La Liga Matchday 38 Preview: Will Atletico Madrid Win the Title?

Written By Tyler Everett on May 21, 2021

To no one’s surprise, La Liga is going to be decided on the final matchday.

Atlético Madrid has been in first place since early December after piling up a stunning 50 points during the first half of the season. They’ve held on to control of the title race despite a shaky April (and a disappointing result or two in February and March). They don’t have the trophy yet, but let’s point out now that these guys were +1,100 (!) before the season, making their current position pretty remarkable.

How can Atlético Madrid Clinch La Liga?

This weekend, the clinching scenarios are straightforward.

Atleti (83 points) leads Real Madrid (81) atop the table, but would finish second if the clubs are tied on points, as RM holds the tiebreaker (head-to-head). That means that if Atleti beats Valladolid, Los Rojiblancos will raise the trophy.

But a draw by Atlético and a win by Real Madrid – who is hosting Villarreal – would mean a second consecutive La Liga title for RM. We should mention that an (unthinkable) loss by Atleti might not cost them the title, as Real Madrid would still have to beat Villarreal.

  • Valladolid (+800) vs. Atlético Madrid (-315) Saturday, 12 p.m. Eastern
  • Real Madrid (-245) vs. Villarreal (+575) Saturday, 12 p.m.

Should Atleti Be On Upset Alert?

Surely, Atleti will blow out Valladolid on Saturday, right?*

Oddsmakers certainly think so. Atleti is not only -315 to beat Valladolid, but -455 to win the league. Stranger things have happened, but the fact that Los Blancos are +350 to steal the trophy tells you it would take a minor miracle. FiveThirtyEight gives Atlético Madrid a 75% chance to finish on top.

Another reason anything other than a comfortable Atleti win would shock me (knock on wood) is Valladolid’s recent form, despite how much they still have to play for. A win would give them a chance to avoid relegation. While FiveThirtyEight says there’s a 98% chance this club will get relegated, it would avoid a drop with a win and losses by Elche and Huesca – so they’re not Segunda-bound just yet.

But is it just me, or do Valladolid’s last three results – a 3-0 loss to Valencia (!), a 2-0 loss to Villarreal and a 4-1 loss to Real Sociedad — scream “over it”? These guys haven’t won since (*scrolls down an eternity on their schedule page*) March 6. In five games against Atleti, Real Madrid and Barcelona this year, they’ve gone 0-5-0, without scoring a single goal.

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

*All that being said, there’s a reason I phrased the first sentence of the last section as a question.

As mentioned earlier, Atleti has had some stunning missteps the second half of the season, dropping points to 14th-place Levante (a draw on February 17 and a loss on February 20) and drawing 16th-place Getafe (March 13). And last week, they trailed 11th-place Osasuna for more than 80 minutes last week before pulling out a crucial win.

But I’ll admit that the general unpredictability of this season across Europe – and Atleti’s near-disaster last week – are the only reasons I’m thinking (pretending??) Valladolid has a shot here. I’ve missed the last few times I’ve bet on Jan Oblak to record a shutout, but I once again expect a low-scoring match, making Under 2.5 Total Goals (+114) a good bet.

And what would be a more fitting clincher for Diego Simeone and Co. than a 1-0 victory? … I can’t think of anything, either, so consider betting on a 1-0 final score (+600).

Will Real Madrid beat Villarreal to keep the pressure on?

If Villarreal didn’t have the Europa League final against Manchester United next week, I’d think RM-Villarreal had serious potential to end in a draw (+400). But with so much to play for on the Real Madrid side and so little for Villarreal … Actually, Villarreal has not yet secured a spot in the Europa League for next year, so we shouldn’t expect them to treat this as meaningless.

But while Real Madrid will miss Toni Kroos, they’ll have Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane available, which makes an upset a lot less likely. With this being possibly the last game for several key RM pieces and so much on the line, expect Zidane’s team to get all three points. The payout on RM at -245 probably won’t make you rich, but that feels like the safest bet here.


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