This piece has to open with some love for Sevilla’s effort Thursday afternoon in Budapest. Though Julen Lopetegui’s club did not quite shock Bayern Munich to capture the UEFA Super Cup trophy, they could not have come closer, falling 2-1 after 120 minutes.
Many consider the Super Cup an exhibition, and I understand why, I think … but it sure didn’t look like anyone was going through the motions on Thursday.
Does Going Toe-To-Toe With Bayern Munich Change Sevilla’s Outlook?
Bayern has not lost in (approximately) an eternity, and very few of those victories have been difficult.
Sevilla challenged Hansi Flick’s team in a way that Barcelona did not, for even a second, back in the Champions League quarterfinals. In the UCL final, PSG made sure the Bavarians didn’t capture the trophy without breaking a sweat, but the Bundesliga juggernauts mauled Chelsea 7-1 (aggregate) in the round of 16 and whipped Lyon 3-0 in the semis, in addition to what they did to Barcelona.
“I expect Sevilla to not only finish top-four in Spain again, but push for third – or possibly second – place. While I’m at it, are we sure first place — they’re currently +2,800 to win La Liga — is out of reach? I think so, for now.”
That (hopefully) proves I was not terribly skeptical of these guys. But even as a Sevilla believer, I’m much more impressed after watching Thursday’s match than I was before it kicked off. While certain stats – Bayern had a decided edge in possession (64%) and shots (25-6) – might indicate it was not as close as the final score, this thing was incredibly tight and hard-fought from start to finish.
Despite their big advantage in shots, shots on goal were far less one-sided in Bayern Munich’s favor (7-5). The biggest shock was that for 120 minutes, the best player on the pitch was not Robert Lewandowski or any of his renowned teammates, but Sevilla’s Lucas Ocampos. That was my takeaway based on the eye test, and CBS Sports’ announcers certainly seemed to agree with me. FWIW, the numbers from WhoScored supported that claim, rating the Argentine as the clear man of the match with a grade of 8.5. We tried to tell everyone what a player he was as far back as last December!
I’d have liked Sevilla (-129) over promoted side Cádiz (+430) in their La Liga opener Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern regardless of Thursday’s outcome, but now I’m wondering – or at least starting to question – whether a La Liga title is as unattainable as everyone thinks.
Elsewhere in La Liga
Real Madrid (-120) is a big favorite over Real Betis (+300) on Saturday at 3 p.m. despite last week’s concerning – goals should not be so hard to come by for the league favorite (currently -106 in team futures) – 0-0 draw vs. Real Sociedad.
Is Atlético Madrid in danger at home?
Atleti (-200) has a much more interesting battle as it hosts first-place (!) Granada (+650) on Sunday at 10 a.m., even though oddsmakers don’t see it that way. Is it just me, or is that an appalling slight of Granada, which moved one step from the Europa League group stage with a win over Georgian powerhouse Locomotive Tbilisi on Thursday??
Diego Simeone’s team did finish last season in impressive form, but they’ll be without Álvaro Morata. While Luis Suárez is coming to the rescue, it’s hard to imagine him playing this weekend.
At +650, Granada would be the no-brainer pick of the week if not for the fatigue factor. A team in Segunda as recently as ’18-19 will be playing on just three days’ rest ahead of a trip to Sweden next Thursday to meet Malmo in another Europa League pre-group stage showdown. That’s certainly reason for concern, so maybe oddsmakers know what they’re doing here, after all.
Still, Granada looked awfully sharp in their wins over Athletic Bilbao and Alavés the last two weeks, and they pulled a big upset of Barcelona around this time last year.
New-Look Barcelona Faces High-Scoring Villarreal
Barcelona arguably deserves more attention in this piece than they’re about to get, but they’ve gotten more than their share of the spotlight this summer. The line for the Catalans’ (-190) home match-up with Villarreal (+460) on Sunday at 3 p.m. would indicate that Barca will have no trouble with Villarreal.
I have questions/reasons this one is worth watching, though:
- • A) Do you really already trust this club under new manager Ronald Koeman?
• B) Don’t you want to tune in regardless of how close you think this one will be, just to see who takes the pitch alongside Lionel Messi?
WHERE TO BET LA LIGA IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.