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We talked earlier this week about the notable developments that Matchday 1 in Spain brought for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. We’re going to get to whether any of those three should be on upset alert this weekend.
But first, how about the season openers by Mallorca, Osasuna and Granada, who made their La Liga “debuts” last week? If 90 minutes are anything to go by – which is admittedly a big “if” – these teams have a great shot to not only extend their stay in the top flight, but possibly make some noise in ’19-20.
Let’s start with Mallorca, who got here in thrilling fashion and have an ownership group with as much star power and U.S. relevance as any club in Spain. The club is owned by Phoenix Suns Owner Robert Sarver. Steve Nash, the Basketball Hall of Famer and avid soccer fan (and Bleacher Report analyst) is on Mallorca’s board of directors, and former U.S. internationals Kyle Martino and Stu Holden are minority stakeholders.
Because of their famous ownership group, Mallorca were going to be an interesting team to watch regardless of what happened on the field. They all the more intriguing after handling Eibar 2-1 in the La Liga opener last weekend thanks in large part to a strong start: Mallorca were up 1-0 before the five-minute mark thanks to an early goal by Dani Rodríguez.
And it didn’t take long for Mallorca to make a notable personnel move, either, as they signed a one-year loan deal for Real Madrid 18-year-old Takefusa Kubo on Thursday. The Japanese attacking midfielder generated significant buzz with a couple of strong performances for Real Madrid during their summer friendlies. This team has deep enough pockets to make another move or two before La Liga’s transfer window closes on Sept. 2, and if they’re exceeding expectations by January, they could be a team to keep an eye on during the winter window.
Osasuna also won its season opener, beating Leganés 1-0. And while Granada only got one point, they’re another team to keep an eye on after earning a draw in a thrilling 4-4 shootout against Villarreal.
This weekend, all three of these teams are at home. Granada (+295) has a tough match-up on Friday vs. Sevilla (-107), while Osasuna (+155) is a slight favorite vs. Eibar (+200) on Saturday and Mallorca is a slight underdog (+200) against Real Sociedad (+145) on Sunday.
The Catalans are off to a rough start. In addition to a rare domestic loss in their season opener at Athletic Bilbao, Luis Suárez, Ousmane Dembélé and Lionel Messi are all injured. (Otherwise, Barcelona are totally healthy after one of 38 La Liga games). But while Suárez and Dembélé will miss several games, Messi practiced on Thursday and is expected to be available to come off the bench, but not start, Sunday vs. Real Betis at Camp Nou.
Considering the level of expectations for this team, Barça need to win — and look good in the process — as badly as any team in Europe. For the reigning league champs, Sunday would be a great time for Antoine Griezmann to have his first big game in a Barcelona shirt. The oddsmakers are not worried at all, as Barcelona (-400) is heavily favored over Real Betis (+950). At that price, betting on either a win by the visitors or a draw (+510) might be worth a shot.
Neither of these teams had much of an issue with their Matchday 1 opponent, especially not RM, which whipped Celta Vigo 3-1 last weekend. Los Blancos (-500) should handle Valladolid (+1,100) without a problem at the Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday. Another easy win would be a big step toward healing the various wounds with which this team entered the season after a dramatic summer.
Despite all the offensive flair João Félix and Los Rojiblancos showed during preseason, their 1-0 win over Getafe last weekend was classic Diego Simeone soccer: they took an early lead and stifled their opponent the rest of the way. It will be interesting to see Atleti’s approach at Leganés (+440) on Sunday, where they will not exactly be a massive favorite (-129).