La Liga returns from a winter break on January 6 and we are set for a gripping title race between the league’s fiercest rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. Barca have had it all their own.
<p>La Liga returns from a winter break on January 6 and we are set for a gripping title race between the league’s fiercest rivals, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Barca have had it all their own way in recent years, but Real have the advantage this season and currently enjoy a three-point lead over the Catalans, with a game in hand. But Barcelona are in excellent form and it could go right to the wire this season.</p><p>https://youtu.be/yYvCZ0SW6_I</p><p><strong>Winner</strong></p><p>Real Madrid have not won the league since 2011-12 when Jose Mourinho was the manager. In the ensuing four seasons, Barcelona have won it three times, with Atletico Madrid crashing the party and winning it in 2013-14. Atletico have made it a three-horsed race in recent years thanks to the managerial nous of Diego Simeone, but they have struggled this season and are already nine points behind Real. Sevilla are up there, but they're away form is likely to let them down over the course of the season and that leaves a straight fight between Real and Barca. The smart money has to be on Real, who we tipped at the start of the season despite Barcelona being heavy favourites. Real’s strong form is all thanks to the appointment of club legend Zinedine Zidane as manager. When he replaced Rafa Benitez halfway through last season, Real were 12 points behind Barcelona. Under Zidane, they went on a remarkable unbeaten run and finished just one point behind their great rivals, while also winning the Champions League. They have maintained their superb form this season and are top of the pile. They are still unbeaten after 15 games, having won 11 and drawn four. They have the steel to match the guile, and their mental strength was emphasized by Sergio Ramos’ last-ditch equaliser in El Clasico to avoid Barcelona striking a psychological blow. There is more value in backing Barcelona at <a href="http://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4810&book=Bet365">7/4 with Bet365</a>, but the smart money has to be on Real, who are 8/15 with <a href="http://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4834&book=Paddypower">Paddy Power</a> and <a href="http://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4835&book=Betvictor">Bet Victor</a>.</p><p> </p><p><strong>Without Barcelona and Real Madrid</strong></p><p>Take out the big two and the race gets fascinating. Right now Sevilla are leading the charge, with 33 points from 16 games leaving them four points ahead of fourth-placed Villarreal. Real Sociedad are up in fifth, also on 29 points but with an inferior goal difference, and then come Atletico Madrid on 28 points. Atletico are a fantastic side and they should have enough about them to overhaul that five-point deficit and overtake Sevilla. The home form of Sevilla is superb and they would be top of the table if only home games counted, but they are not at all as strong on the road, and that has been the case for some years now. Atletico should capitalise. They have won their last two games in a row and can look forward to a kind fixture list until they host Barcelona on February 26, so you would fancy them to be back in the top three by spring and hold onto that spot at the end of the campaign. The 11/13 <a href="http://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4832&book=888Sport">888 Sport</a> and Unibet are offering on Atletico winning it without Real and Barcelona looks an excellent option.</p><p> </p><p><strong>Relegation</strong></p><p>Osasuna and Granada both look done for and are massively odds-on to go down. The final spot could come down to a battle between Sporting Gijon and Valencia, who are both on 12 points, but Valencia are a decent team and you would expect them to get out of trouble. Leganes are 16th on 16 points and will be looking nervously over their shoulders and they are 7/2 with Betfred and Sportingbet, which looks an interesting option, but the 13/18 that 888 Sport is offering on Gijon to go down looks the best bet.</p><p> </p><p><strong>Top scorer</strong></p><p>The competition for individual honours is at its fiercest in La Liga, where most of the world’s best players (and biggest egos) are assembled. Cristiano Ronaldo won the race for the golden boot in 2013-14 and 2014-15 but was pipped by Luis Suarez last season. Lionel Messi is also a threat and is currently joint top with teammate Suarez, with 12 goals apiece. Those two are the favourites to be crowned top scorer this season, with Bet Victor and Sky Bet offering 5/4 on Messi and Paddy Power and William Hill offering 13/8 on Suarez, who is typically the focal point of Barca’s attacks. But a great option looks to be Ronaldo back on 9/4 with Bet Victor. He is two goals behind Suarez and Messi on 10, but has a game in hand and is in excellent form. He banged in a hat-trick in his last game, the Club World Cup final, and can maintain that goal scoring run as he is playing more and more as an outright striker as he gets older.</p>