The 2013/2014 La Liga season is about to start, with the eyes of the world all on Barcelona and Real Madrid and the galactic stars playing for those two juggernauts of European football. But there’s more to La Liga than just the title race, although that obviously tends to get highlighted the most. TheHardTackle brings you five predictions ahead of the new season.

La Liga predictions

1. Barcelona and Real Madrid will be 15+ points ahead of everyone else in the end.

This is not exactly a bold prediction considering how superior in quality and depth the ‘Big 2’ are in comparison to everyone else, it will simply mean the status quo will be kept. With Atlético losing their star player in Falcao and Barcelona and Real Madrid having even more stacked squads than last season, it is safe to predict that they will be top 2 at the end of the season again, with a large advantage over everyone else. Depending on how tight the title race is, 100 points (or more) might be again necessary to clinch the title, as was the case in the last two seasons.

As has long been the norm in La Liga, no one will be able to challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid, whose only challenge will be to slip up as little as possible to avoid losing key points in the title race.

2. Lionel Messi will be Pichichi again and break his own goal record

In 2011/2012, Lionel Messi scored a record-breaking 50 goals in 37 matches to clinch the pichichi award; last season only an injury kept him from further improving that record, but he was still pichichi quite comfortably with 46 goals in 32 league matches. The Argentine juggernauts simply shows no signs of slowing down and it is not outlandish to assume he might very well break his goal scoring record. His only rival to the best scorer award will be Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo as usual, but Messi is the firm favorite to be the league’s top scorer and best player yet again.

Expect both Messi and Ronaldo to have scored at least double the number of goals of the third best scorer in the league come the end of the season.

3. Valencia will be the ‘best of the rest’

After relinquishing that honor to Atlético Madrid last year, Valencia should once again end in 3rd place behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. Atlético will be significantly weaker having lost Falcao to Monaco, while Valencia have mostly kept their spine intact and added some quality reinforcements. Under Djukic, expect Valencia to reclaim the 3rd position, which had been comfortably theirs in years past under Unai Emery. Should Valencia fail to step up, the race for 3rd place should be very tight, with a lot of teams below the top 2 very close to each other in terms of level.

In the current La Liga, 3rd place is the best anyone not called Barcelona or Real Madrid can aspire to and it’s quite important since it guarantees a lot of money from a direct Champions League entry at a time where most Spanish clubs are struggling to remain solvent.

4. Levante will have another solid season

La Liga’s ‘feel-good’ story, Levante, will continue. After an improbable Europa League qualification last season, Levante had a solid season domestically yet again even if they did not qualify for Europe again. The poorest club in the first two divisions will likely continue punching well above their weight despite spending no money on signings yet again. Joaquin Caparros will take his veteran squad to at least another solid mid-table finish and the relegation dogfight.

5. Real Madrid will re-capture the league title

Barcelona have won La Liga in 4 of the last 5 seasons, but this season the trophy will return to the Spanish capital. Real Madrid have acquired the services of Carlo Ancelotti to replace José Mourinho and wisely reinforced their squad; Barcelona on the other hand had to replace their manager impromptu due to health issues with Tito Vilanova, and the man selected for the job – Tata Martino – has big question marks surrounding him, he certainly does not have Ancelotti’s credentials – the Italian is looking to conquer a third different league after domestic titles in both the Serie A with AC Milan and the Premier League with Chelsea and it’d not be very wise to bet against him, given his pedigree and the squad at his disposal.

While it should end up being a tight race to the title, especially considering how unlikely the top 2 are to drop points each week, it’s not a stretch to claim that the safe money for the 2013/2014 La Liga title might be on Real Madrid.