Everyone in Spain has just one more game before some much-needed rest between now and La Liga Matchday 16 (December 29-31).
With a week-long break on the other side of this week’s games — we get six on Tuesday and four on Wednesday — expect the best XI each manager has available.
Below is what’s on tap for Spain’s big four:
- Valencia (+280) vs. Sevilla (+100) Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. Eastern
- Real Sociedad (+225) vs. Atletico Madrid (+135) Tuesday, 1:45 p.m.
- Valladolid (+600) vs. Barcelona (-240) Tuesday, 4 p.m.
- Real Madrid (-305) vs. Granada (+800) Wednesday, 1:45 p.m.
It’s not saying a ton that this week’s slate is better than what La Liga offered over the weekend, but it will be interesting to see Atleti face a tough opponent in Real Sociedad. Diego Simeone’s team is coming off yet another comfortable win, a 3-1 defeat of Elche. I, for one, am still not used to seeing this team score multiple goals on a regular basis, but it seems like we all better get used to it.
Barcelona-Valladolid, Real Madrid-Granada
Elsewhere, Valencia is coming off a draw against Barcelona that had to feel like a win, so they’ll be confident they can hang with Sevilla in that one. Barcelona is understandably a heavy favorite to bounce back against Valladolid, but at this point, taking the Catalans’ overmatched opponent, or the draw, is a good idea. That will be the case until* Ronald Koeman finds — and keeps — a lineup he can rely on.
And in what will surely turn out to be a jinx, Real Madrid appears trustworthy based on their last five games. While it wouldn’t be the first (or second or third) time this year that RM fell to a team it should handle, Los Blancos’ current form tells me they’ll get by a Granada team. The price on Granada has to be that high for a reason, but that squad is good enough to be enticing considering that payout.
*Should we really assume he’s going to get this figured out??
We’ll take a look later at whether Real Sociedad can snap its recent streak of disappointing results, but first we have to address Barcelona’s latest slip-up.
What is up with Barcelona?
Just when Koeman’s team was entering a stretch of games that was the closest thing it will get to “easy,” they struggled again, this time in a 2-2 draw with a very young Valencia side. The good news was the Catalans got another strong showing from 21-year-old center back Ronald Araujo, including a filthy goal.
GOAL FOR BARCELONA!
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) December 19, 2020
The bad news? Barcelona once again failed to finish quality chances.
It’s hard to think of anyone who has flubbed more goals that should be easy finishes (at least for the game’s top forwards) this season than Antoine Griezmann.
In a bit of “good news” for the Frenchman, he took just one shot against Valencia, so he wasn’t the one squandering great looks.
But his team as a whole once again delivered everything but the final product, registering nine shots on goal and maintaining possession for 73% of the match. The two goals fell well short of the xG of 3.28, an all-too-familiar problem for a team featuring the G.O.A.T.
Barcelona also scored just one goal against Levante (well short of their xG of 2.62) on December 13 and scored twice in the December 16 win over Real Sociedad (xG: 2.58). For the season, Barcelona’s scored 25 goals, well shy of the xG of 29.63. And we’re not even addressing — at least not for now — the relative lack of opportunities. While this year’s per-game xG of 2.28 is less concerning than the failure to finish chances, it doesn’t exactly scream “among Europe’s best attacks,” either.
Hot Take: Atleti Is Borderline Must-See — And A Great Bet At +135
I outlined prior to Matchday 15 the recent skid by Real Sociedad, which continued in a 2-1 loss to Levante over the weekend. Underestimate this team’s streakiness at your own peril. See: how they played before (good) and after the pandemic (really bad!) in ‘19-20.
They’re mired in quite a funk right now. A side known for its offense has not scored multiple goals on a La Liga rival since November 8 (!!).
That’s cause for concern regardless of the upcoming foe. With Atleti, of all opponents, up next, it’s hard to imagine the breakthrough this team needs coming on Tuesday.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, seemingly has it all figured out, with a long-awaited legit offense finally there to combine with a defensive toughness that hasn’t waned.
Tell me the ageless Luis Suarez and Co. aren’t … fun to watch (??) right now! Seriously, though:
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Suárez 41′, 58′ Boyé 64′
Costa 80′ (P)
Enjoy the ���������� ⤵️
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) December 19, 2020