The weekend slate in Spain starts with an intriguing clash on Friday as Atlético Madrid travels to Valencia at 3 p.m. Eastern.
But it’s all about Getafe right now, isn’t it?
I’m kidding, for the most part, as anyone who listened to this week’s High Press Pod is aware. But seriously, we’re talking about a team in third place in La Liga after winning its last four by a combined score of 9-0, including a 3-0 rout of seventh-place (and, let’s not forget, Champions League Group H winner!) Valencia last weekend.
But before we look closer at Getafe’s trip to Camp Nou on Saturday at 10 a.m., a few words on Atleti-Valencia:
Atleti (+155) is the slightest of favorites over Valencia (+205) in a game both teams need badly amid a contested battle for Spain’s top four. Diego Simeone will have Álvaro Morata, but not João Félix. Considering Atleti’s issues this year even when they’ve been healthy, Valencia at +205 in a home game is a really good bet — just ask Barcelona.
Barcelona (-230) is expected to handle business at home vs. Europe’s best Cinderella story Saturday at 10 a.m. Getafe is +650, which is great value on the red-hot underdog.
We’ll look at how Getafe has gotten to this point in a bit more detail later in the piece. But even I can admit that more folks are interested in the Barcelona perspective here.
We need only to flash back to January 25 (2-0 loss at Valencia in La Liga) or February 6 (1-0 Copa del Rey loss at Athletic Bilbao) for the latest reminders that this team is – once again – vulnerable on the road. They’ve been more like what you’d expect from a squad with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, etc. at home, though.
Of their four losses and four draws through 23 games, each of the Ls, and three of the four draws (with the 0-0 stalemate vs. Real Madrid on December 18 the exception) came away from home.
But in their toughest test since that December Clásico vs. an undermanned Real Madrid, it’s hard to see another home romp.
The Catalans had their hands full with Real Betis last week before winning 3-2, and have not dominated anyone other than relegation candidate Leganés in their seven games under Quique Setién.
Bold prediction: expect a goal from Messi
With Lionel Messi due, could this be the afternoon Setién’s team produces the scoring output Barcelona fans would like to see? Last week, Messi’s three assists vs. Real Betis reminded us that he can decide a game’s outcome without scoring. With 25 shots, and five assists, in his last three La Liga games, it’s hard to say he hasn’t produced. Still, his “drought” has to be ending soon, even against a stout Getafe back line that hasn’t conceded since a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid on January 4.
The bigger question for Barcelona might be how well their defense can hold up, as Clement Lenglet (suspension) and Samuel Umtiti (doubtful due to injury) might all be unavailable.
Setién’s team is hurting for depth both up top and on the back end heading into a busy week, with a Champions League round of 16 trip to Napoli on Tuesday and a Clásico at the Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday, March 1.
Getafe’s moment of truth
As if Manager José Bordalás’ team won’t get enough attention during their battle with Barcelona this weekend, they have a marquee Europa League round of 32 match-up (OK, there’s probably no such thing) at home on Thursday, February 20 vs. Ajax. They’ll then host Sevilla next Sunday in another game that will be pivotal for their chances at next year’s UCL.
Getafe established a rep last season for stifling defense and just enough offense to win way more than their budget should allow them to, as they finished just two points shy of a spot in the Champions League. The Atleti-lite comparisons were abundant a year ago, and they haven’t dissipated this season.
In fact, Bordalas is already being mentioned as a possible replacement for Diego Simeone. For the record, I can’t see the Argentine being sacked, barring an absolutely abysmal finish to the season, but I digress.
This year, Getafe has again impressed defensively – they’ve allowed just 20 goals in 23 games – and they have also improved offensively. A year after managing just 48 goals in 38 games, they’re at 35 with 15 matches to play this season. Three veteran forwards, 32-year-old Ángel Rodriguez (9 goals in La Liga), 31-year-old Jaime Mata (8 goals) and 37-year-old Jorge Molina (5 goals) give this team enough scoring punch to make them dangerous.
And they’ve even produced some legit highlight-reel moments to silence the haters who question their offensive ability. Check out the goals by Molina (who scored twice) and Mata from the win over Valencia, particularly the second, and tell me you don’t like what you see!
Oddsmakers like Barca so much for a reason – and their home track record means that gun to my head, I like them here — but how do you not take a flier on Getafe at +650 and/or the draw at +350??