La Liga’s five Champions League teams had a tough week — one win (Real Madrid), 3 draws (Sevilla, Villarreal and Atleti) and one bad loss (Barcelona) — and they almost all face difficult tests this weekend.
While that’s bad news for teams like Atleti and Sevilla, who are licking their chops after settling for ugly draws in the UCL, the good news is we’ve got a strong slate.
In addition to third-place Atleti hosting fifth-place Athletic Club and fourth-place Sevilla visiting sixth-place Real Sociedad, we also have first-place Real Madrid at second-place Valencia. It adds up to by far the most interesting weekend of the young season.
And we haven’t even mentioned things already looking incredible dire for Barcelona. Losing to Bayern Munich in the Champions League is nothing to be ashamed of (as long as they don’t score 8 goals), but Barcelona did not even record a shot on goal. That’s abysmal, and while the Catalans are home against a struggling Granada side, it’s hard to imagine them cruising.
La Liga Matchday 05 Preview
As mentioned above, there are no gimmes for La Liga’s top clubs during Matchday 05, at least on paper. It’s also interesting to note that the lines in Atleti-Athletic Club and Barcelona-Granada moved in favor of the underdogs after the midweek Champions League matches. You don’t see that very often, but it makes sense given what we saw from the favorites this week.
- Atlético Madrid (-150) vs. Athletic Club (+475) Saturday, 10:15 a.m. Eastern
- Real Sociedad (+155) vs. Sevilla (+195) Sunday, 10:15 a.m.
- Valencia (+280) vs. Real Madrid (-105) Sunday, 3 p.m.
- Barcelona (-360) vs. Granada (+1,000) Monday, 3 p.m.
La Liga Matchday 05 Odds & Ends
Sevilla was extremely lucky to escape Tuesday’s UCL clash with Red Ball Salzburg with a draw, as the Austrian side converted just one of three penalty kicks. Sevilla’s given up just one goal in La Liga so far this season, though, and I expect them to be much better defensively this weekend. With Julen Lopetegui’s team on the road, this feels like a total coin flip, but I do like Under 2.5 Total Goals (-140).
Real Madrid were fortunate to beat Inter Milan on Wednesday, snatching an 89th-minute winner by Rodrygo. But with Vinicius and Benzema in form up top, David Alaba and Dani Carvajal steadying the back line and Eduardo Camavinga providing a spark in the midfield off the bench, I like Real Madrid right now. I’ve also seen undermanned La Liga teams like Valencia squander their big statement opportunity too many times. Real Madrid on the money line (-105) is the move.
Atlético Madrid-Athletic Club
Atleti is finding itself in one close game after another early this season. While I don’t quite like Athletic Club to pull off the upset on the road, a draw in this one (+275) would come as no surprise at all.
A HECTIC STRETCH
One thing to keep an eye on: squad rotation – as well as fatigue — is about to be a huge factor, as La Liga Matchday 06 will begin on Tuesday, followed immediately by La Liga Matchday 07 next weekend.
Taking Atleti, for example, the five Spanish teams in the Champions league are each in the midst of an insane stretch. You can’t look at the list of Atleti’s games below (that’s seven matches in 20 days) and tell me player welfare is even an afterthought. End rant.
- September 12: @ Espanyol
- September 15: home vs. Porto (UCL)
- September 18: home vs. Athletic Club
- September 21: @ Getafe
- September 25: @ Alavés
- September 28: @ AC Milan (UCL)
- October 2: home vs. Barcelona
Are We Sure Barcelona Will Finish Top-4?
With Antoine Griezmann now in Madrid, Martin Braithwaite undergoing surgery and the club still waiting on Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele to return from injury, Barcelona are unfathomably thin up top. In a huge game against Bayern earlier this week, Ronald Koeman went with a 3-5-2. The two up top? Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong up top. In shocking news, that didn’t turn out too well — did we mention the no shots on target thing? While Depay has been excellent this season, Barcelona has to find more attacking threats.
Speaking of unbelievably concerning, both Pedri and Jordi Alba suffered injuries this week. Yes, some of the academy players who got on the pitch against Bayern showed promise. Right now, though, I could see Barcelona struggling to finish top-four in La Liga. Oddsmakers, however, have them -600 to finish top-4.
Real Sociedad (+200), Villarreal (+450) and Athletic Club (+550) are oddsmakers’ top contenders to shake up the expected foursome. None of those stand out to me just yet. Athletic Club, however, would be unbeaten through five games (with a draw over Barcelona) if they can upset Atleti this weekend. So keep an eye on Marcelino’s squad.
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