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Laliga 2023-24

Barca, Real Madrid lead the way again
This weekend, from Friday 11 August, the Spanish topflight, Primera division will kick off with twenty teams jostling for the La Liga diadem. Of the lot, easily six clubs appeared with a red mark. Easily, they thee eternal favourites, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona with Atlético Madrid, Real Sociedad and Villereal, all trailing them.
Real Madrid lost some valuable squad members, including the inspirational Karim Benzema, the current Ballon D’or holder, the impactful Marco Asension, Eden Harzard, Mariano Dias, Jesus Vallejo and some youngsters led by Arribo and Rafa Marin, but gained the mercurial Jude Bellingham, Adan Guler, and Brahim Dias, all capable offering quality representations when the chips are down.

FC Barcelona, despite the huge financial mess, is doing she could to present a formidable team ahead of the upcoming season. With the departures of long term stalwarts, Sergio Busquets, Gerrad Pique, Jordi Alba and the likely departure of Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati and even Ferran Torres, the team has acquired Ikan Gundogan, and promoted some quality talents of the famous La Masia to the team. These teams appeared ready for the new season.

The big poser is 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 the ever trusty Opta supercomputer.

La Liga Season Predictions: The Quick Hits
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
Despite the huge doubts in the Real Madrid’s offices with the absence of adequate replacement of flagship goal scorer, Karim Benzema and the low quality right backs in the team, the signing of the exceptional Englishman, Jude Bellingham, Turkish youngster Adan Guler, the team looks more capable of challenging for the leaguer shield more than any other outfit,

Real Madrid boasts of the best midfield in all of the Europe’s top five leagues, but falls short in depth in attack. The lack of a direct goal scorer and a quality right back might hurt the team at the business end of the season, except the long term target, Kyllian Mbappe of Paris Saint Germain comes in.

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.

Who Will Win La Liga in 2023-24?
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 Ousmané 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.

Who Will Qualify for the Champions League?
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 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.

La Liga Predictions 2023-24 – Chance of UCL qualification
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.
Who Will be Relegated from La Liga in 2023-24?
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.

La Liga Predictions 2023-24 – Chance of relegation
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 and 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 Pimiento, 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 while 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.
Opta-Simulated La Liga 2023-24 Table
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
2nd: Barcelona
3rd: Atlético Madrid
4th: Real Sociedad
5th: Villarreal
6th: Real Betis
7th: Sevilla
8th: Athletic Club
9th: Osasuna
10th: Valencia
11th: Girona
12th: Celta Vigo
13th: Mallorca
14th: Getafe
15th: Cádiz
16th: Rayo Vallecano
17th: Almería
18th: Granada
19th: Alavés
20th: Las Palmas

How Does the Opta Supercomputer Model Work?
• 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. reports

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Barca Still Vulnerable in Europe, Xavi Admits



FC Barcelona might be threading a familiar path in Europe with the latest result where they slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday (07 November).
With this result, they spurned the chance to seal an early qualification to the Round of 16 Champions League knock-out stages.

FC Barcelona have struggled miserably in Europe since they last lifted the trophy in 2015, only reaching the quarter-finals in two occasions.

Danylo Sikan’s dipping header in the 40th minute secured Shakhtar a famous victory as Xavi Hernandez’s flat Spanish champions failed to trouble their Ukrainian opponents.
Barcelona still lead Group H ahead of Porto, second, hosting Royal Antwerp later on, with the Portuguese side able to pull alongside the Catalans on nine points with victory.
“We can see we’re in a bit of a footballing rut, we have to do a reset,” said Barca coach Xavi.
“We played a bad game, we have to admit it.”
Xavi said his team had wasted a good chance to progress.

“After two years without qualifying for the last 16, today is a missed opportunity,” he continued.
“It’s the most inopportune moment. There are a lot of demands (on us), I think that today we couldn’t fail and we failed.”
After failing to progress from the group stage for two seasons running, Barcelona saw this clash as an opportunity to get the job done with two games to spare.
However Shakhtar, playing their home games in Hamburg because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, held their own from the start.

Barcelona missed big chances in the first match in October but this time Marino Pusic’s team shut down their uninspired visitors, who produced just one shot on target.
Xavi insisted his team’s performance in the narrow 1-0 league win over Real Sociedad on Saturday was unacceptable, despite the good result, but his team did not heed the coach’s words.
Shakhtar forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into the first save of the game, with the German goalkeeper denying Mykola Matviienko at the near post after he got in behind Joao Cancelo.
Ilkay Gundogan and Raphinha lashed over from distance as Barca created no danger, with veteran striker Robert Lewandowski woefully disconnected on his return to Germany.

The former Bayern Munich forward has not scored in any of his last six appearances for Barca, amounting to his worst run of goalscoring form for over a decade.
The hosts took the lead a few minutes before half-time, easily slicing the visitors open when Giorgi Gocholeishvili took advantage of Barcelona left-back Marcos Alonso being a long way out of position.

The full-back crossed for Sikan, who beat Andreas Christensen in the air and headed beyond the reach of Ter Stegen.
Ter Stegen saved from Gocholeishvili early in the second half as Shakhtar continued as they left off.
Just before the hour Xavi took action, sending on speedsters Alejandro Balde and Lamine Yamal, as well as Pedri, looking to shake up his team’s lifeless display.
Barcelona were better but not bright enough, as Shakhtar goalkeeper Dmytro Riznyk enjoyed a quiet night.
“Not so long ago we were playing very good football — it’s a mental issue,” said Xavi.
Shakhtar’s latest young Brazilian winger, Newerton, scored a stunning second in the final stages but it was chalked off for offside — it would have been a superb way to crown a glorious night for Pusic’s team.

Barcelona had seven minutes of added time to work with but could not find a breakthrough, with Felix unsuccessfully appealing for a penalty after he was clipped on the edge of the box.
The Ukrainian champions, third, celebrated joyously at full-time and now sit only three points behind Barcelona, who host Porto in their next Champions League match on November 28.
“We do things step by step and we stay humble,” said Pusic, who was proud of his team’s defensive effort.
“We like to attack and we had several good moments tonight, but game organisation comes first.
“If you concede easily at this level there is not a high chance you will win.”
Barcelona midfielder Oriol Romeu said his team had to look in the mirror after their disappointing display.
“Every defeat is a warning,” he told Movistar.
“We have to be self-critical and see what we did wrong, to correct it quickly.” with reports

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Champions League: Man City, Real Madrid, Bayern qualify for UCL last 16



Expectedly, there were less drama as the record 14-time champions, Real Madrid joined holders Manchester City, last season’s runners-up Inter Milan, Real Sociedad, RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich, to qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with two group games to spare.

However, Manchester United’s poor form continued as they slipped to a stunning 4-3 defeat against FC Copenhagen, just as FC Barcelona could not wrap up qualification, having to wait till matchday 5, before attempting to scale the hurdle.

Madrid, the record 14-time European champions, made sure of their progress from Group C with a 3-0 home win over Braga after surviving an injury setback just before kick-off.
There were grunting around the Santiago Bernabeu when starting Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga pulled out hurt in the warm-up, but his replacement Andriy Lunin excelled by saving Alvaro Djalo’s sixth-minute penalty.

With recuperating Starman, Jude Bellingham rested, to properly recover from the shoulder injury he sustained during the LaLiga game against Rayo Vallecano over the weekend, returnee Brahim Diaz gave Real a 27th-minute lead before the fantastic Brazilian duo of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo both scored in the second half.

Rodrygo thanked Carlo Ancelotti for supporting him through a tough start to the season after scoring in Real Madrid’s 3-0 Champions League win over Sporting Braga on Wednesday.
Rodrygo, who hasn’t found the net in LaLiga since the first weekend of the season, but has now scored in consecutive Champions League games, ran to hug Ancelotti after scoring in the 61st minute at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“I’m very happy, it was a perfect game,” Rodrygo told Movistar. “I’m very happy with the goal and the assist, but also with the win and qualification.
“The hug was to thank Ancelotti. When you aren’t in a good moment, that’s when you see who people really are. I wasn’t in a good moment and he was always there with me. I scored and I had to celebrate it with him.”

Rodrygo has been an important player for Madrid in recent seasons, contributing to their 2022 Champions League and LaLiga double and scoring 18 goals in all competitions last season, but has struggled so far this campaign.

“In my career, there’ve been forwards who’ve scored in every game and others who have moments when it’s hard to score,” Ancelotti said in his postmatch news conference. “All you can do is support them. A player with Rodrygo or Vinícius’s characteristics will score sooner or later. They have extraordinary quality, it’s just a question of time.

“Vinicius and Rodrygo combined spectacularly in the second half. There aren’t many duos who can counter-attack like Rodrygo and Vinicius.”
Ancelotti admitted that playmaker Diaz, who returned to Madrid from AC Milan last summer, had been unlucky not to play more often.
“He showed great quality, defensive sacrifice, he did very well,” Ancelotti said. “That means he could have played more minutes. But [Jude] Bellingham has played in that position. Today Brahim replaced him very well.”

The coach said goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who dropped out of the starting XI before kickoff and was replaced by Lunin, had felt “discomfort” in the warm up and would be assessed on Thursday.

Napoli are poised to go through from the group alongside Real despite being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Union Berlin.
Matteo Politano put Napoli ahead late in the first half but David Datro Fofana, on loan from Chelsea, equalised soon after the restart.
The result allowed Union to end a 12-game losing run but they cannot now qualify for the last 16.

Their Bundesliga rivals Bayern qualified with a 2-1 victory at home to Galatasaray, their 17th consecutive win in the Champions League group stage.
Thomas Tuchel’s side saw Galatasaray have a goal disallowed for offside before Harry Kane headed in the opener with just 10 minutes left.
Kane then added another, his 19th goal already for Bayern in just 15 appearances, before Cedric Bakambu pulled one back in stoppage time for Galatasaray.

“He’s a phenomenon and we’re proud that he’s playing in the team,” Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer told broadcaster DAZN of Kane.
Galatasaray still stand every chance of going through from Group A after United lost in a remarkable game in Denmark.
Erik ten Hag’s team appeared to be cruising thanks to two goals in the first half an hour by their Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund.

Yet they suffered a blow when Marcus Rashford was controversially sent off in the 42nd minute for a foul on Elias Jelert, and Copenhagen took full advantage to haul themselves level by the break.

Mohamed Elyounoussi pulled one back before Diogo Goncalves equalised from the spot in the ninth minute of stoppage time.
Still United got back in front via a Bruno Fernandes penalty midway through the second half, but Lukas Lerager made it 3-3 seven minutes from time and Roony Bardghji, the 17-year-old Kuwait-born Swedish Under-21 international, got Copenhagen’s winner in the 87th minute.

Ten Hag’s team have now lost three of their four Champions League matches this season and have been beaten in nine of their 17 games in all competitions.
“I think first we played very good until the red card. The red card changed everything. Then it becomes a different game,” Ten Hag told broadcaster TNT Sports.
“I saw lots of positives, but in the end we lose some focus. It’s hard when you play so long with 10 men.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal are on the brink of progressing from Group B after a 2-0 home win over Sevilla, in which Bukayo Saka set up Leandro Trossard for the opener in the first half, and then added the second after the break.

“I’m really happy with the performance from the team. They showed aggression and commitment,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta told TNT Sports.
The Gunners are four points ahead of both Lens and PSV Eindhoven, with the Dutch side boosting their own hopes by beating the French side 1-0 thanks to Luuk de Jong’s early header.
Lens had substitute Morgan Guilavogui sent off late on.

In Group D, Inter secured their progress with a 1-0 win away to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, a game settled by a late Lautaro Martinez penalty.
That result also allowed Real Sociedad to qualify after their earlier 3-1 defeat of Portuguese giants Benfica, who have lost all four matches in the group.

Mikel Merino, Mikel Oyarzabal and Ander Barrenetxea all scored in the first 21 minutes for the hosts, before Brais Mendez hit the post with a penalty. Rafa Silva pulled one back for Benfica. with reports

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Ancelotti returns to Napoli with Real to prove a Point



Fourteen times champions, Spain’s Real Madrid are set to play one of the most in-form teams in Italy in what promises to be their “toughest group-stage game”, as veteran coach, Italian Carlo Ancelotti, said on Monday (02 October) ahead of the huge Champions League clash.

LaLiga leaders Real began their quest for a record-extending 15th European Cup with a last-gasp 1-0 home victory over Union Berlin last month, while Italian champions Napoli, who are currently third in Serie A, won 2-1 at Sporting Braga.
Tuesday’s clash at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium could be pivotal to both sides’ aims of taking top spot in group C.

“We’ll play against one of the best teams in Italy. They did very well last year. It will be a competitive and evenly matched game as they have a high level,” Ancelotti, who once managed Napoli, told a news conference.
“It’s going to be the toughest game of the group stage for us. I don’t want to say that we’re used to it, but the shirt of this club weighs on us.”
The match will also see Ancelotti return to Naples after he managed 73 games at the club from 2018 to 2019, leading the team in an unbeaten run in the Champions group stage before being sacked with the team in seventh place in Serie A.

“I had positive moments, it is a wonderful city. There were also less good moments, but I have the memory of a positive experience,” Ancelotti said.
“Backtracking before a game like this doesn’t make sense. When the relationship between a club and a coach doesn’t have the right feeling, it’s better to stop.
“I think it was the right decision for Napoli and for me, because two years later I came back to the best club in the world.”

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is not a man to hold a grudge, as reflected by his return to the Spanish capital despite being harshly sacked by Los Blancos chief Florentino Perez in 2015.
However the 64-year-old veteran would doubtless enjoy proving a point when his Madrid side visit Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

Ancelotti was axed by president Aurelio De Laurentiis in December 2019, less than an hour after helping Napoli reach the Champions League knock-out stages with a 4-0 thrashing of Genk.
The Italian side were struggling in seventh in Serie A at the time and won their first Scudetto for 33 years in 2023, so De Laurentiis will consider his decisions more than justified.

Ancelotti spent a year and a half in charge of Napoli, guiding them to a second place finish in the 2018-19 campaign, but his tenure was abruptly cut short in its sophomore year.
At the time it seemed Ancelotti had reached the game’s summit years earlier and was on the way down football’s food chain, with his next appointment at Everton appearing to confirm that.
Dressing room tensions and a dispute with De Laurentiis over a training camp led to his downfall in Campania. The president appeared to think Ancelotti did not have it in him to manage the squad.

However Ancelotti’s surprise return to the helm of Madrid in 2021 put him back among the elite, and in 2022 he won his fourth Champions League title as a coach, more than anyone else, as well as LaLiga to complete a superb double.

Meanwhile, Madrid’s 3-0 win at Girona on Sunday ensures they also arrive in Italy as leaders in LaLiga, after a wobble in the derby against rivals Atletico Madrid. A painful 3-1 loss at the Metropolitano on September 24 saw Ancelotti come in for criticism for his tactics and diamond midfield system.

However the Italian made some minor changes and it proved sufficient to earn a comfortable victory over the high-flying Catalans, who had hoped to score a second consecutive home win over Madrid at Montilivi.
“Winning here means that we did well and I’d like to highlight our defensive work, which was very good,” Ancelotti told reporters.

The coach deployed Eduardo Camavinga at left-back instead of the more attacking Fran Garcia, and also asked Jude Bellingham to help with covering Girona to ease the burden on Vinicius Junior.
“We put Bellingham on the outside to avoid Vini having too many defensive duties, bearing in mind that (Aurelien) Tchouameni was in the centre to provide cover,” added Ancelotti.

Bellingham has seven goals and two assists this season across all competitions, largely playing in the number 10 role, despite his capacity to operate in deeper areas.
It was an “invention” by Ancelotti to help cover for the departed Karim Benzema and so far it has paid dividends for the England international, top scorer in Spain.

The coach’s tactical shift and subsequent tweaks dispel any doubts over his dedication at Madrid, showing he is not just on cruise control and heading towards the Brazil national team job he is set to take next summer.
Part of the reason behind the new set-up is to add muscle to the team and bolster the midfield, after Manchester City demolished the record 14-time European champions in last season’s semifinal.

The visit to Napoli will be another acid test for both Ancelotti’s plan and Madrid’s squad depth, with striker Victor Osimhen in excellent form, despite his recent anger over the club insulting him on social media network TikTok.
Los Blancos are without injured defender David Alaba, leaving only Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez available in central defence.

Napoli coach Rudi Garcia will also be looking forward to the game – he was due to face Madrid when at Roma in 2016, but was sacked ahead of the last 16 tie.
Real Madrid and Napoli last met in the Champions League in the 2016-17 round of 16 when the Spanish giants won both legs 3-1 to and went on to claim the title. with and www.reuters reports

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