Football Betting: La Liga
If the Premier League has its frenetic pace and all-action football, and Serie A has the tactical know-how and high-class defending, while the Bundesliga oozes attacking play, then La Liga leads the field in terms of technical ability and individual player skill.
The downside to La Liga for the ‘neutral’ is that bar the odd gate-crashing from the likes of Atletico Madrid and Valencia over the years, this is pretty much a two-horse race between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Never was the rivalry brighter and more exciting than when Lionel Messi was Barca’s talisman and Cristiano Ronaldo was Real’s go-to man and those El Classicos made for compelling viewing. Ronaldo has of course moved onto pastures new, but Messi is still around and a joy to watch.
Let’s look at what makes Spanish football so great to tune into, which betting markets are worth getting involved in, some betting and satta strategies, and La Liga betting tips that may help you win some money on this most colourful and entertaining of leagues.
La Liga Winners: All about Barca and Real
At the time of writing in 2020, there have been 91 editions of La Liga played with Real Madrid leading the way with 33 wins, closely followed by Barcelona with 26. Only one other side- Atletico Madrid- can claim to have got to double figures in terms of title wins, with 10, the last of which was in the 2013-14 season.
There are six other sides who have tasted La Liga glory: Athletic Bilbao (8), Valencia (6), Real Sociedad (2), Deportivo La Coruna (1), Sevilla (1) and Betis (1).
It’s been pretty much just two-way traffic since 2004 though with Barca and Real sharing all of the La Liga titles since then, with just the one exception being that Atletico Madrid win in 2013-14 under the spiky, pragmatist that is Diego Simeone.
And within that time period of the last 15 years it’s been Barcelona in control. They’ve won 10, Real four and Atletico have that sole title win. What could possibly have caused Barca’s dominance since that 2004-5 season? Maybe it had something to do with the emergence of Lionel Messi as a skinny, shy kid with a questionable haircut. More on him in a bit.
La Liga Top Goalscorers
You didn’t have to wait long till the next mention of Messi. That’s because he’s La Liga’s top goalscorer ever with 441 goals in 480 appearances at the time of writing. If you really wanted to criticise Messi’s achievements you could point out that if you’re Barcelona’s main man, starting every game and taking penalties and fee-kicks to boot over a 16 year period it’s somewhat inevitable you’re going to score that many goals.
In fact, the man who’s second on the list- Ronaldo on 311 goals- actually boasts a better goal per game average. Remarkably, he scored at better than a goal-a-game over his nine year stay at Real, which is better than Messi’s current figures of 0.92 goals a game.
The Top 10 list has plenty of players from yesteryear on it, but three other names stand out. Alfredo di Stefano, the Argentinian-born playmaker of the 50s and 66s, is sixth on 227 goals. One place above him is Raul (228), the Real Madrid talisman who only ever played for Real in La Liga and Hugo Sanchez (234), the Mexican goal poacher who swapped Atletico Madrid for Real Madrid in the mid-80s and was famous for his bicycle kicks and acrobatic celebrations.
Leading goal scorers in La Liga football history
|6||Alfredo Di Stéfano||1953–1966||227||329||0.69|
The last 10 seasons have seen Messi pick up the La Liga top scorer award- the Pichichi- on six occasions. Only Cristiano Ronaldo (twice) and Luis Suarez (2015-16 season) were able to deny him. So, there’s your first of your La Liga betting tips: stick with Messu for top scorer and you won’t go too far wrong.
Did you know?
Messi may have 480 appearances under his belt in La Liga, all for Barcelona, but he’s still got some way to go to catch Joaquin. The Betis veteran has played 546 games across a long career that has taken him to Malaga and Valencia and if he plays one more season, there’s a good chance that Messi won’t catch up with him at all. Sergio Ramos has eight more appearances than Messi as we speak but with Real not desperate to renew his contract, this could be Ramos’ last season in Spain.
La Liga football betting
As one of the most popular football leagues in the world, it’s no surprise that whoever your bookmaker is, there will be endless La Liga betting markets to get involved in. There are always some long-term ones that last a whole season and then there are also 100s of football betting markets to choose from ahead of very matchday. Here are some of the best.
La Liga season markets
As we started by saying, this is usually very much a two-horse race and over the last few years it’s been one that Barca have won more often than not, so the first bit of advice is to save your money when it comes to La Liga betting on anyone else.
Top 3 market
The returns you’ll get on backing Real and Barca for a Top 3 finish are worse than what a high-street bank would give you, which means they’re pretty poor indeed. But at odds of at least 1.5, you’ll be able to back Atletico Madrid for a Top 3 finish and the history books suggest you might be onto something. Since the 2012-13 season, they’ve never finished outside the Top 3 with one win and two runner-up spots.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Diego Simeone is one of the best coaches in football, very good from a tactical and man management point of view and always great at setting up teams to defend well, be hard to break down and they’re deadly when they go a goal up. No wonder they made two Champions League finals in 2013-14 and 2015-16, though on both occasions they lost to Real Madrid.
La Liga match markets
Backing Barcelona and Real week-in-week-out is not a good idea. You read that right. Bookies all over the world are very aware that every punter wants to get them onside whether it’s as singles or as part of accas/parlay bets and make their odds so short that you end up taking a big risk for small rewards.
Because apart from anything else, those two really don’t win as often as their La Liga betting odds suggest. For example, during the 2018-19 season, Real won ‘just’ 21 of 38 games as they finished third. Not bad but when you consider that they often go off as 1.3 or 1.4 chances, you can see how it would have cost you plenty of money to have kept backing them and the smart move would have been to go against them.
The alternative is to find new ways to back them to win. For example, if the game looks like it will have goals, back Real or Baca to win with over 2.5 goals in the game. Or back them to win while keeping a clean sheet. Or back them to win without keeping a clean sheet!
Look for patterns in the stats that show that rather than just backing them to win, you’ll get far higher odds if you do so with another condition in there. That said, if the price is too short and their opponents can handle themselves well, you can always take their opponents on the Double Chance market.
Over/Under 2.5 goals
Of course, it’s not just about Spain’s Big Two when it comes to La Liga betting. And the over/under 2.5 goals market is a good example of that. You could blindly back those two to go over 2.5 goals week in week out but that’s not the best move. In the 2019-20 season only 50% of Real’s matches home and away went over 2.5 goals and for Barca the figures were just under 70% for home matches and 55% for away matches.
Considering the La Liga betting odds on over 2.5 goals are generally prohibitively short and you’d actually have been better off going ‘unders’ in most games involving either of those two.
The alternative of course is to look for other teams who have interesting patterns when it comes to goals. In the 2019-20 season, Athletic Bilbao had over 80% of their home games go under 2.5 goals, including eight in a row between December and late June. Had you gone ‘unders’ all season on Bilbao home games once you saw the pattern emerge and you would have cleaned up.
At the opposite end of the scale are Betis, who boasted a figure over 80% for home matches that went over 2.5 goals in the same season, including 10 in a row at one stage.
Of course, these patterns will vary from season to season, but the important thing is to try to identify these patterns as early as possible. The other point about this is that there’s life beyond Real and Barca.
Players to watch
We’ve mentioned that man Messi enough already and he doesn’t exactly need an introduction at the best of times. But there are plenty of other wonderful players in La Liga to look out for and who are worth tuning in to watch. Here are some of the best.
Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
The Belgian skipper was one of the best foreign players ever to grace the Premier League after a spell at Chelsea that saw him terrorise defences week in, week out. Things haven’t gone as smoothly at the Santiago Bernabeu in a first season that saw him start the campaign a bit overweight and a couple of subsequent injuries didn’t help, either.
But he remains a speedy winger of huge creativity who contributes goals and assists in equal measure and still has plenty of time to become one of La Liga’s top players.
Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
The Portuguese forward was just a teenager when Atletico Madrid paid 126 million Euros to prise him away from Benfica after just one season at the Lisbon club, where he scored 15 goals in 26 games.
Like with Hazard, there were a few teething problems to deal with after his move and he wasn’t always a certain starter under Diego Simeone during the 2019-20 season. But he’s got a possible 15 years of football ahead of him and this is a good club for him to finetune a few details of his game. If he does, he could easily be one of the top three or four players in the world in the future.
Riqui Puig (Barcelona)
If you haven’t heard of Puig yet, don’t worry. You will. He only broke into the Barca team at the back end of the 2019-20 season and quickly showed why at the age of 20, he was deemed good enough for a run in the first team. A sort of reincarnation of Andres Iniesta, he’s playmaker who sees things before others and seems to have glue on his feet. He’ll run the Barca midfield for years to come.
Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
It’s not just attacking players who win you games, of course. Defenders like Frenchman Varane are vital in terms of keeping the goals out that allow you to win games and titles. Tall, strong, quick and elegant, Varane is a class act and a player who will take over from Sergio Ramos as the leader of the defence and the team as a whole.