Standings-wise, very little changed on matchday 16 in La Liga. For our purposes, though, the combination of Atleti’s 1-0 win over Getafe and Real Madrid’s draw vs. Elche was a big deal.
I say that because as I noted in the matchday 16 preview, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid were both +120 to win the league at that point. The futures prices on these teams have since jumped in a big way: Atleti is now the clear favorite at -112, while Los Blancos are +150.
At a point in the calendar when the last clash of top-four clubs feels like it was an eternity ago –and the next headline matchup will be Atleti-Sevilla on January 12 — this change in futures pricing is the biggest topic of the week.
The slate isn’t a total snoozefest, though:
- Real Betis (+290) vs. Sevilla (-105) Saturday, 10:15 a.m.
- Real Madrid (-215) vs. Celta Vigo (+510) Saturday, 3 p.m Eastern
- Alavés (+575) vs. Atleti (-177) Sunday, 10:15 a.m.
- Huesca (+540) vs. Barcelona (-225) Sunday, 3 p.m.
What More To Say About Atlético Madrid?
Los Rojiblancos’ latest victory was a familiar one to anyone familiar with previous editions of this club. The biggest takeaway for me, though, is their consistency. This team just doesn’t lose to weaker opposition in La Liga,* and hasn’t since the second half of last season. That reliability (these guys are 11-2-1) has already proved crucial. And it could very well produce a title in such a weird, difficult season for everyone — more to come on RM and Barcelona below.
Also, have I mentioned that Luis Suárez is, as at turns out, still a huge asset, regardless of his overall athletic ability (or lack thereof, as his haters love to bring up)?
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) December 30, 2020
I understand why Barcelona had to let some veterans go this summer, but holding on to Sergio Busquets and several other aging former stars, while parting ways with Suárez, looked bad in the moment. It only looks (waaaay) worse now, as the Uruguayan has eight goals and an assist in less than 800 minutes played in La Liga.
*Assuming this doesn’t jinx them on the road at Alavés.
Real Madrid, Barcelona Remain Hard To Trust
We got yet another reminder this week that you should think twice — or better yet, stay the hell away — from betting on Real Madrid and Barcelona when they’re expected to cruise.
Neither team lost, but Barcelona’s draw vs. 16th-place Eibar and Real Madrid’s vs. 15th-place Elche were head-scratchers. … On second thought, at this point, they probably shouldn’t have surprised us. Neither Barca nor RM could blame a lack of fresh legs, either, as everyone in Spain finally had a week between games.
An optimist could pin Barcelona’s disappointing result on Lionel Messi’s absence and shrug it off, but this team has now lost to the following in La Liga: 9th-place Cádiz, 1st-place Atleti, 2nd-place Real Madrid, 14th-place Getafe. … That’s actually not all that troubling.
But their four draws – the Catalans have won just seven of their 15 matches!! – have been even more concerning considering the opponents in those games. Barcelona settled for one point apiece against Eibar, 17th-place Valencia, 13th-place Alavés and fourth-place Sevilla.
Real Madrid Stumbles
Real Madrid has played well — and that’s probably understating it — since losing to Alavés in late November. Betting on them at +150 to win the league is still probably a good idea*. But since we listed the bad losses and draws by Barcelona, let’s do the same for their rivals. RM’s losses are to Alavés, Cádiz and Valencia, while they’ve now drawn Elche, 5th-place Villarreal and 3rd-place Real Sociedad.
Zinedine Zidane’s team has had several strong performances against quality opponents, but there’s a great chance their repeated failure to take massive underdogs seriously could cost them a title.
*I personally like Atleti to win the league, but that’s a good price.
Another Tough Test vs. Celta Vigo?
Celta Vigo is just eighth in the table with 23 points through 16 games, but has four wins and a draw in its last five. Every other week, one of Spain’s would-be contenders gets its chance against one of the top clubs. Usually, those games end with the underdog walking away realizing how much separates them from the likes of Real Madrid.
Expect Celta Vigo to make this one interesting, though. The recent competition hasn’t been good, but a combined score of 14-3 over the last six games tells me these guys are pretty legit (or at least red-hot right now).
If you haven’t watched Iago Aspas yet, check him out this weekend — the 33-year-old Spaniard has nine goals and six assists this year, but has somehow done so quietly. The team’s next-highest scorer is 34-year-old Nolito, so there’s no shortage of experience.
All of that means that Celta Vigo should be facing the focused (good) version of Real Madrid, which likely means an RM win. But Celta Vigo at +510 is certainly defensible considering their recent form.
One last thing on Celta Vigo: they’re currently +100,000 (!) to finish top-four — that price could be very different next week if they play Real Madrid tough this weekend.
WHERE TO BET LA LIGA IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.