With the new Spanish season almost upon us, our resident Spanish expert Phil Kitromilides takes a look at the market and backs Jose Mourinho's men to retain their crownThe phrase "two horse race" was perhaps invented for the outright betting market in La Liga. That the two "horses" in question are colossal juggernauts of international football rather than equine athletes is neither of little consequence.
This season, once again, eternal rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona are the only two of the 20 sides in the Spanish top flight with even the faintest hope of being crowned as champions.
Madrid start the defence of their title as marginal favourites, with William Hill pricing them at 4/5 (1.80), while Barcelona can be backed at evens (2.00).
So far ahead are the two giants of the Iberian peninsula that the next team in the betting, Malaga, are priced at 50/1 (51.00).
However, the Andalucians are in financial disarray and, having sold two of their best players in Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon, look likely to seriously struggle this season.
The perennial winners of the 'other Liga' (i.e. without the big two) are Valencia, who again finished third last season.
Yet again, the cash-strapped side marked the advent of summer by selling their most prized asset in Jordi Alba, who followed the likes of David Silva and David Villa in previous summers, out of the exit door at Mestalla.
Los Che, the last team to win the league not from Madrid or Barcelona back in 2004, are priced at 66/1 (67.00) to do so again, although given their economic constraints, another Champions League finish would be an impressive achievement.
The likes of Atletico Madrid and Athelic Bilbao are available at 80/1 (81.00) and 100/1 (101.00) respectively, but looking outside the big two is futile as either Madrid or Barcelona will without doubt win the league.
The Blancos have failed to win back-to-back titles since 2008, yet having captured their first Liga under Jose Mourinho last season, they will be keen to put a run of successive championships together.
It is an extremely close call between Madrid and Barca, yet perhaps what counts in the current holders' favour is having a manager like Mourinho, who has excelled at the highest level of world football for close to a decade, in charge, while the Catalans have the inexperienced Tito Vilanova at the helm.
In a title race that is expected to only get tighter in the coming seasons, that could be the deciding factor.
|Real Madrid to win La Liga at 4/5 (1.80) with William Hill
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Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on radio and TV in London and Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.