La Liga Predictions, Odds, Preview & Best Bets: Outrights, Longshots, Relegation & Golden Boot for 2021-22 Season
Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images. Pictured: Villarreal standout Gerard Moreno.
The La Liga season kicks off this weekend for the first time in almost two decades with it’s greatest player of all time.
Lionel Messi and Barcelona weren’t able to sign their agreed-upon contract extension due to La Liga rules and regulations. Now, Messi is heading to France and will officially join global giant Paris Saint-Germain as early as Tuesday on two-year deal, which includes a third-year option.
With Messi’s departure from Barcelona effectively sealed, that means the title race in the Spanish top flight just became a lot easier for the other 19 clubs.
Lionel Messi joins PSG… HERE WE GO! Total agreement completed on a two-years contract. Option to extend until June 2024. Salary around €35m net per season add ons included. 🇦🇷🇫🇷 #Messi
Messi has definitely accepted PSG contract proposal and will be in Paris in the next hours. pic.twitter.com/DiM5jNzxTA
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 10, 2021
With Messi on his way to PSG, Real Madrid has become the odds-on favorite to win the league at +100 odds, followed by Barcelona (+200) and Atlético Madrid — the reigning champion — rounding out the favorites at +275 odds. Sevilla is the only team in the middle tier sitting at +1600 after finishing fourth the past two seasons.
Real Sociedad leads off the list of longshots at +5000, with by Europa League champion Villarreal next at +6500 odds. The other 14 teams in the league are all north of +10000 odds.
With the league’s best player departing Camp Nou for the first time in more than 15 years, the three favorites feel very vulnerable. We haven’t had a champion outside of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atlético Madrid since the 2003-04 season, so could someone finally dethrone it atop the league?
La Liga Title Bet
Real Sociedad (+5000) via DraftKings
While +5000 might be classified as a “long shot,” this as high as I am going up the board in Spain, because there’s no expected value in betting Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid or Barcelona at their current numbers.
With Messi gone, La Liga is as open as it has ever been for the teams outside of the power three clubs and there’s a lot to love about Real Sociedad.
Through the first 14 games of last season, it was actually atop the La Liga standings, with the best expected points and expected goal differential. However, the club hit a bad run of form and fell way back in the pack, finishing fifth with 62 points. The positive is it wound up third in xP; averaged 1.66 xG per match — which was third best in La Liga; and, allowed only 1.02 xG per match. That statistic was good enough for fourth best in the league.
The club has a lot of young exciting players like Alexander Isak, who scored 16 goals last season. Also returning is Mikel Oyarzabel, who had 11 goals and eight assists in La Liga last season, and was a key part of Spain’s roster during the European Championships.
Real Sociedad hasn’t done anything significant in the transfer market, so it will bring back its exact same starting XI.
Now, let’s talk about the teams at the top. Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid are due for a lot of negative regression, plus their respective defenses allowed 10 fewer goals than the xG their opponents created. Barcelona is obviously going to regress without Messi, and Sevilla had more than 10 fewer xP than its actual point total.
(Graphic via understat.com)
So, in my opinion, I think there’s a ton of value on Real Sociedad at +5000 via DraftKings and its odds didn’t even drop with the Messi news. That said, the club is my favorite outright bet in the Spanish top flight.
Villarreal (+10000) via FanDuel
- Favorite bet: To finish inside the top four (+270) at PointsBet
Villarreal comes into the season after finishing in seventh place during the 2020-21 campaign. However, based on xG and xP, it was within six points of Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Sevilla. The club has an incredibly solid roster, with the sixth-highest squad value, according to transfermarkt.com.
Also, Villarreal won the Europa League last season, which was its first trophy in club history. The Yellow Submarine is bringing back pretty much the exact same squad as last season.
Villarreal’s offense was one of the best in the league, scoring 1.57 xG per match, and it has one of the best strikers in the league in Gerard Moreno. The club standout bagged 23 goals in league play and finished with a 0.66 xG per 90-minute scoring rate, which was second only to Messi last season.
Like I mentioned with Real Sociedad, for the first time in a really long time the top three teams in the league feel very vulnerable. Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are simply due for a lot negative regression.
That said, I think there is a lot of value in taking Villarreal at +10000 to win the league and +270 to finish inside the top since its expected numbers were really close to those at the top of the table.
Elche (-125) via Caesars
This is one of my favorite future bets in any of Europe’s top five leagues.
It’s very rare a club that has lowest amount of xG scored and the most xG allowed survives relegation, but that’s exactly what Elche did last season. However, it will not fair the club well heading into this season, because it’s hard to improve after accumulating only 30.31 xP in a campaign.
The biggest problem for Elche is its completely anemic offense. The club plays a very defensive 4-4-2 formation, like a lot of teams do in Spain, but it really struggles to create high-quality chances. Elche was dead last in shots inside the penalty area, shots inside the six yard box, shot creating actions and passes leading to a shot
In fact, Elche didn’t have anyone on its roster who averaged more than 0.25 xG per 90 minutes, which is almost impossible for a team that survived relegation.
Defensively, wasn’t much better. The club allowed the second-most shots, shot-creating actions and touches inside its own penalty area last season. I’m not sure how it’s going to recover from allowing the most xG per match (1.62) in Spain, with essentially the same roster back in the fold.
Additionally, according to transfermarkt.com, Elche has the second-lowest squad value in La Liga at $34.71 million and that includes the three newly promoted teams. It’s not only one of the teams I will be fading on a match-to-match basis, but if you can find its odds to be relegated at anything -150 or better, I think there’s a lot of value on the club not surviving this time around.
Although Valencia’s xP are close to what its actual points were last season, this is a team I think is worth a longshot relegation bet. Valencia used to be a club fighting for a Champions or Europa league spot, but over the past two years it has endured a big drop-off.
In 2020-21, the club really struggled to find a reliable strikers up top in its 4-4-2 formation, as Carlos Soler was its top scorer with 11 goals from his midfield position. Maxi Gomez had issues as the No. 1 striker, putting up a 0.22 xG per 90 minute scoring rate, which won’t help its cause going this season.
The biggest problem for Valencia is where its shots are coming from in the upcoming campaign. Last season, the team had the third-fewest shots inside both the six-yard box (23) and penalty area (173). Needless to say, when you’re playing out of a 4-4-2 formation, that’s going to a problem since the formation lends itself to being quite defensive.
Although its defense isn’t due for a lot of negative regression, it allowed 1.47 xG per match last season. That was the fourth-highest mark in La Liga, which was quite pathetic considering how defensive that formation is in the first place. In fact, it allowed the most shot-creating actions of any team in Spain.
There’s also a lot going on off the field that is negatively affecting Valencia. Owner Peter Lim has put the club in a full on financial crisis, as it has a mountain of debt and looking to offload players to balance the budget. So, the squad could be progressively worse before the transfer window closes.
Also, Valenica made no moves in the transfer market to improve itself, so at +650 via Caesars, I think there’s value on Valencia to get sent down to the second division for the first time since the 1986-87 season.
Alexander Isak (+1200)
Isak, arguably one of the most talented young strikers in the world, will be moving onto a top club in only a few years. The 21-year-old starred for Sweden in the Euros, showing a rare ability to be elite at everything a striker needs.
He’s a clinical finisher with speed, incredible heading the ball home and his attack positioning is unrivaled compared to others playing striker at his age.
His statistics speak for themselves as well when compared to other strikers in Europe’s top-five leagues.
(Graphic via fbref.com)
With Isak having another season under his belt and without the threat of Messi running away with the Golden Boot, now is Isak’s time to show the world just how good he is on the pitch.
I love his price at +1200 for a guy who created the fifth-most xG in La Liga and had a 0.62 xG per 90-minute scoring rate.