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La Liga - Football: Season preview

Real Madrid romped to La Liga glory last season, but Barcelona will hope to mount a strong challenge when the new campaign kicks off this weekend.

Can Real back up last season's supremacy, keep the trophy at the Bernabeu and land odds of 6/5? Have 5/4 shots Barca recovered from last year's turmoil to be able to deny Carlo Ancelotti's champions?

And what of the rest? Atletico Madrid have twice disrupted the Real-Barca duopoly in recent times - could Diego Simeone's team do it again at 6/1?


La Liga 2022-23


12th August 2022 - 4th June 2023

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Real Madrid 6/5, Barcelona 5/4, Atletico Madrid 6/1, Sevilla 20/1 

Can Ancelotti clear high bar?

Real head coach Ancelotti is definitely on a hiding to nothing this season after guiding Los Blancos to Spanish and Champions League glory in 2021-22.

They got up by 13 points in La Liga before defying the odds on a regular basis to claim European glory and Ancelotti is acutely aware that with success comes pressure to do it all again.

He'd hoped, of course, to be mounting his double defence with Kylian Mbappe partnering Karim Benzema up front, but that move failed to get over the line.

A few old hands have left - Marcelo, Gareth Bale and Isco - and they did spend big on a French star Aurelien Tchouameni rather than Mbappe.

Warhorse defender Antonio Rudiger adds beef to the backline of a side who could well feature seven 30-somethings in its starting line-up and in a long season with a World Cup interruption, age could yet be a factor come the business end of the campaign.

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Lewandowski the star signing to ignite Barca

Thirteen times in the last 18 seasons the Real-Barca dual forecast has delievered but are the Catalan giants capable of overturning the 13-point deficit of last term?

Given the turnover of players at the Nou Camp it's probably worth ignoring the world of the club's finances and just presume that they are a force again under Xavi.

Certainly Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen should bolster them at the back, though it's further forward where the magic is going to happen given the signings of Raphinha, Franck Kessie and, biggest of all, Robert Lewandowski - the ultimate goalscoring machine.

Such is the way with this club where turmoil has become commonplace, they still need to offload players to balance their books and meet registration criteria, but on the face of it the Catalans look serious contenders once more.

Villarreal hopefuls for next-best honours

Atleti head the betting without the big two at 8/11 - Simeone's men were next best last term after a fairly lame defence of their title, but the Argentinian has swerved a summer clearout - veteran Luis Suarez being the only superstar departure.

Their squad doesn't look any better than the one that won the league, then the same could be said of Sevilla, who are 4/1 in betting without Barca and Real.

The only other contender really has to be Villarreal at 8/1. Unai Emery's side finished fifth last season, during a campaign in which they reached the Champions League semi-finals thanks to victories over Juventus and Bayern Munich.

Pre-season has gone well and this is a settled squad who should have no trouble overhauling Real Betis and Real Sociedad and who look to offer a fair bit of value alongside Atletico and Sevilla.

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Home discomforts should concern Cadiz

Newly-promoted Girona and Valladolid head the relegation betting at 5/4 and 11/8 respectively, while Almeria, the third side to go up, are rated 11/4 shots.

There look to be any number of sides in danger, among them Cadiz at 7/4, who could only muster three home wins last season and who were only saved by a late revival which saw them take points off both Barca and Real in the run-in.

Pre-season has been poor and having dropped from 12th to 16th during the last two seasons, the trajectory is clear.

Lewandowski out to dethrone Benzema

Karim Benzema (2/1) thumped in 27 goals for Real last season to win the Golden Boot and he would be favourite to retain that accolade but for the arrival of 15/8 Lewandowski at the Nou camp.

It looks like a straight head-to-head battle, though the fact that Benzema will turn 35 when he returns from the World Cup and will surely play fewer games than last term has to work against him.

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