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After seeing Real Madrid steal their La Liga crown last season, Barcelona – with new manager Ernesto Valverde at the helm – are out to reclaim the Spanish title in 2017/18.
Zinedine Zidane’s side sealed their first title since 2012 on the final day of last season – their 33rd Spanish title – having scored in every league game along the way.
In fact, Los Blancos won four of the five competitions they entered last time out, adding the Super Cup, Club World Cup and Champions League to their trophy cabinet too.
Unsurprisingly, it is Barca and Real favourites for the title again this time out, with 2014 champions Atletico Madrid – hamstrung by a transfer ban this summer – way back as third favourites.
Atletico have finished third in each of the last three seasons since their title win, and it will take some doing for anybody to replicate their 2014 achievements and break the El Clasico stranglehold on the top two.
After going top of the league for the first time after mathday three last season, Real Madrid were never out of the top two again.
They lost just three times, including an El Clasico defeat which took the title to the final weekend, and scored 106 goals in 38 games – including at least one in every game – on their way to the title.
Barcelona pushed them close, sitting top of the league while Real awaited a game in hand against Celta Vigo in the closing weeks, but Zinedine Zidane’s side always looked like getting over the line.
It was Barcelona who finished as top scorers, however, with Luis Enrique’s side – in his final year in charge – scoring 116 goals, of which Lionel Messi scored 37 and Luis Suarez 29.
Atletico Madrid were third, for the third consecutive year, with goalkeeper Jan Oblak taking home the Zamora Trophy as they conceded just 27 times all season, while Sevilla claimed the final Champions League qualification spot.
Also in Europe this season will be Villareal, Real Sociedad and – pending them getting through the Europa League qualifiers – Athletic Bilbao.
At the other end of the table, Granada – after battling relegation every year since being promoted back to Liga in 2011 – finally succumbed to the drop, winning just four games as they finished bottom.
Osasuna also won just four times, and conceded 94 goals in their 38 games, as they made an immediate return to the Segunda Division, while Sporting Gijon were also relegated.
While Osasuna headed back to the Segunda Division, 2016 second-tier champions Alaves impressed on their return to the top flight – after getting off the mark by beating Barcelona in September, they went on to finish ninth, alongside losing to Barca in the Copa del Rey final.
The other newly-promoted team for last season, Leganes, finished 17th, and will be joined in La Liga this time out by Levante, Girona and Getafe.Here’s the full La Liga 2016/17 table:
No fewer than eight of the 20 La Liga clubs will have new managers for the 2017/18 season, with the most notable of those being Barcelona and their appointment of Ernesto Valverde.
Valverde led Athletic Bilbao to seventh place last season, and will now bid to do something he never managed as a Barcelona player – win La Liga.
Jose Angel Ziganda has stepped up from the Bilbao B team to replace Valverde at Athletic, while Manolo Marquez has made a similar step-up at Las Palmas to replace Real Betis-bound Quique Setien.
Alaves’ success in their first season back in La Liga saw Mauricio Pellegrino leave to take up the Southampton job in the English Premier League, meanwhile, with Luis Zubeldia his replacement.
Marcelino is back in La Liga after his shock sacking by Villarreal last season, as he takes over at Valencia, while Sevilla have appointed former Celta Vigo boss Eduardo Berizzo after fellow Argentine Jorge Sampaoli took the Argentinian national job.
Berizzo’s replacement at Celta is former Barcelona assistant Juan Carlos Unzue, who also served as Luis Enrique’s second-in-command when the two were at Celta Vigo.
Other big news off-the-pitch includes Atletico Madrid’s move to their new stadium, but the Wanda Metropolitano stadium will be all that’s new for Diego Simeone’s side after they were put under a transfer ban.
Their rivals have hardly splashed the cash, however, with spending so far quite reserved in La Liga during this transfer window – indeed Atletico have parted with the biggest transfer fee, €36m for Vitolo, but the ex-Sevilla man will be on loan at Las Palmas for the start of the season because of their ban on registering new players.
Elsewhere, Barcelona have parted with €30m to sign Nelson Semedo from Benfica, while Theo Hernandez has moved across Madrid to Real for €26m and Dani Ceballos cost the champions €17m from Real Betis.
Real Madrid’s outgoings have been of more note – Pepe leaving for Besiktas on a free, James Rodriguez joining Bayern Munich on a long-term loan, Alvaro Morata joining Chelsea for €65m and Danilo heading to Manchester City for €30m.
Barcelona could yet lose Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, with rumours continuing to circulate about the Brazilian’s future.
Of the top four, Sevilla have been busiest this summer, with Luis Muriel (Sampdoria, €20m), Nolito (Manchester City, €9m) and Ever Banega (Inter, €9m) among their six new signings.
At the other end of the table, Girona are gearing up for their first season in La Liga, and have had to expand their stadium as a result of their second-place finish in the Segunda Division last year.
They have strengthened their squad with six new signings in all, including Cristhian Stuani and Bernardo Espinosa from Middlesbrough, and are expected to be loaned several rising stars from affiliate club Manchester City.
Also promoted last season were Segunda Division champions Levante and play-off winners Getafe, both of whom are back in the top flight after a year’s absence.
On the pitch, Lionel Messi needs just one more goal to reach 350 in the league for Barcelona and become the first La Liga player to reach that milestone.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo is next on the all-time goalscoring list, and needs 15 more to join Messi in the 300+ goals club.
Champions Real Madrid and last year’s runners-up Barcelona are favourites to finish in the top two again this season, with the only question being which way round they will end up.
Barcelona won the title in 2015 and 2016, and will be keen to get their title back, led by the firepower of their “MSN” front line – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and, if he stays, Neymar.
The three strikers have scored 100+ goals for Barcelona between them in each of the last three seasons, with Messi grabbing the Pichichi Trophy for top goalscorer last season, one year after Suarez did the same.
A pre-season win against Real Madrid in the El Clasico Miami friendly served as an early morale boost too, under new boss Ernesto Valverde, but it is worth noting Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence for that game.
In truth, there is little to pick between the two teams – with Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and fit-again Gareth Bale adding their own considerable firepower to Real’s charge – in what is likely to be a two-horse race.
Atletico Madrid have emerged as their nearest challengers in recent years, but a new stadium – plus their transfer ban – could hinder their efforts.
To struggle in a new home would be nothing new – several big-name teams have done it in recent years – while, though they have kept their best players, like Antonie Griezmann, the transfer ban has stopped Diego Simeone from trying to strengthen to close the gap to the top two.
The final top-four place is likely to be a shoot-out between Sevilla, who finished fourth last year, Villarreal and, despite their struggles last year, Valencia.
Sevilla and Valencia start the new season with new managers, who will be keen to make an impression at their new teams.
Athletic Bilbao, despite the loss of Ernesto Valverde in the dug-out to Barcelona, Real Sociedad and Celta Vigo are all also likely to be up for the scrap for European places.
At the other end of the table, Girona could well benefit from their partnership with Manchester City when it comes to players for the new season, but their first season in La Liga is still likely to be a tough one.
They are most likely to be battling relegation, alongside Leganes and Girona’s fellow newly-promoted teams Getafe and Levante.
The bookmakers are split on Barcelona and Real Madrid, with each generally available around the 10/11 mark.
Barcelona are 10/11 to win the La Liga title with all four of Bet365, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfair next season, but the latter are offering a more generous evens on Real Madrid.
Given the speculation surrounding Neymar’s future, that final price could well prove very generous as Los Blancos bid to replicate last season’s stunning form.
In truth, it looks like a battle for third place for the rest of La Liga’s clubs, and after three consecutive third-place finishes, Bet365 are offering 4/9 on Atletico Madrid once again being the best team outside of the El Clasico rivals.
With Antoine Griezmann staying and Kevin Gameiro alongside him, along with Zamora Trophy winner Jan Oblak in goal, that is fair enough though the move to their new stadium could impact on performance – and 7/1 on Sevilla with Bet365 might be worth a punt.
Sevilla have a new manager in charge, in Eduardo Berizzo, and have been happy to ring the changes when it comes to playing personnel for 2017/18 too.
Sevilla are also a very generous 11/8 with Bet365 to finishing in the top four, after last season’s fourth-placed finish.
At the other end of the table, Girona have a tough task ahead of them to stay in La Liga, and while they have strengthened this summer – with more to be announced – they are 4/5 favourites to go down with Betfair.
Segunda Division play-off winners Getafe are 10/11 with Bet365 and Betfair, while newly-promoted champions Levante are 13/8 with both.
The latter were impressive in winning the title last year, however, and Leganes could be more worth looking at after finishing 17th last season – they are 11/8 with Bet365 to be relegated.
Lionel Messi, last season’s Pichichi Trophy winner, is a best price of 11/8 to be top scorer in the division again next season. That’s very generous, with team-mate Luis Suarez – top scorer in 2015/16 – available for an even more generous 21/10.
Barcelona, even when they missed the title last season, have proved they have goals in them, and both are going to be up there in the goalscoring charts again.
Winner: Real Madrid
Top four: Barcelona, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid
Relegated: Girona, Getafe, Leganes
Top scorer: Lionel Messi