With all due respect to the Bundesliga (and my knowledge of the German league), man, it feels good to be back writing about a league I know well.
Earlier this week, we looked at the La Liga title race and battle for the top four. With so much to play for over the final 11 games of the season, every game is crucial for the teams near the top of the table. That starts with this weekend’s slate, which kicks off Thursday.
It’s already been over three months since the preview of La Liga matchday 27 went live on High Press Soccer, which is staggering. But we’re all well aware of how long this hiatus has lasted in Spain and elsewhere. So let’s get to this weekend, which starts with Sevilla hosting Real Betis at 4 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.
Should we expect a Gran Derbi surprise?
For anyone unfamiliar with the Gran Derbi (great derby), read this from the AP. And the images below (who says fireworks and social distancing are mutually exclusive??) further illustrate the passion of these fanbases.
— David Cartlidge (@davidjaca) June 10, 2020
Normally, we’d list the line, mention that this is a massive rivalry between two teams with rich histories and a close proximity to one another and then move on.
But in this case, the most anticipated match-up of the most anticipated matchday 28 in La Liga history deserves a much closer look.
Expect a massive amount of attention on this one, and more importantly, expect favored Sevilla (-115) to win a close one over 12th-place Real Betis (+290). It’s interesting that this line has moved as money has flowed toward Sevilla the past few days. Last Thursday, Sevilla was -106, with Real Betis at +260.
Sevilla, currently in third place, is perennially solid and has lost just two of its 11 games this calendar year. Their most recent results include a 3-0 win at Getafe on February 23 and a 2-2 draw at Atlético Madrid on March 7. It’s been an eternity (or something like that) since those performances, but they’re too fresh in my mind to ignore.
Between Sevilla’s current (you know what I mean) form and Real Betis’ awful defense – the 43 goals they’ve allowed in 27 La Liga matches is third-worst in the league – Sevilla at -115 is the smart play.
I will, however, admit that a draw (+280) wouldn’t shock me. That’s because A) the rust for both teams makes this a tough game to predict and B) I believe in the “throw out the records” logic with derbies – it’s definitely cliché, but there’s a reason that phrase is repeated so often.
Welcome back, Atleti!
It’s been so long since we’ve had live La Liga soccer, we even miss watching Atleti (+130), which travels to Athletic Bilbao (+255) on Sunday at 8 a.m. Seriously, though, that one could be interesting.
Athletic is only 10th in the table, but has reached the Copa del Rey final after beating Barcelona in the quarters and Granada in the semis. With two wins over Barcelona (one in La Liga and one in the Copa) this season, this is a squad that should not be taken lightly, especially at home. On second thought, is “homefield advantage” really a thing without, you know, fans??
Atleti has had an extremely up-and-down season, but maybe their Champions League shocker over Liverpool was a turning point/springboard for them domestically. I’ll believe that when I see it, but it’s an interesting thought.
Speaking of “I’ll believe it when I see it,” if João Félix, Álvaro Morata and Diego Costa are all healthy, maybe this is the team we thought they’d be back in August.
While I understand if you’re skeptical of Costa’s fitness at this point, can you really doubt a man who is, per a Spanish-language headline in Marca on May 21, “more panther than ever”? In case you don’t believe me, Marca’s English translation of that article is available here.
Barcelona, Real Madrid Ease Their Way Back
As for league leader Barcelona and second-place Real Madrid, there’s a reason we have not mentioned them until now. RM is -400 at home vs. Eibar (+915) on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Barcelona (-345) is a huge road favorite at Mallorca (+800) on Saturday at 4 p.m.
WHERE TO BET LA LIGA IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.