After a thrilling La Liga season, we are counting down the days until the World Cup. There's not much more than gossip & transfers in La Liga to keep us football-philes gambling, but your Humble Handicapper's ready to share his picks & tips.
Before we go any further, we have to consider what the present and current odds on La Liga are: Real Madrid are the bookies favourites at 19/20 to win the league, followed by Barcelona at 11/8, and then Atlético Madrid at 10/1. After the (new) big three there’s a real big drop off, until Seville and Athletic Bilbao start the “never gonna win it” off at 250/1.
Enough with the odds…WHERE’S THE GOSSIP AND TRANSFER RUMOURS MIKE?
Real Madrid’s goalkeeper Iker has been mostly second-favourite to Casillas, and has spent much of last season sitting on the bench. He may well look to move this summer after collecting another Champions League title, and his pal, Santi Cazorla, has told him to consider signing for the EPL’s top four stalwart Arsenal.
After missing out on the title last season, Liverpool will be ready to splash the cash (as you early bird gamblers should be, too) and the Reds look to be set to renew their interest in the Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic. They will, however, have to consider the competition from Lazio, Manchester United and Chelsea, this summer. My spies tell me that Rakitic, who scored 7 goals and got 5 assists for this season, was 'flattered' by Scouse interest, and, provided the club meets his €40m clause, the Croatian could be allowed to leave the La Liga side.
Atletico Madrid can expect Thibaut Courtois (won the Zamora trophy for La Liga's best goalkeeper in each of the past two seasons, and led Atletico to a historic league title this year), to return to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
There’s good news for Arsenal as their long-time target, Angel Di Maria, has admitted that he may leave Real Madrid this summer, according to reports in the British tabloids. The young Argentina international turned in a man-of-the-match display, and helped as Los Blancos overcame Atletico Madrid to win the European Cup for the 10th time in the club’s history. The midfielder says that he is still not certain to be at the Santiago Bernabeu next season, because there are a number of big-name clubs from across the continent lining up massive bids to try to tempt Di Maria away from Spain this summer, and your Humble Handicapper always says money talks, and fishwives talk.
Keeping a gambling eye on the EPL, title-winners Manchester City are reportedly thinking about a summer move for Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas because of the birthday cake ho-ha surrounding Yaya Toure. The sparkling Spaniard has previously been linked to Manchester United and Arsenal, amid reports that he will hold talks with the board at Camp Nou this summer. My spies also tell me that Barcelona are willing to listen to offers for Fabregas.
Over in Real Madrid, their president Florentino Perez played down suggestions that Asier Illarramendi could leave this summer. The 24-year-old, who arrived at Madrid from Real Sociedad last summer, has struggled to hold down a first-team spot during his first season at the Bernabeu, and it had been suggested that Illarramendi may seek a loan move this summer, but the prez Perez has subdued such claims.
Prediction: Based on these morsels of gossip and transfer rumours, I'm backing Real Madrid to win La Liga in the 2014-15 season with my soccer picks.