La Liga Betting: Barcelona to start with a bang against Levante



Once again the summer outside the top two sides in Spain has been about star departures rather than arrivals. Strikers Radamel Falcao, Álvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado, Fernando Llorente and Iago Aspas have all left the league to be replaced by cheaper alternatives. Debt and the discrepancy in television revenue means the gap between the 'El Clásico' pairing and the rest of La Liga remains as big as ever.

We welcome back Villarreal and Almeria into the top flight, while Elche return after a 24-year absence. Will Atlético continue to be difficult to beat? How will Real Sociedad juggle league and European commitments? These questions and plenty more will be answered over the coming months.


Barcelona 1.08, the draw 12.00, Levante 25.00

Tito Vilanova's surprise exit has led to Argentine Gerardo Martino being appointed to the hotseat at Barcelona. The new coach has promised to restore the features that made the team so successful and add his own ideas to enhance it further. The centre-back conundrum still continues as they struggle to attract a player of the right profile. PSG's Thiago Silva was the main object of desire but the French club were unwilling to do business. They have been left scratching their heads once more, with other ball-playing central defenders David Luiz and Daniel Agger heavily linked.

There are no such problems at the other end of the pitch, with the arrival of Neymar exciting fans. Despite losing several kilos due to anaemia, the forward is fit to play and is 4.25 to grab the first goal on his full Camp Nou debut. Levante have lost on their last three trips to the ground, managing just one goal, whilst Barça have won their last 15 league matches on home turf. A fast start to the match could see goals at either end; it's 3.95 for both teams to score in the first half.

Score prediction: 4-1 (14.00)


Real Madrid 1.14, the draw 9.00, Real Betis 16.00

There was a sigh of relief when José Mourinho agreed to reunite with Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho, Florentino Pérez, the Real fans and the players all benefit in equal measure from the agreement, which has seen the less confrontational Carlo Ancelotti installed. Gareth Bale hasn't arrived, but two players who are regarded as the future of the Spanish national team - Asier Illarramendi and Isco - have been signed. Cristiano Ronaldo will be keen to show why he is still number one at the Bernabéu and that there isn't the need to part with over €100 million for the Welsh wizard just yet; the Portuguese forward is 2.85 for the opener.

Pepe Mel's team has improved year after year, which leads to the obvious question: can it continue? The whole of the midfield has been reconstructed: with Beñat joining Athletic and Cañas moving to Swansea, the playmaking duties have now falling upon former Espanyol pass master Joan Verdú. Betis' win over Madrid last season broke Los Blancos' run of eight games without a defeat, but they didn't fair quite so well in the reverse fixture, losing 3-1. Álvaro Vadillo is viewed as a real talent and is apparently wanted by Tottenham should Bale swap capitals. He is 22.00 to net the last goal.

Score prediction: 3-1 (11.00)


Valencia 1.50, the draw 4.00, Málaga 6.50

There's a sense of excitement around the Mestalla dressing room as the players have been quick to praise new manager Miroslav Djukic. "He is relying heavily on me and I hope to repay him on the field," said Éver Banega, while Chelsea's on-loan defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu described the dynamic within the group as "positive".

Málaga face the difficult task of revising expectations after reaching the final eight of the Champions League last term. With the departures of Diego Lugano and Martín Demichelis, and after captain Weligton was bulldozed by Aston Villa's Christian Benteke during pre-season, the Andalusians are thin on the ground at centre-back. This makes over 2.5 goals for the home team particularly appealing at 2.85, even though they can no longer call upon Soldado to provide the cutting edge.

Score prediction: 3-2 (20.00)

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