La Liga 2017/18 review

La Liga

Barcelona strolled to their 25th La Liga title and ninth in the last 14 years but for all their dominance it was not one of the Catalan giants’ more memorable campaigns.

Ernesto Valverde’s side also won the Copa del Rey and finished 17 points clear of third-placed Real Madrid, but their season will be remembered more for their shock Champions League quarter-final exit to Roma. Barca’s failure in Europe was made all the more galling when Real went on to win the Champions League for a third year in a row.

Barcelona 1.74 to win the 2018/19 La Liga title

Barca’s double may have been overshadowed by Real’s European success but their domestic dominance was still impressive.

They won the title with four matches to spare following a 4-2 victory at Deportivo La Coruna with the incomparable Lionel Messi, 10.00 to be the top goalscorer at the World Cup, grabbing a hat-trick. The Argentinian found the net 34 times in 36 La Liga appearances, while Luis Suarez chipped in with 25.

The departure of Neymar to Paris St-Germain last summer had led many people to suggest Barca would struggle in 2017/18 and the arrival of Paulinho was met with derision. However, the former Tottenham midfielder scored nine goals in 34 league games for Valverde’s team and played a key role in their title success.

Philippe Coutinho’s signing in January bolstered the squad and, despite the departure of Andres Iniesta, Barca look set to be the team to beat again next season.

A 5-4 defeat to Levante in the penultimate match of the campaign was Barca’s only La Liga loss and brought their 36-game unbeaten run to an end, not a bad record for a team that was often described as average.

Real Madrid 13/10 to win the 2018/19 La Liga title

For all their recent Champions League glory, Real have only won two La Liga titles in the last decade – in 2011/12 and 2016/17 – and a poor start this term ensured they were never really able to challenge Barcelona.

Zinedine Zidane’s team lost six league matches and often struggled against mid-table teams. Cristiano Ronaldo did not really hit his stride until the second half of the campaign, while Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Marcelo and Casemiro all failed to show the consistency needed to win a title.

Ronaldo, 15.00 to be the top goalscorer at the World Cup, weighed in with 26 goals in 27 league appearances, but Gareth Bale (16) was the only other Real player to reach double figures, with Karim Benzema only managing to find the net five times.

Atletico Madrid 17.00 to win the 2018/19 La Liga title

Second place in La Liga and another Europa League triumph represents another brilliant campaign for Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone’s team only scored 58 league goals – eight fewer than 12th-placed Real Sociedad – but a miserly defence conceded just 22 times.

In two-thirds of Atleti’s games fewer than 2.5 goals were scored in total and they continue to emphasise tenacity and doggedness rather than the more attractive tactics employed by Barca and Real. Their policy may not bring them the La Liga title in 2018/19 but they will continue to frustrate their more illustrious rivals.

After two mid-table finishes, Valencia returned to the top four after a fine campaign which also saw them reach the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, while Villarreal will be playing in the Europa League next term after finishing fifth.

Real Betis were the biggest overachievers of the season though, finishing sixth and clinching a spot in the Europa League, thanks largely to a run of seven victories in eight games in March and April.

Betis finished 15th in 2016/17, but were inspired by the goals of Sergio Leon, signed from Osasuna last summer, and Antonio Sanabria.

Sevilla had a strange season, finishing seventh and missing out on Europe. They started the campaign with Eduardo Berizzo as manager, replaced him with Vincenzo Montello in December and then axed the Italian four months later in the wake of a 5-0 defeat to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.

Montella had helped Sevilla reach the last eight of the Champions League for the first time in 60 years by eliminating Manchester United but he was relieved of his duties and replaced by Joaquin Caparros for the closing weeks of the campaign.

Celta Vigo may have had an undistinguished season, eventually finishing 13th, but Iago Aspas enjoyed an outstanding campaign, scoring 22 of their 59 La Liga goals.

After failing to impress at Liverpool in the 2013/14 season, the 30-year-old is enjoying a golden spell at Celta Vigo and his goals did much to keep the club away from relegation danger. Only Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez scored more times than him in the league.

Real Sociedad finished the campaign well and scored more goals than anyone bar Real Madrid and Barcelona, while Athletic Bilbao were a big disappointment, eventually limping to a 16th-placed finish.

However, it was an even worse season for Deportivo La Coruna, Las Palmas and Malaga who were all relegated.

The three teams all endured desperately disappointing campaigns and only managed to pick up 16 victories between them. 18th-placed Deportivo were 14 points away from safety, with Las Palmas seven points behind them and Malaga another two.

Deportivo have been in the doldrums for the last decade and they are a shadow of the club that won the La Liga title in 2000 and reached the Champions League semi-final four years later.

This was their third relegation from the top-flight in the last eight seasons. They managed to bounce back at the first time of asking on each of the last two occasions but they may find it more difficult to repeat the feat in 2018/19.

Las Palmas go down after three years in the top division while Malaga’s decline has been severe. They finished 11th in 2016/17 and were fourth as recently as 2011/12.

They reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2012/13, but will now be contemplating life in the Segunda Division for the first time in more than a decade.