Who will win La Liga in 2023-24? Which clubs will qualify for the Champions League and who will be scrapping for survival this season? We look at all the key questions with our La Liga 2023-24 season predictions via our trusty Opta supercomputer.
Favourites for the Title: Real Madrid to wrestle back the title
Top Four Favourites: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Real Sociedad
Relegation Favourites: Alavés, Las Palmas, Granada
The summer holidays are in full swing in Spain, but football is just around the corner. Those living in central areas have flocked to the coasts, and from their chalets by the beach they’re thumbing the newspaper for fixture lists, signings and all the fun that comes with a new season.
We’re getting in the mood too and have asked the supercomputer for a little more guidance as we approach the start of a new La Liga campaign. We want numbers. The supercomputer complied with 10,000 simulations of the 2023-24 La Liga season.
The big question we want answered is whether Barcelona can repeat their domestic league success from last year or if Real Madrid and their latest Galactico signing Jude Bellingham will come for their crown. Or perhaps, even more interestingly, will Atlético have a say?
As it turns out, they just might.
It’s no real surprise that Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two favourites to battle it out for the title next season. Regardless of what Xavi did last year, namely winning the league by 10 points, the supercomputer gives Real Madrid the nod.
Madrid have lost Karim Benzema but they signed Bellingham to build around and have enough talent to win the league in 47.7% of the 10,000 simulations we ran.
Barcelona have lost Ousmane Dembélé, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, and there are still some outstanding questions we’d like answered heading into the season. They added Ilkay Gündogan, Iñigo Martínez and Oriol Romeu but they need more reinforcements if they are to convince the supercomputer to increase the 25.9% it currently gives them of retaining the title.
Atlético have a 19.3% chance of winning a third crown under Diego Simeone. They were the best team in the league in the second half of last season and the supercomputer liked what it saw from them.
Their most common finish during the simulation process was second but the probability of them finishing first is high enough for us to consider this a three-horse race.
If we assume Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are a lock for the Champions League – and the supercomputer pretty much does – then Real Sociedad are the next favourites to make their way back into Europe’s elite (51.0%). They finished fourth last season and will enter the draw for the group stages on 31 August. It’s their first time in the Champions League in a decade.
Real Sociedad have been the embodiment of consistency under Imanol Alguacil, but they stare into an uncertain future having lost David Silva to an ACL tear and his subsequent retirement from football. Alguacil has signed Hamari Traoré to play right-back and he looks like an immediate upgrade, but with midweek European football against the best of the best next season, their squad does look a little light to compete on all fronts. Umar Sadiq is back after an ACL injury derailed his debut season in San Sebastián and their academy is sufficiently stocked with talented players that we should see a few emerge to help their tilt at a top-four finish.
Villarreal have done some solid work in the transfer market despite losing Pau Torres to Aston Villa, Nicolas Jackson to Chelsea and Samuel Chukwueze to AC Milan, signing Santi Comesaña and Alexander Sørloth along with Denis Suárez from Celta Vigo.
Will Quique Setién’s ideological approach get them over the line or will that same approach see them capitulate against the most ordinary of opposition? Either way, it’s going to be an interesting season at the Estadio de la Cerámica. They even have a 1.8% chance of winning it all, but Champions League football is a far more realistic goal (33.9%). We’ll be sure to stock the yellow submarine with champagne regardless.
Or will it be Real Betis’ turn, finally? They sold Sergio Canales to Rayados in Mexico and Nabil Fekir remains a long-term injury absence, but Isco is back after a short and ill-fated spell at Sevilla. Betis are outsiders to finish in the top four with a 17.1% chance. Their most likely finish is sixth, which makes sense, as they’ve finished there in two of the last three seasons.
Sevilla are already in the Champions League this season after José Luis Mendilibar completely turned their season on its head and helped them secure their seventh Europa League title. His side are the final team at the end of the second tier of clubs in Spain’s top flight according to our model. Do they even need to finish fourth when the Europa League offers them a spot in the Champions League? Nobody’s brave enough to back against them winning that competition again.
After that, it’s Athletic Club, who might spring a surprise with a 6.1% chance of finishing in the top four.
Will there be three one-and-done seasons in La Liga next term? The projections certainly think so.
None of the three recently promoted teams have done enough to convince the supercomputer they will stay in La Liga. But it’s tight. If fans of the teams mentioned below are sweating by the pool now, they’ll be sweating even more in the stands by next May.
Alavés pipped Levante at the post in the Segunda play-offs last season with a last-minute penalty in the final. At 41.7%, they’re the model’s favourites to go down and their most common finish in the simulations is rock bottom (16.2%). They signed Giuliano Simeone, but he suffered a horrific ankle break during pre-season and will miss between four and six months. They might lack the requisite quality to remain a top-tier team longer than a year.
Las Palmas (41.5%) aren’t far behind them though. They play a possession-based style and are on the brink of signing Mika Mármol from Andorra, who starred in Segunda last season. He will join Julián Araujo on loan from Barcelona in what is looking like a very stylish defence. Garcia Pimienta, the former Barcelona B manager, led them to a second-place finish last season in the second division but they have their work cut out to stay in the top flight, their first season back in La Liga for five years.
Granada, led by former Levante manager Paco López, only spent one season in the second tier after relegation at the end of the 2021-22 season. They’ll be hoping their return to the top flight lasts longer than a year. The supercomputer doesn’t like their chances, giving them a 39.1% of relegation.
Almería (37.6%) almost slept-walked towards relegation last season and won’t be far from the basement this season either.
Elsewhere, there is an 11.9% chance that Celta Vigo get relegated next season under Rafa Benítez. They got drawn into a relegation fight last season, and although they eventually survived, the scare was big enough for them to go out and bring in the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid manager. They’ve so far managed to keep hold of Gabri Veiga, a gem from their academy, but Napoli are knocking at the door of Balaídos with generous sums of cash.
After simulating the 2023-24 season 10,000 times, we’re able to average the points total of every club across those simulations and therefore rank teams positionally. Here’s the Opta supercomputer results from those simulations:
1st: Real Madrid
3rd: Atlético Madrid
4th: Real Sociedad
6th: Real Betis
8th: Athletic Club
12th: Celta Vigo
16th: Rayo Vallecano
20th: Las Palmas
• Opta’s League Prediction model estimates the likelihood of teams finishing in each position in the competition. We can therefore see how successful a team’s season is likely to be, whether it’s their relegation or title chances.
• The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) by using betting market odds and Opta Power Rankings. The odds and rankings are based on historical and recent team performances.
• The model considers the strength of opponents by using these match outcome probabilities and simulates the remaining fixtures in the competition thousands of times. By analysing the outcome of each of these simulations, the model can see how often teams finished in each league position to create our final predictions.
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