, Espanyol and Getafe. However, if their star striker Umar Sadiq (18 goals last season in the second division) hits the ground running in the top flight, Almería could be justified in harbouring some (relatively) greater ambitions.
La Liga 2022/23 relegation battle
Thanks to an injury time goal on the final day, Ronaldo Nazario’s Valladolid bypassed the playoffs and bumped Eibar from the automatic promotion places. With the exception of a couple youthful additions, the core of this Valladolid side is not dramatically different from that of the side that went down a couple of years ago. Needless to say, this side will have to battle relegation much as that one did.
In 2021-22, when Cádiz weren’t flirting with relegation, they looked destined for the drop. And yet, somehow, with a 1-0 win away at already-relegated Alavés on the final day, they stayed up by the thinnest of margins. This is due, in large part, to the dismissal of ultra-popular coach Álvaro Cervera, whose highly defensive style wasn’t cutting it in the top flight, in favour of the moderately more expansive Sergio González.
Cádiz will almost certainly be in a relegation fight once again this season. However, there is cautious optimism that, given last season’s escape, under González’s guidance, this can be a merely ‘subpar’ side, and not one that fears for its top-flight life until the eleventh hour.
Offensively challenged Rayo have thus far done little over the summer to bolster an attack that barely averaged a goal per game in 2021-22. With or without a new striker, a repeat of last season’s (somewhat deceptive) twelfth-place finish is unlikely. Similarly, however, with most of a defensively-solid (50 goals allowed) and experienced (an average age of more than 28 last year) squad returning, with a solid, intelligent coach in Andoni Iraola at the helm, relegation is unlikely to be a major concern, whatever else happens in the transfer market.
On the surface it seems as though Mallorca have had an impressive transfer window. And, in a sense, they have, bringing back the vast majority of players that made up the squad a year ago, as well as attacker Lago Junior, the previously-touted winger who spent last season on loan with Huesca.
However, when reality sets in and when you consider that what this club is actually bringing back is the group that delivered a sixteenth-place finish, one point out of the drop zone, with the league’s second-worst goal difference (-27). With that money spent and season nearly upon us, it’s unlikely that this club has any more major moves up its sleeve. Given that, Mallorca will enter the 2022-23 season as it exited the 2021-22 season – with one of the weakest rosters in the league, with precious little confidence on which to lean, and offering excellent value at 5/2 to take the drop.
Elche flirted with relegation virtually all of last season, before finishing thirteenth on tiebreakers, with a point total just four greater than that of the eighteenth-placed side. In the months since, the club’s board and owner, football agent Christian Bragarnik, have not seen eye to eye. All the while, the transfer market chugged along, with Elche largely absent.
In short, this year’s Elche side is poised to look an awful like last year’s barely-good-enough Elche side, and it’s debatable whether the club’s owner has the will or the support to do much about it.
Can I interest anyone in 3/2 for Elche to take the drop??
If you’re curious why Girona is heavily favoured to make a quick return to the second tier, consider only this: this, the Segunda’s sixth-placed team from a year ago, is only here because a tiebreaker got them the last promotion playoff spot, which the Catalan side did make the most of.
It is worth noting, though, that Girona is part of City Football Group, and thus has access to playing resources that others in this spot would not. Case in point: ahead of the upcoming season, Girona have been able to sign young Man City right back Yan Couto, and NYCFC’s Taty Castellanos, who led MLS in goals scored in 2021, was leading the league again in 2022 before his acquisition.
Unfortunately, the club has done precious little beyond these two impressive signings to bolster a clearly-not-top-flight squad for a return to the top flight.
On the bright side, between Castellanos, veteran Cristhian Stuani and their coach, Michel, there is some goal-scoring acumen and no shortage of attacking intent. Even if Girona finish bottom as predicted, they’ll probably make for decent entertainment.
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 presumptive 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, Vinícius Júnior, and Espanyol’s Raúl de Tomás (17 each), and Getafe’s Enes Ünal and Juanmi of Real Betis, who had 16 apiece.
Unsurprisingly, Benzema is the favourite to repeat the feat this year, at odds of 9/4 with Betway, with the the Barça duo of Robert Lewandowski (5/2) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (6/1) behind him, with Benzema’s Madrid mate Vinícius Junior (9/1) and Atleti’s João Félix (20/1) rounding out the top five.
Anyone inclined to stay on the Benzema bandwagon has every reason to do so. However, given the eagerness and aggression with which Barcelona are approaching this season, not to mention the machinations required to get himself to Catalunya and his own frankly mind-boggling body of work, it’s tough to look past Robert Lewandowski. Also, as mentioned before, if you;re looking for shout at slightly longer odds, there is a plausible case to be made for Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak at 33/1.