Barcelona’s trip to fourth-place Real Sociedad, which remains theoretically alive in the race for fourth place – they’re nine points behind Sevilla through 27 games played – stands out as the best game of Matchday 28.
- Celta Vigo (+350) vs. Real Madrid (-134) Saturday, 11:15 a.m. Eastern
- Valladolid (+370) vs. Sevilla (-118) Saturday, 4 p.m.
- Atlético Madrid (-286) vs. Alavés (+1,000) Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
- Real Sociedad (+245) vs. Barcelona (-103) Sunday, 4 p.m.
A rough round of 16
Unless you put a lot of stock in Europa League quarterfinalists*, it’s been a disappointing month for Spanish clubs in Europe. Of Barcelona, Sevilla, Real Madrid and Atleti, only RM is still alive. And they have a questionable red card early in Leg 1 against Atalanta to thank.
Neither Barcelona, Sevilla nor Atleti were massive favorites, but the fact all three were eliminated by a combined score of 13-6 – with only Sevilla falling by less than three goals (!!) — has to be considered a major disappointment.
The good news, for Spanish soccer fans, is that RM seemingly has a legit shot to beat Liverpool in the UCL quarters. The even better news? The title race, which looked like a done deal a couple months ago, gets better every week (unless you’re an Atleti fan).
*Both Granada, which will meet ManU, and Villarreal, which will meet Dinamo Zagreb, are still alive in the UEL.
flirting with a disaster
Speaking of Atlético Madrid, it will soon be time to stop pointing out how good things looked for Diego Simeone’s club in late January. But for now, we have to once again briefly revisit how high they were flying at that point.
They had 50 points through 19 games in La Liga — told you we’d only revisit that briefly. Not even two months have passed since then, but it’s been an eternity for Atleti supporters, whose team is in grave danger of completely losing their grip on first place.
Let’s start with something we mentioned earlier this week in a piece on Lionel Messi’s future: there’s a hell of a case to be made that Barcelona – which is currently four points behind Atleti – will end up winning this thing.
In fact, I wanted to flag Barcelona as a good value bet to win La Liga a few weeks ago. I now regret not taking a bolder stance sooner, but Ronald Koeman’s team is still great value at +175 compared to Los Rojiblancos at -139. To my credit, I did say last week that Barcelona “have to like their chances of making this thing interesting.” That now feels like a massive understatement, but I’d prefer to focus on the fact that I was on the right track.
Watching Atleti settle for a 0-0 draw against a Getafe side that was down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes last week made me wonder if I’d even like them if the odds were even. Yes, their form is that discouraging right now. With just 13 points from a possible 24 over their last eight in La Liga, I think there’s a good chance they’re actually looking up at Barcelona in the table by the time these teams meet on May 9.
An optimist in Atleti’s camp would point out that they can now focus on La Liga since they’re out of the Champions League, but this soon after that effort against Chelsea, there’s no silver lining to that outcome.
Consider parlaying Barcelona & Sevilla
It’s rarely pretty for Sevilla, but they bounced back from a rough stretch with a strong showing last weekend in a crucial win over rival Real Betis. They followed that up by beating Elche on Wednesday, and I think Lopetegui will keep them focused at Valladolid. At -117, they’re a good bet.
Barcelona is hard to doubt, as well, given their current form. While Real Sociedad is no pushover, Barcelona is absolutely rolling since Ronald Koeman moved to a line-up featuring three center backs, and I expect another W for the Catalans.
I’m so confident in both of these favorites this weekend that I recommend parlaying Sevilla (-117) and Barcelona (-103), which would pay out at +266.
Real Madrid ripe for a letdown?
I should stop trying to identify in advance a slip-up by Real Madrid, as I’m approximately for 0-for-multiple-seasons on those attempts. In fact, I really should probably give up on trying to predict anything where these guys are involved. Now that I’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, their trip to Celta Vigo this weekend feels like a stumbling block.
Real Madrid has followed a stretch of ugly victories without Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos with several key wins since those players returned to the pitch. But I’m (hopefully) starting to make out a pattern with this team, and it makes me skeptical that they’ll be on point at Celta Vigo. Their losses come when there’s no good reason for them to fail. But when they’re tremendously shorthanded and up against a good opponent in a big game, they’ve found a way to produce one win after another this season.
So what does that mean for this weekend? Coming off a solid week — including a 2-1 win over Elche and a 3-1 (4-1 aggregate) defeat of Atalanta in leg 2 of the Champions League round of 16 – this feels like a trap.
There’s even more cause for concern with this club, because it should reliably handle Celta Vigo to go into the upcoming international break on a high. I’ve been burned by RM too many times to trust myself here, but if you’re not worried about that, Celta Vigo at +350 or the draw at +290 are both justifiable.
One more reason to like the draw: Celta Vigo have 10 on the season, and four in their last seven, including a 2-2 stalemate with Atleti on February 8.