Real Madrid, Barcelona or Atletico? Sports betting on the 2020-21 La Liga season

We are now seeing the top European soccer leagues returning from the short summer-fall break. We have already discussed the return of the German Bundesliga, which will return along with the Spanish La Liga and the Italian Serie A on September 18, 2020. Let's begin by asking ourselves the main question on everyone’s minds:

How much have the chances of Barcelona improved after it was revealed that the Argentine superstar would be staying at the club for an additional season? Will Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid successfully defend their La Liga title? Will Atletico Madrid be able to pull ahead of the other two giants? In our guide, we talk about this and much more about the main questions for sports bettors on the 2020-21 La Liga season. 

The Three Favorites: Will One of the Spanish Giants again finish Top of the La Liga Standings

In today’s age of Spanish soccer, it is almost impossible to remember a time when the discussion for top of the La Liga standings included anyone other than Barcelona , Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid and it's easy to see why.

Since 2004, no other team has won the Spanish La Liga title other than these three teams, which are again this year the sportsbook favorites. In last year’s La Liga standings, the teams finished 1,2,3 in the form of Real, Barca, Atletico. It is unthinkable to have a preview of the Spanish league without discussing these three teams.

Real Madrid: Zidane, Real look to be La Liga Champions once again

The post-pandemic La Liga fixtures were a glorious time for Real Madrid. The team finished on top of the La Liga table; securing the trophy all while only taking a single defeat and no draws in 11 games with only six goals conceded. Therefore, we can understand the sportsbooks decision to designate Zidane’s team as the perennial favorite for this upcoming season. 

There are, however, three things that can make fans of Spain’s capital team concerned:

  • Real Madrid were uncharacteristically knocked out of last season’s Champions League, losing both legs to Manchester City. 

  • Zidane has conducted a very quiet transfer period resulting in the absence of a single new signing.

  • The incomprehensible form of star winger Eden Hazard has been worrisome to say the least. The Belgian has most recently missed out on playing for the National Team due to an ankle injury. He is also slated to miss the opening game against Real Sociedad on Sunday.

In addition to these three factors, there are rumors that two of the team’s driving forces over years, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, could be leaving before the season. The rumors have all but been put to bed. Still, the concern should be what role these two players will play in the upcoming season. Or in Bale’s case, whether he even has a role to play. 

Another important reminder is that Zidane has always prioritized winning the Champions League over domestic competition. Karim Benzema is expected by sportsbooks to be extremely productive this season, putting him only second for both goals and assists behind Lionel Messi. 

Barcelona: One La Liga Season to Save Messi

Spanish journalists have remained meticulous in finding an interesting correlation between the seasons in which Barcelona has fallen second to Real Madrid. It turns out in each of the seasons Barcelona finishes second to Real Madrid the team ends up saying goodbye to a key figure immediately afterwards. 

  • In 2008, Barcelona lost the league title to Real Madrid and immediately after said goodbye to Frank Rijkaard and Ronaldinho. 

  • In 2012, the Catalans lost to Real Madrid following three seasons of dominance. Afterwards, manager Pep Guardiola immediately left the team.

  • In 2017, Barcelona again finished second in the La Liga standings to Real Madrid. What occurred next was the loudest transfer of the 21st century which saw Neymar leave the team. 

If we believe in superstitions and history repeating itself, we can already see disaster spelled out for the team as Lionel Messi has only one year left at the club. 

So far, Barcelona’s transfer window has been neither impressive nor a disaster. The main transfer came in June which involved a player swap in which Arthur was sent to Juventus in exchange for Miralem Pjanic. The rest of the transfers can be seen in the following table. 

Barcelona Transfers 2020-21

Miralem Pjanic (from Juventus)Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla)
Matheus Fernandes (from Palmeiras)Marc Cucurella (Getafe)
Francisco Trincão (from Braga)Arthur (Juventus)
Gustavo Maia (from Sao Paulo)Carles Perez (Roma)
Phillipe Coutinho (from loan)Abel Ruiz (Braga)
Carles Aleñá (from loan)

Nothing that would likely result in a massive boost, nor anything that would seriously hurt the team. There have been possible rumors of Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay, but the team’s treasury has become severely depleted in recent years. Still, whichever team that Lionel Messi plays for, cannot be discounted. 

There is a grave reality that Messi could go trophyless in presumably his last season with the team. However, sportsbooks agree that Messi will finish the season with fantastic individual statistics, as he is the favorite for both goal scoring and assists. 

Atlético Madrid: Hoping to evolve La Liga’s next Portugese superstar

This past summer, Atletico Madrid went all in on the Champions League and walked away with nothing. The Spanish team unexpectedly lost to RB Leipzig in the quarterfinals, and no one quite understood what happened. Diego Simeone will need to reassess his tactics in the coming season. 

In terms of transfers, Atletico is following the trend of the other two Spanish giants with no major changes. The biggest would likely be the signing of loan player Yannik Carrasco to a permanent four-year deal. There are instead more rumors of who may leave the team rather than who will be joining. 

Objectively, it will be difficult for Atlético to compete with Real or Barça in the upcoming season. However, Diego Simeone can always compete for the Champions League title.

Top Four in the La Liga Table: the court entourage

When you have three teams keeping strong holding their place in the top four, the other teams can only lick their lips at the fourth spot, giving them the opportunity to play in the following seasons Champions League. Three different teams have finished fourth in the past five seasons: Sevilla (twice), Valencia (twice) and Villareal. 

Two of these teams remain favorites to finish in the top four, however Valencia has fallen out in favor of Real Sociodad. In some sportsbooks, there are as many as ten teams with better odds to make the top four than Valencia. 

Sevilla has been given the greatest chance by USA sportsbooks to make the top four outside of the three mainstays (Barca, Real, Atletico). The team is coming off of a very successful season, which saw them win the Europa League. Villareal falls directly behind Sevilla before the odds get narrow between the other teams. 

Finally, some important information:

For all matches Examples, line-ups, data on players and referees, as always, look for the  Legalbet Betting Center  on the specialized tournament page;

Not all teams will start the season at the same time, and this is due to the games in the European competition. Real Madrid kick off the second round on 20 September, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will only appear on the fields on 27 September in the third round;

UEFA has announced that the Super Cup match between Bayern Munich and Sevilla will be played with 30% of the crowd in the stands. We are waiting for the return of spectators to top football in Europe!

¡Hola Spanish La Liga!