La Liga Season Preview: Infogol tips for title, top 4, top 6 and relegation

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Using expected goals (xG) data from Infogol as his guide, Tom Victor looks at the likely finishing positions in the 2020/21 La Liga and picks out four outright bets...

"Los Blancos look stronger than they did last season, with Martin Odegaard returning from an impressive loan, and will hope to get more out of Eden Hazard after a difficult first season for the Belgian."

Last season's Spanish title race was a close-run thing for much of the season, only for Real Madrid's consistency and tight defence to carry them over the line as Barcelona faltered.

At the other end of the table, Leganes, Mallorca and Espanyol dropped out of the division, with their places taken by Cadiz, Huesca and Elche.

We also have some notable managerial changes to look forward to, not least the arrival of Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, so there's plenty of intrigue as La Liga prepares for its 90th season.

The title

Real Madrid's five-point margin of victory last season would have been even greater had they not hit so many roadblocks in the first half of the season.

Los Blancos look stronger than they did last season, with Martin Odegaard returning from an impressive loan, and will hope to get more out of Eden Hazard after a difficult first season for the Belgian.
They're comfortable favourites, with Infogol's model giving Zinedine Zidane's men a 58.4% chance of successfully defending their title (1.71), set against odds of 1.84.

It looks like being a two-horse race of sorts, with Barcelona (28.4) the only other side given a chance of more than 10%. However, despite Lionel Messi staying and Koeman taking over in the dugout, they have a challenge to undo the struggles which blighted the end of the 2019/20 campaign.

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Top four

Last season, there was quite a gap between the top four and the rest, with Sevilla ending the season 10 points clear of Villarreal in fifth.

Julen Lopetegui's team went on to lift the Europa League trophy, while also securing a homecoming for Ivan Rakitić, though the summer exit of string-puller Ever Banega may hurt.

Sevilla are still given a 51.9% chance of repeating their top-four run (1.93), behind Atletico Madrid (80.4%) and last season's top two.

If we are to see a new contender, Villarreal look well-placed after the addition of Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin in midfield and Unai Emery's arrival as manager. They're the 'best of the rest', with a 26.4% chance of a top-four finish based on Infogol's model.

If you're one for sentimentality, meanwhile, there could be value in backing David Silva to take Real Sociedad back into the top four. They've been given a 16.5% chance (6.06), set against 6/1 odds.

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Top six

When it comes to top six interlopers, it can be tempting to look at those who narrowly missed out last season, and Granada are still a tempting 15/2 considering their 14.9% chance (6.7) of improving on last season's seventh place finish.

Getafe should also be in consideration, given their underperformance against xG in last season's run to eighth but this has not been the best summer for Valencia.

As well as the departure of Coquelin and Parejo, last season's ninth place finishers have lost Rodrigo to Leeds United and Ferran Torres to Manchester City, and there looks to be little value in backing them to crack the top six when you consider their 13/5 odds in comparison with Infogol's 19.9% (5.0) chances.

The other side looking to bounce back after a solid xG season accompanied by underwhelming results is Real Betis. The arrival of Manuel Pellegrini as manager could help a team which ranked 10th in last season's xG table, but the free transfer arrivals of Claudio Bravo and Martin Montoya might not be enough to bridge the gap, hence Infogol's model putting their chances at just 8.3% (12.0).

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Relegation

While play-off winners Elche are tipped to struggle, with a 66.4% chance of relegation (1.51) based on Infogol's model, there's no runaway contender in the reckoning to join Pacheta's team in the bottom three.

Levante and Valladolid were fortunate to survive last season after ranking 18th and 19th respectively in Infogol's xG table, but the 13/5 odds on offer for both sides don't represent massive value, even if the other promoted sides have every chance of avoiding the drop.

We've been drawn to Alaves, whose 37.1% chance of relegation (2.70) based on Infogol's model make odds of 4/1 extremely tempting. They struggled at the end of last season, losing seven of their last nine games, and will need a quick response under new boss Pablo Machin.

With only one side given a greater than 40% chance of relegation, we could well be set for another tight scrap at the bottom after last season's fight went down to the final day of the season.

***

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Spanish La Liga: Spanish La Liga (Winner 2020/21)

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Saturday 12 September, 12.00pm

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