La Liga Matchday 14 Preview: Xavi Makes Barcelona Managerial Debut

Written By Tyler Everett on November 19, 2021

La Liga returns from the international break for World Cup qualifiers with Spain’s best taking on opponents they should handle, but Game 1 of the Xavi tenure at Barcelona alone makes it an interesting slate.

The good news for Real Madrid, Atleti, Barcelona and Co. is that they haven’t played since Matchday 13 from November 5-7. That should mean they’re mostly fresh, but with a number of players spending the last two weeks playing qualifiers back home in South America or elsewhere, not every XI will be 100% first-choice — or, if we’re being honest, even close.

La Liga Matchday 14 Preview

The lines for this weekend do not reflect the number of times this season La Liga’s top clubs have been upset. Part of me expects chalky results across the board, especially since Real Madrid is the only favorite playing away from home, but how many times this year have we seen the top clubs in this league cruise to victory?

One interesting match-up, besides the Barcelona-Espanyol headliner, is Real Sociedad-Valencia.

As we creep closer to the halfway point of the season, it’s interesting (disrespectful?) that despite being in first place through 13 games and having captured 11 of 15 possible points over their last five, these guys still are +1,200 to win La Liga. They’re also -160 to finish top-four. Speaking of the Champions League places for ’22-23, Real Madrid is considered a lock (-3,300), followed by Atleti (-500), Sevilla (-330), Real Sociedad and Barcelona (EVEN).

Barcelona (17 points) is currently in ninth place and six points behind fourth-place Atleti (23), but am I crazy for thinking they’re tempting at even odds?? Whether they finish top-four won’t be decided for a while, but there’s no doubt that price is going to move, significantly, if Xavi’s first couple games at the helm go well.

  • Sevilla (-255) vs. Alavés (+750) Saturday, 10:15 a.m. Eastern
  • Atlético Madrid (-240) vs. Osasuna (+700) Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
  • Barcelona (-275) vs. Espanyol (+750) Saturday, 3 p.m.
  • Granada (+650) vs. Real Madrid (-215) Sunday, 10:15 a.m.
  • Real Sociedad (-140) vs. Valencia (+380) Sunday, 3 p.m.

La Liga Matchday 14 Odds & Ends

Sevilla-Alavés

I trust oddsmakers enough to leave Alavés at +750 alone. In their last four games, though, the underdogs have won three and drawn Barcelona. They also beat Atleti on September 25. So betting on them to keep it close – Alavés +1.5 (-160) – looks like a good option if you, like me, don’t expect Sevilla to dominate this match-up.

Barcelona-Espanyol

Those predicting Xavi is immediately going to fix everything for the Catalans* underestimate how much is currently wrong with this club. However, I must admit I’m convinced he’s going to dramatically improve a squad that has underachieved massively this season.

It also helps that 17-year-old Gavi, like Pedri a year ago, is becoming a star before our eyes. If Pedri returns in form and Gavi continues to blossom, those two – along with Frenkie de Jong – would give the Catalans a tremendous young midfield.

But for this weekend, Barcelona will be without Pedri, among other key pieces. With Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati all out due to injury, Xavi will have to get creative, but I think the positive vibes around the club (more than 10,000 attended the (re-)introduction of Dani Alves at Camp Nou) will translate to a big win in his coaching debut. If you’re only looking for one bet in this one, take Barcelona on the first half money line (-120). For a (slightly) bigger payout, give Barcelona -1.5 (+110) a look.

*OK, I’ll admit that while Xavi’s enjoyed a warm reeption, I haven’t heard anyone say exactly that.

Real Sociedad-Valencia

Real Sociedad still has not lost since August, and I don’t see them breaking that streak against Valencia. The visitors won just one of their last five going into the international break. I like Real Sociedad to keep winning, so taking them on the money line (-140) feels like an example of the simple choice being the right one.

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