Look East Young man! Get ready to get your
football kicks (with a Spanish flavour) as we look ahead to La Liga 2011-12!
Next season’s La Liga will be the 81st
since the league began and it promises to be a feast of football. The ever
reliable Barcelona will be the defending champions, after winning their 21st La
Liga title in the previous season, for the third time on the bounce no less.
Their defence of the title and some of the best football (and footballers) on
the planet kicks off on the 21st August 2011, and there’ll be a
myriad of footballing joys before the next champions are crowned; on the 13th
Short shortlist of likely La Liga winners
There may (technically) be a total of 20
teams going for the La Liga trophy, (that’s 17 who played in the 2010–11 season
and three who came up from the Segunda División), but the soccer odds makers
are of the opinion that the winner will come from a shortlist of just two.
There’s still the “oohhs” and “aahhhs” of the summer transfers to deliberate
and examine so be sure to consider these when betting on soccer.
The biggest and fattest odds will be on any
of the freshly promoted teams taking the trophy. The new arrivals to La Liga are Segunda
División Champions Betis, who departed the
second-level of Spanish football after two years. Runners-up Rayo
Vallecano, who returned to the top flight after eight seasons, and the side who
came up the hard way (through the playoffs), Granada, who will be playing top
level football for the first time in 35 years. Whatever the odds on these teams
winning the league are, they‘d offer a seriously high return on even the most
modest of investment (but if you’re betting on any of them you might as well
just give the bookies your pay cheque).
A tale of two teams
The smart money and the short odds will be
on one of the two usual suspects taking the title (again), Barcelona and Real Madrid (13/19 and 8/5, respectively). Champions Barcelona secured their 3rd
consecutive (and 21st overall) La Liga title after a 1–1 tie with Levante on 11
May 2011. The result gave Barcelona a 6 point lead with two matches remaining
which, combined with their better head-to-head record with Real Madrid, ensured
that would finish top of the table, and therefore won the league with two games
Barcelona had led the table since defeating
Madrid 5–0 on November 23, 2010, and only lost one game after that before the
season closed. Looking at the table from last season it seems difficult to see
where (other than the top two) next season’s winner would come from. It’s a
basic truism of Football (and pundits) that the table doesn’t lie and last
year’s La Liga’s table is no exception. Barcelona were clear winners, with 96
points (from 38 games) and a goal difference of +74, second were Real Madrid on
92 points (GD +69) 21 points ahead of 3rd place Valencia. Whatever else happens
in La Liga next season stick the dates of the El Clasico (as the meetings
between these two teams are known) in your diary.
Football has many great rivalries, but few
can match Real Madrid against Barcelona for historical and political significance
or glamour and star appeal. The rivalry dates back to the days of the Franco
dictatorship when Barcelona became closely attached with Catalonia's struggle
for independence. Despite the second place finish Real Madrid had something to
shout about, as on 20 April 2011, they defeated Barcelona 1–0 in the Copa del
Rey final held at the Mestalla in Valencia, ending their eighteen-year-long cup
drought, and giving Special One José Mourinho his first trophy in Spanish
Can Valencia cause an upset?
The Mestalla club have finished third in La
Liga in the last two seasons, but so far have remained a way behind Spain's big
two in the standings. Maybe the 2012 La Liga will be year of Valencia? They are
still a comfortable 3/5 to make it into the top four again and should be
enthused by their recent league performances. However neither Barcelona nor
Real Madrid look to be resting on their laurels, as transfer news and gossip confirms.
The SBR sportsbook has Valencia winning La Liga an outside bet at +4000, but I
don’t have the minerals for that bet.
TRANSFER NEWS (and gossip)
Real Madrid look to beat their manager’s
(Jose Mourinho) old club Chelsea in the race to sign 19 year old striker
Neymar, with an asking price of “just” £40m, from Brazil side Santos.
There’s still a question mark over Real’s
midfielder Fernando Gago, who has been linked with Liverpool.
Coincidentally Barcelona are preparing to
offer their striker David Villa, to English sides Manchester City or Chelsea
Keep an eye on negotiations between
Barcelona and Arsenal over their Cesc Fabregas, as the Central midfielder may
want to leave the “misfiring” Gunners. The SBR sportsbook has the odds on
Fabregas being a Barcelona player at -125, staying at
Arsenal at +120 (or playing for Real Madrid at +300).
Elsewhere Real are believed to be
interested in adding Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Sandro to their ranks. The 22-year-old is reported to have asked his
agent to find him a new club after Spurs failed to realize Champions League
football last year, and it looks like the Spanish giants are interested. But do
remember that ‘arry Redknapp and Tottenham won’t want to leak talent, as these
players often cause a domino effect and the big story in the English papers this
week is that Luka Modric MIGHT be talking about a move to Chelsea (and
Champions League football). If that
‘appens, ‘arry will not be ‘appy!
Two horse race
If any more proof were needed that this was
a two horse race, it’s probably no surprise that the Zamora Trophy (that’s the
award for the best ‘keeper) went to Barcelona’s Victor Valdés who allowed in
just 16 goals from 32 games. In second place was Iker Casillas (of Real Madrid,
surprise surprise) who conceded 32 goals in 34 games. At the front the goal
scoring awards were also split between players from two teams, Cristiano
Ronaldo of Real Madrid scored the most goals in the last season and Barcelona's
Lionel Messi was in second place. With talents like that turning out for these
teams you can see why the bookies are loathed to offer much on Barcelona who
are on -175, and Real at +125 (in the Sportsbook at SBR).
Prediction: Toss a coin for Barcelona /
Real Madrid taking the league. If you’re feeling brave have a punt on Valencia.