The race for the final Champions League spot in La Liga is as wide open as it has been for seasons, so there are any amount of teams capable of making it into Spain’s top six this term.
That’s why backing Athletic Bilbao to make it is an exercise well worth undertaking at 13/10, despite their 12th place finish in the division last time around.
It’s reasonable to argue that staying the same is essentially improving in terms of the current Spanish top flight with so many teams outside of the top two losing star men, namely Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Celta Vigo.
Bilbao have seen Fernando Llorente and Fernando Amorebieta depart this summer and, while the former is one of Europe’s better strikers, he was hardly used by Los Leones in his final season at the club owing to an on-going contractual row.
Real Betis’ Benat is one of a few incomings who can give the San Mames crowd something to cheer this season. The playmaking Spanish international was integral to the Seville-based outfit that achieved a seventh-place finish in La Liga in 2012/13.
In addition to the signings made, a further boost to Bilbao’s hopes of finishing in the European qualification places this season is that they don’t have to contend with the rigours of the Europa League.
Also, the return of coach Ernesto Valverde could bode well for the club’s chances of a successful league campaign.
The former Athletic player and manager will return to the dugout after overhauling Valencia’s dismal start to the previous season and come within a whisker of qualifying for the Champions League, only to miss out on the final day.
He’s won titles in Greece as well as guiding Espanyol to the final of Europe’s B-list competition and was also touted as an outsider for the Barcelona job when Pep Guardiola first departed, highlighting his talent.
In such a broad field, taking a punt on the Basque outfit to be sitting amongst Spain’s finest come the end of the new season could easily prove profitable.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date