Barcelona have spent big on an array of talent, but will stability prove crucial for Real Madrid? Read on to inform your La Liga 2022/23 predictions and make your picks ahead of the new season.
Last season saw Real Madrid comfortably reclaim the La Liga title following Atletico Madrid’s unexpected success two years ago. The title triumph, coupled with Champions League glory, marked a perfect return to the Bernabeu for Carlo Ancelotti after he was named as the surprise successor to Zinedine Zidane for his second spell in charge of Los Blancos.
Barcelona’s off-field problems were notable at the beginning of last season but once club legend Xavi took over in the managerial hotseat in November, results began to improve and they will look to try and win back the title they last won in 2019, while Atletico are always in the hunt too despite their disappointing title defence last season.
In terms of the top four, city rivals Sevilla and Real Betis look set to be involved in the battle for a place in the Champions League, as will Villarreal, who surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals of Europe's elite club competition last season.
A closer title race expected
Real Madrid won La Liga by 13 points last season, which was the biggest margin of victory since Barcelona won on 93 points back in 2018, 14 points clear of Atletico.
It was a relative cruise to the title for the Bernabeu-based outfit as Barcelona struggled at the beginning of the season, with players having left, while Atletico were struggling to replicate the form and intensity from the season before.
As the defending champions, Real are the favourites at 1.925* to emerge victorious again
Barca finished second on 73 points, the lowest tally for a second-placed team in the division since 2004 and, given how much money they have spent this summer refreshing their squad, it is sure to be a closer race this year.
All eyes will be on Robert Lewandowski to see if he can adapt fully to La Liga following years of goal-scoring domination in the Bundesliga. At 33, the Polish ace is making the move late in his career but he has traditionally been viewed as a late bloomer and has the goal-scoring prowess to succeed.
Atletico the best of the rest
Even though Atletico Madrid haven’t made any eye-catching big summer signings, it would be very unusual for them to finish outside of the top four places, and they were champions as recently as 2021.
Diego Simeone is a unique manager and is still going strongly at the Metropolitano, despite having been in charge for over a decade.
it certainly isn't beyond the realms of possibility they could make a sustained run for the title.
Defensively, they remain a solid unit and while they have lost Luis Suarez this summer, they have plenty of firepower in reserve. Alvaro Morata returns after his loan to Juventus while Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann offer plenty of offensive threat.
Axel Witsel has arrived to give a bit more experience in midfield and for Atletico, it is a case of fine-tuning a competitive squad as they lack the huge resources of Barcelona and Real. Atletico are priced at 6.980* to win the league.
Big race for the top four
Sevilla look the most likely side to complete the top four with Julen Lopetegui’s men having enjoyed an excellent season last year. They were Real’s closest challenger for the first half of the season but a spate of draws (a league-leading 16) meant they fell away. If they can start converting those draws into wins, they will be hard to stop getting in the top four as they boasted the best defensive record in La Liga last season, conceding just 30 times while losing only four games.
Real Betis won the Copa del Rey last year which will give them great confidence ahead of another European challenge while Villarreal can take heart from their Champions League run despite flattering to deceive in La Liga.
Real Sociedad will be going for another top-six finish but may be hard-pressed to achieve that aim, with the likes of Athletic Bilbao and Valencia unhindered by the extra burden of having to compete in Europe.
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