La Liga (also known as Primera Division) has been largely a two-horse race over the last decade between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The former has galloped to three of the last nine league titles while the latter has enjoyed the lion’s share, winning six titles including last year's. Valencia is the only other team to have clinched domestic honours, but that accomplishment is a distant memory, coming at the end of the 2003-2004 season (exactly 10 years ago).
Given such a duopoly in La Liga, it stands to reason that football fans will gravitate towards either one or the other in the soccer futures market. It also stands to reason that the pair leads the market as the top two favourites; Barcelona is listed as the clear frontrunner at -150 at Bet365 whilst Real Madrid trails behind at +125.
So which of these two illustrious Spanish clubs is the value soccer pick for the upcoming season? Might there be an outside play to be had given some of the significant changes that have been made in both illustrious camps, as well as across the top-flight field? Let’s break it down.
Why Barcelona at -150 is not the value play
Barcelona is listed as the hot favourite at -150 on the soccer betting odds and it’s patently obvious why: they have been such a dominant force in La Liga that it must be a reflex reaction to install them as the clear runaway favourites in the market.
Nonetheless Camp Nou has seen some significant comings and goings this season. On the plus side, adding most weight to their favourable odds is arguably the recent addition of wonder kid Neymar. On the downside though, new coach Gerardo Martino is a relatively untried coach, not only in European football but also at this lofty level (in other words: big club level) although he does boast four Paraguayan titles and the Torneo Final on his resume.
Granted, his most recent predecessors –including Pep Guardiola who, prior to receiving his appointment, spent a year in charge of Barcelona’s reverse side– didn’t boast as glowing a resume as he does. But it’s hard to move beyond the well-known fact that South American coaches have struggled mightily in Europe on the whole. Of course, this doesn’t mean that simply by virtue of origin he’s destined to fail. Only that it should stack the odds against him.
Of course, it remains to be seen how well he’ll interpret the club’s philosophy in the end and whether he’ll be able to deliver expected results. He just might surprise. For now one can’t help but get the distinct impression that Barcelona’s main rivals, Real Madrid, might have the edge on the management front.
One other thing to consider that will have a significant impact is the summer transfer window. Over the next week or so (before La Liga kicks off in two weeks time) expect Barcelona to be busy sewing up various deals that will change the makeup of the team on the pitch. Speculation surrounds the future of Cesc Fabregas at the club for starters while rumours still abound about a possible Wayne Rooney takeover as well as a Fernando Torres and David Luiz bid, to name a few.
Why Real Madrid at +125 is the value play
Mario Ancelotti’s experience in European football gives him a decided edge over his Barcelona counterpart and that translates into quantifiable value in the La Liga futures market. Not only does Carletto boast a successful career as a player in Italy’s Serie A, he has also enjoyed a similarly successful stretch in management; namely with Milan, with whom he won the Scudetto in 2004, Champions League in 2003 and 2007 and the Coppa Italia in 2003. He’s also one of six to have claimed both European Cup and Champions League as a player and manager.
During his stint in Chelsea, he won the Premier League title in his first season and FA Cup Double. In his first full season with Paris Saint Germain (2012-2013), he led the French side to domestic glory and the quarterfinals of Champions League.
Winning La Liga is one of several of primary objectives over the next season and on paper the club couldn’t have brought in a better coach to accomplish the task. Other moves that make Real Madrid the attractive option in this market are those that are being made (or potentially going to be made) on the transfer floor.
Recent reports after a friendly between PSG and Madrid at the weekend revealed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic enjoyed brief talks with Ancelotti – a tidbit that has increased speculation about a potential move by the Swedish star to reunite with his former coach. Other suggested talks making the rumour mill and that are slated for the coming weeks involve Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney, to name a few. Any one of these acquisitions would improve Real Madrid’s odds to win the title surely.
Are there any outside plays to be had?
A glance at the the market, and it quickly becomes apparent that a reasonable outside sports pick doesn’t exist. As things currently stand, Atletico Madrid is the third favourite for the title but at a whopping +6600 it does seem to be rather a hallucinatory expectation right now. After Atletico, Valencia rings in at +10000 and well the prices get rather ridiculous from thereon.
Where Spanish football is concerned, nothing has changed. It remains a two-horse race between the two best clubs in the nation. For our part, of the two favourites we fancy Real Madrid right now.
Free Football Pick: Take Real Madrid at +125
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