La Liga may not kick off until a week after the Premier League, but fans are already getting geared up to see the world’s greatest talents face off against each other in another enthralling Spanish title race.
Barcelona’s late-season stumble saw them maintain a lead of just a single point over Real Madrid at the end of the season, and a poll of almost 20,000 fans on 90min picked out the defending champions as the most likely to claim the crown next season.
Luis Enrique’s men were backed by the narrowest of margins though – edging the vote with 44% of the respondents to Real Madrid’s 40% – with Zinedine Zidane preparing to lead the Champions League holders for his first full season in charge at the Bernabeu.
Atletico Madrid pushed both of Spain’s traditional ‘big two’ hard last season, finishing just three points back on Barcelona, but were backed by just 13% of the voters ahead of the 2016/17 campaign as they remain the more unfashionable choice in the three-horse race for the Spanish title.
Barcelona kick off their title defence the day before their two main rivals, facing off against Real Betis on Saturday 20 August before Real and Atletico play Real Sociedad and Alavés respectively on the Sunday evening.
Just three per cent of voters backed a team outside of last season’s top three to break the stranglehold, shortly after former Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti proclaimed La Liga as the hardest league in Europe to win.
He told FourFourTwo: “For the quality of play, it is Spain. All the teams can play – even the smaller teams. Just look at what the Spanish sides do in European competition. Both Atletico and Real Madrid were in the Champions League final, Sevilla were in the Europa League final, and Villarreal were in the semi-finals.
“For tactics, I would say it’s Italy, as there you have to think about a lot of different systems. One week you play against 4-4-2, then 4-3-3, and then 3-5-2, so Italian managers gain a lot of experience and knowledge.”
By Chris Deeley
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