La Liga reached the midway point this weekend and it has been an eventful season so far. Real Madrid have dominated the headlines, mostly for the wrong reasons losing 6 times in La Liga already including a humbling home loss to Real Sociedad on Sunday. That’s already the same number of games that they lost in all of last season, which was also a very poor domestic campaign but they are at least a fraction closer to the top than they were at this stage last term.
That is largely due to Barcelona’s early season wobbles but the Catalans seem to have settled and they lead the way from Atletico Madrid and Sevilla. The rest of the division is far more interesting this year too with a huge scrap on for survival at the bottom involving perhaps half the league while the likes of Alaves and Getafe are pushing for European football. All in all, 2019 promises to be an exciting year in La Liga and these are our mid-season betting tips and predictions.
Outright Winner Prediction – Barcelona
Barcelona have started to edge clear in what was shaping up to be a very tight title race in recent weeks. They have certainly found an extra gear and ominously for the rest of La Liga, they were impressive even when Leo Messi was out injured. Youngsters Ousmane Dembele and Arthur are starting to make big contributions and it’s very hard to see anyone being able to match their form over the next 20 games, let alone overhaul their current 5 point advantage at the top.
Real Madrid are already 10 points back and and there have been no real signs that they are about to turn things around. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, they’ve struggled for goals and their tally of 26 in La Liga this term is 24 fewer than what Barcelona have managed. Sevilla currently sit 3rd but it’s hard to see them as serious title challengers with 4 of their last 5 matches ending in draws and fatigue likely to set in as the season goes on due to their intense schedule which started out way back in July in Europa League qualifying.
That pretty much leaves Atletico Madrid as the only team that look capable of pushing Barcelona. However Atletico are still finding wins hard to come by on the road. If their 22% away win ratio doesn’t improve soon, then they too could slip too far back to threaten. Even if they can find some form on their travels, you still sense there will be games where their at times over-cautious approach sees them draw rather than win. They could at least force a title race but it’s hard to see them catching Barca, unless they can spring a big surprise and win on their trip to Camp Nou later in the season.
Top 6 Finish – Getafe
You might not get a great price on Barca winning the title but there is plenty of value to be found elsewhere. The race for the top six and Europa League football is particularly interesting this year. Regular qualifiers Valencia, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao are all having poor seasons with the latter two currently in the thick of the relegation battle so the door is certainly open for a surprise qualifier.
Alaves are currently riding high in 4th but Getafe look more capable of going the distance. They only narrowly missed out on Europe last term so their form is no flash in the pan and they’ve been very solid for 18 months now. They boast La Liga’s second best defensive record and back themselves to beat anyone outside of the top four at home. What has really improved this year is their away record. They’ve been one of La Liga’s away specialists and they’ve not lost on the road since the opening day of the season.
Being that tough to beat suggests it’s highly unlikely they will slip away and unlike previous regimes, this Getafe board seems intent on signing players rather than selling their best ones. Samu Saiz has already joined this month from Leeds and with far more attacking options as a whole this term, they are capable of gatecrashing the top six at a time when so many bigger clubs are under-performing.
Top 10 Finish – Villarreal
The top six may be just beyond Villarreal given their current plight, but there are generous odds on offer for them to make the top ten. They are only 6 points off that right now and that’s a deficit that can be made up quite quickly if you can find a bit of form.
Villarreal, more than any other side in the bottom half right now, should be capable of putting a winning streak together at some point. The dismissal of Javi Calleja in December perhaps should have come sooner and there can be no question that in terms of personnel, they have one of La Liga’s strongest squads and one that should be competing for the top six rather than in the bottom six.
In Pablo Fornals and Samuel Chukuwueze they have two of the most exciting young players in La Liga, both of whom have shown they are already capable of making an impression on the big stage. They also have deep enough pockets to invest this month. Vicente Iborra has already joined and will add steel to the midfield and with their summer signings up front starting to show a bit more promise, they should have a much better second half of the season.
Relegation – Real Valladolid
In terms of the relegation battle, Huesca already look as good as down despite ending a 17 game wait for a win against Real Betis. 2nd bottom Rayo Vallecano have also found a few wins at last but a glance at the calibre of sides they are trying to catch still suggests they will end up being one of the bottom three come May.
Half the division will be somewhat concerned about filling that 3rd place but backing Real Valladolid to go down and complete a clean sweep of the promoted sides returning to the Segunda Division may be the best move. Their early season winning streak is an increasingly distant memory and the most alarming thing is that they are losing home matches against some of their main relegation rivals. Both Leganes and Rayo Vallecano have recorded wins at the José Zorrilla in recent weeks. They also don’t really have a player who is scoring the goals to fire them to safety and are La Liga’s joint lowest scorers as we head to the midway point.
In a season when it may well take more than 40 points to stay up given you’d expect current strugglers Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal to pull clear, Valladolid could be worth backing for an immediate return to the second tier.