The La Liga season typically works out this way: If one of Barcelona or Real Madrid don’t win the league title, it’s considered a surprise. And if it’s not Atletico Madrid to beat them to it, then it’s a massive surprise. The last time one of those three hasn’t won La Liga was 18 years ago. They’ve finished in the top three in various orders for the last nine years.
Here’s how each of the three favorites is shaping up heading into the new La Liga season:
The defending champions didn’t lose any key players during the offseason and instead added the MVP of the 2021 Copa America alongside Lionel Messi: Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul (below). Goals weren’t easy to come by last year and De Paul should help with his elite midfield play. The rumored signing of Spanish Olympic forward Rafa Mir from Wolves would be another attacking boost. Atletico has what it takes to compete for the title again.
There’s a dark cloud over the Blaugrana to start the season after losing the heart and soul of the club, Lionel Messi. But this team’s core is talented and its pipeline of academy prospects is strong enough to fill in the gaps. If the club can make the final roster moves it needs to get its salary budget issues resolved and register its new players like Memphis Depay, it could turn the corner quicker than most expect. But it’s still not better than Atletico and Real Madrid on paper.
The returning squad that finished in second place last year lost two key players, both in central defense: Raphael Varane (Manchester United) and captain Sergio Ramos (PSG). Ramos missed a large chunk of last season and the team felt it. Despite the addition of the versatile and classy David Alaba, it’s the back line that will be the biggest question mark. Manager Carlo Ancelotti’s reputation as a player-friendly coach will keep them hungry, and star players like Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale will help them give Atletico Madrid a run for its money.
How to watch La Liga in USA
All 380 matches of the 2021-2022 La Liga season will be streamed in English and Spanish on ESPN+, kicking off the first of eight years of exclusive coverage in the USA. Select matches will also be aired on ABC, ESPN and ESPN Deportes.
- Dates: Aug. 13, 2021 – May 22, 2022
- Matches: Total of 380 league matches in 2021-2022
- Streaming: ESPN+ (all matches in English & Spanish)
- TV Channels: ABC, ESPN (select matches)
- Spanish-language TV: ESPN Deportes (select matches)
Which team will win La Liga 2021-2022?
U.S. sportsbooks and history say it will be either Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona. No surprise there. But the order of the favorites does raise an eyebrow entering the new season: The defending champ, Atletico Madrid, is not being given the benefit of the doubt despite strengthening its roster over the offseason. Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Villarreal are next in line with distant hopes of potentially challenging.
The odds are all over the place when it comes to the other 14 clubs, but does it really matter? None of them are deemed a factor in the title race based on the projections.
Some sportsbooks (PointsBet, BetMGM) offer two other ways to play season futures: (1) best La Liga team without Real Madrid and Barcelona (Atletico Madrid are the heavy, heavy favorites there); and (2) top 4 finish in La Liga. The race to be the best team after Atletico, Real Madrid and Barcelona should be compelling, especially with the UEFA Champions League potentially proving a distraction for the likes of Sevilla and Villarreal, clubs that have traditionally prioritized European competitions. Real Sociedad could be the team to pip them for fourth.
Favorites to win La Liga
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