LaLiga returns for the 2021-22 season in early August, as the 20 best club sides in Spain compete for the top prize, and are crowned champions of Spain. All of the familiar sides will be competing for the top prize, as Atletico Madrid goes into the new season as the champions, and Diego Simeone will be hoping that he can guide his side to back-to-back titles. But, will they be the soccer pick to achieve that feat for the first time in their history?
As is typically the case in LaLiga, there will be three main sides vying for the championship in 2021-22. It is incredibly unlikely that a new challenger will emerge from the pack this season, which means it will be a three-horse race, involving Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and Barcelona.
Atletico Madrid were crowned champions of Spain for the eleventh time at the end of last season, as they finished two points clear of Real Madrid on a tense final day of the campaign. Atletico will need to replicate their start to the season last term to stand the best possible chance, as they won ten of their opening 12 games before suffering the first defeat of the season against Real Madrid in the middle of December.
Their defensive record was strong both home and away, as they allowed just 25 goals in the 28 games that they played in 2020-21. Summer business will be key for Atletico, as they will be hopeful of keeping hold of Saul, who was an integral part of their title-winning side. Additions have already been made, with Rodrigo De Paul’s signing from Udinese being the standout addition made thus far.
It has been a summer of change at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Zinedine Zidane replaced by former head coach Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian had been with Everton last season but returns to Spain looking to get Real Madrid back to the top of LaLiga. Ancelotti will be a popular announcement for fans, as his time with the club between 2013 and 2015 saw Madrid win the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
The top-flight title in Spain is the one elite domestic title that has alluded him to this point, and he will have to navigate a tough transfer period to get the best from his players. Real has already lost Sergio Ramos to PSG, ending his 16-year association with the club, while Raphael Varane could also soon be on his way out of the club.
David Alaba is an excellent signing that fills the void, while Nacho recently signed a new two-year extension to his deal. Playing back at the Bernabeu this season will improve their chances, as they dropped 12 points in 13 home games at the Alfredo Di Stefano the last term.
The biggest story over the summer for Barcelona has been the long-term future of Lionel Messi. However, the Argentinean superstar has penned a new deal at Nou Camp, which will see him remain with the club. Barcelona needs to make moves in the summer without parting with too much money, given the financial difficulty that they find themselves in.
However, they have brought in proven quality in the free agency, with Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay attacking further attacking quality. Eric Garcia and Emerson also offer some defensive solidity. Barcelona is still looking to balance the books, and could part ways with at least five first-team stars before a ball is kicked this season.
Off-the-pitch issues will need to be put aside when LaLiga gets underway, as they look to win their first top-flight title since the 2018-19 season. A strong start is essential for Barcelona, as they suffered four feats in their opening 12 games last season, which left them down in ninth with an awful lot of ground to make up on the leaders.
Who Will Win LaLiga?
The LaLiga title race looks to be a wide-open affair once again this season, and a case could be made for all sides involved. Atletico looks to be the most secure of the three title-chasing sides and could be excellent value to win back-to-back titles for the first time in their history.
Race For Europe
As well as the top prize in LaLiga, teams will also compete for a place in Europe. The top four will be rewarded with a place in the Champions League, while the fifth get Europa League football, and the sixth finishes with a tie in the Europa Conference League playoff round. Sevilla finished fourth last season and looks to have an excellent chance of repeating that finish once again.
Villarreal and Real Sociedad could be the leading rivals, but both will likely be fighting it out for fifth and sixth. A dark horse typically emerges from the pack to challenge Europe, and our pick this season is Granada. They finished last season in strong form, winning four of their last six games, and lost just three times in the final 14 games of the season.
LaLiga Relegation Battle
At the bottom of LaLiga, it will be a scrap for points, as three teams look to evade the same fate as Eibar, Valladolid, and Huesca, who were relegated at the end of the 2020-21 campaign. Elche and Alves, who finished in the two places directly above the drop zone, could face another struggle this term, while off-field issues at Valencia could see them dragged into the mix.
Meanwhile, the three newly promoted sides could also face a baptism of fire, as Espanyol, Mallorca, and Real Vallecano have little financial power following the aftereffects of the pandemic. Espanyol could have enough experience to evade the drop, but Mallorca, Real Vallecano, and Alves may not be so fortunate.