Yikes. If you had to sum up the collective performances of Spain’s Madrid’s top teams over the last week in one word, that might be your best bet.
Real Madrid getting outclassed to the extent they did against PSG on Tuesday should have been the lowlight of the week for soccer in the Spanish capital. Instead, Atletico Madrid took things to another level by losing 1-0 at home to Levante.
Fortunately, what Barcelona did while shorthanded defensively against Napoli on Thursday – the starting back line featured Oscar Mingueza, Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia and Jordi Alba – saved some face for the league. While the Catalans had to settle for a draw, they controlled the match and had several opportunities to win it. Based on the 90 minutes we saw on Thursday, Xavi’s team has a great shot to advance past Napoli in Leg 2.
The other good LaLiga/Europa League news this week included another impressive effort from Real Betis, which beat UEL foe Zenit St. Petersburg 3-2, while Real Sociedad drew RB Leipzig. Sevilla also beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-1. If getting halfway through the match-up before the Europa League round of 16 in good shape is something to brag about, then La Liga fans should feel proud.
As for this weekend, it’s hard to call any of the games below “must-see TV.” Atleti deserves your attention, I guess, if you want to see how bad things can get for Diego Simeone and Co. But Osasuna-Atleti doesn’t offer much otherwise. Then again, I didn’t see any reason to tune into Atleti-Getafe last weekend, and that turned out to be a seven-goal roller coaster ride.
If I had to pick the next-most intriguing game, I guess I’d lean toward Valencia-Barcelona. On second thought, yikes again. Now that I see that Valencia has three losses and two draws in its last five, I’m less convinced that one will be compelling.
Atleti might have officially sealed the title of most disappointing (and least predictable) team in La Liga, and nearly 40% of the ’21-22 season is yet to be played. They were lucky Wednesday’s loss to Levante took place while everyone was more focused on the big Champions League matches. This team is in a spiral, and it’s getting harder and harder to figure out when (if??) they’re going to snap out of it. With a record of 3-1-1 in their last 5, Osasuna are in form and should make life difficult for Atleti on Saturday. Since I honestly have no clue what to expect here, Both Teams To Score – Yes (-110) feels like the safest play. Given that Atleti have to feel some desperation setting in, Both Teams To Score No Draw – Yes (+195) offers good value as well.
I should probably know better after I watched Espanyol push Barcelona to the brink last weekend, but Julen Lopetegui’s side feels trustworthy enough that I like Sevilla +125 here. After a run of three consecutive draws, Sevilla beat Elche 2-0 last weekend, and their 3-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb in the UEL – with all three goals coming in the first half – impressed me.
Against a good Napoli side in the mix for the Serie A title, Barcelona deserved a win on Thursday, as they held 67% of possession and an xG edge of 1.9-0.6. That makes me confident they can handle Valencia this weekend. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (obviously) adds a lot to this team’s attack, and he combined well with Ferran Torres, who should have had multiple goals against Napoli if not for some poor finishing.
We’ll talk plenty more down the road about Torres, Aubameyang and the rest of a Barcelona squad that has quietly not lost in La Liga since Matchday 16 on December 4. I admit, however, that their 4-4-0 record over that stretch is not nearly as impressive.
Still, expect a victory this weekend – Barcelona +105. My other recommendation here to anyone feeling aggressive is Barcelona -1.5 (+265). Forgive me in advance if I’ve overreacted to Barcelona’s match against Napoli, but I like the value there.
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By faress

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