La Liga returns from the break for 2022 World Cup qualifiers with an underwhelming slate highlighted by … Barcelona-Valencia??
It doesn’t help the already-underwhelming slate, at all, that solid matchups in Real Madrid-Athletic Club and Granada-Atlético Madrid have been postponed indefinitely due to CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers.
We’re two months into the season, and the absurdly compressed international soccer schedule has significantly impacted two matchdays.
On Matchday 4, neither Barcelona-Sevilla nor Villarreal-Alavés took place as scheduled. No makeup dates for any of those matchups have been announced. Sigh. If you want to know more about WTF is happening with the games that aren’t happening this weekend, Marca’s got you covered here.
La Liga Matchday 09 Preview
As for the games that are taking place this weekend, the good news is that Celta Vigo-Sevilla should be compelling, if you believe the line. Real Sociedad seems unlikely to struggle against Mallorca, but if you haven’t checked out the club in a three-way tie for first place with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid on 17 points, why not give them a look on Saturday?
The best match this weekend is Barcelona-Valencia, despite Barcelona’s wretched form prior to the break for World Cup qualifiers. In case anyone’s forgotten what Barca looked like the last time we saw them, the Catalans looked even worse than the score would indicate in a 3-0 blowout loss to Benfica in the Champions League on September 29. In their next match, they struggled on the road at Atleti in a 2-0 loss on October 2.
But there’s reason to like Ronald Koeman’s team this weekend, and it’s not just because Valencia is an underwhelming opponent. More to come on why I expect Barcelona to bounce back below.
- Real Sociedad (-240) vs. Mallorca (+700) Saturday, 3 p.m. Eastern
- Barcelona (-200) vs. Valencia (+550) Sunday, 3 p.m.
- Celta Vigo (+240) vs. Sevilla (+125) Sunday, 10:15 a.m.
La Liga Matchday 09 Odds & Ends
Real Sociedad has lost just once all season, all the way back in August. With five wins and two draws in their last seven, it’s tough to question this club right now. Everyone who watched Swedish forward Alexander Isak (he scored in each of his team’s last two games) and Spaniard Mikel Oyarzabal (he notched a total of two assists and a goal against Italy and France) in their national teams’ most recent games has to be that much more bullish right now.
Mallorca, no matter how much I want them to be good, is just not terribly impressive, though they did win their last La Liga match against Osasuna on October 2. Real Sociedad -1.5 (+140) is the move here.
There’s a lot to like about Barcelona in this one. I’d be saying the opposite if Koeman had the same options he did prior to the break, but plenty of much-needed help appears to be on the way.
Some combination of Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele and Sergio Aguero should all play this weekend, which is (obviously) huge.
Even if it’s only Fati who’s at full strength, an attack featuring Fati and Memphis Depay — plus whoever else is able to join them — beats the hell out of the disaster that was Depay+Luuk de Jong up top the last few times we saw the Catalans. With Pedri and several other key pieces likely healthy again — though I admit I’m not 100% certain anyone in Europe is healthy right now — Koeman suddenly has some serious options.
All those players will make a big difference in their own right. Their returns, combined with the energy Barcelona will get from playing at a presumably sold-out Camp Nou for the first time since March of 2020, should make this team dangerous for at least 90 minutes. I like Barcelona -1.5 (+155).
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