Who: Real Madrid vs Granada
When: Saturday, October 5th @ 10:00am ET
Line: Real Madrid -335 | Draw +480 | Granada +750
Matchday 8 in La Liga is the best of the season, even if last weekend boasted the best single game of the year (Atleti-Real Madrid). Though one of the four teams in the games I’m about to mention were promoted to the top flight this year, it’s still hard to overstate the fact we get first place vs. second place and fourth vs. sixth on back-to-back days.
This weekend, Real Madrid (-335) hosts Granada (+750) at the Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday at 10 a.m. Eastern. We’ll elaborate later in this piece, but for now, let’s just say that line would have made a ton of sense before the season started. Now? Not so much. Granada is in SECOND PLACE, WITH A LEAGUE-BEST GOAL DIFFERENTIAL OF +7.
I promise I didn’t call this the most interesting matchday of ’19-20 just because it’s the next one or because I’m interested in Granada’s trip to Madrid. Barcelona (-177) also has one of its toughest games of the season (to date), as they host a Sevilla (+450) squad that is only two points out of first place despite dropping two of their last three.
Real Madrid Rollercoaster
We’ll get to the Granada clash in a second, I swear, but until Real Madrid steadies itself, reviewing their most recent week will be a necessary part of previewing their games.
The good news for Los Blancos is that they are in sole possession of first place and have not lost since that Champions League meltdown in Paris on September 18th. But if you think that means all is wel … who am I kidding, by now, everyone knows what happened on Tuesday vs. Club Brugge, when they were lucky to salvage a draw. And last week’s tie at Atleti wasn’t what they were looking for, either.
So with advancing from their Champions League group in major jeopardy, no pressure – or reason to worry — as Granada comes to town, right? That’s clearly what oddsmakers seem to believe. Dismissing a team with as little star power as Granada boasts would make some sense if they’d only played a game or two or beaten nothing other than also-rans.
But first of all, we’re seven games (more than 630 minutes, if you want to think about it that way) into the season. And Granada has a 2-0 win over Barcelona and has only lost once. That, along with their goal differential*, should give them more respect, but for whatever reason, it isn’t happening, at least not yet.
*Speaking of goal differential in Spain, guess who is tied for first in that department at +7?? If you said Villarreal, you’re either a liar or a fan of the eighth-place team.
So who are these guys?
Now, if you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned Granada’s players or how they’ve piled up 14 points, let’s just it’s definitely not because I haven’t gotten around to watching them play yet. That will change Saturday, but in the meantime, I can tell you it’s a balanced attack offensively: 27-year-old Antonio Puertas leads the way with three goals and is one of eight players who has contributed to the 12 goals they’ve scored. And the always-useful WhoScored profiles them here. They are managed by 38-year-old Diego Martínez, who learned under Sevilla mastermind Monchi for a number of years. This is just his second head coaching job with a top senior team after he managed Osasuna in ’17-18. You’re going to hear a lot more about Martínez if this team continues to win.
As for Real Madrid, if they’re on their game, they should have enough to get three points at home. Unfortunately for Madridistas, that’s such a big “if” that betting Granada at +750, or the draw at +480, makes a ton of sense.
It’s worth noting that FiveThirtyEight is not a Granada believer, as the site gives this team just a 10% chance to win this weekend. FiveThirtyEight also believes Granada has just an 11% chance to even finish top-four. Bulletin board material, anybody?
Barcelona-Sevilla Match Preview
A couple weeks ago, it looked like Sevilla might have a chance to not only stay in first place for a while, but build up a bit of a cushion. Through four weeks, this team had 10 points, and when it hosted RM (then on 8 points), it was a golden opportunity to make a statement. Instead, Sevilla lost that game 1-0 and followed that with a puzzling loss at Eibar. They bounced back by beating Real Sociedad last week, but head to Camp Nou a tough team to figure out.
Barcelona is coming off its first game with Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann all starting up top. It took the Catalans a while to get going vs. Inter Milan on Wednesday (and they honestly were lucky to only be down 1-0 at halftime), but Suárez scored two incredible goals, giving him three in the last 180 minutes. Messi didn’t quite look like himself (at least not in my opinion, though WhoScored, which gave him a 9.45 (!) would beg to differ). But it was still probably easily his best performance of the season, as he set up the Uruguayan for the winner in the 84th. In the process, he reminded everyone how dangerous his team is when he plays 90 minutes.
Away from Camp Nou, I’d expect Barcelona to struggle – and Sevilla at +450 would be very intriguing – but Ernesto Valverde’s team has scored 12 goals in three games in front of its home fans. The truly discouraging news for Sevilla is that Messi played just 45 minutes in those three games. Barcelona is up-and-down enough to make the draw at +325 enticing, but another home victory is the most likely outcome.