La Liga Matchday 31 Preview: Atleti Back In The Driver’s Seat?

Posted By Tyler Everett on April 21, 2021

On paper, the upcoming midweek matchday in La Liga appears unlikely to produce much drama for Spain’s top four. Sevilla, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona all face massive underdogs, according to oddsmakers.

  • Levante (+375) vs. Sevilla (-155) Wednesday, 1 p.m.
  • Cadiz (+750) vs. Real Madrid (-250) Wednesday, 4 p.m.
  • Atlético Madrid (-250) vs. Huesca (+750) Thursday, 1 p.m.
  • Barcelona (-480) vs. Getafe (+1,300) Thursday, 4 p.m.

But last weekend, with Barcelona idle (the Catalans were busy with the Copa del Rey final, which they won 4-0 over Athletic Club), Real Madrid meeting Getafe and Atleti taking on Eibar, it seemed safe to assume RM and Atleti would take care of business.

And we saw how that turned out.

Barcelona-Getafe

While I don’t see Sevilla, RM or Atleti experiencing much trouble over the next two days, keep an eye on Barcelona-Getafe. Getafe’s just barely out of the relegation “race” with only 31 points in 31 games. They have shown a knack for low-scoring draws in recent weeks, though. This team has scratched out one point apiece in four of its last five, including three (!!) 0-0 draws. To their credit, they added a 1-1 tie in that stretch to spice it up.

One of those draws (a 0-0 rock fight on March 13) hurt Atleti’s title chances a few weeks ago, and Getafe just pushed RM in yet another scoreless draw over the weekend.

With that in mind, two bets worth considering in Barca-Getafe are the draw (+525) and the Under 2.5 total goals (+125). I’d even consider Under 1.5 goals (+360).

I can think of one more reason Barcelona seems susceptible to a draw (a loss just doesn’t seem realistic here). Between a possible hangover from their big Copa-winning rout of Athletic Club and everything swirling around the club’s status in the tenuous (or should I say already dead in the water??) European Super League, Barcelona faces an abundance of potential distractions.

Did Real Madrid’s title shot just slip away?

Last week, RM settled for a surprising draw vs. Getafe – though given how shorthanded Zinedine Zidane’s team, the result shouldn’t have shocked us. That, coupled with Atleti enjoying its best performance in months (a 5-0 win without Luis Suárez or João Félix) against Eibar, resulted in major movement on the three contenders’ futures odds.

Below are the current prices on Atleti, Real Madrid and Barcelona, with the movement since we previewed last weekend listed in parentheses:

  • Atlético Madrid +140 (down from +200)
  • Barcelona +150 (down from +160)
  • Real Madrid +300 (up from +160)

In the table, Los Blancos (67 points) now trail Atleti (70 points) by three points, while Barcelona sits in third with 65 points and a game in hand.

FiveThirtyEight, FWIW, continues to believe in Barcelona. The site gives the Catalans a 49% chance to win the league, followed by Atleti (30%) and RM (20%). A week ago, those likelihoods, per the analytics site, were Barcelona (48%), RM (33%) and Atleti (18%).

RM will not have a chance to personally take any points from their crosstown rivals, so they’ll need a bit of help over the final seven games, but not a ton. One loss by Los Rojiblancos, who have to take on Barcelona – and, as you might have heard, have dropped points in three of their last five – and the Madrid clubs are all square.

Can Atleti score enough to hold on?

The biggest cause for concern for Madridistas might be Atleti’s remaining schedule aside from the Barcelona clash. Here’s what Atlético Madrid have to navigate over the final seven games of ’20-21: Huesca, Athletic Club, Elche, Barcelona, Real Sociedad, Osasuna and Valladolid.

Unless the explosion against Eibar over the weekend sparks a sudden flurry of goals down the stretch for this team, there’s a great chance they settle for a draw or two – and/or lose to Barcelona – over the next month.

This team’s outburst vs. Eibar should probably be taken as a sign that Eibar’s defense is just atrocious, but maybe, just maybe, these guys are rediscovering their early-/mid-season mojo. Even without Félix and/or Suárez, this team packs some punch when both Marcos Llorente and Yannick Carrasco are healthy. Last week, those two combined to score three goals, with Angel Correa adding two more.

If Atleti stay even half that effective in the final third over the next few weeks, they might just hold on to this lead atop La Liga after all. To state a bit more of the obvious, Atleti have to like their title chances if they can keep winning until the Félix/Suárez duo returns, especially if those two are out until the big, possibly title-deciding clash with Barcelona on May 8.

WHERE TO BET LA LIGA IN THE US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook.

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