by Alastair Bull

With some highly influential departures, Spain’s leading soccer league could have a new look about it for the 2018-19 La Liga season – maybe even a rare one where the winner is not Real Madrid or Barcelona.

In the past decade, the two biggest clubs in Spain have dominated La Liga, which begins its 2018-19 campaign Aug. 17th. Since Valencia won in 2003-04 (its second in three seasons), La Liga has gone to one of the big two for every season bar one.

Though Real Madrid has dominated the UEFA Champions League in recent times, winning the past three, they haven’t had the same dominance in La Liga, taking the title just once in the past six seasons. This year, their task is tougher with the departure of their manager, Zinedine Zidane, and their inspirational forward, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Top 2018-19 La Liga Outright Winner Bets
Barcelona -145
Real Madrid +175
Athletico Madrid +750
Valencia +10000
Sevilla +15000
Villarreal +30000
Real Betis +50000
Athletic Bilbao +50000
Sociedad +50000

However, when your team includes Luka Modric, the World Cup winner of the Golden Ball for player of the tournament, along with three others that made the fan-selected World Cup dream team (goalkeeper Thibault Courtois, and defenders Marcelo and Raphael Varane), it’s clear there is still talent to burn. Add to that trio Gareth Bale, Isco, Toni Kroos, Nacho, Keylor Navas and Sergio Ramos, and it’s once again a formidable team.

Courtois is one of three new players that Real Madrid made for more than $40 million, the others being right back Alvaro Odriozola from Real Sociedad and the 18-year-old Brazilian striker Vinicius Junior.

Defending champions Barcelona have lost veteran midfield cog Andres Iniesta and leading Colombian defender Yerry Mina, but their notable signings include Brazilians Arthur and Malcom, Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal, and French defender Clement Lenglet. They still have Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, and Ousmane Dembele. They will again be competitive.

In more recent years the “big two” has been a “big three”, with Atletico Madrid also proving highly competitive. Winners in 2013-14, they finished third in the next three seasons and were second in 2017-18. This season their major signings have been midfielder Thomas Lemar from Monaco, striker Nikola Kalinic from Milan. Just as importantly, they kept French World Cup-winning striker Antoine Griezmann, who leads the front line with Diego Costa, while other stars include Uruguayan defender Diego Godin and the Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Atletico has been highly consistent, especially in the league, and at odds around +1000, they are very appealing for the title. Even the odds of -650 for a top four finish (Real Madrid and Barcelona are both at -10000) are appealing.

Valencia and Sevilla are probably the best of the other teams in the contest to finish in the top four.

BEST BET 2018-19 La Liga Outrights: Atletico Madrid to finish in the top four (-800); Atletico Madrid to win La Liga (+750).