Can Barcelona land their third consecutive La Liga title in 2019/20 or will the Madrid giants hit back?
Let’s face it, the 2018/19 La Liga campaign won’t live long in the memory for most lovers of Spanish football.
Barcelona cantered to their 26th title with three games to spare despite not being at their vintage best, as Real Madrid toiled and ever consistent Atletico again lacked the necessary gears with their ageing squad. In the end, the battle for fourth proved more compelling – and it was Valencia who nabbed the final Champions League place late in the piece from Getafe and Sevilla.
As the new season approaches, there’s plenty of attention once again on the subject of TV rights after Eleven Sports’ coverage came to an abrupt end – and to press the UK rights for La Liga 2019/20 are still up in the air.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the big hitters aren’t yet clambering to step in after the aforementioned dullness of last term; however it’s rare that we see two nondescript La Liga campaigns on the spin.
There’s been plenty of moving and shaking in the summer transfer window to date with the tease of more to come (yes, Neymar) and we definitely look set for an intriguing season of change as Real and Atleti rebuild whilst Valencia seek to force their way into the top three.
Alongside the English Premier League, La Liga unquestionably still leads the way for domestic football across Europe, but who will be the key winners and losers in the 89th instalment over the coming months?
Click here to find out when the rest of our 2019/20 Season Outright Predictions will be released.
La Liga Winners Prediction – BARCELONA
It seems crazy to pick holes in Barca’s 2018/19 league campaign considering they finished 11 points ahead of Atleti and 19 points clear of Real, but it’s definitely fair to say that Ernesto Valverde’s side weren’t as emphatic or visually dominant week to week.
Whilst beaten just three times in 38 games, far more teams managed to get competitive with them and it was regularly a case of ‘job done’ for Messi and co. instead of batting the opposition out of things by half time as we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the past.
A Copa De Rey final defeat to Valencia and the surrender of a three goal lead against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals further stripped Barca’s old cloak of invincibility, and therefore it’s no surprise that Club President Josep Bartomeu has been pulling some serious strings in the summer.
The £117m arrival of World Cup winning superstar Antoine Griezmann from Atleti significantly strengthens Barca and weakens their nearest challengers simultaneously – although Griezmann’s replacement Joao Felix could well set things alight from the off at Wanda Metropolitano despite his tender years.
Additionally, Barca have managed to snare another of the game’s hottest young prospects in the shape of Frenkie De Jong, who was pivotal towards Ajax’ romantic run to the last four of the Champions League last term.
Griezmann and De Jong will really freshen things up at Camp Nou, and a front three containing the former alongside Luis Suarez and Messi should lead to plenty of sleepless nights for the majority of La Liga defenders – and that’s before the potential re-signing of Neymar (transfer saga ongoing) is thrown into the mix.
We expect better things from Real this time around following the marquee signing of Eden Hazard from Chelsea, the arrival of Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt and the sound defensive acquisitions of Eder and Ferland Mendy from Porto and Lyon respectively, but it will take some time for Zinedine Zidane to blood his new crop and redefine the club’s identify in terms of playing style.
A new era also dawns for Atleti post Griezmann, Godin, Juanfran and Lucas Hernandez, but whilst it’s an exciting time for Los Rojiblancos supporters following seven key arrivals, it’s also likely that boss Diego Simeone will need time to gel everyone together and find his best XI – meaning key ground could be lost in the opening weeks of the campaign. It’s worth noting though that some cracking business seems to have been done at Wanda Metropolitano, including the signing of England defender/set piece specialist Kieran Trippier for just £20m.
So we anticipate that both Madrid giants will develop into top sides once again over the duration of the forthcoming season, but it’s Barcelona who still look a cut above the rest right now. With Griezmann and De Jong in tow, they have the extra ammunition needed to start blowing teams out of the water again and winning comfortably week to week. They will be pushed in their head to heads with Real, Atleti and Valencia (more on Los Che below), but consistency will win the day in the title race and we see Barca wrapping up their fifth title in six years via a 6-8 point margin.
Check out why Barcelona are one of our teams to watch in our early Champions league winner predictions.
La Liga Top Four Finish Prediction – VALENCIA
This hasn’t been a particularly appealing betting market in La Liga over the past few seasons considering it’s usually just fourth place that is up for grabs, but we think that Valencia can get much closer to the established front three in 2019/20.
Nine wins from their last 13 league fixtures in 2018/19 secured Champions League football for Valencia once again and they hit new heights at the end of May when beating Barcelona in Seville to lift the Copa Del Rey.
Boss Marcelino has done an outstanding job at the club since taking over in 2017 and Los Che have a strong and settled side which can only be enhanced by the eye-catching arrival of striker Maxi Gomez from Celta Vigo.
Goalkeeper Neto is the only significant departure over the summer after signing for Barcelona, but fans at the Mestalla won’t be too concerned after experienced Dutch international stopper Jasper Cillessen moved in the other direction.
Valencia may have only edged out the likes of Getafe and Sevilla by a couple of points last season, but we feel Los Che are more equipped to hold their league form consistently this time around as they aim to compete on all fronts.
With Getafe likely to struggle in matching their 2018/19 achievements with Europa League football to contend with and plenty of uncertainty surrounding Sevilla under Julian Lopetegui after a blitz of incomings and outgoings, Valencia look nailed on for another fourth place finish at worst and the generous odds-against are worth snapping up.
La Liga Top Goalscorer Prediction – LIONEL MESSI
An unoriginal choice for sure, but Lionel Messi has dominated the La Liga scoring charts over the last three campaigns.
The Argentine maestro has struck a whopping 107 times during that period in total and has romped his way to be top scorer by margins of eight, eight and 15 goals dating back to 2016/17.
At 32, Messi isn’t getting any younger but it’s difficult to envisage his prolific form dropping off just yet, whilst a number of other La Liga stars have to go some way to bridge the gap.
The likes of Eden Hazard and Joao Felix are new on the scene for Real and Atleti respectively and are likely to take La Liga by storm, but it would be some ask for them to get near the 30 goal mark which they’ll need to do if they are to usurp the Barcelona captain.
One possible springer in this market at huge odds is new Valencia forward Maxi Gomez who netted 31 goals in two seasons for a moderate Celta Vigo side prior to his switch to Mestalla, but for us it’s Messi all the way and the world’s greatest player looks a shoe in at around the 4/6 mark to claim the Golden Boot once more.
La Liga Relegation Prediction – DEPORTIVO ALAVES
On the face of it, Deportivo Alaves met expectations and had a fairly solid campaign to finish 11th in 2018/19; however the league table doesn’t tell the full story.
El Glorioso were actually challenging around the Europa League places during the first half of the season, before their form rapidly tailed off.
They won just one and lost six of their final ten league matches last term and look a side significantly on the downgrade heading into 2019/20.
It remains to be seen what effect new boss Asier Garitano will have on the squad following the departure of Abelardo, but with no significant transfer business done, Alaves could well be toiling if picking up from where they left off and the Basque outfit rate as good value in the relegation market against the newly promoted teams.
Keep up to date with all the latest our La Liga Predictions 2019/20 here.