La Liga 2021/22 Top Four Prediction, Odds and Picks

Top Four

  • Finishing in the top four in La Liga is a prize worth fighting for
  • Barcelona and Real Madrid lead the race for Champions League qualification
  • The battle for fourth place could be hard fought and feature several sides

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The La Liga 2021/22 season beings on 13 August 2021 and will conclude on 22 May 2022. Each team in the division will play 38 games, with three points available for a win and one point for a tie. The four teams with the most points will qualify for next season’s edition of the Champions League.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are, unsurprisingly, the favorites to finish in the top four, closely followed by Atletico Madrid. Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Villarreal are among the sides who will also hope to qualify for the Champions League.

La Liga 2021/22 Top Four Odds

Odds taken on 30 August, 2021 from BetMGM

La Liga 2021/22 Top Four Odds
Barcelona -1000
Real Madrid -2500
Atletico Madrid -750
Sevilla +115
Villarreal +400
Real Sociedad +275
Real Betis +600
Athletic Bilbao +800
Celta Vigo +1400
Getafe +2000

Barcelona are the pre-season favorites to win the La Liga title, so by extension, they are also offered at the shortest odds to finish in the top four. There is no value to be had in backing the Blaugrana or Real Madrid to make it, and a bet on Atletico Madrid is not really worthwhile either.

At times last season, it looked as if Sevilla would be able to mount a title challenge. They did not quite manage to keep up with Atletico Madrid, but they once again look strong going into the new season. Odds of +125 on a top-four finish for Julen Lopetegui’s side are attractive.

Villarreal are the likeliest team to challenge Sevilla for that fourth spot. Unai Emery led the Yellow Submarine to Europa League glory last time out, and Villarreal have the quality to challenge for a top-four finish.

What Happens to the Top Four Teams in La Liga?

The top four teams in La Liga automatically qualify for the group stage of the following season’s Champions League. Participation in Europe’s foremost competition is taken for granted by Barcelona and Real Madrid, but it is a major prize for most other clubs in the division for reasons of prestige and finances.

In previous seasons, the top three teams in La Liga automatically reached the group stage of the Champions League, and the fourth-place finisher entered the qualifying phase. That changed at the start of the 2017/18 campaign when UEFA handed more automatic qualification spots to Europe’s biggest leagues, including Spain’s top flight.

This was a controversial move in smaller parts of Europe. Indeed, some feel that the Champions League has grown too elitist, with half of the 32 places in the group phase going to teams from Spain, England, Italy and Germany. Others argue that the quota simply reflects where the strength of European soccer lies today.

Which Clubs Have the Most Finishes In La Liga Top Four?

(Last 30 seasons)

Club Number of Finishes
Real Madrid 29
Barcelona 29
Valencia 15
Atletico Madrid 13
Deportivo La Coruna 9
Sevilla 6
Villarreal 4
Real Sociedad 3
Real Betis 3
Athletic Bilbao 2
Real Zaragoza 2
Real Mallorca 2

Real Madrid and Barcelona have finished in the top four in 29 of the last 30 La Liga seasons. Madrid missed out in 1995/96, a chaotic campaign in which they only managed a sixth-place finish – below Espanyol and Tenerife, among others.

Barcelona failed to finish in the top four in 2002/03, the final year of Joan Gaspart’s reign as president. The Blaugrana came sixth with only 56 points from 38 matches, which means they finished five points behind fourth-placed Celta Vigo.

Valencia have secured top-four finishes on 15 occasions. Atletico Madrid will hope to have caught them up in the next two years, while Sevilla no doubt have Deportivo La Coruna in their sights.

Each of the 12 clubs listed above have finished in the top four of La Liga at least twice since the 1991/92 season. Celta Vigo, Osasuna, Malaga and Espanyol have secured one top-four finish in the same period.

Who Are the Top Four in La Liga?

Whereas the Premier League had a ‘big four’ in the 2000s – Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool – the term is not really used in La Liga. There has long been a ‘big two’ in Spain (Real Madrid and Barcelona, you will not be surprised to learn) and pundits increasingly speak of a ‘big three’ which now includes Atletico Madrid.

This phrase has only started to appear in the last 10 years, though, during which time Atletico have won two La Liga titles. In the 2000s, for instance, it was Valencia who joined Barcelona and Real Madrid to make a ‘big three’.

Was La Liga Top Four Always a Goal for Clubs?

The Champions League was previously known as the European Cup and was originally open to domestic champions only. To take part in the continent’s biggest competition, a club had to win its national league title (the only other way to do so was to win the previous year’s edition of the European Cup/Champions League). Atletico Madrid won the La Liga title in 1995/96, so Real Madrid and Barcelona did not take part in the next edition of the Champions League – a situation that is unthinkable today.

La Liga was awarded a second qualification spot for the competition in time for the 1996/97 campaign, and a third and fourth were added in 1998/99. It was only then that the top four became an objective for La Liga teams. Prior to that, finishing fourth was not very different from finishing fifth or sixth.

How Can I Watch La Liga on TV?

Soccer fans based in the United States can watch the La Liga on ESPN. Kick-off times usually range from 11.00 AM to 4.00 PM (EDT).

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Greg Lea

Expert on Soccer

Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]