The upcoming weekend will probably not be the most thrilling of the season in Spain.
Barcelona (-136)-Getafe (+390) on Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern is a solid matchup, but the rest of La Liga’s top clubs face opponents they’re expected to handle with ease, with the possible exception of Sevilla (-107) at Granada (+320).
Real Madrid (-480) hosts Cadiz (+1,200) on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., while Atleti is favored (-130) on the road at Celta Vigo (+450) on Saturday at 10 a.m.
A busy stretch ahead
While La Liga’s top dogs will (or at least should) ease into the upcoming stretch with wins, business will pick up for the big three — or four, in the eyes of my fellow Sevilla believers — in a huge way soon.
Atleti will travel to Munich to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday before returning to Wanda Metropolitano to host Real Betis.
Barcelona gets what should be a relative UCL breather on Tuesday against Ferencvaros, but then takes on Real Madrid next Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Camp Nou ahead of a UCL trip to Turin to meet Juventus on October 28.
Real Madrid will host Shakhtar Donetsk in the UCL between this weekend’s Cadiz match-up and next Saturday’s Clásico, then visit Monchengladbach for a Champions League match on October 27.
Sevilla has the second-toughest Champions League match-up of any of these teams — Tuesday’s trip to Chelsea — but should be a big favorite next Saturday vs. Eibar and on October 28 vs. Rennes (UCL).
I bring up what’s ahead for those teams because A) what a slate! and B) I wonder how much the upcoming glut of important games, plus the recently concluded international break, will impact the lineups this weekend for Diego Simeone, Ronald Koeman, Zinedine Zidane and Julen Lopetegui.
Should Barcelona be concerned with Getafe?
I think we all know that the correct answer to this question is, “concerned would be an understatement.” On a serious note, this is going to be a tough one for Barcelona, even if the Catalans won their matchups with Getafe by a combined score of 4-1 in ’19-20.
Getafe endured a poor finish to ’19-20 after the pandemic forced European soccer to press pause, but has started the season with a solid seven points through four games. Their last outing, a 3-0 loss to Real Sociedad, was discouraging, and there are still some offensive issues, to put it lightly. Despite piling up three goals vs. Real Betis in a blowout win, Getafe has a total of only four through 360 minutes this season.
Bold prediction: a 1-0 win — or maybe it will be 2-0 — for Barcelona, but it won’t be easy.
While I’m skeptical of Getafe pulling the upset, this game is still worth watching to see how the Catalans look against another physical opponent after their most recent match, a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Sevilla on October 4. Getting out of this game with no injuries would be a huge win going into the showdowns with Los Blancos and Juventus.
Are we witnessing a Coutinho-ssaince?
First of all, no, I don’t feel great about “Coutinho-ssaince.” Terrible branding aside, though, he’s off to a great start to ’20-21, with two goals and an assist. For a player who has been an afterthought since early ’18, his early production has to be a confidence boost.
If Coutinho is even 75% or 80% of what he was for Liverpool a few short years/an eternity ago (and it’s still a big if, no matter how good he’s looked so far this season), Messi’s all of a sudden got enough help up top from Ansu Fati and Coutinho to give Barcelona one of the most dangerous attacks in Europe.
Speaking of huge ifs, it will once again be interesting to see whether Ronald Koeman finally gives Ousmane Dembélé meaningful minutes. If not now, with squad rotation an absolute must, then when??
We’d also be remiss to talk Barcelona and not mention Koeman publicly letting Antoine Griezmann know who’s in charge. Nothing in soccer is more shocking than a publicized power struggle between prominent figures at Barcelona.
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