I won’t pretend for a second that Europe’s most interesting match-ups of the week are taking place in Spain. Nothing in the next 48 hours tops Manchester City-Liverpool (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. Eastern) or Borussia Dortmund-Bayern Munich (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.), but there’s a sneaky-interesting weekend ahead in Spain.
The headliners this week, Real Sociedad (-152), host Granada (+410) on Sunday at 10:15 a.m. More to come on Real Sociedad shortly!
Let’s start with the heavyweights, though, even if a couple of them are currently a long way from the top of the table.
Real Madrid (second place, with one game in hand) is the favorite to win the league at -167 and travels to reeling Valencia. Los Blancos (-215) should roll over Valencia (+510), which just lost another key piece, Geoffrey Kondogbia, to Atleti.
Unfortunately, I see little reason to second-guess my preseason prediction that relegation would be a possibility for this historically proud but dysfunctional club. For the record, they’re currently +300 to drop, after being listed in September at +650 to be relegated.
Barcelona (12th-place, but with two games in hand) hosts seventh-place Real Betis. The Catalans are heavily favored at -265 compared to the visitors at +700.
On paper, Atlético Madrid (-240) vs. Cádiz (+900) should be a rout, but promoted side Cádiz appears to be far from a pushover, as they are in fifth (!) place and appear to be a solid imitation of last year’s Granada. With a record of 4-2-2, including a win over Real Madrid and a draw vs. third-place Villarreal, these guys should not be underestimated.
The price here makes them good value — and the draw at +300 is also tempting — even against an Atleti team that is taking care of business, and scoring goals (13 in six games!). For Los Rojiblancos, that level of offense feels unprecedented.
Skidding Sevilla Looks To Get Right
We round out the slate for the quartet currently in the Champions League with Sevilla, which meets Osasuna in a game they have to have. All is well in the UCL for Julen Lopetegui’s team. With seven points through three games, they’re going through, barring a miracle, thanks to their heroics in a comeback win over Krasnodar on Wednesday.
The bad news is that Sevilla has dropped three in a row domestically. In 16th place (with two games in hand) with a record of 2-1-3, these guys have to right the ship in La Liga ASAP. That starts with another game in which they’re clear favorites (-175), this time over ninth-place Osasuna (+525). I expect Sevilla to get right soon, but they’re coming off an exhausting win, so this is another one with a ton of upset potential.
Real Sociedad Seems Poised For A Push
I could point out that first-place Real Sociedad (5-2-1) has scored a league-best 18 goals while allowing just four through eight games, call these guys legit, and leave it at that.
But they deserve a little more love, and with the upcoming schedule they have, I feel confident they’ll remain near the top of the standings for at least another month.
Here are their upcoming opponents throughout November and December.
- Granada (11/8)
- Cádiz (11/22)
- Villarreal (11/29)
- Alavés (12/6)
- Eibar (12/13)
- Levante (12/20)
- Atleti (12/23)
- Athletic Bilbao (12/30)
They face both Sevilla (1/10) and Barcelona (1/20) in January, but between now and then, these guys could absolutely continue to win at a similar clip to the one they’ve been on through eight games (so far, they’ve captured 17/24 possible points). Am I getting way ahead of myself? Absolutely.
But I won’t apologize for looking ahead when a team is A) in first place after more than a couple games, B) on this kind of a tear, they’ve won their last four in La Liga by a combined score of 14-2, and C) entering a lengthy stretch of matches in which they’ll be favored.
I hate myself for this subhead almost as much as I do for the “Real For Real” nonsense in this piece’s main headline – and their both all mine – but this club’s performance without its best player from a year ago, Martin Odegaard, has been impressive.
In addition to remaining potent offensively (last year, they scored 56 goals in 38 games) without Odegaard, the defense has improved tremendously.
The offensive attack remains balanced, with eight players already notching goals. Mikel Oyarzabal (five goals, two assists) leads the attack at the age of 23 and is among La Liga’s best players outside the big clubs. He’s also one of four players with at least two assists, along with David Silva (who looks anything but washed at 34), 24-year-old Mikel Merino and Portu.
Defensively, it might be a small sample size, but the turnaround from a year ago has been even more noteworthy. So far, they’ve gone from below average (48 goals allowed in 38 games) to really good. The guys seeing the most minutes in front of keeper Álex Remiro are Andoni Gorosabel, Artiz Elustondo and Robin Le Normand. That’s an unheralded (to put it lightly) crew, but so far, so damn good this season.
WHERE TO BET LA LIGA IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.