La Liga’s top clubs *shouldn’t* have too much trouble this week.
Matchday 15 went according to plan for Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla, with all four getting shutout wins. On paper, it should be more of the same this week.
- Sevilla (+110) vs. Villarreal (+265) Tuesday, 11 a.m. Eastern
- Barcelona (-278) vs. Eibar (+650) Tuesday, 1:15 p.m.
- Atlético Madrid (-225) vs. Getafe (+700) Wednesday, 1:15 pm.
- Elche (+900) vs. Real Madrid (-375) Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.
But considering how everything has gone this season – with last week being the exception, there’s been at least one big upset every matchday – I’m not so sure we should count on chalk results for all four favorites.
Obviously, Sevilla’s battle with Villarreal should be the most competitive marquee game this week, and not just because blowouts aren’t really Sevilla’s thing. Julen Lopetegui’s side has scored just 15 goals in 13 games, with a goal differential of plus-5, and comfortable wins have been few and far between due to the inability to pile up goals.
Fourth-place Villarreal are solid in their own right, even if their recent results – four draws and a win over the last five – aren’t terribly impressive. Villarreal has only one loss this season, but has eight draws in 15 games, which makes the draw (+230) vs. Sevilla a great bet.
Long December For Villarreal, Real Sociedad
The struggles for Villarreal and Real Sociedad that we outlined in our Matchday 14 preview have continued. Between the three losses in a row by Real Sociedad (which has captured 2 of 15 possible points over the last five) and Villarreal’s recent issues securing three points, those teams’ hot starts are distant memories. Top-four odds currently have Villarreal at +180 (10 days ago, the price was +250) and Real Sociedad at +250 (they were +110 on December 18).
While Barcelona was impressive with a new lineup against Valladolid in its last game – Ronald Koeman started three center backs and had Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest on the flanks — it sure seems like the title is going to be staying in the Spanish capital.
The question is whether Real Madrid goes back-to-back or Atleti knocks them off. Based on their recent head-to-head clash at Los Blancos’ temporary home for this season, it’s hard to bet against RM. But Atleti has been incredibly consistent, and seems slightly less likely to have an injury or two derail everything.
Bookmakers Not Sold On Barcelona
Oddsmakers see it as a tossup, as both teams are +120 to win the league. Like me, the oddsmakers are not at all ready to trust Barcelona, who desperately needs to string together a handful of comfortable wins to steady the ship. Fortunately for the Catalans, their next three are against Eibar, Huesca and Athletic Club. Does sitting Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets – like he did against Valladolid – solve all the problems for Koeman and his team?
Lionel Messi Speaks Out, Again
Messi’s latest comments won’t cause as much chaos as that famous burofax he sent last summer, but we’d be remiss to ignore him once again ripping current president Josep Maria Bartomeu. A good look at what he said, and the context of his latest comments, is available here, courtesy of ESPN.com’s Sam Marsden.
TL;DR: The bottom line is that Messi remains not at all cool with Bartomeu, but will be here the remainder of the ’20-21 season. I don’t see him going anywhere in January, but his future after this season is completely up in the air. That much should have been clear after everything that happened last summer, but it bears repeating.
Also, while we’re recklessly speculating about considering Messi’s future, does his connection with Neymar + PSG’s hire of Mauricio Pochettino mean a move to the Parisian capital is a legit possibility? Who knows, but at the very least, it’s something you should prepare to see a ton of buzz about over the next six months.