Season after season, Spain’s La Liga presents an intriguing battle for the title. Yet, each year, it seems predictability trumps uncertainty. Defending champions Barcelona have won the title three times in the last five seasons, and this season as well, they are among the frontrunners in the title race.
The current league leaders, however, are Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane has led Los Blancos to the top of the table by virtue of an unbeaten run that ended only ten days ago. Real haven’t won the league title since 2012; they have won the league only once in the last eight seasons, hence lifting the Liga title is of paramount importance for Madrid.
Sandwiched between Real and Barça in the table are Sevilla. Jorge Sampaoli’s men are a point behind and in front of Real and Barça respectively. Sevilla have been the surprise packages of 2016/17, yet the odds are stacked heavily against them lifting the title.
Atlético Madrid did the unthinkable by winning the title in 2013/14, yet Sevilla going all the way this season seems unfathomable.
According to the latest La Liga betting odds, Sevilla aren’t the favourites for the title despite making a case for it with their strong first half of the season. Los Nervionenses’ 42 points in the first half of this season is their best-ever half season return. Most football bookmakers are backing Real Madrid as the title favourites at 1.57, although Barcelona are also favoured in betting odds with the best odds at 2.75. Sevilla, on the other hand, are rank outsiders at 17.
All other teams, including Atlético—the last Liga winner other than Barça—are out of the title picture. Atlético are fourth, but they trail Barça in third by six points and Real in first by eight points.
It is clear that a three-way battle is shaping up in the Liga title race, but the competition for the silverware is, not unexpectedly, among fierce rivals Real and Barça.
One advantage for Zidane’s Real Madrid is that they have home matches against the other top four clubs in the second half of the season, while Barça and Sevilla are yet to travel to the Santiago Bernabéu and the Vicente Calderón. The fixture list favours Real for now, but European exertions might also make a difference for the top three.
Real Madrid have had an exhausting campaign thus far, having had to travel across the world for the Club World Cup in December. Their busy schedule might take its toll, but so far, they have managed to stay clear of the competition in the league.
While it is easy to predict that both Real and Barça will be there or thereabouts as far as the title is concerned, it is far more difficult to judge who will lift the trophy come May. Both clubs have an equal chance at glory, but going by Barça’s previous title-winning experience, the Blaugrana should complete a hat-trick of title wins this season.