*Let’s start with the fun stuff. Yes, we’re going from La Liga Matchday 30 last week to MD 33 this week. This weekend, 16 of Spain’s 20 teams are in action – Barcelona and Athletic Club meet in the Copa del Rey final, and those teams’ MD 33 matches will take place from April 28-29.
MD 31 will be held next Wednesday and Thursday (April 21-22), followed by MD 32 next weekend (April 24-26). As of now, La Liga’s schedule in May will be crowded, with multiple midweek matchdays, but at least they’ll all be in order.
A Meh Matchday 33
As for this weekend, with Barcelona idle (at least in La Liga), Real Madrid taking on Getafe and Atleti facing Eibar, the best match-up is Real Sociedad-Sevilla. But while that does pit the teams in fourth (Sevilla) and fifth place (Real Sociedad) in the league, the 14-point gap between them means Sevilla is a virtual lock to remain top-four.
- Real Sociedad (+185) vs. Sevilla (+150) Sunday, 8 a.m. Eastern
- Atlético Madrid (-240) vs. Eibar (+800) Sunday, 10:15 a.m.
- Getafe (+480) vs. Real Madrid (-150) Sunday, 3 p.m.
Two things regarding the slate this weekend:
Sevilla’s so trustworthy that I consider them a good play at +150. Julen Lopetegui’s team is rightfully known for being defense-first. But they showed with a 4-3 win against Celta Vigo last Monday that they can occasionally win a goalfest, too.
Real Madrid deserves our trust (and at this point, it’s hard to rule out a Champions League and/or La Liga trophy for this team). Getafe, however, might be the last team Los Blancos want to see after playing Liverpool twice, as well as Barcelona, in the last week. Getafe being at risk of being relegated makes them that much more dangerous – and by dangerous, I mean even more likely to physically maim RM.
La Liga title race heats up
Now is a great time to look ahead to a frantic five weeks leading up to the season-ending matchday 38 on May 23.
With eight games remaining for every team in the league, Atleti sits in first place (67 points), followed by Real Madrid (66) and Barcelona (65). And Sevilla (61) is not that far out of the race, either.
Oddsmakers aren’t sure what to make of the cluster among the top three, as both RM and Barcelona are +160 to win the league, followed by Atleti at +200. Some might wonder why the team that remains in first place, albeit barely, is the clear underdog. But the real question if you’ve been watching Diego Simeone’s team lately is why their odds aren’t even longer.
Real Madrid feels like the best bet
As of right now, if I had to pick one of those clubs, I’d lean Real Madrid, who doesn’t have to face either Atleti or Barcelona again. Zinedine Zidane and Co.’s last four games — Sevilla, Granada, Athletic Club and Villarreal – are tricky. Overall, though, RM’s final eight are extremely winnable. The case against Real Madrid — besides any remaining skepticism you might have about how well a center back pairing of Eder Militao and Nacho will hold up — is that this team could drop points if it rotates the squad in a way that prioritizes its Champions League semifinal match-up with Chelsea.
Barcelona certainly has a shot – and it helps that they get a chance to overtake Atleti when they meet them on May 9 – but has not looked quite the same in its two gamessince the international break. Barcelona’s trip to (Europa League semifinalist!) Villarreal on April 25 also looms as a difficult test.
Injury woes the latest problem for Atlético Madrid
Atleti appears unlikely to pull out of their recent tailspin based on form alone, but injuries are also mounting. Last week, they took on Real Betis without Luis Suarez, Thomas Lemar, Moussa Dembele or Marcos Llorente. Ateti got even more bad injury news during that game, as Joao Felix and Kieran Trippier both came off the pitch early due to injuries.
Llorente will be back this week after missing last week’s match due to suspension, and he’ll provide a big lift. But this team is running on fumes going into a packed home stretch of the season. I like their chances against Eibar this weekend, but expect Atleti to continue to drop points. I’ll even go so far as to say that within a week or two, the title race will remain intriguing, but will be down to Real Madrid and Barcelona. If only there was a trophy for where Atleti was at the halfway point …
One last thing: Interestingly, FiveThirtyEight feels a lot more strongly about the title race than oddsmakers. I don’t understand the analytics site giving Barcelona a 48% chance while saying Real Madrid has just a 33% chance to win the league. But despite how harsh it feels at first glance, I agree with FiveThirtyEight‘s take on Atleti, which it gives just an 18% chance.