Sometimes in life things are just too good to be true, and just occasionally it’s because they are – that’s how Stryker Maguire feels penning his La Liga season picks right now.
Let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go, the odds to be Spain’s soccer champion in 2021-22 make zero sense to your faithful soccer analyst. None whatsoever.
Last season Atletico Madrid put a massive hole in the Real Madrid/Barcelona domination by claiming the title in terrific style.
Since then all that’s happen to Real and Barca is that both have been weakened. So why is Atleti still the betting underdog of the three? Go figure.
Barca meanwhile comes next at anything from +190 to a best +225 (bet365). Then it’s reigning champion Atleti on a quite frankly incredible +300 (bet $100 to win $300).
Stryker is sat here rubbing his eyes, looking at those odds after the events of the last few weeks, and wondering why that +300 is available (with FOX Bet, William Hill, bet365, Unibet and SugarHouse). But all that really matters is that it is.
Time to go in hard people.
Which teams can win La Liga?
This is a three-horse race, do not let anybody tell you different. There are only three teams who can win the title (and that is a stretch given what’s happened in the last 24 hours). So let’s look at where they stand right now.
Second last season in the standings, two points behind Atleti, we are currently trying to figure out what the online sportsbooks see in Real that we don’t. They seem to have got weaker in the offseason, yet they’re the favorite…
Real’s success in the last decade (remember those four Champions League titles) has been partly built on those rocks at the centre of the defense – Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. Well guess what, they’re both gone.
Ramos went to France and PSG after failing to agree a new contract at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Real elected to sell Varane to Manchester United rather than lose him too for nothing in a year’s time.
Real has signed former Bayern Munich star David Alaba, and while that’s a smart move there are now huge question marks about the Real defense.
The core of this team has been ageing for some time, and it’s not just that defense where we have concerns. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are both advancing in years in the middle, ditto Karim Benzema in attack.
This appears to be a Madrid in transition under new coach Carlo Ancelotti – not one ready to unleash a great new team on La Liga.
Real president Florentino Perez has apparently been saving up all his Euro in the hope of enticing boy wonder Kylian Mbappe away from Paris this summer – hence the lack of investment in the current playing squad.
Even if Mbappe does arrive, we’d still be pretty down on Madrid’s chances of regaining the title it lost to its near neighbor last season. If he doesn’t, then we’re out.
So it finally happened Thursday, the news that none of us ever thought would happen – and still can’t quite grasp. Lionel Messi is leaving Camp Nou.
After around 15 years of spellbinding brilliance, Messi is heading for pastures new after La Liga financial regulations made it impossible for him to agree a new contract with the Catalan giant.
It now looks like big-spending PSG, Manchester City (coached by former Messi mentor Pep Guardiola) and Manchester United will battle it out for Leo’s signature. While Barca reels from another devastating blow.
Make no mistake, this is not the Barca of a few years ago which was a perennial La Liga and Champions League winner. It’s an ageing core again, with the likes of Messi papering over the cracks for a long period of time now.
Messi’s departure is the end of an era, and the wheels are well and truly off after an era of disastrous mismanagement under former president Josep Bartomeu. Even the return of former Barca darling Joan Laporta couldn’t get the Messi deal over the line.
The extent to which Barca and its playing resources have been destroyed is quite astonishing. We’ve gone from a showroom full of gleaming Ferraris to a shed full of overpriced wrecks.
If you factor in the Messi departure we just cannot believe this team is lower odds than Atleti to win La Liga this season. Heck it might even struggle to finish third…
While Real and Barca both weaken – in the latter’s case seismically, Diego Simeone and Atletico just keeping doing what they always do. Smart business in the transfer market and maximizing its assets.
Simeone might be the best coach in world football. Defensively minded he might be, but he still knows how to get the best out of star offensive talent – look at what happened when Barca allowed him to pick up Luis Suarez last season.
The reigning La Liga title holder strengthened further this offseason by adding brilliant Udinese midfielder Rodrigo De Paul to its squad. He adds real quality to an area which already boasts plenty.
While Real and Barca have both lost cornerstone pieces, Simeone and co arguably go into the new season stronger than ever. So why again are they +300? Nope, us neither.
OddsCritic La Liga picks 2021-22
Atletico Madrid to win La Liga title in 2021-22 at +300 (FOX Bet, William Hill, bet365, Unibet, SugarHouse).