Over the last decade, while Real Madrid and Barcelona remain the two biggest clubs in Spanish football, their habitual dominance in LaLiga has been increasingly challenged by other teams. Atletico Madrid clinched the title in 2013-14, and still under the leadership of head coach Diego Simeone, they repeated that feat again in 2020-21.
Breaking what is often considered a duopoly in LaLiga is far from easy, given that Real Madrid and Barcelona typically enjoy vastly superior spending power, enabling them to recruit some of the best players in world football. However, both of these European giants have had to tighten their belts in recent years, opening the door for other teams to challenge.
For much of last season Atletico Madrid were again in the hunt, while Sevilla continued their impressive progress, challenging at the top of the table. Meanwhile, financial problems led to Lionel Messi’s Barcelona exit, and left a gaping hole in the team that was difficult to fill, causing them to struggle for most of the season. In the end, Real Madrid eventually ran away with the Spanish championship title, comfortably winning LaLiga by a margin of 13 points.
Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and just like all the top European competitions, LaLiga paused for the duration of the international tournament. By this point each of the 20 teams had played 14 games, giving us an early opportunity to see how the title race was taking shape. Already, the two biggest clubs in Spain are comfortably ahead of the chasing pack.
Barcelona headed into the break in fixtures at the top of the table on 37 points, recovering well compared to last season and much improved. They made some impressive signings last summer, managing to strengthen all areas of the squad. Key signings included prolific centre-forward Robert Lewandowski, midfielder Franck Kassie, winger Raphinha, along with central defenders Andreas Christensen and Jules Koundé.
Real Madrid reached the pause in LaLiga on 35 points, just behind their arch-rivals in the race for leadership. They parted ways with Gareth Bale and Casemiro in the summer, but reinforced well with two important signings, landing central defender Antonio Rüdiger and midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni. As the reigning LaLiga champions they might also have the psychological advantage, having won the first ‘El Clásico’ duel of the season 3-1 against Barça.
But which of Barcelona and Real Madrid will eventually reign supreme this season? Well, before backing either team as outright LaLiga winners or when live in-game markets are active, the most astute fans will typically compare the best football betting sites, looking for great value odds and promotions. These are covered in detail via the latest SBO reviews and guides, alongside focusing on rating the safest and most reputable online bookies.
While the giants of Spanish football jostle for position at the top of LaLiga, how are the other potential contenders faring so far? Compared to previous campaigns, not so well unfortunately, compared to previous campaigns. The chasing pack of teams all need to improve significantly, should any of them harbour hopes of challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid in the title race.
Last season Andalucian side Sevilla provided the strongest bid early in the 2021-22 season, although they struggled to maintain winning form in the second half of the campaign, eventually finishing fourth. Quite remarkably, albeit having sold vital players without signing suitable replacements, Sevilla reached the fixture pause in the thick of a relegation battle, with Julen Lopetegui relieved of his duties and Jorge Sampaoli hired as head coach.
Atletico Madrid have also made a disappointing start to the 2022-23 campaign, winning just 7 of their opening 14 fixtures of the season, while drawing 3 and losing 4 games already. Rather than focus on big signings, they turned to players returning from loan deals at other clubs, whilst also loaning in Sergio Reguilón from Tottenham. However, they seem to lack the typically combative edge for which Simeone’s teams are famed.
But as an interesting alternative, we could have two strong challengers from the Basque Country, given that Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao have made positive starts. Real Sociedad are on 26 points and closest to reaching the top two, while Athletic Bilbao are much improved under the leadership of head coach Ernesto Valverde, determined to keep themselves in the top-four. That being said, neither are likely to catch Real Madrid and Barcelona.