Who will be the La Liga winner without Real Madrid or Barcelona? It’s a question that has only had one answer for the majority of the past decade, with Atletico Madrid the usual ‘third way' in Spanish football under Diego Simeone, despite winning the title as recently as 2021.
This season though, Catalan minnows Girona have taken the league by storm with a flying start that has seen them soar to the top of the table and establish their credentials as serious candidates.
In turn, this has seen them gain attention like never before. And in their seventh year as a sister club of European champions Manchester City within the City Football Group, they could be about to experience a golden era few people saw coming this soon.
Who will be La Liga winner without Real or Barcelona? – Latest news
Surprise package Girona lead the way
Girona top La Liga after 12 matches with some brilliant attacking football firing them to 10 victories and 31 points. Their latest triumph was a 4-2 comeback win at Osasuna with new signings Savinho and Artem Dovbyk both impressive again.
There were concerns about how Girona would shape up this season after a number of important loanees departed at the end of last term. Yet, they’ve defied bottom half expectations to firmly establish themselves as a serious candidate to be the best of the rest behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Atletico Madrid drop back after shock defeat
Atletico Madrid have made a solid start to the campaign and certainly look better than they did at this stage last season. However their status as overwhelming favourites to ‘win’ La Liga without the big two was weakened slightly by a surprise defeat away to newly promoted Las Palmas in their last league match.
La Liga winner without Real Madrid or Barcelona – Current outrights
Atletico Madrid can currently be backed at 10/11 to be the best placed team in La Liga this season excluding Barcelona and Real Madrid. That makes them still the clear favourites but those odds have lengthened significantly in recent weeks.
Recent history suggests there’s little reason to fancy anyone other than Atleti in this market. They’ve finished in the top three and above everyone other than the big two in each of the last 11 seasons.
Not since the 2011/12 campaign when Atletico finished below Unai Emery’s Valencia and Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga have Los Rojiblancos failed to emerge as at the very least the best of the rest.
There is still a strong case to be made for Atletico Madrid extending that record. In Antoine Griezmann, they have arguably the league’s outstanding player this calendar year and both the Frenchman and strike partner Alvaro Morata are already in double figures for goals in all competitions this season.
If there’s a doubt about Atleti, uncharacteristically for a Diego Simeone team, it’s perhaps the defence.
Girona are a best priced 3/1 to be the La Liga winner without Real Madrid or Barcelona. Those are extraordinarily short odds when you consider the Catalans have never finished higher than 10th in the Spanish top flight – a league they’ve only spent three seasons in before this one!
Their status as part of the powerful City Football Group is unquestionably a major factor in their rise, but it’s not the only reason they are doing well. Their boss Michel has done an incredible job in giving some talented young players freedom to express themselves and with an average of 2.42 goals per game this term, their bubble is showing no sign of bursting.
There are already six Girona players who have registered 3 or more goals in La Liga 2023/24. However a more cautionary note comes in that they’ve only played one of the big three clubs so far and that match ended in a heavy 3-0 home defeat against Real Madrid, their only major setback to date.
You can get odds of 14/1 for either Real Sociedad or Athletic Bilbao ending the season as the best placed La Liga team outside of the big two. The Basque rivals are both looking quite strong, but Real Sociedad appear more likely to stay the course after an excellent 4th placed finish last season when they finished only seven points behind Real Madrid and six behind Atletico.
Europe is starting to take note of the excellent work that is being done in San Sebastian too, with Real Sociedad taking 10 points from their four Champions League group stage matches to date to book their ticket to the last 16 on Wednesday evening, via a terrifying three-goal haul inside 20 minutes vs Benfica.
That said, UCL football has proved a distraction for Imanol’s team. They’ve only won one of their last four in La Liga, with their odds sliding in all the major outright La Liga markets as a result. With Girona winning every match during that period, La Real are already 12 points back on the surprise leaders.