We’ll get right to it — the “best” of Matchday 22 is listed below:
- Huesca (+600) vs. Real Madrid (-230) Saturday, 10:15 a.m. Eastern
- Sevilla (-157) vs. Getafe (+480) Saturday, 3 p.m.
- Real Betis (+460) vs. Barcelona (-182) Sunday, 3 p.m.
- Atlético Madrid (-162) vs. Celta Vigo (+550) Monday, 3 p.m.
To state the obvious, La Liga once again offers viewers little in the way of toss-ups this weekend. Of the four Spanish clubs currently position to finish top-4, Sevilla is, I guess*, in the most danger of being upset when they host Getafe.
At full strength, I’d like Atleti to roll against Celta Vigo, and the same is true for Barcelona vs. Real Betis.
But a string of positive COVID tests for Los Rojiblancos mean they could be more susceptible to a loss than a lot of people realize. João Félix will definitely not suit up. Winger Yannick Carrasco and defender Mario Hermoso will also miss the Celta Vigo game after testing positive last week. Still, I’ll believe Atleti is in danger of a loss in La Liga when I see it.
As for Barcelona, they just had to scrap for 120 minutes to beat Granada on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, which could make fatigue a factor. The Catalans, though, are fortunate to be playing a Real Betis side that is also coming off a taxing Copa del Rey match. Betis will actually be even less rested than Barcelona following their Copa del Rey quarterfinal loss on PKs to Athletic Club on Thursday.
I won’t predict upsets in either of those games, but it might not be smooth sailing for either heavy favorite.
*Fatigue from Tuesday’s Copa del Rey win over Almería shouldn’t affect Sevilla too badly.
Copa Del Rey Once Again Delivers
As I’ve been bellowing for weeks now, the Copa is not to be ignored!!
It’s not the Champions League, but until UCL play returns (ready or not, it’s back in just a couple weeks!), the Copa del Rey will have to do for midweek fireworks.
Three of four quarterfinal match-ups this past week offered at least one goal in extra time. Barcelona’s 5-3 win over Granada was nothing short of thrilling — see below for proof!
Granada vs Barcelona
Best game of last 2 seasons🙌👍pic.twitter.com/5NCglncCEB
— Dibya (@brown_walkers) February 4, 2021
The semis are ahead next week, with Friday morning’s draw giving us Barcelona-Sevilla in one semifinal and Athletic Club-Levante in the other. Both will be contested over two legs
I know what I’ll be doing — or at least what I’ll have an eye on — next Wednesday, February 10 at 3 p.m. (Barcelona at Sevilla) and February 11 at the same time (Levante at Athletic Club). The second legs will take place from March 3-4.
Time To Fade Real Madrid?
The line on Real Madrid’s trip to Huesca ignores what happened last weekend. RM suffered its latest shocking only mildly surprising – we’ve reached the point where you have yourself to blame if you’re “shocked” by these outcomes – disappointment last Saturday, falling 2-1 to Levante. I say that it shouldn’t have been a major surprise, but I also understood why the line had RM at -295 and Levante at +700.
Real Madrid’s upcoming schedule features more games they *should* win – after Huesca, they’ll face Getafe, Valencia and Valladolid. Until this team finds some answers offensively (and I’ve been saying that for over a year), it’s worth it to keep betting on their overmatched opponents at prices like +600 (or more). I’m convinced you’ll hit at least one of them, and that will be all it takes to make these gambles worth it.
If that sounds like too much of a long shot, consider going the “draw no bet” route. Huesca, for example, is +480 draw no bet – it’s still a significant payout if they pull it off, and no money lost if they settle for a draw.
Barcelona Might Just Be Figuring It Out
Haters can dismiss the late outburst vs. Granada this week all they want. But to me, Barcelona’s five goals — all in the 88th or later, against a solid opponent — showcased this team’s weapons as well as something the Catalans sorely lacked the last few years.
Organizational stability? No – still no sign of that anywhere near Camp Nou. In fact, the club added another chapter to its never-ending soap opera last weekend when Lionel Messi’s contract was leaked to Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
What we’ve seen in recent weeks, and what was undeniable on Wednesday, was impressive resilience. That hasn’t exactly been a staple of Barcelona the last few seasons. Down 2-0, the rally/explosion this team responded with late showed that Ronald Koeman appears to have instilled a lot more fight in his players than either Luis Enrique or (with all due respect, of course) Quique Setien ever did.
Am I overreacting to a result that merely sent them to the final four of the Copa del Rey? Almost certainly. Still, given recent history, the way this team finished Wednesday’s game matters. It also gave Koeman’s team wins in nine of their last 10 in all competitions.