While the Primera Liga may be the most feted duopoly in world football, as a league it possesses quality throughout; removing Barcelona and Real Madrid from the betting creates a clearer scenario.
Diego Simeone’s managerial tenure at Atletico Madrid has been enormously successful thus far, the Argentine winning the Europa League in his first full season in charge before guiding his charges to a third-place finish last term (behind Real and Barca), a full 10 points ahead of Real Sociedad in fourth.
Their total of 76 points was a record for a third-place side, and they also beat cross-town rivals Real Madrid 2-1 in the final of the Copa del Rey, bringing an end to a run of 25 matches without victory over Los Merengues.
Some will rightly question where the goals will come from now that Falcao – scorer of 52 league goals in 67 appearances for Atleti – has departed for Monaco, but the low-cost signing of the perennially prolific David Villa from Barcelona is a risk-free investment.
The blow of losing Falcao will be softened further by the fact that 9/4 second favourites Valencia have lost their leading forward too in Roberto Soldado (24 league strikes in 2012/13) – not to mention the reported £50m pound fee they received for the Colombian.
Los Che’s financial difficulties have been well documented, and Soldado represents the latest in a line of enforced high-profile departures. The club’s claims are further diminished by the 54 goals they allowed in last season.
In addition, 8/1 chance Real Sociedad will be competing in the Champions League for the first time since 2003-04 this term, and how they deal with that extra midweek exertion – be it in the Champions League or Europa League – remains to be seen; they have already lost influential holding midfielder Asier Illarramendi to Real this summer for the sum of £34m.
However, the main means by which Atletico can top the rest of the competition is in defence. Simeone has developed a side that is hugely difficult to play against, and presses with suffocating intensity. They conceded a league-low 31 goals last term, with Barcelona and Real conceding 40 and 42 respectively.
Atletico Madrid represent exceptionally good value to win the league without the big two, and should have ambitions of narrowing the gap between them further, though at 66/1 the league outright is almost certainly beyond them.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing