2022 World Cup qualifiers, particularly those in CONMEBOL (a number of South American countries are on the U.K.’s red list for travel), have caused havoc for club teams throughout Europe, and La Liga is no exception.
For one thing, the crazy schedule means many players are returning to Spain on short rest this weekend. And the turnaround was so short for Barcelona (against Sevilla) and Villarreal (against Alavés) that those games were postponed*. With Barcelona and Sevilla idle, we can give more attention than we normally would to some of the other teams that are currently atop the table.
Speaking of which – and I do realize that it in the long run, no one ever remembers who was atop the table after three games – it is worth noting that six (!) La Liga teams (Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Mallorca) have captured 7 of 9 possible points so far this year.
*As only La Liga and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) can, they’re making this extremely complicated, and no date for when those games will be played has been decided.
La Liga Matchday 04 Preview
As we hinted at earlier, the only games involving Spain’s five current Champions League sides are Espanyol-Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid-Celta Vigo. Given the chaos that will likely result from nearly every team having players banged up or fatigued from World Cup qualifiers, my biggest advice for bettors this week is “proceed with caution.” For better or worse, no, that does not mean I won’t be making any picks.
- Athletic Club (-130) vs. Mallorca (+400) Saturday, 3 p.m. Eastern
- Espanyol (+310) vs. Atletico Madrid (-105) Sunday, 8 a.m.
- Osasuna (+145) vs. Valencia (+215) Sunday, 10:15 a.m.
- Real Madrid (-265) vs. Celta Vigo (+700) Sunday, 3 p.m.
La Liga Matchday 04 Odds & Ends
Neither of these teams has lost a match this season, with Athletic Club posting a win and two draws and Mallorca having won two and drawn one match. Recommending a draw always feels risky (and lame), but at +265, that’s worth your consideration here. I also don’t see Mallorca losing big, so the new home of Matthew Hoppe on the spread at +1.5 (-275) seems like a safe play.
One other note on this match-up: these teams have combined to score just five goals in three games, while allowing only one apiece. With that in mind, Under 2.5 goals (-165) is worth a look.
Promoted side Espanyol is yet to score through three games, so even on the road, Atleti (-105) is a good idea here.
Also, we’ve talked multiple times on the High Press Soccer Podcast about Atleti being the best bet to win the league, and that was before they added Antoine Griezmann on the final day of the transfer window. They remain great value at +275 to win the league – behind Real Madrid (+100) and Barcelona (+250) – unless you think Barcelona just got better by losing Griezmann and adding Luuk de Jong from Sevilla.
If there’s a sexy, under-the-radar team to watch, it’s Mallorca. With all due respect, of course, to Getafe, it’s not 2019 any more. Hopefully, you’ll see a lot of minutes, and goals, from Hoppe. There’s plenty more to like about this club, though, including its star-studded U.S. ownership group, which includes shareholders Steve Nash and Stu Holden as well as principal Owner Robert Sarver, who also owns the Phoenix Suns.
It also helps that they play on a beautiful island and count Rafa Nadal as one of their biggest fans. You can’t tell me it wouldn’t be fun to see these guys pull a few upsets this season. There’s one more reason to like (or least try to watch) this group. In addition to Hoppe, Mallorca boasts two other exciting 20-year-old forwards worth getting to know: Real Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo and Fernando Niño.
While I won’t make too much of a case for them as a dark horse just yet, I will remind everyone that in ’19-20, Granada finished in 7th place to earn a spot in the Europa League after playing the previous season in Spain’s second tier. That year, Osasuna also finished well clear of the relegation zone (10th place). And a year ago, Cadiz finished 12th. So we have recent proof that a team can compete right away in La Liga after being promoted.
And the deep pockets of a foreign owner only make success for Mallorca that much more likely. We’ve seen a great example of that in the EPL, where Leeds United – whose wealthy ownership group includes not only Owner Andrea Radrizzani, but also the San Francisco 49ers, who now hold a 37% stake — finished its long-awaited first season back in the top flight in ninth place in ’20-21.
WHERE TO BET LA LIGA IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in more than two dozen states. You can bet online in some states, but only in-person betting is allowed in most of them.
DraftKings Sportsbook is available in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
FanDuel Sportsbook is available in Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.