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La Liga is the top tier of Spanish league football and it is considered one of the best domestic leagues in the world. It is home to some of the most recognisable clubs and it boasts an extremely high standard of football, as demonstrated by the success of Spanish clubs in European tournaments.

History of La Liga

Jose Maria Acha, who owned Arenas Club de Getxo, suggested that there should be a national league for all the clubs across Spain and then founded the Spanish league in 1929. The Primera Division, as it is officially called, was formed and 10 teams took part in the first competition. There were many football clubs in Spain, as the sports had been imported by British immigrant workers, sailors, and Spanish students in the late 19th century. There were clubs where the British influence was apparent in the name of the club, these often ending with Football Club, Athletic Club, or Recreation Club.

Barcelona won the first Primera Division in 1929, and Real Madrid soon followed with titles in 1932 and 1933, but it was Athletic Club who dominated the 30s. Athletic Club, now called Athletic Bilbao, was formed by British miners and shipyard workers, as well as Basque students from the middle classes, who had travelled to England to study and returned home with a newfound love of the sport.

The league was cancelled during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), but resumed in 1940. In the 40s, Barcelona, Valencia and Atletico Madrid rose to prominence, with the sides winning three titles each. Atletico Madrid was founded by some students who had played in Athletic Club and wanted to set up a youth branch for the team in Madrid. Real Madrid was the dominant club in the capital, and the smaller teams that were set up often went into bankruptcy. Atletico Madrid faced a similar problem but their parent club supplied the team with the aid they needed and Atletico eventually thrived.

In the 1950s, Barcelona brought their La Liga title tally to 8, putting them in front of Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao. This was the time when legendary players in the game such as Luis Suarez for Barcelona, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Raymond Kopa and Francisco Gento for Real Madrid, all graced the Spanish league with their captivating football. Real Madrid was extremely successful in Europe, increasing the international popularity of the Spanish league. In the 60s Real Madrid went into full stride, winning 5 La Liga titles in a row from 1961-1965, and then 3 more from 1967-1969, putting their tally at 14. Atletico Madrid won the league in 66, but had to fight off Real Madrid who finished a single point behind them.

The 1970s saw more legendary footballers grace La Liga, such as Emilio Butragueno and Huge Sanchez for Real Madrid and Johan Cruyff for Barcelona. Real Madrid, now managed by Alfredo Di Stefano, won 6 more titles in the decade, for a total of 20 league wins. The 80s opened with Real Sociedad winning the league twice. Athletic Bilbao continued the Basque success in La Liga, winning two more titles after Real Sociedad won in 1981 and 1982. From 1984 until the end of the decade, either Real Madrid or Barcelona won each season.

By 1990, Real Madrid had won 25 titles, 15 ahead of their main rivals Barcelona. Johan Cruyff returned to the Catalan club as a manager, and in the 90s assembled the Barcelona dream team, with players such as Romario, Hristo Stoichkov, Pep Guardiola, and more. Cruyff trained his team to play "total football" - a possession based game where the players did not stick to traditional positions but instead changed formation and used trained build ups to confuse their opponent's tactics. The Catalan team was extremely successful, winning 4 titles in a row from 1991-1994.

The Madrid teams won La Liga from 1995-1997, disrupting Barcelona's great run, but the Catalan team won once more in 1999. The 2000s saw a far more open competition in La Liga, with teams such as Deportivo La Coruna, and Valencia winning the titles, as well as Real Madrid and Barcelona. This decade built up to the 2010s, when Spanish football became arguably the best in the world. The Real Madrid and Barcelona rivalries reached a peak, both filled with hugely talented squads and both had their key man: Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid, and Lionel Messi for Barcelona.

Atletico Madrid also won the league in that decade, and firmly established themselves as the "third team" in the league, overtaking either or both of the leaders when they struggled. In recent times, both Real Madrid and Barcelona have struggled with transitional periods, but they both look to have somewhat recovered, using long serving players or new younger talents to fill the shoes of Ronaldo and Messi. Atletico Madrid has also strengthened, winning La Liga again in 2021, and teams such as Valencia, Real Sociedad, Sevilla and Villareal are not far behind the top three.

Season Structure

There are 20 teams playing in the top tier league of Spanish football, and over the course of the season they play in a double legged robin round. The points they collect for each match counts towards the final standings, the first four teams secure places in the Champions League, the 5th placed team secures Europa League football and the 6th placed team qualifies for the European Conference League.

At the end of the season, the three teams at the bottom of the table are relegated to the Segunda Division, the second tier of Spanish league football. The league starts in August and ends in May, if none of the matches are postponed, and there are a total of 38 matches played across each season.

Fun Facts

The Basque teams, Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao both had a strict policy of only signing players from the Basque region. This restriction was created to improve local talents and though Real Sociedad have now lightened the restrictions, Athletic Bilbao still has it.

Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao originally played in blue and white halved shirts, but by 1911 both teams played in red and white stripes. The myth is that a member of the board of both teams was sent to England to buy Blackburn Rovers kits, which were blue and white, but could only manage to buy Sunderland shirts, which were red and white.

Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the only teams that have never been relegated from the top tier.

Popular Bets

Match Result

This is a bet on how a match will end. In a match between Real Madrid and Barcelona, there will be a bet offered for Real Madrid to win the game, Barcelona to win the game, or for the game to end in a tie.


When betting on a team to win a game, handicaps can be set to either length the odds or reduce the risk of betting on that team. Handicaps can be either negative or positive and when one is picked, that number will be either added or subtracted to the chosen team’s score at the end of the match. Negative handicaps will lengthen the odds but come at higher risk, whilst the positive handicaps shorten the betting odds but make the bet safer.

Total Goals

With total goals, punters can predict how many goals will be scored in a match. To place one of these bets, a betting line will need to be picked, and then a punter can predict whether the game will end with over or under the number of goals specified by the line.

Game Props

Game props may include many different types of bets, these can relate to how a match will be won or to finer details in a single match. These may include bets such as will a team win both halves, correct score, team to make a comeback, total corners, which team will open the scoring, will a certain player score two goals, and many more.

Live Bets

During a match, there will be bets offered with live odds. These can relate to the match as a whole, and also include bets on what will happen next in a game, such as who will score next, will there be a penalty in the current half, which team will win the half, and many more.

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