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Spanish Soccer Prediction: Primera Liga Preview 2004/2005

The Spanish Primera Liga is probably the strongest overall league in Europe. With a great deal more parity among teams than the Premiership -- not to mention Serie A -- the Spanish league is very exciting to watch, but also highly profitable to handicap. Here’s a look at the main
contenders to take the title this year:

Real Madrid (+150): Real splashed out some big money this summer after a disastrous season in which they finished fourth in La Liga, crashed out of the Champions League and embarrassingly lost to Zaragoza in the Copa
del Rey. Jose Antonio Camacho has been brought in as manager to grace the sidelines with his flamboyant presence. There will be no shortage of world class strikers now that Michael Owen and Fernando Morientes have
joined the squaf. Last season Ronaldo and Raul ran out of steam towards the end of the season, so quality strikers are always welcome. But Real’s most significant changes have been in defence, which was responsible for their dismal season last year. To tighten things up, Jonathan Woodgate and Walter Samuel join the defensive line. There’s a lot to like about this team, but at this incredibly short price, it’s worth considering the others.

Barcelona (+250): After a painfully slow start to the season, Barça charged to a second place La Liga finish. An active summer buying season has transformed Barcelona into an all-star team, with the likes of Deco,
Henrik Larsson, Samuel Eto’o, Ludovic Giuly and Juliano Belletti coming aboard. They will join Ronaldinho (last season’s Player of the Year) and Javier Saviola, who combined for 29 goals last season. Losing Edgar
Davids in midfield is a bit of a blow, but releasing the tempestuous Patrick Kluivert was a sensible move. On paper, this team looks unstoppable. The question is how well the new players will integrate, and whether Barcelona can translate talent into results. We believe they can, but so do the oddsmakers, which explains the small price about Barça. It’s too short for us, but we expect Barcelona to mount an exciting challenge for the title.

Valencia (+350): Valencia’s top scorers, Mista and Vicente, remain on the roster, along with the award winning Santiago Canizares, Amedeo Carboni and Roberto Ayala. But losing all-star coach Rafael Benitez to
Liverpool will be a big blow for Valencia. It was Benitez’s sharp tactical sense that led Valencia to the league title and the Champions League final. Claudio Ranieri’s work is cut out for him as new manager. And unlike in England, Ranieri’s popularity and charisma won’t help prolong his stay at Valencia. Spanish owners are famously impatient, so a slow start to the season could mean Ranieri’s neck. Ranieri’s Italian imports, Marco di Vaio, Stefano Fiore and Bernardo Corradi are also questionable. There’s only one direction for Valencia to go this year: down.

Deportivo (10:1): This team is virtually unchanged from last season, and it’s hard to see them getting much better this year. Deportivo face tougher competition at the top of the table with two greatly improved teams in Real Madrid and Barcelona. Don’t be tempted by the biggish price.

Other long shots include Atletico Madrid (50:1) and Athletic Bilbao (65:1). But we fully expect a two horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid, so don’t be afraid to back them both.

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» Italian Soccer Prediction: Serie A Preview 2004/2005
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» Spanish Soccer Prediction: Primera Liga Preview 2004
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