La Liga Matchday 36 Preview: Atleti Faces Toughest Remaining Test vs. Real Sociedad

Written By Tyler Everett on May 11, 2021

As we mentioned earlier this week, Atlético Madrid (-139), Real Madrid (+250) and Barcelona (+325) all still have a legit shot to win the league. I honestly don’t know what to predict at this point, but I do expect drama right up until the dying seconds of Matchday 38 on May 23. Each game that day will start at 12 p.m. Eastern, so go ahead and block off that two-hour window, or at least what could be an insane half-hour from around 1:30 p.m. until 2 p.m.

Diego Simeone’s team will raise the trophy as long as it can win its last three, starting with a tough one this Wednesday against Real Sociedad. Expect La Liga’s fifth-place club to push the current leaders in that one.

  • Levante (+1,050) vs. Barcelona (-480) Tuesday, 4 p.m.
  • Sevilla (-215) vs. Valencia (+575) Wednesday, 1 p.m.
  • Atlético Madrid (-175) vs. Real Sociedad (+500) Wednesday, 4 p.m.
  • Granada (+650) vs. Real Madrid (-265) Thursday, 4 p.m.

Other than Atleti-Real Sociedad, the teams atop the table should each get all three points this weekend. How many times has everything gone to plan in recent weeks, though?? If I have to label one contender as most likely to drop points this weekend, I’m going with Real Madrid, so consider the draw (+410) in that one.

Can Atleti Move One Step Closer?

Only Osasuna and Valladolid remain for Atleti after this one. So they should be locked in against a Real Sociedad squad that needs to win to remain in position to punch a ticket to next year’s Europa League. Real Sociedad has won three of its last four, but that loss was against Huesca, which is flirting with relegation.

Without Martin Odegaard, Real Sociedad are not (nearly) as flashy as they were a year ago, but they still boast arguably Spain’s best offense outside the big three. The question of the weekend midweek is whether Alexander Isak, Mikel Oyarzabal and Co. can beat Atleti’s back line and Jan Oblak. On one hand, it’s hard to imagine that happening after Atleti stifled Lionel Messi and Barcelona over the weekend, who generated just .85 xG.

But Atleti fans have to be worried about a letdown for two reasons. For one thing, any team is vulnerable after a crucial game against a rival, and that obviously applies here. Also, consistency has simply not been Atlético Madrid’s thing lately — this team has dropped points to Getafe, Sevilla, Real Betis and Athletic Club in recent weeks. The bad news for Simeone is that this weekend, they’re facing a team that’s better than three of those four.

Another shutout for Oblak?

Ultimately, I trust Oblak to be the key to a victory for Atleti, which has allowed just four goals in the last eight games. Speaking of Oblak, is there a better keeper in the game right now? The Slovenian’s shutout of Barcelona gave him 18 clean sheets on the season. Atleti has not been as good defensively over the second half of the season as they were through the first 19 games, but Oblak has been excellent all year.

It’s also worth noting that Atleti won the first match-up of the season between these two teams, 2-0. In that game, Real Sociedad were held to just one shot on target, and only six total, despite a 60-40 advantage in possession.

Bold prediction: Expect Barcelona (-480) to roll

The Catalans have a habit of blowing out the bad teams on their schedule by so much that you (almost) forget how different – and by different I mean worse — they look against elite competition.

Look back no further than their wins over Getafe (a 5-2 blowout on April 22) and Real Sociedad (6-1 on March 27) for a couple examples.

Against a 14th-place Levante club that is safe from relegation but also can’t qualify for Europe, expect a three- or four-goal afternoon from Ronald Koeman’s team. That makes Over 3.5 Total Goals (-141) — or Over 4.5 Total Goals (+160), if you’re so inclined – a good bet on Tuesday.

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