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Posted By Topic: SBOTOP: Latest Spanish Football Updates       - Views: 1757
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09-Mar 2021 Tuesday 7:28 PM (440 days ago)
nhat_lam83  1 Likes  
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La Liga: Valencia and Villarreal Fight In a Battle of Attrition

Valencia vs Villarreal

Valencia and Villarreal will open a new chapter of their derby rivalry as they go head-to-head once more at the Mestalla this weekend.

Both are coming off of tough losses in the last time out. So a win here not only will give them a sense of reprieve, but also some bragging rights as well.

In their first La Liga meeting this season last October, Villarreal came away with a victory on their home pitch.

And as of this writing, both are occupying different spots in the standings despite high expectations for them prior to this season.

Villarreal are fighting for an European qualification and they hold the solo seventh spot at the table with 37 points.

On the other hand, Valencia took a turn for the worse since they are seven notches below Villarreal with only 27 points.

So naturally, the SBOTOP betting odds would favour the Yellow Submarine to win in this contest, but can Los Che prove us otherwise?

Here in today’s preview, let us examine on how these two rivals match up this Friday night.

Talking Points

Will Valencia undergo a major overhaul?

With the way things have been going over at Valencia, it feels that big changes are about to be made sooner or later.

Los Che are already eliminated from an European qualification because of their current standing, and that effectively puts team manager Javi Gracia on the hot seat.

Good La Liga 2021 results have been hard to come by for Valencia since they’ve only won three in their last nine outings so far, and much of their problems stem from the fact that their main stars have yet to hit their stride.

Carlos Soler and Manu Vallejo have yet to re-open their accounts since early January, although they lead the team with 11 goals and five assists combined.

Uros Racic and Goncalo Guedes’ shining moments have only come few and far between for Los Che, and they have only found the back of the net twice combined this term.

Other than a potential coaching change, recent reports suggest that Valencia might welcome a new owner as well.

Malaysian prince Tunku Ismail Idris has expressed his interest in purchasing the club with the sole purpose of helping the team establish a winning culture.

The current ownership of Valencia has been widely criticised for their transactions last summer, which includes the selling of popular players Dani Parejo to Villarreal and Rodrigo to Leeds United.

Valencia fans have been clamoring for current owner Peter Lim to relinquish his rights soon, as the squad has yet to mount a significant challenge for the La Liga title since his arrival back in 2014.

Villarreal rely on their youth

The Yellow Submarine may have lost to Atletico Madrid, but Unai Emery is content with how his undermanned group brought the fight against the La Liga leaders.

Chances came in bunches for Villarreal given that they had 64-per cent possession. However, they simply couldn’t capitalise.

One standout performer for Villarreal in this game was Samuel Chukwueze as he was superb in his return to the starting XI.

Samuel Chukwueze got his first La Liga start since his recovery in Villarreal's loss to Atletico

Atletico Madrid’s Mario Hermoso in action with Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze

The 21-year-old winger created multiple chances for the team and he will be relied on to do so in the next few games.

Him, Pau Torres, Pervis Estupinan, and Juan Foyth are expected to soak in major minutes in this upcoming match as Villarreal continue to deal with their injuries.

History

Prior to Friday night, Los Che and the Yellow Submarine have played so far in 48 games.

Valencia have the slight advantage in the overall head-to-heads with 20 wins, while Villarreal are close with 18 wins along with 10 draws.

In their previous matchup, Villarreal outplayed Valencia despite being reduced to 10 men en route to a 2-1 victory, thanks to goals from Paco Alcacer and Dani Parejo while Goncalo Guedes scored one in the losing effort.

Betting Tip

??
Valencia vs Villarreal Villarreal Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 1.81
March 06, 04:00 (GMT+8)

Surprisingly, the La Liga 2021 odds point to a tight derby contest between Valencia and Villarreal.

Villarreal are backed to win at 2.09, while Valencia aren’t far behind at 3.50 and a draw is priced at 3.30 in the 1×2 market.

Despite facing injury problems, Unai Emery should have enough tools at his disposal to pull out another derby win this weekend.

Valencia might spring an upset if they catch Villarreal on an off night offensively. However, it is not likely to happen since they are fragile on the defensive end.

The pressure is on for Los Che to emerge victorious since a defeat here will pull them closer to entering the dreaded relegation zone.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

●●●

CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 09-Mar-2021 at 7:28 PM





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09-Mar 2021 Tuesday 7:30 PM (440 days ago)            #2
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La Liga: Atleti Can Keep Their Distance In Madrid Derby

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

All roads lead to Madrid on Sunday afternoon when La Liga leaders Atletico are set to meet archrivals Real at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid is one of the outstanding European matches on offer this weekend, alongside the Manchester Derby in the Premier League, Der Klassiker in the Bundesliga, and Serie A fans have Juventus vs Lazio to look forward to.

What a weekend!

Here at SBOTOPwe’re backing Los Rojiblancos who are currently five points clear to win the Spanish title at odds of 1.50, with Real at 6.00, while Barcelona have snuck into second place at 5.00.

The Blaugrana are showing signs they are up for a fight since they’ve been on a good run in the league and in the Copa del Rey final after turning over a two-goal deficit to beat Sevilla in the semifinal.

If Diego Simeone’s Atleti can take a least a point from this game, they will still be on track. A win would all but see off the Los Blancos’ challenge, but a defeat would blow the title race wide open.

Talking Points

Are Los Rojblancos over their stutter?

After two disappointing results — a 2-0 home defeat to Levante in the league and then a first leg deficit to Chelsea in the Champions League — Diego Simeone’s league leaders responded last week with an impressive 2-0 win away to a dangerous Villarreal as Joao Felix climbed off the bench to settle the match with his seventh league goal of the season.

It was a crucial result for Los Rojiblancos not just in terms of their lead at the top of the table, but it restored their self belief which has been so evident throughout the campaign.

Luis Suarez has been the epitome of Atleti’s confidence. As one of the European signings of the year, he has bagged 16 goals and is second in the race for the Golden Boot behind his old strike partner Lionel Messi who has 19.

The Uruguayan has been well supported by makeshift striker Marcos Llorente who has weighed in with eight goals and five assists, while Felix is improving all the time and Argentine winger Angel Correa has scored four goals and made five assists.

Add into the mix the class of Saul Niguez and Los Rojiblancos have bucket loads of creative talent, while centre-back Stefan Savic has been uncompromising at the back to make the Atleti defence as solid as ever.

Real sweating on fitness of Benzema

The latest Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid betting odds have Los Blancos as favourites to win this monumental clash by a wafer thin margin, but much depends on the fitness of top scorer Karim Benzema.

Real Madrid failed to close the distance between them and Atletico Madrid after dropping points last week in La Liga

Karim Benzema in action during Real Madrid’s 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid last December

Young star Vinicius Junior came off the bench to score a late goal against Real Sociedad last week and salvage a point for Los Blancos. But Benzema, with 12 goals and five assists, is the main man and he been sorely missed.

His side has scored just a single goal without him in each of the last three games and head coach Zinedine Zidane is hoping he has shaken off his groin injury.

If there is any doubt then Vinicius could be in for a start, while utility forward Isco remains an option.

Los Blancos will try to dominate the middle of the park and to stem the flow of supply to Suarez, and Casemiro is a key man defencively and in attack.

He’s scored five goals while picking up eight yellow cards in his all action displays while the experienced Toni Kroos can always pick a pass, making six assists so far in this campaign.

History

When it comes to the head-to-head Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid results, Los Blancos have had much the better of the 69 meetings since 1993 – winning 38, drawing 19, and losing just 12.

Real are unbeaten against their city rivals in four games in all competitions and won the corresponding league match at the Santiago Bernabeu 2-0, thanks to a Casemiro header and an own goal from Jan Oblak.

The Atleti keeper was unlucky when the ball bounced off him into the net after a fierce strike from Dani Carvajal came back off the post.

Despite the absence of crowds, Atleti are strong at home this season – winning nine, drawing three, and losing just one in that surprise defeat to Levante two weeks ago.

Betting Tip

??
Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid Atletico Madrid Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 1.96
March 7, 23:15 (GMT+8)

At 2.59, Los Blancos are marginal favourites to win this clash. Atleti, meanwhile, are at 2.64 and the draw at 2.97.

If Benzema makes the start, then that might give Real the edge. But Atleti are clear at the top of the league for a reason and if they are back to their best, they will keep their neighbours at arms length.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

●●●

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 09-Mar-2021 at 7:31 PM





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09-Mar 2021 Tuesday 7:33 PM (440 days ago)            #3
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La Liga: Soler and Guedes’ One-Two Punch Gives Valencia Vital Win

Valencia 2-1 Villarreal

Javi Gracia’s coaching job appears to be safe for now as Valencia picked up a much-needed victory at the Mestalla last Friday evening.

After trailing for almost the whole game, Carlos Soler and Goncalo Guedes conspired to overturn their deficit by scoring one goal apiece in the game’s late stages to beat their visiting neighbours.

The Yellow Submarine were in firm control the whole night, but complacency and fatigue got the better of them as they were caught off guard by the grittier Valencia squad. 

With the derby win, Los Che have moved up to the 11th spot in the La Liga table – now level with Celta Vigo and Athletic Bilbao and their La Liga 2021 odds of maintaining their top-flight status have increased dramatically. 

Meanwhile for Villarreal, they remain at the seventh spot with 37 points. However, Unai Emery won’t be pleased at the fact that they remain winless in the last few matchdays.

This game turned out to be the battle of attrition that we expected since both clubs were hungry for a win. And here at SBOTOP, we take a look at last night’s package of La Liga 2021 highlights. 

Highlights of the game

Javi Gracia tried a different approach in his starting lineup, whereas Unai Emery stuck to his old rotation during their loss against Atletico Madrid.

Valencia inserted seldom-used Lee Kang-In alongside Maxi Gomez as their main strikers, with Daniel Wass and Alex Blanco on the right and left flanks.

Moreover, Gracia mixed youth and experience at the back with Hugo Guillamon, Thierry Correia, Jose Gaya, and Gabriel Paulista.

Early on, Villarreal were in the driver’s seat as Dani Parejo and Samuel Chukwueze generated a couple of chances, but their shots went over and wide. On the other hand, Valencia’s Lee Kang-In had his first shot on target that tested Sergio Asenjo.

Fast forward to the 36th minute, Villarreal had another chance when Paco Alcacer found himself open in the penalty area but his low shot was saved again and Gerard Moreno failed to connect with the rebound.

The referees signalled for a penalty kick in favour of Villarreal as Jose Gaya was judged to have handballed inside the box in the previous sequence. That call was crucial as it basically gifted Villarreal a goal care of Gerard Moreno. 

Villarreal almost doubled their lead in the 44th minute when Samuel Chukwueze found Paco Alcacer inside the box, but Jasper Cillessen’s foot got in the way of his shot for a nice save. 

Valencia controlled the possession in the second half, but Villarreal had another chance to double their lead. 

Valencia’s 2-1 victory over Villarreal moves them up to 11th place of the La Liga table

Valencia CF’s Maxi Gomez and Gabriel Paulista reacts during match against Villarreal CF at Estadio Mestalla.

In the 64th minute, Manu Trigueros’ through-ball found Gerard Moreno and he forced another save from Jasper Cillessen.

Valencia were growing desperate to score goals and they would finally capitalise after getting their chance.

Maxi Gomez drew a penalty call when Moi Gomez held him down and Carlos Soler scored the equaliser in the 86th minute. 

Valencia would claim the lead for good in added time through Goncalo Guedes, who found the back of the net via a powerful left foot strike after some poor defending by the visitors.

Key statistics

This was a letdown performance for the Yellow Submarine overall as most game statistics were in their favour.

Villarreal had more total shots (25) and controlled 53-per cent of the possession, but Valencia were the more efficient group since they had more shots on target (5).

Carlos Soler finally broke his scoring drought that lasted for almost two months. He now has seven goals and five assists this season. Goncalo Guedes, on the other hand, now has two goals and one assist.

Gerard Moreno remains as Villarreal’s top scorer with 17 goals under his belt.

With last night’s loss, Unai Emery’s side is now winless in their last eight league games.

What’s next?

Villarreal will have little time to recoup given their grueling schedule.

On Thursday, they will fly over to Ukraine to take on Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie in the Europa League. 

After that, they’ll visit the Municipal de Ipurua to lock horns with Eibar on Sunday. And then the second leg of their Europa League matchup versus Dynamo Kiev will be on March 19.

As for Valencia, they are slated to clash with Levante on Sunday before hosting Granada on March 21.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 09-Mar-2021 at 7:33 PM





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09-Mar 2021 Tuesday 7:37 PM (440 days ago)            #4
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La Liga: Benzema’s Late Strike Denies Atleti a Huge Derby Win

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Real Madrid

An 88th-minute goal converted by Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid a share of the spoils at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium to keep their La Liga title hopes alive.

This huge clash, La Liga: Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid, was a chance for Los Rojiblancos to put some distance between them and their city rivals, and they had the perfect start when Luis Suarez gave them a 15th-minute lead. But Benzema popped up with a late, late show to peg the league leaders back.

The Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid highlights tells a story of a wide-open game with chances at both ends. Los Rojiblancos will be disappointed not to have held on, though Real remain five points off the pace and have played a game more than Diego Simeone’s men.

Atletico Madrid drop points following their 1-1 draw against Real Madrid

Luis Suarez celebrates with Atletico Madrid teammates after scoring their opening goal against Real Madrid


 

Highlights of the game

The hosts got off to a flying start and the Los Blancos defence had to be on their game from the first whistle to block an effort from Koke and then a fierce shot from Suarez.

Young striker Joao Felix climbed off the bench to score a crucial goal in Atleti’s victory over Villarreal last week and he had to settle for a seat again at the beginning of this game as Diego Simeone started with Suarez and Marcos Llorente upfront. It’s a tried and tested pair and it produced once more with just a quarter of an hour on the clock when Llorente teed up Suarez for his 17th goal of the season and his own sixth assist.

Real responded as expected and Karim Benzema, back from injury, rose to meet a cross from Casemiro but his header drifted wide of Jan Oblak’s post. Benzema then picked up a cross from Marco Asensio and fired just wide. Midfielder Luka Modric was the next to try his luck with a long-range effort but he got underneath his shot and it flew over.

Casemiro brought a save out of Oblak with a long-range effort then, as Atleti began to fight back, Thibaut Courtois had to be alert to stop an angled drive from Suarez.

The second half saw the action continue to swing from end to end and Atleti almost doubled their lead early on when Suarez set up Yannick Carrasco whose shot was saved by Courtois in the bottom right corner. Real Madrid’s Nacho had a header from close range saved and then Angel Correa came close for Atleti with a left-foot effort which whistled narrowly wide.

Felix made an appearance with a quarter of the game remaining and his first act was to carve out an opening for Suarez for Courtois to save in the bottom corner.

Real pushed again and Vinicius Junior fired a shot narrowly wide and then Raphael Varane joined the attack and had his shot saved by Oblak. Benzema missed a good chance with ten minutes remaining and as the game became stretched Felix earned a yellow card when he chopped down Ferland Mendy, but Oblak saved Benzema’s dead ball kick.

Then, when Atleti looked to have three crucial points in the bag, Benzema found space in the penalty area and kept his cool to smash the equaliser home and his 13th goal of the season.

Key statistics

The Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid betting odds here at SBOTOP offered 2.97 on the draw and in the end it as a fair result.

The half time stats gave Los Blancos the edge in terns of possession (53 per cent) and shots at six to four, but Atleti were more incisive with two shots on target to Real’s one.

Zinedine Zidane’s side turned things around after the break, eventually winning the shot count by 18 to 11 and deserved their late leveller.

What’s next?

Barcelona’s victory away to Osasuna on Saturday reduced the gap at the top of La Liga to two points and, now just three behind this was the perfect result for the Blaugrana.

So the title race is well and truly on. Next up Los Rojiblancos are at home to Athletic Bilbao in midweek before taking a trip to Getafe.

Real Madrid are at home to Elche, and then they have a Champions League Round of 16 tie against Atalanta to complete. They hold a slender 1-0 lead which is unlikely to be enough to hold off the free-scoring Italians.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 09-Mar-2021 at 7:38 PM





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17-Mar 2021 Wednesday 2:24 PM (432 days ago)            #5
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La Liga: Atleti’s Title Charge Heads to Getafe

Getafe vs Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone takes his Atletico Madrid across town on Saturday to take on Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, in a game they need to win to keep their 2021 La Liga title plans on track.

With Barcelona on a hot streak of form in the league, Atleti need to keep their nerve and momentum. The Blaugrana are out of the Champions League, having failed to haul themselves back from a three-goal deficit against Paris Saint-Germain, and will concentrate all their efforts on claiming back the domestic league title.

The SBOTOP La Liga odds tell us Barca is the team Atleti needs to watch out for, but on Saturday they will be concentrating solely on Madrid minnows Getafe, a team in strife and desperate for points.

Talking points

Getafe slipping into peril

After a solid start to the 2020/21 campaign, Getafe have hit the rocks and now found themselves looking over their shoulders, with a five-point cushion to the relegation places but dropping like a stone. Defeat to fellow strugglers Real Valladolid last week made it five losses in six league games and this is quite a fall for Head Coach Pepe Bordalas, whose side was fifth in the table last season, with 45 points at this stage, and ended up eighth, narrowly missing out on a European place.

Two weeks ago Getafe showed signs of a recovery with a 3-0 victory over Valencia, as 32-year old Jaime Mata scored his fifth league goal of the season. He forms part of an experienced front two, alongside 33-year old Angel Rodriguez who also has five goals, and if they both get near to double figures then Getafe should be okay.

Cucho Hernandez, on loan from English Championship club Watford, has made four assists and he will stretch the Atleti defence, while Getafe’s own rearguard is marshalled by their uncompromising skipper Djene, who has already picked up six yellow cards and two reds in this campaign.

La Liga: Getafe will host Atletico Madrid at Coliseum Alfonso Perez

Cucho Hernandez in action for Getafe against Real Madrid

Suarez could be the signing of the year

Los Rojiblacos were at home to Athletic Club on Wednesday night and came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Marcos Llorente. The victory took Simeone’s team six points clear at the top of La Liga as Llorente made it nine goals for the season.

But it’s the 18 league goals scored by Suarez that have written the La Liga 2021 news headlines and fired Atleti to a very strong position in their quest for a first La Liga title since 2014. They have finished in the top three ever since but Simeone is determined to take his team back to the very top again.

Signing Suarez was a masterstroke.

The Uruguayan was dumped by Barca boss Ronald Koeman before the start of the season, and that might just be the biggest mistake the Dutchman has made in his managerial career. The Blaugrana are out of Europe and trailing the league leaders by six points, while Suarez is right in the hunt for the Golden Boot, just a single goal behind his old mate Lionel Messi and with the only ratio of goals-per-minute under 100, at 99, while Messi has scored a goal every 107 minutes.

Suarez has the best goal conversion too, scoring 31 per cent of his 59 shots while Messi stands at 19 per cent.

Atleti could have been in an even better position had they not been held to a draw in the Madrid derby last week, when Karim Benzema equalised with just two minutes left on the clock.

In defence, while Jose Gimenez remains injured, wing-back Kieran Trippier is hitting top form again and is a useful weapon in attack, making four assists so far this season.

History

Los Rojiblancos have won two-thirds of their meetings with Getafe this century, 24 from 36, while drawing eight and losing four, and have gone seven games unbeaten against their neighbours.

In the last match of 2020 Atleti beat Getafe 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano, in fact Simeone’s side have won the last six meetings, three by a 2-0 scoreline and three by 1-0.

And the league leaders are tough to beat on the road, unbeaten in five matches away from home.

Betting Tip

??
Getafe vs Atletico Madrid 1X2 Atletico Madrid @ 2.03
March 14, 04:00 (GMT+8)

With the draw at 3.05 and Getafe at 4.00, the Getafe vs Atletico Madrid betting odds tell us all three results are right in play here; but while Getafe need to stop their rot, Atleti have an equal, if not greater, need and a deeper squad, with star man Suarez in scoring mood.

I expect the pattern of the last six meetings to continue and for a score-line, 0-1 is available at odds of 4.36 with 0-2 at 7.72.

Take your pick!

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

●●●

CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS

Stay updated with everything sports and betting.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 17-Mar-2021 at 2:24 PM





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17-Mar 2021 Wednesday 2:29 PM (432 days ago)            #6
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La Liga: Levante and Valencia Gear Up For Another Derby Battle

evante vs Valencia

The Derby del Turia will be a key La Liga match to watch out for this weekend as two proud Spanish top-flight clubs look to climb their way up into the upper half of the standings.

Levante own the slight edge since they are 11th at the table with 32 points, whereas Valencia are right below them at 12th with 30 points.

Valencia are fresh from a win over Villarreal in the last time out and they will be aiming to make it two wins in a row for the first time this season.

On the other hand, Levante will be looking for some home comfort after enduring a narrow defeat to Real Sociedad last Monday.

It is clear that both clubs need to step up given their lacklustre campaigns so far. Valencia in particular were expected to be at least in contention for an European qualification, but they have yet to fully hit their stride.

The hosts, meanwhile, have shown some flashes of what they are capable of but their recent La Liga 2021 results have hindered them from achieving their full potential.

Today at SBOTOP, we examine these two teams here in our match preview.

Talking Points

Levante look to shake off their inconsistency

Paco Lopez is hopeful that his team will turn things around soon given that they had a miserable month last February.

Levante only won one of their last eight matches and they were recently eliminated in the Copa del Rey semifinals by Athletic Bilbao in a 3-2 aggregate.

Levante's Enis Bardhi is looking for an opportunity to score in their La Liga game vs Bilbao

Levante’s Enis Bardhi in action with Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Nunez

Their sole win in the said stretch was their upset against Atletico Madrid last February 20 as the Frogs caught Los Rojiblancos on an off night defensively.

Los Granotas enjoyed an own goal from Mario Hermoso and a late score by Jorge de Frutos and their backline stood firm against the La Liga leaders who had 28 total shots.

Needless to say that Levante need to replicate such form on a more consistent basis in order for them to move up at the table.

Levante can go to as high as the eighth place should things go according to plan.

Los Granotas need to grab a victory here versus Valencia and then Athletic Bilbao, Celta Vigo, and Granada would have to lose or draw their respective games in order to earn the points advantage.

Unfortunately for them, however, their midfield depth will take a hit as Jose Campana, Gonzalo Melero, and Nemanja Radoja are likely to sit out due to injuries, while they will also miss a key defender in Sergio Postigo.

Valencia need to solve their road woes

I initially thought that their last game would’ve been Javi Gracia’s last act, but a vital win over Villarreal put him out on the hot seat for now.

Their game against the Yellow Submarine was a hard-earned one especially since it was a heated affair.

opacity 0


PREMIER LEAGUE

Carlos Soler, Uros Racic, Maxi Gomez, and Jose Gaya were all booked for yellows and all of them will miss this upcoming game since they’ll have to serve their one-game suspensions.

Yunus Musah, Kevin Gameiro, Toni Lato, Christian Oliva, and Lee Kang-In are likely to be called upon to fill in the void, while Goncalo Guedes will be tasked to pull out his shooting boots once more.

Valencia have failed to win 22 of their last 24 road games here in La Liga, making them the underdogs in this contest.

History

Over the years, Valencia have had a good head-to-head record over Levante.

In their 28 matches together, Los Che have won 14 times while Los Granotas managed only nine victories along with five draws.

Their earlier meeting last September was arguably one of the best matches we’ve seen to kick off the 2020/21 season.

Jose Luis Morales’ brace almost gave Levante the victory, but Gabriel Paulista, Maxi Gomez, and Dani Parejo conspired to complete the 4-2 win for Los Che.

Betting Tip

??
Levante vs Valencia Levante Asian Handicap -0.00 @ 1.59
March 13, 04:00 (GMT+8)

The La Liga 2021 odds favour the home side to come away with the three points this weekend.

Levante are backed to win at 2.17, while Valencia are priced to win at 3.20 and chances for a draw are at 3.35 in the 1X2 market.

Given their win last week, Los Che will be brimming with confidence going into this game and they will be eager to prove themselves yet again.

However, their putrid form on the road is quite alarming and much of their last week’s lineup will miss this game because of suspensions, leaving Javi Gracia in a difficult position.

Levante too are undermanned but Paco Lopez should have enough weapons to carry out another home victory.

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17-Mar 2021 Wednesday 2:32 PM (432 days ago)            #7
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La Liga: Bragging Rights Up For Grabs In El Gran Derbi

Sevilla vs Real Betis

This upcoming matchday of the La Liga will offer us another fun contest as Sevilla take on Real Betis at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium on Sunday night.

Sevilla and Real Betis add another chapter to their storied rivalry here at the 100th edition of the El Gran Derbi.

These two squads will fight tooth and nail since we are approaching the latter part of the 2020/21 La Liga season.

As of the moment, the hosts are perched at the fourth spot with 48 points, while two notches below them are Real Betis, who are six points adrift with 42 points.

Sevilla have been struggling to find their form lately, while Real Betis are on a roll and are gunning for their fifth straight league win.

In the last time that they met, both sides shared the spoils in what was a grinded-out affair. But who will come out on top this time?

As always, SBOTOP has you covered with today’s match preview.

Talking Points

Sevilla aim to break out of their slump

It has been a bad stretch for Los Palanganas as the losses piled up over this last month.

After starting the 2021 year with a bang highlighted by a huge win streak last January, Julen Lopetegui’s men are now losers of four consecutive games in all competitions.

Barcelona whipped them twice in the league and in the Copa del Rey semifinals via an aggregate of 5-0, and then they lost to Elche 2-1 to start March.

Most recently, they were also eliminated in the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund as Erling Haaland has been relentless in scoring.

Youssef En-Nesyri and Sevilla are eager to get the three points in this week’s La Liga

Youssef En-Nesyri heads their second goal against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League

In the said stretch, Youssef En-Nesyri has been the only bright spot for Julen Lopetegui as he continues to create memorable La Liga 2021 highlights for Sevilla.

The Moroccan forward now has 19 goals and he is in the running for the Pichichi trophy. However, he is the only one in the team who has reached double digits in scoring.

En-Nesyri can’t do it all alone and he may need to draw out additional production from the the talented trio of Luuk de Jong, Munir El Haddadi, and Lucas Ocampo.

The good news for Sevilla is that their roster is almost at 100-per cent. Their only absentee for this match will be Aleix Vidal, who is currently nursing a hamstring knock.

Real Betis face a big test

Los Verdiblancos are on an excellent run as they are enjoying a four-game winning streak.

After losing to Barcelona last February, Real Betis bounced back with wins against Villarreal, Getafe, Cadiz, and Alaves.

The main reason why Real Betis have been successful is because of the re-emergence of Nabil Fekir.

Pellegrini’s trust in him has paid off as the Frenchman stood out with his leadership while offering a creative source in the midfield.

Against Alaves, Fekir fought through pain and he played well despite being bothered by a muscular injury. He inspired his team to a comeback victory by holding his ground in the middle with his precise passes and ability to draw fouls.

Him and Sergio Canales will need to be at their best in this upcoming match especially facing the likes of Joan Jordan, Suso, and Ivan Rakitic.

History

Sevilla and Real Betis have shared a rich history together that has lasted for more than a hundred years.

The first ever El Gran Derbi happened in October 1915 where Sevilla came away with a 4-3 victory at their home pitch.

Since then, these two clubs went on to have 98 more encounters. Prior to their 100th game this weekend, Los Palanganas have 46 wins while Los Verdiblancos have won 30 times along with 22 draws.

Sevilla are undefeated in their last four league games against Real Betis. Their last loss came in 2018 when Pablo Machin was still in charge.

Betting Tip

??
Sevilla vs Real Betis Under 2.50 @ 1.78
March 15, 04:00 (GMT+8)

The La Liga 2021 odds bat for the hosts to come away with a win. However, this game can go either way.

In the 1×2 market, Sevilla hold the edge as they are priced at 2.05, while Real Betis are pegged at 3.50 and chances for a draw are at 3.40.

Normally in rivalries like these, recent form and statistics get thrown out of the window. However, the one thing that is certain is that we will see a defensive slugfest similar to their earlier meeting this term, making Under 2.50 @ 2.38 the likeliest possibility.

Real Betis will certainly try to take advantage of Sevilla’s cold spell. However, with the hosts having key players back from injury, they are in a much better position to draw out a positive result.

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17-Mar 2021 Wednesday 2:38 PM (432 days ago)            #8
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La Liga: Atletico Feeling Pressure as Lead Shrinks Further

Atletico Madrid are feeling the pressure at the top of La Liga. The leaders dropped two more points away to Getafe over the weekend, which has seen their advantage shrink to six points. And chances are it will go down to just four points with red-hot Barcelona likely to beat bottom-club Huesca.

The Rojiblancos’ form has been rocky over the last few weeks, which has allowed rivals Real Madrid and Barca to claw their way back to the title race. Real kept the pressure up on their city rivals by getting another win as star striker Karim Benzema came to their rescue with two late goals.

Meanwhile, Villarreal ended their long winless run to keep their hopes of grabbing a Europa League spot alive.

Read on below as SBOTOP goes through the key takeaways from the latest round of fixtures in Spain’s La Liga.

Atleti drop more points as pressure continues to build

Atletico Madrid suffered another setback to their title hopes as they were held to a goalless draw away at Getafe. Despite the hosts going down to 10 men with 20 minutes left, Atleti still could not find a way through.

Atleti’s La Liga 2021 results since February have been quite disappointing. They’ve won just three of eight league matches, with four draws.

Granted, one of those was a draw to rivals Real in the derby, but they were up with just two minutes left and once again gave up a late goal to drop two crucial points.

Meanwhile, they continue to rely heavily on Luis Suarez to supply their goals. To the 34-year-old’s credit, he is playing as well as one could expect for someone of his age. He has 18 goals in 24 league appearances this season and had scored in each of his last two games prior to the Getafe draw.

Marcos Llorente has also exceeded all expectations with nine goals and eight assists. But young Joao Felix, on the other hand, has not been able to continue the impressive form he showed at the start of the season. He is contributing very little of late, which adds even more pressure to score on Suarez’s shoulders.

Atleti will face Chelsea in the Champions League in midweek and need to overturn a 1-0 deficit. But with the way their league form has dipped, perhaps crashing out of Europe might be a blessing in disguise for Diego Simeone’s side as they can put their full focus on the La Liga title race.

Benzema proves once again he’s the Real MVP

Not to be outdone by 34-year-old Suarez, 33-year-old Karim Benzema is also having an unbelievable season for Real. After popping up with a late equaliser against Atleti in the derby, Benzema rescued Real once again with a late brace to complete a comeback win over relegation-strugglers Elche.

Karim Benzema scores a goal against Elche to take Real Madrid closer to Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table

Real Madrid star Karim Benzema celebrates with Rodrygo after scoring a goal in their La Liga match against Elche

Benzema has now scored five goals in his last four games and three in two since returning from injury. He has 15 goals in 23 league games overall and is by far Real’s most valuable player this season.

Real’s other forwards — Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, Mariano — have been so disappointing, which is why they continue to rely so heavily on the 33-year-old Frenchman.

The fact that Real are still even in the title race given their lack of other capable attackers is a testament to Benzema’s sheer brilliance. Not only does he put the ball in the back of the net, but he is also integral in creating chances for his team-mates.

Despite Atleti’s recent stumbles, it will still be a tough task for Real to claw back a six-point deficit with 11 games to go. But as long as Benzema stays fit, Los Blancos’ La Liga 2021 odds of retaining their title will remain alive.

Three-way battle for Europa League getting tighter

Villarreal finally snapped their disastrous run of eight-straight La Liga games without a win as they beat Eibar 3-1 away.

Someone other than Gerard Moreno finally scored for the Yellow Submarine as Moi Gomez, Carlos Bacca, and Alfonso Pedraza got the goals. Although, Moreno still played a big part in the win as he assisted on two of those goals. Prior to that match, Moreno had scored Villarreal’s last five goals over five matches.

That win proved even bigger as the two clubs directly ahead of Villarreal — Real Sociedad in fifth and Real Betis in sixth — both lost. Villarreal are now five points back of La Real and two points from Betis in the race for the final Europa League spot.

Of course, Villarreal are still alive in this year’s competition, which could complicate the rest of their league campaign. But with the in-form Moreno leading the line, the Yellow Submarine are still capable of pushing Sociedad and Betis all the way.

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22-Mar 2021 Monday 7:06 PM (427 days ago)            #9
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La Liga: Alaves at Home is a Must Win for Atletico

Atletico Madrid vs Alaves

When Atletico Madrid welcome Deportivo Alaves to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday there will be plenty of nerves on show.

This is a high pressure match for both teams at either end of the table. Diego Simeone’s Atleti were in a commanding position at the top but recent La Liga 2021 results have not gone in their favour. Barcelona’s four-match winning run has cut Atleti’s lead to just four points at the summit of La Liga and, with both teams out of European competition, there will be an almighty battle for the league title between the Madrid and Catalan giants.

Meanwhile Alaves arrive in Madrid on the back of a wretched run which has dumped them in the bottom three and with time running out…the stakes are high.

Talking Points

Atleti feeling the pressure

The Wanda Metropolitano isn’t such a relaxed place to be at the moment and things are getting a little edgy as Los Rojiblancos try to round off a phenomenal season with a league triumph. They dropped more points in a draw away to Getafe last week, failing to beat ten men after Allan Nyom was sent off mid way through the second half. Los Rojiblancos had 15 shots and seven on target but they just couldn’t breach a resolute Getafe rearguard.

And a late, late equaliser from Karim Benzema denied Atleti all three points in the recent Madrid derby; I wonder how important that could be come May.

Luis Suarez is the man to fire Atleti to glory, he has 18 goals already and has looked sharp all season, while Joao Felix, with seven goals, can have a big impact on the run-in too, starting on Sunday. The strikers can invariably count on their defence to perform; now it’s up to them.

Atletico made a Champions League exit against Chelsea on Wednesday night, 3-0 on aggregate to Thomas Tuchel’s side despite having a fair share of the possession and attempts on goal, and I expect them to rediscover their cutting edge against Alaves.

The very latest La Liga 2021 betting odds still back Simeone’s men, but no longer heavily odds on and, with the Catalans breathing down their necks, anything but a victory over Alaves could shift the momentum towards Barcelona.

Alaves in relegation peril

La Liga: Joselu is the top scorer of Deportivo Alaves

Joselu celebrates after scoring against Real Valladolid

Since beating Real Valladolid 1-0 early in February Alaves have been on a five match winless run which has left them in a perilous position in 18th place in the league table. Following that win Alaves were thumped 5-1 by Barcelona and then 4-0 by Real Sociedad and that’s a decent benchmark for Atletico, who should have some joy against such a leaky defence.

At the other end of the pitch the hosts will need to keep an eye on former Newcastle United striker Joselu who has some pedigree, having advanced through the academy ranks at Real Madrid and represented Spain at U21 level. He’s bagged seven goals so far this season, including the vital winner against Valladolid, and he should end up with double figures. The other threat comes from veteran forward Lucas Perez who has weighed in with four goals and three assists.

Head coach Abelardo Fernadez returned to the Basque country club at the start of the season hoping to improve on last term’s 16th placed finish, but he’d certainly take that now!

History

Alaves have had a fair amount of success against their illustrious opponents over the years, winning four and drawing four of the last 17 meetings while Atleti have won nine. But more recently Los Rojiblancos have been in charge.

Simeone’s side won 2-1 away to Alaves in the first game of the calendar year, thanks to a 90th minute winner from Suarez. Victor Laguardia was sent off for Alaves who had a flurry of late chances, but the win took Atleti to the top of the table.

Atletico have won five of the last six meetings and drawn the other. And, when playing at home, haven’t lost to Alaves in five encounters.

Betting Tip

??
Atletico Madrid vs Alaves Atletico Madrid Asian Handicap -1.50 @ 2.31
March 22, 01:30 (GMT+8)

At SBOTOP odds of 1.38 Los Rojiblancos are hot favourites to get their title challenge back on track, with the draw at 4.36 and Alaves at 7.34.

Simeone’s side haven’t been short of chances in recent games, they just haven’t converted enough, and against a defence which will be more generous than Chelsea’s they should have more joy.

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22-Mar 2021 Monday 7:12 PM (427 days ago)            #10
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La Liga: Here Come the Blaugrana

Real Sociedad vs Barcelona

Barcelona stake their unbeaten run here in La Liga when they take on Real Sociedad this Sunday.

The Catalan giants are hitting their stride after a lacklustre start to their campaign as they are enjoying a four-game winning streak.

Ronald Koeman’s men have moved up to the second spot at the table with 59 points and they can add more pressure to league leaders Atletico Madrid — who have 63 points — if they’ll win in this fixture.

But they’ll face a tricky test in Real Sociedad who are unbeaten in four of their last five matches. La Real can definitely put a dent on Barcelona’s title hopes despite being few places below them.

Imanol Alguacil’s men see this too as a must-win match since they are chasing for an European qualification this term.

Real Sociedad are trying to stay afloat at the fifth spot with 45 points, but you can expect Real Betis and Villarreal to snatch their spot if they’ll have a slip-up.

Here at SBOTOP, we take a look at this highly-anticipated clash between these two strong clubs.

Talking Points

Real Sociedad hanging tight at fifth

Imanol Alguacil know that they are in a precarious position despite their decent form as of late.

La Real are level with the sixth-seeded Real Betis, who are also experiencing a similar run over these last few league fixtures.

After being humiliated by Manchester United to show themselves out of the Europa League, Real Sociedad bounced back nicely by picking up several encouraging La Liga 2021 results.

For this month, Real Sociedad held Real Madrid to a draw and they eked out a win over Levante.

However, last week, they lost to Granada as they couldn’t muster enough viable chances.

The troubling trend for this club is their lacklustre attack. In stark contrast to their hot streak earlier this season, goals have become hard to come by for Imanol Alguacil’s wards.

Real Sociedad are winless in their last nine La Liga games against Barcelona with 2 draws and 7 losses

Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak fights for the ball against Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane

But they do have quality pieces that can light it up on any given day. Alexander Isak, Mikel Oyarzabal, and Portu form a lethal trio that can outpace or outmuscle any defender, and they also have creative playmakers in Mikel Merino and David Silva.

Furthermore, La Real will have to avoid surrendering the first goal to stay in the game especially against the Blaugrana since they have failed to secure a win in eight previous instances (D4, L4).

Barcelona are peaking at the right time

Barcelona will look to make it eight wins in a row in all competitions when they pay a visit to Sociedad this weekend.

After experiencing turmoil on and off the pitch, the Catalan giants have finally turned their season around as they have yet to lose in 2021.

Lionel Messi may receive the plaudits because of his class and leadership, but he’s been getting help from several teammates.

Jordi Alba and Antoine Griezmann sprinkled goals to give Barca another dimension to their offence, while their youngsters in Pedri, Francisco Trincao, and Ilaix Moriba offered flashes of their high potential.

In the management side of things, Joan Laporta returned to his old post as the club’s president, and that certainly gave Lionel Messi a newfound motivation.

Ronald Koeman’s first managerial season with the Catalan giants may have been a huge rollercoaster, but he should be given his due because of his ability to adapt.

History

Recent form and history suggest that the Catalan giants will cruise past La Real yet again.

Barcelona have dominated this head-to-head matchup as they are unbeaten in their last five league meetings (W4, D1).

With Ronald Koeman at the coaching helm, Barcelona have beaten Imanol Alguacil’s side twice this term.

They came away with a 2-1 triumph in their reverse league fixture, while they bested Real Sociedad in the penalty shootout during their last January tiff to eliminate them in the Supercopa semis.

Betting Tip

??
Real Sociedad vs Barcelona Barcelona Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 1.78
March 22, 04:00 (GMT+8)

Given their recent surge, Barcelona are the big favourites coming into this game according to the latest La Liga 2021 odds.

The Blaugrana are priced at 2.01,while Real Sociedad are placed at 3.60 and chances for a draw are at 3.40 in the 1×2 market.

Ronald Koeman’s side have been in incredible form as of late and they should have enough quality and depth to pull out another victory.

Real Sociedad may score a goal or two given their own set of topnotch footballers, but it is highly unlikely that they can nullify Barcelona’s overwhelming firepower.

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23-Mar 2021 Tuesday 1:58 PM (426 days ago)            #11
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La Liga: Madrid Giants Win While a Scoring Keeper Saves Sevilla

Atletico Madrid’s La Liga title push stayed on track, just, as Diego Simeone’s side saw off a stern challenge from strugglers Alaves thanks to a Luis Suarez goal and a Jan Oblak penalty save.

Late on Sunday night Barcelona have a huge match away to Real Sociedad to round off the weekend’s fixtures, and the fact that both Madrid clubs picked up three points puts the onus on the Blaugrana to win away to the Europe hopefuls.

Sociedad are trailing Sevilla, who pulled off the moment of the weekend when their keeper Bono scored a dramatic equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Real Valladolid.

Atletico scrape past Alaves

With Real Madrid winning and Barcelona on a charge, here at SBOTOP we slated this as a must-win game for Los Rojiblancos.

Over the last few weeks the La Liga 2021 betting odds have drifted slightly away from the Wanda Metropolitano after Diego Simeone’s league leaders faltered with draws against Getafe and Real Madrid, and the way they were swept aside by Chelsea in the Champions League last week was worrying.

And they put in a lacklustre opening half to this game, dominating possession but with no cutting edge, failing to register a single shot on target against the bottom three club, while Alaves striker Joselu threatened to put the underdogs in front.

Simeone must have had a thing or two to say at half time and he had an effect as Luis Suarez met a cross from Kieran Trippier to head Los Rojiblancos in front, ten minutes into the second period. Atleti keeper Jan Oblak had to have his wits about him to save a low effort from Facundo Pellestri.

Suarez was close to adding a second late on but his shot, destined for the top corner was saved, and then came late drama. Stefan Savic felled Luis Rioja, VAR awarded a penalty and Oblak was there to save the day, stopping Joselu’s spot-kick to preserve three priceless points.

Los Blancos still in the hunt

Real Madrid climbed up to second place in La Liga, for now anyway, thanks to a 3-1 victory away to Celta Vigo as France striker Karim Benzema helped himself to a brace. Benzema’s impressive run of form, six goals in four games in all competitions and five in three in the league, has lifted him into contention for the La Liga Golden Boot. He’s now on 17 goals and just four behind Lionel Messi, with Luis Suarez on 18.

Los Blancos were the first of the three title contenders to play and they put a marker down to their two rivals with a well-deserved win at the Abanca-Blaidos Stadium. Both of Benzema’s goals were teed up by German midfielder Toni Kroos as Real strolled into a two-goal lead. Celta’s Santi Mina briefly gave the hosts some hope of a fightback but Marco Asensio restored the two-goal lead with a late effort.

With Barcelona and Atletico already out of European competition, Los Blancos are the only La Liga side still in the Champions League, so it could still turn out to be a good season for Zinedine Zidane, and we can expect a fascinating run-in to the league season.

La Liga: Real Madrid thrash Celta Vigo 1-3 at Estadio de Balaidos

Karim Benzema in action for Real Madrid against Celta Vigo

Sevilla’s Bono scores dramatic leveller

The pick of this weekend’s La Liga 2021 highlights simply has to go to Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou who saved his team from a potentially shock defeat away to Real Valladolid.

The hosts went ahead through Chilean midfielder Fabian Orellana when he struck a blow at the perfect time, one minute before the half time break. Striker Shon Weissman fell under a crude two-man challenge from Sevilla defenders Diego Carlos and Karim Rekik, and Orellana made no mistake from the penalty spot.

That must have changed the half-time team talks and, after Luuk de Jong missed two glorious chances for Sevilla, heading one against the woodwork from point black range, it looked like Valladolid were set to see the game out for a vital, and unexpected, three points until Bono performed his heroics in the 94th minute. As Valladolid clung on in a goalmouth scramble the ball fell to Jules Kounde who squared for the keeper to side foot home…cool as you like!

Bono’s strike, the first in open play by a keeper in La Liga in ten years, could prove to be crucial for Los Sevillanos who are homing in on a top-four place and this is not the time to lose momentum. Real Valladolid stay in danger, four points above the drop zone. Another two would have taking them up to 14th and with a handy cushion. It was a chance missed by Valladolid as three of the teams below them, Elche, Eibar and Huesca all picked up a point.

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05-Apr 2021 Monday 1:40 PM (413 days ago)            #12
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La Liga: Los Rojiblancos Take Title Tilt to Seville

Sevilla vs Atletico Madrid

Easter Day in La Liga and the match of the weekend.

Fourth versus first and a contest which could go some way to deciding the destination of the 2020-21 title.

Barring a late collapse, Sevilla should qualify for next season’s Champions League – they hold a 10 point advantage over the sides in fifth and sixth place – but they will still be keen to test Atletico Madrid’s title credentials when the leaders arrive at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in La Liga on Sunday evening.

With 20 wins and six draws in their 28 league games so far, Los Rojiblancos are ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the title race, but it’s now when the campaign enters its home stretch and the real pressure begins.

This fixture represents a major test.

Talking Points

Consistency is something which both teams have lacked of late.

Sevilla have just secured seven points out of nine following a recent wobble which included Copa del Rey elimination (despite holding a 2-0 advantage over Barca after the first leg) and a Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

That was the most difficult period since JulenLopetegui became the club’s coach, although was preceded by nine wins in a row which shows the progress he is making.

If proof was needed, Sevilla have collected 55 points after 28 games this term, their joint-second highest tally at this stage of a season in the top-flight after 2016/17 (57 points) and 2014/15 (also 55 points).

Atletico have also had a wobble recently but still hold the aces in the title race, seeing off Alaves last time out.

They have 66 points to date; in the last five seasons the team which has gained as many points at this stage went onto become crowned champions.

As players return to their clubs following the international break, Sevilla’s main concern surrounds Aleix Vidal who has been nursing a hamstring injury for the past month. Fernando is back in the squad though following a groin problem.

Atletico are missing key men with midfielder Yannick Carrasco suspended – although he may have missed the match anyway with an ankle injury.

They are also sweating over the fitness of Joao Felix, who pulled out during Portugal’s game against Luxembourg last week, while Moussa Dembele is injured.

Should Felix be deemed unfit to start on Sunday, there will be more pressure on the likes of Koke to link up with frontman Luis Suarez.

Kokeenjoys playing against Sevilla and has netted seven times against them in 19 LaLiga appearances, at least four more than against any other opponent in the competition.

He also has three assists against the Andalusians.

Sevilla occupy fourth position, 10 points clear of fifth-placed Real Sociedad in the La Liga table

Sevilla are comfortable in the top four, with 10 points separating them from fifth-placed Real Sociedad

Twenty-one goal man Youssef En-Nesyri, Luuk de Jong and Suso, who has seven goals to date and has been an ever-present for Sevilla since the start of December, will likely head the main threat for the hosts.

This is a meeting of two big managers with Lopetegui and Diego Simeone, who has lost only three of his 22 games against Sevilla as a manager in all competitions.

In fact, two of those defeats were in the Copa del Rey. If Simeone can guide his side to victory again it may be crucial in securing him and Atletico a major coup as they bid to end the Barca-Real dominance.

Expect La Liga highlights.

History

This fixture last season ended all square, a contest which showed to me that neither side were ready to be genuine title challengers.

Since then, of course, Sevilla have won the Europa League for a record sixth time and Atletico have mounted a genuine title charge which sees them four points clear at the summit.

Sevilla last saw off Atletico at home in the league in October 2016 when Steven N’Zonzi netted the only goal, although they did knock them out of the Copa del Rey the following season.

Four of their last five meetings have ended all square, that was until December when Atletico ran out 2-0 winners at home, thanks to goals from Angel Correa and Saul Niguez.

Betting Tip

??
Sevilla vs Atletico Madrid 1X2 Draw @ 2.89
April 05, 03:00 (GMT+8)

Atletico are slight favourites with the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds.

They are priced 1X2 @ 2.66 and Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 2.25, with Sevilla also an attractive 1X2 bet @ 2.87 and Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 2.04.

A repeat of last season’s 1-1 draw is on offer @ 5.00 with correct score.

I do see this being a low scoring game but I am not confident enough to opt for total goal 0-1 @ 2.32.

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05-Apr 2021 Monday 1:45 PM (413 days ago)            #13
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La Liga: April Will be a Big Month For Barcelona

Barcelona vs Real Valladolid

Barcelona are entering the most important stretch of their 2020/21 campaign upon looking at their schedule this April.

After being eliminated by PSG in the Champions League, the Catalan giants can now fully turn their attention to domestic matters as they balance between their ongoing La Liga campaign and their upcoming tiff in the Copa del Rey Finals.

This weekend, Ronald Koeman’s side start the new month at home to host Real Valladolid as they try to grab three more valuable points.

These two sides couldn’t be any different especially given their places at the Spanish top-flight standings. Barcelona are at second with 62 points while Real Valladolid are nearing the bottom, placing 16th with only 27 markers.

Needless to say that this is considered a must-win for both sides given their respective objectives.

A victory here for Barcelona means that they’ll cut into Atletico Madrid’s four-point cushion – especially if they’ll lost versus Sevilla on Sunday. Meanwhile, Real Valladolid can move closer to safety if they’ll secure a positive result.

Talking Points

It’s go time for Barcelona

Ronald Koeman and Barcelona are in good form as they have won their last five La Liga matches

Ronald Koeman shouts out instructions during Barcelona’s match against PSG

Barcelona’s elimination in the Champions League must have lit a fire under the bellies of their players as they were running hot in form before the international break.

The Blaugrana took the front page of the La Liga 2021 news when they demolished Huesca and Real Sociedad both in high-scoring fashion, recording an aggregate tally of 10-2.

Lionel Messi may have been given his due since he has notched 12 goals six assists during their unbeaten streak, but he isn’t doing it all alone.

Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, and Sergino Dest have shown better chemistry on the field and they are all expected to feature heavily in their upcoming games.

Barcelona are peaking at the right time which is why they should keep their foot on the gas pedal.

After this game, Barcelona and Real Madrid add another chapter to their storied El Clasico rivalry and then they have business to settle against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey Finals.

Furthermore, Ronald Koeman has the option to save some of his key players for the bigger games – namely Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, and Frenkie de Jong. I wouldn’t be surprised if those three sit this one out on Monday.

Real Valladolid to miss several players

The odds are stacked against the Pucelanos given that they are going to be severely undermanned.

Spanish outlets confirmed that Real Valladolid have seven players and three coaches positive for COVID-19 last week, and the team has yet to train ever since.

First choice goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez is one of the players confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus while the other six players are yet to be revealed.

Prior to the outbreak, Valladolid are undefeated in four straight league games with three draws and a victory – which is a sign of steady improvement.

Sergio’s men, in fact, almost scored one of the biggest upsets of the season against Sevilla. But the Palanganas were bailed out by Bono’s equaliser during the 94th minute.

Valladolid are hopeful that they can put up a valiant effort against Barcelona on Monday. And if they can grab a point in this match, that should be considered as a huge win for them.

History

Recent form and history suggest that this fixture has “lopsided win” written all over in favour of the Catalan giants.

In their last six encounters, Barcelona have won five times, whereas Real Valladolid have only won once.

Valladolid’s last win dates back to 2014 when they defeated Barcelona 1-0 at the Jose Zorilla Stadium.

Barcelona have scored at least four goals in four of their last six meetings at Camp Nou including a 5-1 win last term. They also won their earlier fixture this season with a tally of 3-0.

Betting Tip

??
Barcelona vs Real Valladolid Barcelona Asian Handicap -2.25 @ 1.81
April 6, 03:00 (GMT+8)

It’s almost certain that the home side will remain undefeated this year after Monday night, as per the La Liga 2021 odds here at SBOTOP.

Barcelona are priced at 1.14 to win, while Real Valladolid are the heavy underdogs at 12.50 and a draw is at 9.00 in the 1×2 market.

This game would’ve been a closer call if Real Valladolid have a complete roster at hand as they have the quality players who are capable of giving the Blaugrana problems.

But whether Valladolid are complete or not, either way, Barcelona should have no problems putting them away as long as they stick to their gameplan.

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05-Apr 2021 Monday 1:47 PM (413 days ago)            #14
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La Liga: Below-Par Atletico Suffer Damaging Defeat in Seville

Sevilla 1-0 Atletico Madrid

Easter night in La Liga and the match of the weekend as leaders Atletico Madrid took their title tilt to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville.

The fourth-placed hosts have proved they can beat most sides on their day since winning a record sixth Europa League last summer.

Likewise, Los Rojiblancos have taken advantage of below-par Real Madrid and Barcelona this season to open up a lead at the summit.

After recent wobbles for both teams, something would have to give as the run-in to the 2020-21 campaign began in earnest.

Highlights of the game

The table-toppers were without key men.

Stefan Savic – arguably the most important defender in the spine of their team this term – was unable to play for the visitors due to sickness, while Atletico were also missing the suspended Yannick Carrasco and injured Joao Felix.

Whether they realised five of their starting line-up were one booking away from suspension is unknown but, with points the priority and coach Diego Simeone having a fairly small squad, there was no chance he was going to rest players for such an important fixture.

Sevilla was actually the first club that Simeone played for in Spain and, since becoming a coach, he has had a good record against his former side, losing only three of 22 meetings, with only one defeat in the league.

With Real Madrid winning on Easter Saturday, the gap at the top had been closed to three points, putting some pressure on their city rivals.

From the outset, that pressure was clear as Sevilla were the stronger side.

Just seven minutes in and they had a great chance to take the lead as Saul fouled Ivan Rakitic but, for the second match in succession, Jan Oblak – arguably the best goalkeeper in world football right now – saved the spot-kick, parrying Lucas Ocampos’ penalty.

Oblak was alert again later in the half to deny the same player as Julen Lopetegui’s men were on top without creating any decisive La Liga highlights.

After that dominant start, Atletico finally came into the game without creating any chances of note, although their personnel issues weren’t helped 11 minutes before the break when Renan Lodi was forced off with injury and had to be replaced by Angel Correa.

Even without fans, the tension in contests like this must be tangible when a side is chasing a first title in seven years and has seen a fairly healthy lead eaten away during a less than convincing period shortly before the international break.

That Atletico went in at the break still level may have helped Simeone’s team talk as his side had been distinctly second best.

They showed more in the opening minute of the second half than they had in the previous 45 as Luis Suarez came close to reaching a Correa cross, yet it was Sevilla who went close again a few minutes later as Rakitic fired over from a difficult angle.

When Suarez was booked, meaning he will be banned for Atletico’s next game, the importance of grabbing a winner in this contest became even clearer, although with an hour played it remained too close to call.

The first goal was always likely to be crucial but when it arrived it meant another twist for the Sbotop La Liga betting odds.

Jesus Navas crossed into the danger zone and there was Marcos Acuna to head back across goal.

As Atletico appealed for handball against Ocampos, VAR ruled the player had handled the ball but much earlier in the build-up and the goal stood.

La Liga: Marcos Acuna put Sevilla ahead against Atletico Madrid with a 70th-minute header

Marcos Acuna celebrates after scoring a goal for Sevilla against Atletico Madrid

Atletico tried to hit back and were almost level only for Mario Hermoso to fire over when well placed.

How the below-par leaders needed a goal to boost spirits and ensure Barcelona could not close the gap to a point tomorrow night.

Yet in truth, they rarely looked like scoring until the final minute when Suarez played in Correa and the Argentine’s volley was kept out by goalkeeper Bono.

While Atletico remain in control of their own destiny, the title momentum is now very much in the hands of Barca, who they must travel to on May 9.

Key statistics

Only Diego Alves (10 out of 20) has saved more penalties than Oblak (9/29) among La Liga goalkeepers (excluding shootouts) since the start of 2014/15.

This was Julen Lopetegui’s first success against Simeone in six attempts.

This was only Simeone’s second league defeat in 23 matches against Sevilla in all competitions (won 10, drawn nine). The other two losses have both come in the Copa del Rey.

What’s next?

Sevilla go to Celta Vigo a week on Monday in La Liga (April 12), whereas Atletico’s title challenge continues on the road with a trip to Real Betis next Sunday evening.

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13-Apr 2021 Tuesday 4:16 PM (405 days ago)            #15
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La Liga: More Pressure for Atletico in Andalusia

Real Betis vs Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid head to Seville this weekend to face Real Betis, but it’s fair to say the La Liga leaders are not the main draw in Spain this weekend.

This clash will be overshadowed 24 hours earlier by El Clasico, as Real Madrid and Barcelona prepare to do battle. And after a poor run of form Atletico have been chased down by their two big rivals, Barca are just a point behind Atleti while Real Madrid are two further back in the third position.

So Diego Simeone must fashion a win for his side against a Betis team which is bang in form, in the hope of staying top and putting some distance between them and at least one of their rivals. Should Barcelona win or draw in El Clasico on Saturday then Atletico will already have been knocked off the top of La Liga when they step out at the Estadio Benito Villamarin on Sunday.

Talking Points

Europa League beckons Real Betis

Betis’ La Liga 2021 results, since the turn of the year, have been highly impressive as they have turned in eight wins, three draws and two defeats, a run of form which has seen them rise to sixth in the La Liga table, alongside Real Sociedad and Villarreal on 46 points. These three teams are entrenched in the Europa League places, 12 points behind fourth-placed Sevilla and nine above eighth-placed Celta Vigo.

Head coach Manuel Pellegrini has put together a well-organised team with plenty of creative flairs, with Sergio Canales contributing seven goals and seven assists, striker Borja Iglesias’ seven goals and tricky winger Nabil Fekir has made five assists. Fekir was on target in a Betis’ last game at the Benito Villamarin, a 2-0 victory over Levante.

La Liga: Real Betis are eyeing to qualify for Europe

Real Betis players celebrate after Borja Iglesias score their first goal against Getafe

This has been an outstanding campaign for Los Verdiblancos, having finished last season in 15th place and they have picked up more points from the last ten games than their visitors this weekend, but they have lost to two top four sides in Sevilla and Barcelona, a fact which will not be lost on Simeone.

Atletico feeling the heat

That said, Los Rojiblancos were badly off-colour in their own 1-0 defeat to Sevilla last week so he needs to pick his team up, and quickly if they are to get their title challenge back on track. They were heavily odds on to secure a first La Liga title in seven years but the wheels have fallen off in recent weeks and they have won just three times in the last ten games in all competitions, a run which saw them crash out of the Champions League to Chelsea. While Atleti have dropped 14 points over the last ten league games, Real Madrid have dropped seven and Barca just two, and the very latest La Liga 2021 betting odds have already installed the Blaugrana as odds on favourites to take the title back to Catalonia.

Former Barca man Luis Suarez has had a great first season at the Wanda Metropolitano, scoring 19 goals, but he is struggling to get the service he needs and has bagged only three goals from the last nine La Liga games. And with Joao Felix and Moussa Dembele sidelined the pressure to score is squarely on the Uruguayan’s shoulders, as well as those of Marcos Llorente.

Suarez was on target in a narrow victory over Alaves recently but that win was far from convincing. Simeone would bite your hand off for a repeat of that result on Sunday though.

History

The head to heads are comfortably in Los Rojiblancos’ favour with 23 wins to Real Betis’ 12, while there have been 13 draws from the last 48 meetings.

Atletico won the reverse fixture at the Wanda Metropolitano 2-0 thanks to goals from Llorente and Suarez, who scored in injury time after Betis had been reduced to ten men following the sending off of Martin Montoya.

In fact, Simeone’s side has won the last three clashes with Betis, but the hosts are in good form at home, winning their last three fixtures.

Betting Tip

??
Real Betis vs Atletico Madrid Under 2.25 @ 1.89
April 12, 03:00 (GMT+8)

The pre-match SBOTOP odds tell us this game could quite easily end up with any of the three outcomes. Atleti are at 2.38 to win and 3.02 to get a draw, while Betis are at 2.87 to continue their successful run.

But one thing is for sure, it’s going to be a tight and tense affair, and I can’t see a glut of goals at either end of the pitch.

In the last six games, both teams have participated in five matches where two or fewer goals were yielded, a 3-2 victory for Betis over Alaves and a 2-1 win for Atleti over Bilbao being the exceptions.

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13-Apr 2021 Tuesday 4:18 PM (405 days ago)            #16
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La Liga: This El Clasico is Now a Title ‘Six-Pointer’

Real Madrid vs Barcelona

The final El Clasico of the season is upon us and with it, a scenario few would have predicted as recently as a month ago.

Quite frankly, it’s absurd to imagine neither of Spain’s big two being involved in a title hunt but that is exactly the position both reigning champions Real Madrid and Barcelona found themselves in.

That is until a wobble from Atletico Madrid left both giants dreaming of La Liga glory.

So here we are, Saturday night at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano and a match-up which could end up being another pivotal fixture in this blockbuster rivalry.

Talking Points

For Real Madrid, who trail leaders Atletico by three points and Barca by two, much talk this week has focused on two players at the opposite end of the age spectrum.

Toni Kroos maybe 35 but his masterclass helped Real win well in Europe in midweek with the intelligence of the German maestro very much to the fore in a 3-1 Champions League victory over Liverpool.

That was also a game in which young Vinicius Junior hit back at his doubters with a two goal-brace: a perfect riposte on the big stage to criticism he has faced many times during the last two years.

While Real retain hopes of retaining the title, it’s arguably Barcelona who are in the box seat.

They have hauled back 12 points to Atletico in the last two months, dropping just two points in their last 10 games, compared to the 14 dropped by Diego Simeone’s side in the same period.

If their title credentials were in doubt then Ousmane Dembele’s dramatic late winner to earn victory over Real Valladolid on Monday, just when it looked like the opportunity had been missed, showed they are firmly back in the race with a home meeting against Atletico to come next month.

La Liga: Barcelona will play against Real Madrid for the the second El Clasico of the season

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele celebrates with Lionel Messi and Riqui Puig after scoring against Real Valladolid

First, though, they have El Clasico to overcome.

A draw will play into Atletico’s hands, a Real win will make it even closer at the summit and a Barca success will all but end the hopes of their arch-rivals.

Team news wise, home boss Zinedine Zidane’s defensive concerns show no sign of easing.

Raphael Varane’s positive Covid-19 test again means he misses out this weekend, while Los Blancos are already without skipper Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal, while Eden Hazard is unlikely to be any more than a substitute after his recent absence.

Ramos’ long-time partner in the heart of the Spanish national team, Gerard Pique, actually trained with the rest of his Barca teammates on Thursday.

The 34-year-old centre-back also worked out at Barcelona’s training ground on Wednesday, despite the fact that boss Ronald Koeman had given his players a day off.

Yet it would be a surprise if Pique is deemed fit to start the match.

Antoine Griezmann did not participate in Thursday’s session as his third child was born – curiously, all his three children have been born on April 8(!) – yet he will almost certainly start.

This fixture almost always offers La Liga highlights. In fact, for a time it was THE fixture in European football.

The respective classes of 2021 may lack some of the overall quality of more recent sides but they are still two of the best around.

With an unexpected title now for up grabs, that should only enhance the drama.

History

Real won this fixture last season and went onto take the league crown off their arch-rivals as Vinícius and Mariano Díaz netted the goals in a 2-0 win.

They also won the clash in the Nou Camp earlier in the season when Fede Valverde, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric were on target in a 3-1 win.

You have to go back to the 2007-8 campaign for the last time Real secured a league double over the Catalans.

In La Liga, Real Madrid have won 72 clashes, one more than Barcelona, with a further 34 encounters ending all square.

Overall, in all competitions, both sides have 96 wins apiece and 52 draws.

Betting Tip

??
Real Madrid vs Barcelona 1X2 Draw @ 3.50
April 11, 03:00 (GMT+8)

Real are not at full strength and this is sandwiched between a Champions League quarter-final so Barcelona, arguably, have the advantage.

The SBOTOP La Liga betting odds see it that way too.

Barca are slight favourites, priced 1X2 @ 2.24 and Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 2.25.

As you would expect, Real are not far away and can be backed 1X2 @ 2.95 and Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 2.28.

Another 3-1 Real success will payout @ 26.00 with the correct score options.

I expect a tight game and I was leaning towards total goal 2-3 @ 2.01. However, my *** prediction is 1X2 draw @ 3.50.

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13-Apr 2021 Tuesday 4:20 PM (405 days ago)            #17
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La Liga: Real Sociedad Fight For Their European Dream

Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

La Liga ‘six-pointer’ and a highly enjoyable one.

As the rain poured down in Spain, the reign of Real Madrid as league champions remains alive and well as they returned to the summit for the first time in six months with victory in El Clasico.

Goals inside the first half hour were enough to seal a league double over their arch-rivals for the first time since 2007/08.

Talk about timing your run to perfection!

With eight league games remaining, they are now firmly in the running for Spanish football’s main prize.

Highlights of the game

Based on the La Liga highlights provided by Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos in the first 28 minutes, this was a deserved win for Zinedine Zidane and his men.

Before kick-off, I fancied Barcelona may have the edge. After all, the Catalan club have enjoyed a sudden, unexpected and hugely impressive resurgence of late, so it was no surprise they were in control of the ball.

Real didn’t appear to mind too much as they proved lethal on the counter and it took them just 13 minutes to take the lead.

It was a superb goal to break the deadlock too as Lucas Vazquez flashed in a low cross where Benzema had much to do but managed to flick the ball off the back of his heel past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The Frenchman played a blinder against Liverpool in midweek, not finding the target, but ruthlessly creating gaps in their opponents’ defence and holding the ball up with distinction.

This was the other side to his game as the Frenchman finished clinically.

If that was simply sumptuous, his team-mate Vinicius was superb in the 28th minute as he raced down the left and cut inside before being brought down on the edge of the box.

La Liga: Real Madrid beat rivals Barcelona 2-1 at home and earned their 98th El Clasico victory

Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos scores their second goal from a free kick

Up stepped Kroos and the 35 year-old’s free-kick hit Sergino Dest and deflected into the top corner with Jordi Alba unable to clear on the goal line.

Only the post denied Lucas Vazquez a quick third, again after good work between Vinicius and Federico Valverde, and the former was to leave the fray shortly before the break after a hefty-looking challenge from Sergio Busquets.

The injury briefly rocked Real and Barcelona, who had won 16 of their last 19 league games going into this one, nearly reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time as Lionel Messi – 23 goals in 27 league games this season – bent in a corner which beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and smacked the far post.

The Barcelona captain hasn’t scored in a Clasico fixture since 2018, despite enjoying an excellent record against Barca’s most bitter rivals, scoring 21 goals in his first 27 games against them – he has since scored just five in his last 17.

The Catalans did get one back on the hour as Alba delivered from the left, and while substitute Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong both failed to connect, stand-in right-back Oscar Mingueza did fare better, rifling the ball into the ground and up into the net. It wasn’t pretty but Ronald Koeman’s men were back in it.

The SBOTOP La Liga betting odds – just like the title race – were on a knife edge.

A Vinicius cross was deflected onto a post but it was Barcelona who looked more likely to score again.

When Real midfielder Casemiro received a second yellow card in stoppage time, Barca sniffed they may get one more chance.

It arrived when a free-kick was launched into the box and sub Ilaix Moriba reached the ball, drilling a shot off the bar of Courtois and, no doubt, a relieved Real.

Fortunate to hold on perhaps, but fortune favours the brave and Real showed those qualities in abundance.

For so long on the periphery, the race for the La Liga title now seems to be going all the way to the wire.

Key statistics

Benzema’s opener ended his recent nine-game duck against the Catalan club.

He has scored at least one goal in each of his last seven La Liga matches (nine goals) and has become only the fourth Real player to score in seven or more in a row in the competition in the 21st century, following Ruud van Nistelrooy (2007), Cristiano Ronaldo (four times) and Gareth Bale (2018).

Real have only lost one of their last 20 La Liga games (won 15, drawn four), after losing three of their previous six in the competition.

Mingueza became the first Barcelona defender to score v Real since Marc Bartra in the 2014 Copa del Rey Final.

What’s next?

Real meet Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday (April 14) and then continue their La Liga charge at Getafe on Sunday night (April 18).

Barcelona have a big match of their own as they take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey Final on Saturday.

●●●

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13-Apr 2021 Tuesday 4:39 PM (405 days ago)            #18
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La Liga: Simply Sumptuous Benzema Sets Barca Back

Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

La Liga ‘six-pointer’ and a highly enjoyable one.

As the rain poured down in Spain, the reign of Real Madrid as league champions remains alive and well as they returned to the summit for the first time in six months with victory in El Clasico.

Goals inside the first half hour were enough to seal a league double over their arch-rivals for the first time since 2007/08.

Talk about timing your run to perfection!

With eight league games remaining, they are now firmly in the running for Spanish football’s main prize.

Highlights of the game

Based on the La Liga highlights provided by Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos in the first 28 minutes, this was a deserved win for Zinedine Zidane and his men.

Before kick-off, I fancied Barcelona may have the edge. After all, the Catalan club have enjoyed a sudden, unexpected and hugely impressive resurgence of late, so it was no surprise they were in control of the ball.

Real didn’t appear to mind too much as they proved lethal on the counter and it took them just 13 minutes to take the lead.

It was a superb goal to break the deadlock too as Lucas Vazquez flashed in a low cross where Benzema had much to do but managed to flick the ball off the back of his heel past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The Frenchman played a blinder against Liverpool in midweek, not finding the target, but ruthlessly creating gaps in their opponents’ defence and holding the ball up with distinction.

This was the other side to his game as the Frenchman finished clinically.

If that was simply sumptuous, his team-mate Vinicius was superb in the 28th minute as he raced down the left and cut inside before being brought down on the edge of the box.

La Liga: Real Madrid beat rivals Barcelona 2-1 at home and earned their 98th El Clasico victory

Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos scores their second goal from a free kick

Up stepped Kroos and the 35 year-old’s free-kick hit Sergino Dest and deflected into the top corner with Jordi Alba unable to clear on the goal line.

Only the post denied Lucas Vazquez a quick third, again after good work between Vinicius and Federico Valverde, and the former was to leave the fray shortly before the break after a hefty-looking challenge from Sergio Busquets.

The injury briefly rocked Real and Barcelona, who had won 16 of their last 19 league games going into this one, nearly reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time as Lionel Messi – 23 goals in 27 league games this season – bent in a corner which beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and smacked the far post.

The Barcelona captain hasn’t scored in a Clasico fixture since 2018, despite enjoying an excellent record against Barca’s most bitter rivals, scoring 21 goals in his first 27 games against them – he has since scored just five in his last 17.

The Catalans did get one back on the hour as Alba delivered from the left, and while substitute Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong both failed to connect, stand-in right-back Oscar Mingueza did fare better, rifling the ball into the ground and up into the net. It wasn’t pretty but Ronald Koeman’s men were back in it.

The SBOTOP La Liga betting odds – just like the title race – were on a knife edge.

A Vinicius cross was deflected onto a post but it was Barcelona who looked more likely to score again.

When Real midfielder Casemiro received a second yellow card in stoppage time, Barca sniffed they may get one more chance.

It arrived when a free-kick was launched into the box and sub Ilaix Moriba reached the ball, drilling a shot off the bar of Courtois and, no doubt, a relieved Real.

Fortunate to hold on perhaps, but fortune favours the brave and Real showed those qualities in abundance.

For so long on the periphery, the race for the La Liga title now seems to be going all the way to the wire.

Key statistics

Benzema’s opener ended his recent nine-game duck against the Catalan club.

He has scored at least one goal in each of his last seven La Liga matches (nine goals) and has become only the fourth Real player to score in seven or more in a row in the competition in the 21st century, following Ruud van Nistelrooy (2007), Cristiano Ronaldo (four times) and Gareth Bale (2018).

Real have only lost one of their last 20 La Liga games (won 15, drawn four), after losing three of their previous six in the competition.

Mingueza became the first Barcelona defender to score v Real since Marc Bartra in the 2014 Copa del Rey Final.

What’s next?

Real meet Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday (April 14) and then continue their La Liga charge at Getafe on Sunday night (April 18).

Barcelona have a big match of their own as they take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey Final on Saturday.

●●●

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21-Apr 2021 Wednesday 3:44 PM (397 days ago)            #19
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La Liga: Can Sevilla Gatecrash Their Way Into the Championship Race?

Real Sociedad vs Sevilla

Sevilla head to Anoeta this weekend to face Real Sociedad in an anticipated clash for the 31st matchday of the La Liga.

They are at fourth place with 61 points which is only six points adrift to table leaders Atletico Madrid – who are under intense pressure and scrutiny following a stretch of unfavourable La Liga 2021 results recently.

On the other hand, sitting at one spot below them are Real Sociedad, who only have 47 points and they are clawing their way towards securing that final European qualification berth.

Imanol Alguacil’s men are facing stiff competition as Real Betis and Villarreal are breathing down their necks, while Julen Lopetegui’s men are hoping that they can overtake some of their bigger counterparts.

Los Palanganas have slowly crept up in the Spanish top-flight standings, and all of a sudden, they have emerged as viable contenders for this season’s championship.

But can they keep it up by bringing home another win against their rivals? Here at SBOTOP, we look at both of these teams through this match preview.

Talking Points

Real Sociedad have a big hole in the middle

La Liga News: Real Sociedad will be clawing their way towards securing a European qualification berth

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino in action during a La Liga match

La Real are severely undermanned since they’ll miss the services of some of their most important players.

Their midfield takes a huge hit as David Silva, Asier Illarramendi, and Mikel Merino are all confirmed out in this Sunday’s matchup.

Silva still hasn’t recovered from his adductor injury while Illarramendi remains on the shelf due to a torn abductor muscle that he sustained earlier this year.

During Sociedad’s momentous win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey, team captain Illarramendi was seen limping during the trophy celebration which is a clear sign that he has yet to be 100-per cent fit.

To make matters worse, one of their top playmakers in Mikel Merino is dealing with a stress fracture in his back that would sideline him for at least three months.

Their absences were clearly felt in the last time out as they couldn’t close out Valencia. After leading by two goals in the first half, Los Che pounced on their inexperienced midfield to end the match with a 2-2 draw.

As they continue to fight for their European dream, Real Sociedad have to fill in the void via committee with Portu, Mikel Oyarzabal, and Alexander Isak leading the way.

Sevilla attempting to sneak in

Since losing to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, Sevilla have been in imperious form with four wins and one draw.

Their biggest win was a 1-0 triumph over Atletico Madrid as Marcos Acuna scored the marginal goal late, and that result cut Los Rojiblancos’ lead significantly.

Real Madrid and Barcelona were certainly happy about it, although the former got the last laugh when they won the most recent El Clasico.

Julen Lopetegui’s club are coming off of a come-from-behind win away to Celta Vigo as Papu Gomez netted the winner in the second half.

That win, coupled with other results, mean that Sevilla are now within striking distance to the title with eight more games to play. That would certainly motivate Los Palanganas to do even better as they try to disrupt the status quo in La Liga.

History

Prior to Sunday, Real Sociedad and Sevilla have locked horns in 35 matches this century.

Sevilla have the advantage in the head-to-heads with 15 wins, while Real Sociedad have won 11 times along with nine draws.

These two proud clubs last met in January where La Liga fans witnessed a five-goal thriller.

After exchanging leads early in the first half, Youssef En-Nesyri delivered the dagger one minute after the halftime break, completing his hat-trick to secure the victory.

Los Palanganas have been the better team in recent years against La Real (W4, D1). Sociedad’s last victory in this matchup dates back to 2017.

Betting Tip

??
Real Sociedad vs Sevilla Sevilla Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 1.87
April 18, 20:00 (GMT+8)

The updated La Liga 2021 odds point to a fun and close affair this Sunday.

Sevilla have the slim advantage as they’re priced at 2.54, while Real Sociedad are pegged at 2.79 to win and a draw is at 3.15 in the 1×2 market.

With both sides having players who are capable of producing top quality moments, this ought to be a hard fought match similar to the reverse fixture.

But with Real Sociedad currently short on options in the midfield right now, that should create an opening for a complete Sevilla squad to take care of business and take all three points.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
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21-Apr 2021 Wednesday 3:48 PM (397 days ago)            #20
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La Liga: Five Star Atletico Still in Charge

Atletico Madrid stay top of La Liga with seven games to play after a convincing win over Eibar kept Los Rojiblancos’ title hopes on track.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have closed the gap on Diego Simeone’s team in recent weeks, but there was no sign of any nerves creeping in for the leaders today as Angel Correa and Marcos Llorente both scored twice and Yannick Carrasco made it five. Two goals at the end of the first half and two at the start of the second simply blew Eibar away, and the visitors stay rock bottom; but still with a chance of survival as only four points separate the bottom five clubs.

But the worrying statistic for Los Armeros was that they didn’t have a single shot in the entire 93 minutes. Atleti only had ten but they were clinical, seven were on target and five hit the net. It’s the type of result which could give Simeone’s men the lift they need to finish the job.

With Barcelona playing in the Copa del Rey final this weekend Atleti have moved five points clear of the Catalans and Real Madrid dropped three points behind having drawn a blank away to Getafe. After winning El Clasico last week, and seeing off Liverpool in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, Los Blancos looked jaded as their hosts dominated the second half and won the shot count by 19 to nine and six to two on target; but neither side could break the deadlock.

Zinedine Zidane’s team is still in the hunt, but competing in Europe might ultimately cost them at home.

Sevilla stay in the hunt

The latest La Liga 2021 betting odds predict a three-way battle for the title between the two Madrid giants and Barcelona but Los Sevillanos had a chance to climb within touching distance of the top three when they made the trip away to fifth-placed Real Sociedad. And they did the business with all the action coming in the opening quarter of the game. Carlos Fernandez put the hosts ahead with a screamer on five minutes, but two goals in three minutes turned the game on its head. Lucas Ocampos came very close to levelling for Sevilla but Fernando did strike back from close range and then Youssef En- Nesyri gave the visitors the lead with his 16th goal of the season.

Sevilla moved up to within a point of third-placed Barcelona having played a game more than the Catalans, and six behind leaders Atleti.

Villarreal climbed up to the fifth place, leapfrogging Real Betis and Real Sociedad, after a thumping 5-1 win away to Levante.

Relegation battle will go to the wire

At the bottom end of the table it’s as tight as ever and even Eibar can still make an escape.

Elche missed a chance to jump put of the bottom three in the early Sunday kick-off when they went down to Osasuna 2-0 despite having the lion’s share of possession. The hosts were already one up when the hapless Diego Gonzalez put through his own net midway through the second half and there was no way back.

Alaves got a huge result at home to SD Huesca. A 1-0 win lifted them out of the bottom three and ahead of their visitors on head-to-heads, but still level on 27 points with 18th placed Real Valladolid, who have a game in hand. It looked like Alaves would have to settle for a point, but with just five minutes left on the clock, Rodrigo Battaglia hit a beauty of a free-kick into the top right corner to take all three.

Messi inspires Barca to Copa del Rey triumph

Barcelona are currently third place in La Liga

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi receives the Copa del Rey trophy

Away from the weekend’s La Liga 2021 news there was a trophy win for Barcelona as they swept Athletic Bilbao aside in the Copa del Rey final. Lionel Messi scored twice as the Blaugrana hit Bilbao with a four-goal blitz in 12 devastating second-half minutes. Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong were also on the score sheet as Ronald Koeman picked up his first silverware as Barca head coach.

The Catalans will rejoin the title race next week, on Thursday, when they host Getafe as part of a full list of midweek La Liga fixtures, so keep it here at SBOTOP as we preview and report on all the big European Leagues as they reach a dramatic climax, no more so than here in Spain!

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21-Apr 2021 Wednesday 3:50 PM (397 days ago)            #21
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La Liga: Sevilla Seek to Extend Win Streak at Levante

Levante vs Sevilla

Sevilla are suddenly the hottest team in La Liga, racking up five wins in their last six games. Thanks to this fine run, the Rojiblancos are still in the hunt for the title as they remain six points back of leaders Atletico Madrid with just seven games remaining.

Their La Liga 2021 odds of winning the title still aren’t great, but they do have a much better shot at extending their winning run as they visit midtable Levante in midweek.

The Frogs are seemingly in full vacation mode already as their form has dropped off considerably over the last few weeks, and they may not put up much of a fight against their in-form visitors.

Talking Points

Levante lacking motivation

Levante’s form has swiftly gone downhill since suffering a heartbreaking extra-time defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

The Frogs have gone on to lose four of their last six games in the league, which includes a 2-0 defeat at home to relegation-threatened Huesca. They were also thoroughly thrashed 5-1 at home by Villarreal last weekend.

Levante don’t have much left to play for anymore this season, which is perhaps a reason for their dip in form. They are in ninth place, with no hope of making a run at Europe and safe from any relegation trouble.

Mickael Malsa got Levante’s only goal in their defeat to Villarreal. The 25-year-old midfielder got the start due to Nemanja Radoja’s absence with an ankle injury and may have done enough to keep his place

Levante need all the goals they can get with their strike partnership of Roger Marti and Jose Luis Morales struggling to score of late. Marti, the team’s leading scorer with 11 goals this season, hasn’t scored in four games since getting the winner in the derby against Valencia.

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Morales (10 goals) has not found the net at all since bagging a brace against Granada back in early February.

Sevilla on a late-season surge

Sevilla were similarly knocked out in dramatic fashion in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey by eventual champions Barcelona and were also knocked out of the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund.

But instead of suffering a late-season slide, Sevilla’s La Liga 2021 results have been excellent since those two defeats, with five wins in their last six La Liga matches.

After beating leaders Atletico Madrid 1-0 at home, they registered back-to-back come-from-behind away victories against Celta Vigo (3-4) and Real Sociedad (1-2).

Youssef En-Nesyri is desperate to lead Sevilla against Levante to climb further in the La Liga table

Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri celebrates after scoring a goal during a La Liga match

Youssef En-Nesyri continues to be among the goals for Sevilla. The Moroccan scored his 16th league goal against Real Sociedad, which puts him fifth in the league.

Thanks to their strong late-season run, Sevilla are now just one point behind third-place Barcelona, who still have a game in hand. Sevilla haven’t finished in the top three in La Liga since the 2008-09 season, so Julen Lopetegui will likely be shooting for that goal to fire up his troops.

Sevilla usually score a goal or two away from home; they’ve scored at least one in 14 of their 16 away matches this season.

They should fancy their chances of adding to that tally against a Levante side which has conceded 24 goals at home, the second-most in La Liga this season.

History

Sevilla have had a significant upper hand over Levante in their recent meetings. They hold an 11-4 edge in terms of wins over their last 22 league matches, with seven draws.

Sevilla have gone undefeated in their last five against Levante, with four wins. That includes their first meeting this season. Although, Levante gave them a good fight, and Sevilla needed a stoppage-time winner from En-Nesyri to beat the Granotas.

Betting Tip 

??
Levante vs Sevilla 1X2 Sevilla @ 1.73
April 22, 01:00 (GMT+8)

SBOTOP odds have Sevilla installed as significant 1.73 favourites to extend their winning streak to four in a row at Levante. The home side are priced at 4.40 to pick up the win, while a draw is 3.80.

Based on the recent form of both clubs, it’s hard not to see another Sevilla win. Aside from being the superior side, they have more motivation to play harder than Levante, whose season is all but over at this point.

Sevilla might not have it as easy as Villarreal did over the weekend, but they should still leave Levante’s Estadi Ciutat de Valencia with all three points.

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21-Apr 2021 Wednesday 3:52 PM (397 days ago)            #22
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La Liga: Barcelona Seek Easy Three Points Against Lowly Getafe

Barcelona vs Getafe

Barcelona’s hunt for their second domestic trophy continues when they head back to Camp Nou this Thursday.

Ronald Koeman’s men had the perfect opportunity to retake the top spot in the La Liga standings, but things didn’t go according to plan as they weren’t successful in taking care of business while Los Rojiblancos reminded everyone who’s in charge.

Now that they are in the same place as they were last week, Barcelona are expected to go guns ablaze when Getafe visit town.

Los Azulones are seeking to improve their record in order to maintain top-flight status at the end of the season. They are currently at 15th with 31 points, which is only four points clear over the likes of Alaves, Huesca, and Real Valladolid.

Getafe are in dire need of a spark and nothing would be sweeter than for them to upset the Blaugrana once again.

Talking Points

Barcelona fight for their La Liga dream

As we’re winding down the 2020/21 season, there’s a huge sense of urgency for Ronald Koeman and his men to gather as much points as they can in order to secure his first title with the club.

April, indeed, is a big month for Barcelona and so far they passed with flying colors since they have been in imperious form.

Their only setback was their 2-1 defeat against Real Madrid in El Clasico. But other than that, they have won three of their last four games.

One of Barca’s biggest wins this season comes in the form of them winning their 31st Copa del Rey trophy. It was a masterful effort by the Catalan giants as they dispatched Athletic Bilbao with a 4-0 tally.

After a goalless first half, Barcelona flipped the switch as Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, and Lionel Messi each scored to secure the victory.

Back in La Liga, Barcelona are still in control of their destiny despite being third at the table. They are only trailing by five points to Atletico Madrid and they still have a game in hand compared to their rivals.

Lionel Messi, who has 21 goals under his belt, spearheads the best attacking team in La Liga – which means that Getafe’s backline is going to be in for a long night.

Getafe can’t seem to get over the hump

It’s hard to complain if you’re a Getafe fan if you look at their recent La Liga 2021 results.

Los Azulones may have only gathered four draws and one loss in their last five fixtures. But if you’ll examine their opponents at the time, you’ll know that what they went through is no joke.

In a span of 36 days, Getafe went through two of the top teams in La Liga plus some clubs who are basically around their level.

Getafe are currently at the 15th spot in the La Liga table

Getafe’s Jaime Mata duels for the ball with Real Madrid’s Victor Chust

The encouraging thing about that stretch is that they were able to hold Atletico and Real Madrid to goalless draws. However, when it’s time to be more aggressive on the attack, they weren’t able to do so against Elche, Osasuna, and Cadiz.

Top scorer Jaime Mata has yet to score in over a month now, and Getafe as a whole would need to re-assess their approach if they’ll have a chance against Barcelona.

History

Barcelona have been utterly dominant against Getafe historically.

In their last 35 encounters, the hosts have won 25 times while the visitors have only won four times along with six draws.

Victories are hard to come by for Getafe whenever they face Barcelona, which is why many were shocked when they were able to deal Ronald Koeman his first loss at the helm last October.

Getafe leading scorer Jaime Mata scored a 56th-minute goal after a penalty was drawn by Djene Dakonam, and that was enough for them to grab three points at home.

Betting Tip

??
Barcelona vs Getafe Barcelona Asian Handicap -1.50 @ 1.80
April 23, 04:00 (GMT+8)

The La Liga 2021 odds here at SBOTOP have Barcelona installed as the big favourites to win this Thursday.

The Catalan giants are priced at 1.25 to win, while the readings don’t offer much hope for Getafe since they’re at 11.50. Moreover, a draw is also unlikely to happen since it is pegged at 5.60 in the 1X2 market.

Getafe’s win in the reverse fixture was considered by many as a one-off, so it’s safe to say that it won’t happen again this time around.

Even at their best day, it will be hard to envision Jose Bordalas’ men pulling it off again versus a loaded Barcelona team.

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05-May 2021 Wednesday 2:25 PM (383 days ago)            #23
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La Liga: Real Madrid’s Focus Returns to the Primera Division

Real Madrid vs Real Betis

After a week of some considerable turmoil in European football, Real Madrid turn their attention away from the failed Super League shambles and back towards La Liga.

The breakaway sideshow, which sent the football world into a frenzy, has come to an abrupt end (for now) but, alongside Manchester United, Real Madrid were acknowledged to be the ringleaders of the controversial scheme and they have some making up to do back in their homeland.

Neutrals will be rooting for Real Betis when they meet at the Bernabeu on Saturday. Manuel Pellegrini’s team has a big challenge against the newly installed league leaders but they have enjoyed a superb season themselves currently sitting in fifth place.

Talking Points

Real Madrid back on top

Here at SBOTOP the La Liga 2021 betting odds have shifted rapidly over the past few weeks as runaway leaders Atletico stuttered. Barcelona are now marginal favourites to win the league at odds of 2.40 with Los Rojiblancos at 2.50 and Real Madrid at 3.80.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema is leading the top scorer race in La Liga

Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring for Real Madrid against Cadiz

A 3-0 win away to Cadiz has shunted Zinedine Zidane’s team up to top spot in La Liga, level on points with Atletico but having played a game more. Sevilla have jumped into third above Barca, again having played a game more, and the Primera Division is bubbling up to an exciting climax.

Atleti’s thumping win over Eibar last week put a challenge down to Los Blancos, who then fluffed their lines with a 0-0 draw against Getafe. Zidane’s team put in a flat performance which was particularly surprising following their spectacular El Clasico win the previous week.

That draw against Getafe ended a four-match winning run, but Los Blancos got back to winning ways against Cadiz, extending their unbeaten sequence, in all competitions, to 12.

Karim Benzema took his season tally up to 21 goals with a brace and now he’s just two behind Lionel Messi and one ahead of Villarreal’s Gerard in the chase for the Golden Boot. But on Saturday, the hosts will be without the versatile Federico Valverde who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Draws are holding Real Betis back

Manuel Pellegrini has guided Betis up to an impressive fifth place in the league but they are losing a little ground having drawn the last four games. If they can turn some of their remaining La Liga 2021 results into wins then Los Verdiblancos will qualify for the Europa League, which is some turnaround following a 15th placed finish in the 2019/20 season.

Betis drew a blank in a goalless draw at home to Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday, but while a point a game is not what Pellegrini expects, his side has become increasingly hard to beat as the season has progressed.

Brazilian defender Emerson, on loan from Barcelona, has enjoyed a fine season and he will be keen to show the league leaders what he can do, having suffered a torrid time against Los Blancos in the return game.

On the creative side, Sergio Canales — with eight goals and seven assists — is having the best campaign of his career at Betis. The 30-year-old had a season with Los Blancos in 2010/11 and he will be looking for a goal against his former employers, while striker Borja Iglesias will hope to add to his seven for the season. Both will get a ready supply from winger and club captain Joaquin if Betis manage to break free.

History

Real Madrid have won exactly half of the last 50 meetings between these two teams while Betis have won 11 and there have been 14 draws.

Madrid had a thrilling 3-2 win in Seville in the third game of the season when Emerson scored an own goal and then was sent off. Valverde had put Los Blancos ahead but Betis roared back to lead 2-1 before Real rallied and Sergio Ramos scored a late winner from the penalty spot.

This corresponding fixture was a goalless draw last season, and with Betis unbeaten in six I wouldn’t rule out a repeat of that outcome, though Real Madrid have won five home games on the bounce.

Betting Tip

??
Real Madrid vs Real Betis Real Betis Asian Handicap +1.25 @ 1.76
April 25, 03:00 (GMT-8)

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has said that the European Super League is not dead and will return. Well, that remains to be seen, but for now, Los Blancos must concentrate on the matters in hand.

Zidane’s team did a professional job on Liverpool in the Champions League and now sit atop La Liga, but with Barca and Atleti, and even Sevilla, ready to pounce a win over Betis is vital.

Madrid are at odds of 1.50 with Real Betis at 6.60 and the draw is available at 4.00. I expect Los Verdiblancos to put up a tough resistance and Madrid will take a victory at any margin.

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05-May 2021 Wednesday 2:29 PM (383 days ago)            #24
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La Liga: Atletico Madrid Will Not Let Up Against Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid

After reclaiming the La Liga table lead through their most recent victories, Atletico Madrid are keen to extend their advantage when they visit Athletic Bilbao this Sunday evening.

In a few weeks back, it looked like Atletico Madrid were vulnerable due to their underwhelming La Liga 2021 results. However, when they entered the lighter part of their schedule, they quickly used it to their advantage.

With six matchdays left here in the Spanish top-flight, there’s no reason for Diego Simeone’s men to let up as they have the biggest target on their backs.

However, facing a determined Athletic Bilbao squad won’t be as easy as it looks since the hosts have their plans as well.

Los Leones look to solidify their place in the Top 10 with another win here, and Real Madrid and Barcelona are going to root for their success.

Athletic Bilbao almost pipped Atletico Madrid in their previous meeting not too long ago, but can they finally succeed this time around?

Talking Points

Athletic Bilbao are held back by subpar outings

For Athletic Bilbao to move up into the La Liga standings, they must realise their potential sooner or later.

Team manager Marcelino has some topnotch attackers at his disposal, but their performances have been inconsistent at best. Top scorers Berenguer Remiro, Inaki Williams, and Iker Munlain have yet to find the back of the net in over a month now, which is quite a worrisome trend.

Athletic Bilbao’s inconsistencies out front were in full display as their last five league games featured five draws with three of them goalless.

They could’ve won against Celta Vigo, Eibar, Real Betis, and Alaves, but they were unable to seal the deal. However, their performance against Real Sociedad offer some optimism.

Asier Villalibre, who has four goals and one assist, was a spark in the said fixture and he continues to repay the trust given to him by his manager. Villalibre is certainly a keeper for Bilbao, which adds to their war chest of capable goal scorers.

The 23-year-old centre forward is expected to feature in the starting XI once more this weekend, and it is likely that he’ll play alongside either Inaki Williams or Iker Munlain. 

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will go against Marcelino García Toral’s Athletic Bilbao for a La Liga showdown

Diego Simeone coaches Atletico Madrid from the sidelines during match against Huesca at Wanda Metropolitano 

Atletico Madrid are back in the driver’s seat

Los Rojiblancos sent an emphatic statement to the rest of La Liga with back-to-back wins over Eibar and Huesca. They have been utterly dominant in the said stretch as they punched in seven goals while conceding none from the other end.

Now as they’ll face Athletic Bilbao and Elche next, this serves as a perfect warm-up for Atletico Madrid as they look ahead of May.

Atletico Madrid’s month of May will kick off versus Barcelona and Real Sociedad, and that may very well determine their fate in the championship race.

With that said, wins must continue to come for them in order to keep their confidence up especially as they continue to deal with injuries.

Joao Felix remains a doubt since he’s still recovering from a leg injury, while Luis Suarez is considered probable since he rejoined training after experiencing a knock few weeks ago.

Regardless of who Simeone puts out there, Atletico Madrid’s firepower should be enough to blow away Athletic Bilbao on the road. 

History

The hosts have a long way to go in order to catch up with their visitors in the overall head-to-heads.

In their last 42 meetings against Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao have only gathered 11 wins and six draws. Los Rojiblancos, on the other hand, have 25 victories.

Atletico Madrid have gone undefeated in seven of their last eight encounters against Athletic Bilbao. Los Leones’ previous win in this matchup dates back to October 2019.

Bilbao almost added another win when they pushed Atletico to the limit in their reverse fixture last March. However, Iker Munlain’s 21st-minute goal was erased by Marcos Llorente and Luis Suarez. 

Betting Tip

??
Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid Atletico Madrid Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 1.72
April 26, 3:00(GMT+8)

Atletico Madrid are installed as the clear favourites for this weekend’s contest, as per the La Liga 2021 odds here at SBOTOP.

Los Rojiblancos are priced to win 1.95, whereas Athletic Bilbao are pegged lower at 3.95 and a draw is likelier at 3.30 in the 1X2 market.

Even without some of their main men out, Atletico Madrid remain a dangerous group given their cohesive attacking and defending. 

Los Leones certainly do pack quite a bite in them given their high-ceiling players. But if they’ll revert to their erratic form, they’ll have zero chance in beating the league leaders. 

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13-May 2021 Thursday 2:47 PM (375 days ago)            #25
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La Liga: Yellow Submarine is the Next Test for Title-Chasing Barcelona

Villarreal vs Barcelona

Expect La Liga highlights as the run-in to the 2020/21 campaign hots up.

Some of them could well arrive at the Estadio de la Cerámica on Sunday afternoon.

At home, with or without fans, Villarreal can be a tough nut to crack, as shown when they held reigning champions Real Madrid to a La Liga draw earlier this season.

Now they take on a Barcelona side fresh from securing the first silverware of the season as they clinched the Copa del Rey in style.

Talking Points

In this one, Villarreal could possibly have an eye on their forthcoming Europa League semi-final against Arsenal.

It’s the sixth time coach Unai Emery has reached this stage and he has also gone onto make the final itself four times, of which he has won three – all with Sevilla.

After taking the Gunners to the 2019 Europa League final, where they lost to an Eden Hazard-inspired Chelsea, Emery will be out to get some revenge against the club which sacked him a few months into last season.

That means this clash, with title-chasing Barca (who need to win to keep alive their hopes), may not be his priority.

Villarreal sit at seventh in the La Liga table, behind Real Betis on goal difference and one point behind Real Sociedad

Villarreal coach Unai Emery in the touchline during their match against Dinamo Zagreb

Seventh placed Villarreal will finish no lower than seventh and no higher than fifth, both offer Europa League football next term, so may put the league on the backburner.

Barcelona certainly won’t.

After being 11 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid at one stage, the two biggest questions going forward for them will be whether or not Lionel Messi and manager Ronald Koeman continue at the club, although the Copa del Rey success will only have helped the manager’s position after a difficult time.

They are now five points behind Atletico but have a game in hand and host the leaders on May 8 knowing if they triumph and win their remaining games this season, they will be champions.

In the week in which the club issued a statement about signing up to the European Super League, stating it was a “historic opportunity” to guarantee football’s financial sustainability – they would say that given their reported debts – they turned on the style against Getafe, recording a 5-2 success.

Koeman frankly admitted afterwards he doesn’t think Barca are the strongest team in the title race.

However, it is in their hands and an eighth Pichichi trophy is well in Messi’s sights after his double in that match.

That moved the Argentine onto 25 goals for the season in the league, four goals clear of Karim Benzema in the scoring charts. Gerard Moreno is back on 20, while Luis Suarez has 19.

Having finished top scorer in Spain’s top tier in 2009/10, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20, Messi is on course for an eighth Pichichi of his career.

For the home side, Pervis Estupinan and Vincete Iborra are injured and their main threat will again probably be Paco Alcacer, who netted their goal in a midweek 2-1 defeat to Alaves.

For the title-chasers, both Neto and Ousmane Dembele are close to a return to action, although neither are expected to be handing a starting berth.

So, it’s Emery’s Villarreal against Koeman’s Barcelona and it could come down to who makes Europe and who makes domestic bliss their respective priorities.

History

Not since 2008 have Villarreal beaten Barcelona – that was 25 meetings ago.

Barca have won their last three clashes by an aggregate score of 10-2.

The fixture before that, however, was this match two season ago which resulted in an incredible 4-4 draw.

It was a match the Yellow Submarine – Europa League semi-finalists – should have won but conceded last-gasp goals to Messi and Suarez.

Betting Tip

??
Villarreal vs Barcelona Barcelona First Half Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 2.42
April 25, 22:15 (GMT+8)

Barca are clearly the team to back with the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds.

Priced 1X2 @ 1.74 and Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 2.29, a re-run of their earlier season outcome – which saw Barcelona run out 4-0 winners – will pay out with correct score @ 34.00.

Villarreal could be seen as an attractive offering, though, with odds of 1X2 @ 4.10 and Asian Handicap +0.50 @ 2.23.

There needs to be a fair few goals to earn a decent payday with over 3.00 goals available @ 1.98, over 3.25 goals @ 2.23, total goal 2-3 @ 2.07 and total goal 4-6 @ 2.72.

Double chance Villarreal or Draw is available @ 2.02 and an actual 1X2 Draw is on offer @ 3.95.

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13-May 2021 Thursday 2:52 PM (375 days ago)            #26
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La Liga: Advantage for Barca as Madrid Clubs Falter

Barcelona came from behind to beat Villarreal 2-1 and keep their La Liga title challenge on track on a weekend that saw both Madrid teams drop points as the league season reaches its climax.

This is the best title race in Europe and the Catalans have just edged ahead in the latest La Liga 2021 betting odds as leaders Atletico Madrid had a disaster in the Basque country, losing 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao, while Real Madrid drew 0-0 at home to Real Betis.

Only three points separate the top four as Sevilla continued their winning to run to stay in the picture.

Winner: Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona

A trip away to seventh-placed Villarreal was never going to be an easy prospect as the Yellow Submarine came into the game with three league wins in the last four. Arguably, Villarreal might have had one eye on their forthcoming Europa League semi-final against Arsenal but they put up a good fight against the Catalans. But there was little they could do to stop Antoine Griezmann who helped himself to a first-half double.

With 26 minutes on the clock, Samuel Chukwuese fired Villarreal ahead from a tight angle but the lead lasted just two minutes before Griezmann pounced and, ten minutes later he finished clinically to score his and Barca’s second. The France striker hasn’t found life easy since his switch to Barcelona two years ago, but this type of performance will do him the world of good.

The Yellow Submarine was well and truly sunk when Manuel Trigueros was red-carded for a foul on Lionel Messi.

Winners: Sevilla

Here at SBOTOP we’ve been watching Sevilla closely. While the two Madrid clubs and Barca flirted with a European breakaway and seemingly battle it out for the La Liga title, Julen Lopetegui’s team has quietly gone about its business and now sits a single point behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, and just three off the top.

A first-half penalty converted by Ivan Rakitic sent Los Sevillanos on their way to a 2-1 win over Granada and when Lucas Ocampos doubled the lead early in the second half the points were in the bag. Roberto Soldado scored a last-minute penalty for the visitors but they couldn’t stop Sevilla from recording a fifth league victory on the bounce, each win by a single goal. They are the form team in Spain at the moment and if they can win their next five games then we might have a really big story to tell!

Winner: Lucas Boye, Elche

Elche jumped out of the bottom three in the La Liga table thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Levante. Lucas Boye was the man to score the crucial goal, taking a pass from Tete Morente and hitting a perfect cross shot into the bottom left corner. Levante bossed possession but Elche won the shot count by eight to six and three to one on target so they deserved their victory, though they had to endure seven minutes of injury time.

The new boys have given themselves a chance of a second season at the top table.

Losers: SD Huesca

After seeing Elche leapfrog over them and out of the bottom three Huesca had a chance to emulate them with a Sunday lunchtime match against Getafe. But they simply couldn’t handle Enes Unal as the 23-year-old Turkish international helped himself to a brace in a 2-0 win. Huesca stay 19th and three points from safety.

Loser: Florentino Perez

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has hogged the football headlines throughout last week following his failed bid to set up a European Super League; and he still hasn’t given up, claiming that the nine clubs which have pulled out cannot leave due to ‘binding contracts’, but Los Blancos, along with Barcelona and Juventus are the only three teams yet to abandon the breakaway competition.

And then, back to matters on the pitch, Perez watched his team put in a less than super performance to draw a blank in a goalless draw with Real Betis. With 17 shots and five on target, Los Blancos had plenty of opportunities but lacked the cutting edge of champions. Betis have made a habit of drawing in recent weeks and this was their fifth stalemate in a row.

Losers Athletic Bilbao or Atletico

Bilbao had drawn five on the bounce too but they went one better against the league leaders to make it a bad end to the weekend for Los Rojiblancos.

La Liga leaders Athletic Bilbao are on the brink o missing out on the league title

Atletico Madrid players looking dejected losing to Athletic Bilbao at San Mames Stadium

When Athletic striker Alex Berenguer nodded home from close range there were only eight minutes on the clock and it took until the 77th for Atleti to equalise, centre back Stefan Savic heading in from a corner. But Atleti couldn’t even hang on for a point as Inigo Martinez emulated Savic, meeting a corner and planting his header in the net.

This weekend’s La Liga 2021 results couldn’t have gone much better for Barcelona. While both the Madrid clubs had to settle for a single point the Blaugrana arguably had the harder fixture away to Villarreal, but they did the business and are now in pole position.

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13-May 2021 Thursday 2:57 PM (375 days ago)            #27
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La Liga: Barca’s Big Chance to Take Control of Title Chase

Barcelona vs Granada

With the two Madrid clubs continuing to falter, and Sevilla making a late surge, the La Liga title race has become incredibly tight as the top four teams are now separated by just three points.

However, Barcelona appear to be in the best shape to claim the crown, and the La Liga 2021 odds agree. Ronald Koeman’s side still have a game in hand and can now take sole possession of the league lead if they beat Granada at home.

Granada don’t have much left to play for this season as they sit in eighth place. Although, they might be eager to get some revenge over Barcelona, who cruelly ended their Copa del Rey dreams in their dramatic quarter-final tie.

Talking Points

Griezmann in great form for Barca

Barcelona have bounced back quite well from their El Clasico setback. Since that 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid, they won the Copa del Rey with a 4-0 thrashing of Athletic Bilbao, crushed Getafe 5-2, and came from behind to beat a tough Villarreal side 2-1 away from home to keep their title hopes very much alive.

Can Antoine Griezmann step up once again to help Barcelona win their upcoming La Liga match?

Antoine Griezmann celebrates with teammates after scoring Barcelona’s second goal against Villarreal

Antoine Griezmann scored both goals against Villarreal as he continues his resurgent late-season form. The French striker has now scored in three straight games and has six goals in his last seven appearances for Barca.

Griezmann will certainly be glad to be facing Granada again; he has scored four times in two games against them this season.

On the other hand, Lionel Messi had a quiet game against Villarreal, which was surprising given his outstanding form of late. He had scored nine goals and assisted in five more in his last eight games prior to the Villarreal match.

Messi will look to bounce back at the Camp Nou, where he has produced majority of his best La Liga 2021 highlights. Of Messi’s league-leading 25 goals, 16 have come at home. Moreover, he has scored in six of his last seven league games at home, with Barca winning six of those seven.

Meanwhile, Ousmane Dembele made his return after missing the previous match due to injury. The speedy French winger will provide even more firepower to a Barca team that is full of goals at the moment.

Granada’s special season slowly winding down

Granada have had an incredible season marked by a couple of cup runs. First, they made surprising run to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey and looked on course for a famous victory over Barcelona. But despite Granada going 2-0 up with 88 minutes to go, Barca scored two late goals to force extra-time and went on to win 5-3.

They then made it all the way to the quarter-finals of the Europa League in their first-ever season in European competition before being knocked out by Manchester United.

Meanwhile, they remain comfortably midtable in the league and have basically nothing left to play for this season.

After recent back-to-back wins over the bottom two – Real Valladolid and Eibar – Granada went down 2-1 to title-chasing Sevilla. Roberto Soldado scored a 90th-minute penalty to make the score a bit more respectable.

Granada have struggled mightily away from home this season, with 10 defeats in 16 games (three wins, three draws). Although, they do still manage to get a goal or two in. They have scored in each of their last eight away fixtures.

The 35-year-old Soldado leads the team with nine league goals this season, including four in his last four league games.

Luis Suarez, the team’s second-leading scorer with five goals, had a disappointing outing in his first league start since February against Sevilla, so Soldado could be recalled to the starting XI against Barca.

History

To no one’s surprise, Barca have completely dominated Granada over the years, winning 13 of their 15 La Liga meetings. Granada have won just twice, both of which were at home.

Barca won their first league meeting this season at Granada 4-0 as Griezmann and Messi both bagged braces.

Although, Granada have given Barca a good fight in their last two trips to the Camp Nou, both of which were just 1-0 defeats.

Betting Tip

??

Barcelona vs Granada Barcelona Asian Handicap -2.00 @ 1.71
April 30, 01:00 (GMT+8)

The SBOTOP odds have Barcelona priced as huge 1.14 favourites to beat Granada, who have astronomical odds of 16.00 to spoil Barca’s title hopes. A draw is 7.40.

Clearly, there is no value in the 1X2 market, so let’s turn instead to the Asian Handicap. It’s hard to see Barca slipping up, especially with the title now well within their grasp.

With Griezmann in fine form and Messi likely to bounce back, take the Catalans to score a comfortable home win over Granada.

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13-May 2021 Thursday 3:01 PM (375 days ago)            #28
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La Liga: Valencia Look to Ruin Barcelona’s Title Tilt at the Mestalla

Valencia vs Barcelona

La Liga championship contenders Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and Sevilla are all going to root for the home side when Valencia host Barcelona this Sunday at the Mestalla.

The race for the title is definitely going down to the wire in these remaining matchdays, which is why a huge sense of urgency is felt especially for a team like Barcelona.

After suffering an untimely defeat against Granada in the last time out, Barcelona missed their golden opportunity to move on top of the La Liga standings. However, they have stayed at the third spot, level with Real Madrid in points at 71.

Meanwhile, the hosts are merely searching for security as far as their top-flight status is concerned. As of this writing, Valencia are placed 14th with 36 points. However, they are only six points clear to 17th-placed Real Valladolid and 18th-placed Elche.

Los Che will remember fondly on how their reverse fixture turned out and they are out to grab more points at the expense of their visitors.

Read on below as SBOTOP examines both of these clubs through this match preview.

Talking Points

Valencia’s defence need to step up

Javi Gracia’s side needs a few more positive La Liga 2021 results in order to confirm their top-flight status next term.

Valencia had an underwhelming month of April since they are winless in their last five league games. However, their outings have been a mixed bag.

They had uncharacteristic losses against lower-tier sides in Cadiz and Osasuna, but they were able to hold the likes of Real Sociedad, Real Betis, and Alaves in draws that featured two to four goals.

It remains a mystery as to why Los Che aren’t fighting for a European qualification despite having a decent squad.

The duo of Carlos Soler and Goncalo Guedes offer a one-two punch at the wings, while Manu Vallejo, Maxi Gomez, and Kevin Gameiro are all quality players as well.

Soler is their leading scorer with eight goals and five assists. Vallejo and Gomez combine for 10 goals while Gameiro and Guedes have put in four and three apiece.

While attacking isn’t a problem for Los Che, their backline is a huge concern since they’re the fifth-worst defensive team in the league in conceding goals (48). They also have yet to secure a clean sheet in more than two months.

Jasper Cillessen’s absence at the goalpost have hurt Valencia’s backline to a large degree as backup Jaume Domenech has yet to prove his worth, and Barcelona are certain to exploit that this weekend.

Barcelona will brush off minor lapse

Despite their latest setback, the Blaugrana shouldn’t lack in confidence when they pay a visit at the Mestalla.

Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had a 29th birthday to forget as they were caught off guard by Granada, and now their path to the championship just got a little harder.

La Liga: Barcelona lost 2-1 to Granada despite an impressive goal from Lionel Messi

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi looks dejected after Granada’s Jorge Molina scored their second goal

Barcelona looked like they were on their way to extend their unbeaten run this year especially after Lionel Messi drew first blood in the first half, but Darwin Machis and Jorge Molina had other plans.

To make matters worse, Ronald Koeman was perplexed when he was sent off late, summing up Barcelona’s bad evening.

That setback should motivate the Catalan giants to come out firing at the Mestalla, and I reckon that they’re going to send an emphatic statement to the rest of La Liga with a comprehensive victory.

History

Barcelona are going to be licking their chops if they’ll take a look at their head-to-heads against Valencia.

In the last 54 matches, the Blaugrana are winners 26 times, while Los Che have won 12 times along with 16 draws.

These teams last met just before Christmas where the game ended in a 2-2 score.

Mouctar Diakhaby drew first blood with a 29th-minute score, but Barcelona blitzed Valencia with goals from Lionel Messi and Ronald Araujo after that.

Messi achieved a major milestone in the process as his goal before the halftime break equalled Pele’s all-time record of 643 one-club goals.

Maxi Gomez eventually found the equaliser during the 69th minute, and that was enough to share the spoils at Camp Nou.

Betting Tip

??
Valencia vs Barcelona Barcelona Asian Handicap -1.25 @ 1.83
May 03, 03:00 (GMT+8)

The La Liga 2021 odds are favouring the Catalan giants as expected.

Barcelona are the odds-on favourites to win at 1.37, whereas Valencia are pegged at 7.80 and a draw is at 4.70 in the 1×2 market.

Given how Barcelona faltered against Granada last Thursday, fans may take this betting recommendation with a grain of salt.

However, that shouldn’t be the case since Valencia are much worse compared to Granada.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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13-May 2021 Thursday 3:05 PM (375 days ago)            #29
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La Liga: Atleti Still In The Box Seat

With four rounds to go in La Liga Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid remain in top spot, two points clear of their rivals, and they won’t give that position up without a mammoth fight.

Los Rojiblancos have led for much of the season but have been reeled in by Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent weeks as the La Liga 2021 betting odds have swung back and forth, in the Catalans’ favour until they suffered a shock defeat to Granada at the Camp Nou on Thursday night.

Atletico took advantage with a clinical performance to win away to Elche on Saturday, while Real Madrid beat Osasuna at home to stay in contention. With Barcelona and Sevilla still to play we could see a four horse race gathering pace in the most exciting of all Europe’s leagues. There will be twists and turns to come and here at SBOTOP we’ll be there every step of the way as the final few La Liga 2021 results roll in.

At the bottom end of the table there is just as much drama to come, with five teams in serious danger of dropping through the trapdoor.

Simeone can count on Llorente

When Luis Suarez switched from Barcelona to Atletico Madrid last summer, eyebrows were raised in both Catalonia and the capital city as both parties wondered how it might work out. Well, Los Rojiblancos have been the beneficiaries as the Uruguayan hit man has made a huge contribution to their title bid, scoring 19 goals from 28 games.

But Diego Simeone must be delighted by the form of midfielder turned attacker Marcos Llorente who, under the guidance of his boss, has adapted his style play to pose a bigger goal threat, and he is joint eighth top scorer in the league with 12 strikes. Notably he’s scored one more than Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann.

Not only has Llorente bagged a dozen goals, but he is second on the list of top assist makers in La Liga with ten, ahead of Lionel Messi and just one behind Celta Vigo’s talisman Iago Aspas.

The 26 year old scored the 23rd minute winner away to Elche to win three invaluable points; they were almost snatched away when the hosts were awarded an injury time penalty, but Fidel hit the post and Elche stay 19th.

This could be a spectacular season for Los Blancos 

Real Madrid have quietly gone about their business over the past few weeks while Atleti led the way and Barcelona looked the most likely to chase them down. But with four games to play Los Blancos are just two points behind. Next up they play the form team Sevilla and if they can win that then they have a real chance of going all the way. And they are also in the last four of Europe’s premier competition. With a Champions League semi-final second leg to come, Los Blancos are level at 1-1 with Chelsea at the half way stage and, with Sergio Ramos returning to fitness, head coach Zinedine Zidane will be hopeful of adding another Champions League title to the three he won in his last stint as boss at the Bernabeu.

Real Madrid are currently sitting on the second spot of La Liga table

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane during their match against Osasuna

Back in La Liga, Real had to be patient to see off Osasuna, with the lion’s share of possession and registering 22 shots to Osasuna’s three, they had to wait until the 76th minute before Eder Militao broke the deadlock. Casemiro added a second four minutes later and Los Blancos got their deserved victory.

There are four teams still in the title race; Barcelona face a tough test at the Mestalla away to Valencia on Sunday night and Sevilla are in action on Monday night against Athletic Bilbao.

This title race will go down to the wire and Real Madrid could still end up picking up the big two prizes.

Eibar still fighting

Since achieving promotion to the Primera Division for the fist time in 2014 Eibar have held their own, with two top ten positions over the past seven campaigns and a comfortable 14th placed finish last term. But they are really up against it this season, rock bottom and with a fight on their hands with just four games to go.

But the Basque club have given themselves a chance following a 3-0 win over relegation rivals Alaves. 31year old striker Kike scored a hat-trick as Eibar took Alaves apart at Ipura on Saturday afternoon to earn a first win in five games. They are still five points from safety, on 26 points, but with 12 to play for they have given themselves a chance. Huesca and Elche are four ahead, while Real Valladolid and Alaves are just above the drop zone on 31 points.

Eibar travel to 15th placed Getafe next and they still have 14th placed Valencia to play so there are points to be had, but with Real Betis and Barcelona in their fixture list it will be a great escape if they can pull it off. SD Huesca are battling hard too, beating Real Sociedad 1-0 thanks to a late own goal courtesy of Aritz Elustondo.

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13-May 2021 Thursday 3:08 PM (375 days ago)            #30
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La Liga: It’s a Barca and Atleti Face-Off!

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

This is by far the most exciting title race in Europe and La Liga will take another twist any one of three ways when Barcelona come face-to-face with Atletico Madrid on Saturday afternoon at the Camp Nou.

While the Premier League, Serie A, and Bundesliga are pretty much done and dusted, it’s simply too close to call in Spain with the latest La Liga 2021 betting odds here at SBOTOP giving all three teams a fairly even chance.

Barcelona have the slightest edge at odds of 2.33 with Los Rojiblancos at 2.60 and Real Madrid may be the outsiders, but they’re still at a small price of 3.30.

Los Blancos could benefit if this match ends in a draw, but Zinedine Zidane’s side has a huge game of its own – at home to fourth-placed Sevilla who have been on a superb run.

It will be a hard fought match at the Camp Nou. But with Lionel Messi in fantastic form, the Blaugrana could deliver a significant blow on Saturday.

Talking Points

Messi can help Koeman win his first La Liga

Barca head coach Ronald Koeman looked odds on to pick up his first league title as boss when his side came from behind to beat Villarreal two weeks ago, while both the Madrid teams dropped points.

But then, the Blaugrana slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat to Granada last week and the title race was blown wide open again.

Koeman, whose job is under some pressure, would dearly love to win La Liga having already won the Copa del Rey. And winning the Doblete would go a long way to securing the Dutch master a second season.

If he does, he’ll have his captain and talisman to thank. Messi is the hot favourite to win the Golden Boot with 28 goals and he’s seven ahead of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.

He has bagged his goals at a rate of one every 98 minutes – which is way ahead of Luis Suarez who has scored one every 114 minutes, while Benzema is at 122 minutes per goal.

Messi scored a sublime double in a win over Valencia last weekend and will be keen to help his side make further amends for the loss to Granada.

With Ansu Fati still out injured, the Argentina international will line up alongside the improving Antoine Griezmann, who has 12 goals and seven assists in the campaign.

Can Atleti rediscover their consistency?

Los Rojiblancos had their own setback in a recent 2-1 defeat away to Athletic Bilbao but they recovered to beat Elche last weekend to hang on to the top spot.

But having led the league for much of the season, seemingly racing towards the title, a sequence of five wins from the last 10 games has dragged them back into the pack of three.

Can Atletico Madrid rediscover their consistency to maintain their position at the top of La Liga?

Atletico Madrid’s Marcos Llorente celebrates scoring their first goal against Elche

Former Barca man Luis Suarez has 19 goals but has slowed a little in recent games while Marcos Llorente, with 12 goals and eight assists, has stepped up to drive Atleti’s title bid onwards.

They sit two points ahead of both Barca and Real Madrid, and if they can somehow win at the Camp Nou they will be firmly in the driver’s seat.

Head coach Diego Simeone has more creative armoury in the form of winger Angel Correa — who has seven goals and seven assists — and the boss has been boosted by the return from injury of Thomas Lemar and Joao Felix, with only left back Renan Lodi still on the sidelines.

History

Barcelona have had the better of the 64 head-to-head meetings over the past quarter of a century, winning 31, drawing 16, and losing 17.

Atletico are unbeaten in the last three in all competitions, beating the Blaugrana 1-0 on match day 10 at the Wanda Metropolitano when Yannick Carrasco scored the only goal of the game deep into first half injury time.

The last meeting here at the Camp Nou ended in a 2-2 draw. But when playing at home, the Catalans have not lost to the Madrid side in 20 encounters in the league and have a strong home record of nine wins, four draws, and two defeats during this campaign.

Betting Tip

??
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid Total Goals 2-3 @ 1.96
May 8, 22:15 (GMT+8)

Barca are favourites at odds of 1.78 to win this huge clash, while the draw is at 3.54 and Atleti are at 3.97 to grab a crucial away win.

A 2-1 victory for the hosts is at odds of 6.95, while a 1-1 draw which would benefit Real Madrid is the most likely scoreline at odds of 6.37.

As we watch the remaining La Liga 2021 results roll in, there might be one or two more twists to come.

But one is guaranteed at the Camp Nou on Saturday and it might just be another magnificent night for Messi and co.

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14-Jul 2021 Wednesday 1:03 PM (314 days ago)            #31
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La Liga: Real Madrid Set For a Blockbuster Affair Versus Sevilla

Real Madrid vs Sevilla

This weekend may very well determine the La Liga champions this season as we’ll have two must-watch fixtures on the menu.

Other than the face-off between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid over at Camp Nou, we’ll also have a thrilling encounter between Real Madrid and Sevilla.

We here at SBOTOP may sound like a broken record in describing the tightening championship race here in La Liga. But as a football fan, the excitement of such is something that is hard to resist.

Atletico Madrid are still the league leaders with 76 points. However, Real Madrid and Barcelona are within arm’s length with 74 points apiece, while Sevilla are fourth with 70 points.

Real Madrid and Sevilla are coming off losses in the last time out and both are eager to get back on the winning track.

Los Blancos were eliminated by the Blues in the Champions League, whereas Sevilla saw their undefeated league streak snapped last weekend.

Their earlier meeting this season was as thrilling as it gets, and we are expecting something similar come Sunday evening.

Talking Points

No rest for the weary for Real Madrid

Fatigue is creeping up to Los Blancos given what happened in these last few days, and no one is feeling it more than Zinedine Zidane.

There have been rumours that the Los Blancos manager has grown tired in leading the squad and that he may be headed for another exit at the end of this season.

Ever since COVID-19 happened, Real Madrid have been battling so many challenges on and off the field. And matters have now come to a head following their exit in the Champions League semis at the hands of Chelsea.

Zidane had to endure another wave of criticisms as he implemented an unusual 3-5-2 formation which arguably cost them the finals berth. Although it sounds unfair, the Frenchman probably did it out of necessity.

Real Madrid’s consistently growing absentee list hasn’t been helpful at all, and they may face a similar quandary when they’ll host Sevilla this Sunday.

Dani Carvajal (hamstring), Lucas Vazquez (knee), and Raphael Varane (abductor) are all expected to sit out, depriving them some depth at the wings and at the defence.

Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior, Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos should spearhead their charge, while Eden Hazard has some making up to do after his questionable antics in the last time out.

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants a strong finished in La Liga

Zinedine Zidane is coaching during his side’s La Liga match

If this is indeed Zinedine Zidane’s last hurrah with the club, now is the time to make it count.

Sevilla suffer untimely setback

Sevilla will aim for a huge bounce back after a disheartening loss. Julen Lopetegui’s men saw their unbeaten streak end last weekend when they were defeated 1-0 by Athletic Bilbao.

Inaki Williams delivered a fatal blow to Sevilla’s title hopes as he scored the game-winning goal during the 90th minute.

It was an uncharacteristic loss for Los Palanganas given their scoring rampage in the weeks prior, which is why Athletic Bilbao should be given kudos in executing their solid gameplan.

As they pay a visit to Real Madrid, expect Sevilla to be out searching for La Liga 2021 highlights with their crop of talented attackers.

Youssef En-Nesyri is their top hitman with 23 goals, while Luuk de Jong and Lucas Ocampo also pose a threat with six and five goals so far.

History

From the previous 57 matches, Real Madrid have won 38 games while Sevilla won in 15 along with four draws.

Los Blancos have won their last four meetings against Los Palanganas – including a 1-0 victory in their reverse fixture last December.

It was a grind out victory for Zinedine Zidane’s side as the only goal came when Vinicius Junior’s shot bounced off of Yassine Bounou for an own goal.

Yassine Bounou is the first Sevilla shotstopper to score an own goal in La Liga since 1991.

Betting Tip

The La Liga 2021 odds point to a home win for the defending La Liga champions.

Real Madrid are the favourites at 2.01, while Sevilla are priced lower at 3.45 and a draw is at 3.50 in the 1X2 market.

Other than their Champions League setback, Zinedine Zidane should be credited for guiding his men to good league form despite their inconsistencies and injury woes.

Experience plays a huge factor here. And with Real Madrid being the more grizzled group compared to Sevilla, they are expected to come away with three crucial points at home this weekend.

Moreover, along with the victory, Los Blancos are hopeful that the matchup between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid ends up in a draw so that they’ll officially return on top of the table.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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20-Jul 2021 Tuesday 2:08 PM (307 days ago)            #32
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La Liga: Draw with Barca suits Atletico…and Real Madrid

Barcelona 0-0 Atletico Madrid

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid played out a goalless draw at the Camp Nou on Saturday, a result which suited the visitors more than their hosts. 

Atleti came into the game in the box seat, two points clear at the top, and that’s how they finished it. La Liga: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid was billed as a fixture to give a clear indication of the destination of the 2021 title, but with the points shared nothing has been settled. Barca head coach Ronald Koeman watched his side from the stands, having copped a touchline ban following his red card in Barca’s defeat to Granada last week. And he will have been frustrated to see his side spurn a golden chance to win the game at the death.

The Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid betting odds here at SBOTOP offered 3.54 on a draw and neither side can really complain at the result after a tense and evenly matched battle. 

Highlights of the game 

The league leaders made a strong start and Thomas Lemar tested Ter Stegen when he cut inside and unleashed a low shot, and then former Barca man Luis Suarez had a free-kick but he lifted his effort straight into the keeper’s hands. Atleti had a change to make though, with only 13 minutes on the clock when Lemar’s afternoon came to an abrupt end. The French midfielder had just returned from an injury lay off but he picked up a muscle injury and Diego Simeone took no chances, brining on Saul.

Atletico Madrid remain on top of the La Liga table by holding Barcelona 0-0 at Camp Nou

Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Lemar walks off the pitch after sustaining a muscle injury

While Aleti had the early chances Barcelona dominated possession, passing the ball around at will while Los Rojiblancos seemed content to watch them. And the Madrid side continued to threaten when a goal bound shot from Angel Correa was stopped by a brilliant block from Clement Lenglet. 

Former Atletico man Antoine Griezmann tried a speculative effort but Jan Oblak made an easy save. And Ter Stegen was the busier keeper, making a good save to deny a sweeping shot from Marco Llorente and then using his feet to block an effort from Suarez. As Atleti pressed Ter Stegen made another strong save from Correa and he reacted quickly to thwart Suarez’ follow up. But the closest either side came in the first half came when Messi glided past Saul and curled a beauty towards the top corner, only to see Oblak make a fingertip save.

In a lively start to the second half Messi put a dangerous cross in which Lenglet headed over, while Suarez sent a dipping shot just wide of Ter Stegen’s post. Messi began to pull the strings as he carved out chances for rookie midfielder Ilaix Moriba and Gerard Pique, but Atleti’s defence stood firm. And then the Argentinean fired in a free-kick which Oblak pushed around the post. 

Los Rojiblancos’ keeper was alert again to keep Moriba at bay after Antoine Griezmann has slid a weighted ball through and, as both sides probed for a vital goal Pique went into the book for holding back Joao Felix; it was a yellow worth taking as the young Portuguese star was away. 

With five minutes remaining Ousmane Dembele had a golden chance to win it when he met a perfect cross from Jordi Alba, but with the goal at his mercy he planted his header over the bar. And on 90 minutes Messi was inches away with a free-kick which had the defensive wall and Oblak beaten.

Key statistics

Barca bossed the fist half possession with over 65 per cent of the ball, but Atleti had more attempts on goal at six to three and five to three on target. The Blaugrana turned the figures around in the second half and edged the final shot count by 12 to 11 and seven to six on target.

When playing at home the Catalans have not lost to the Madrid side in 21 encounters in the league, but they really needed a win today. 

What’s next?

Real Madrid and Sevilla play on Sunday night and fans of both teams will have kept a close eye on the Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid updates this afternoon; and they will have been delighted by the outcome. If Los Blancos can beat Sevilla they will go top of the league with three games to play. 

Barca brushed off their recent defeat to Granada with a victory over Valencia and now they need to get back to winning ways, nine points from their last three fixtures is a must. On Tuesday the Blaugrana is away to Levante, and that should be a regulation win against a side in 13th place with little to play for and with four defeats in the last five games.

Meanwhile Atletico are at home to Real Sociedad next. La Real are in fifth place with work still to do to guarantee a Europa League place, but they did their chances no harm at all with a 2-0 victory over relegation threatened Elche on Friday night.

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20-Jul 2021 Tuesday 2:11 PM (307 days ago)            #33
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La Liga: Real Show Character But Miss Opportunity As Lopetegui Proves His Point

Real Madrid 2-2 Sevilla

The La Liga destiny seemed set.

For the first time in months, the reigning champions had matters back in their own hands after title rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid cancelled each other out.

That appeared to prove the perfect result for Real Madrid who knew they would move level on points with Atletico if they defeated fourth-placed Sevilla.

Yes, Sevilla had already shown a liking for unsettling big city clubs, including their Madrid rivals.

But this was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as victory would ensure Zinedine Zidane’s side would go top because of their head-to-head record. with three league games remaining – a position they would not have expected to find themselves in following their draw against Real Betis a fortnight ago.

The scene was set for La Liga highlights and it certainly delivered.

Highlights of the game

Looking to bounce back from their midweek Champions League exit to Chelsea to keep their hopes of silverware alive, Real made three changes as Alvaro Odriozola, Marcelo and Federico Valverde replaced skipper Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Eden Hazard.

Managed by former Real boss Julen Lopetegui, who had his own point to prove at the club which sacked him less than three months into his tenure in 2018, Sevilla opted for just one change from their last outing as Joan Jordan replaced Youssef En-Nesyri.

That meant a false nine system in attack with a trident of Suso, Papu Gomez and Lucas Ocampos.

Los Nervionenses have deserved immense credit for pulling themselves into title contention, a run of seven wins from eight matches between March 14 and April 25 seeing them close the gap on the top three.

Realistically, though – after coming from nowhere to be in contention – Sevilla’s own title challenge was ended by defeat to Athletic Bilbao last Monday.

Unbeaten in the league since the end of January, Real thought they had the perfect start when Karim Benzema headed home Odriozola’s cross just 12 minutes in.

VAR intervened though and, within another 10 minutes, the hosts were behind as Fernando was given too much space to collect Ivan Rakitic’s knock-down and slot the ball beyond Thibaut Courtois.

Sevilla remain in fourth place in La Liga following their 2-2 draw away from home versus Real Madrid

Ivan Rakitic celebrates after converting a penalty for Sevilla against Real Madrid

That promoted a spell of Real pressure as the visitors were pushed back, yet dogged defending managed to keep them out.

That sustained pressing continued into the second period, although the clear-cut opportunities remained few – Vinicius Junior spurning the best from close range 19 minutes into the second half after veteran duo Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, combined.

Within a minute, Zidane replaced Modric with Marco Asensio and you can guess what happened next as the sub was played through by Kroos and sent a low shot past Yassine Bounou for an instant equaliser.

At that point, most of the smart money would have been on Real but Sevilla showed some attacking intent of their own.

When, with 13 minutes remaining, Eder Militao handled the ball in the box, Rakitic fired the resulting penalty into the bottom corner and Sevilla were back in front.

Zidane immediately called for Eden Hazard, a player who had much to make up for after he was seen laughing with his former Chelsea team-mates after they knocked his current side out of the Champions League.

That angered Real fans, even if the Belgian apologised the following day by saying he didn’t mean to offend.

Amid six minutes of stoppage time, Sevilla were actually within 120 seconds of a first away league win at Los Blancos since December 2008 until the evergreen Kroos fired towards goal and it took a deflection off Hazard to haul Real level once more.

Casemiro then came within a whisker of a winner but, like Hazard’s apology, it was too little too late.

The top four can all still triumph in a remarkably tight title race, but the Sbotop La Liga betting odds, finally, point to Atletico Madrid to make it over the line.

Key statistics

Until today, none of the last 31 meetings in La Liga between Sevilla and Real Madrid had finished all square (11 wins for Sevilla and 20 for Real), since a 2-2 draw in May 2005, the longest run ever without a stalemate in this fixture in La Liga.

Asensio has scored more goals as a substitute than any other Real player under Zinedine Zidane.

Rakitic is the only player to score and assist in a game against Madrid this season and the first Sevilla player to do so since Renato Dirnei and Frédéric Kanouté in December 2008.

What’s next?

Sevilla are back in action at home to Valencia on Wednesday evening (May 12). That is swiftly followed by a visit to Europa League finalists Villarreal before they host Alaves on the final day of the league season.

Three are three games remaining for Real and they must win them all to have a chance of reclaiming the title.

They go to Granada on Thursday (May 13), visit Athletic Bilbao next Sunday and then conclude their campaign at home to Villarreal (May 23).

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20-Jul 2021 Tuesday 2:17 PM (307 days ago)            #34
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La Liga: Atleti’s Title Charge to Advance Against Sociedad/h2>

Atletico Madrid vs Real Sociedad

It’s ‘as you were’ at the top of the La Liga table after the Barcelona and Atletico face-off ended in a draw, as did Real Madrid’s Sunday night date with Sevilla. So with a full set of fixtures this week Atletico Madrid’s home match against Real Sociedad is as big as it gets.

Only two points separate Diego Simeone’s leaders from Real Madrid and Barcelona and a slip up against Imanol Alguacil’s Sociedad will almost certainly open the door to their rivals, but I’m backing Atleti to pass this test and stay in the box seat. 

Talking Points

Atleti still as solid as ever

Much has been written about the impact Luis Suarez has had since his arrival at the Wanda Metropolitano last summer. The Uruguayan’s 19 goals have fired Simeone’s side to the top of the table, while Marcos Llorente has put in a tremendous shift alongside him, scoring 12 goals and making ten assists. But Los Rojiblancos’ strength at the back has been, consistently, a huge factor in their success. 

Atleti have conceded the fewest goals in the league, 22 compared with 26 at Real Madrid and 33 at Barcelona. Stefan Savic has been an uncompromising figure at the heart of defence, picking up 13 yellow cards, while Jose Gimenez, one of the most highly rated young defenders in world football, is hopeful of making a start but he will have a late test.

Simeone will be without Thomas Lemar, who aggravated a muscle injury against Barca, but Joao Felix came through without problems and he could support the attack alongside Angel Correa.

Real Sociedad still a threat

Alguacil’s Sociedad made a brilliant start to the campaign, inspired by the signing of David Silva, but an injury to the former Manchester City star slowed their early season momentum and, having ridden high sky until Christmas, Sociedad have drifted to the relative comfort of fifth place and on track for a Europa League place. 

The visitors have received a boost with the news that Igor Zubeldia is fit to resume at centre back and Joseba Zaldua should be fit to slot in at right back.

La Liga: Real Sociedad need Mikel Oyarzabal to step up to win over Atletico Madrid

Real Sociedad forward Mikel Oyarzabal in action against Elche midfielder Raul Guti and defender Antonio Barragan during a match at the Anoeta Stadium

Up front they will pose a threat with Swedish striker Alex Isak already on 14 goals, while Mikel Oyarzabal, with 11 goals and seven assists, has caught the attention of Premier League giants Liverpool. At 24 years of age he’s yet to reach his prime, and a 50m Euros offer might well turn out to be good business. 

Three-way battle will go to the last game

The latest La Liga 2021 betting odds have drifted back and forth, backing the Blaugrana until their catastrophic home defeat to Granada last week. That Granada followed that up with a home defeat to Cadiz tells us how bad a result that was for Ronald Koeman’s men and now Atletico Madrid have been re-installed as favourites.

Barcelona are away to Levante on Tuesday night and they follow that up with a home game against Celta Vigo and a trip to Eibar on the final day. Expect three wins from those three, and that is what Atleti need to do. Following this clash with Sociedad Diego Simeone’s team have very winnable games against Osasuna and Real Valladolid to come. 

Real Madrid haven’t yet given up but they will rue their lost chance against Sevilla on Sunday night, though they were saved from defeat by a Sevilla own goal deep into stoppage time. Los Blancos crashed out of the Champions League semi-final in an aggregate 3-1 defeat to Chelsea and have their full concentration on the league, but with away games to Granada and Athletic Bilbao and a clash with Villarreal on the final day, Zinedine Zidane’s team arguably has the toughest set of fixtures. 

When the next set of La Liga 2021 results are in we’ll know more, but this is a must win game for Atletico.

History

Los Rojiblancos are leading the head to heads with Sociedad by 21 to 17, and they will take comfort from a 2-0 win in December when Mario Hermoso and Marcos Llorente were on target to take Atleti three points clear at the top of the table. Sociedad were in third place at the time and would have been level with Atleti had the result gone the other way.

Current form at 57 per cent is identical for both teams with three wins, two draws and two defeats each over the last seven games.

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20-Jul 2021 Tuesday 2:20 PM (307 days ago)            #35
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Summer of Speculation Set to Spark Into Life in La Liga

Euro 2020 may still be ongoing but the start of July usually triggers an increase in transfer speculation and, suddenly, you can say that the new season starts ‘next month’.

That is the same in La Liga which is set to begin on August 13 – even though it seems only five minutes ago that Atletico Madid clinched the title on a dramatic final day.

Two days after a campaign jammed-packed full of La Liga highlights concluded, I pondered that there were as many questions as answers.

Six weeks on, I’m far from convinced the situation has altered.

In fact, at the sharp end of the division, only one question has been answered.

Amid increased speculation that Zinedine Zidane was set to depart, the Frenchman and club did part company and brought back an old favourite to succeed him.

I suspect he has quite a rebuilding job.

Out has gone long-time skipper Sergio Ramos and the future of Welsh wizard Gareth Bale, following a season-long loan at Spurs, is unclear – although he and the Italian had a good working relationship and I’d expect him to be given an opportunity.

The persistent speculation linking the club with Kylian Mbappe remains and the talented French star would certainly provide the ‘galactico’ name that Los Blancos has lacked since Cristiano Ronaldo departed three years ago.

The arrival of David Alaba from Bayern Munich is an excellent capture and if Ancelotti keeps hold of Frenchman Raphael Varane and Eden Hazard can enjoy a clear run injury-free, the nucleus is there.

La Liga: Real Madrid hired Carlo Ancelotti to replace Zinedine Zidane

Carlo Ancelotti commanding from the touchline during his time at Everton last season

The midfield has several cases with Martin Odegaard back with enthusiasm and hoping a change of coach will mean an upturn in fortunes for him as he looks for some decent game time in a white shirt following four different loan spells – most recently at Arsenal.

The admission of Isco for so many matches for both club and country is a mystery to me and if he is not in Ancelotti’s plans then it is likely his time at the club will soon run its course.

Over at Barcelona, who have shown faith in manager Ronald Koeman, fellow Dutchman Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero are the big arrivals, yet the main question still lingers there too: will life at Barca in 2021/22 be with or without Lionel Messi?

The Catalans may be trying to slash their expenses – as well as some fringe players, there is talk that Philippe Coutinho could be sold to Milan (freeing up around 50 million euros) – but maintaining Messi’s signature would be a massive boost after he looked certain to leave Catalonia a matter of months ago.

There are many more players who could still leave this summer, but with less of a market.

Danish frontman Martin Braithwaite, Carles Alena and Clement Lenglet could all be sold, and then there’s Antoine Griezmann. The latter earns 40 million euros gross a year and his departure would free up some cash.

Griezmann is one of a number of players who may miss the start of the season or certainly will not be fully fit after their Euro 2020 exertions.

And then there’s Tokyo.

Spain have announced their football squad for the Olympics, causing no small amount of tension with clubs worried about their players facing burnout or not being available for the beginning of the new campaign.

Olympic football is controversial at the best of times. But, after a year marked by a global pandemic and with continental competitions already taking place, clubs are even more reluctant to part with their players.

That explains why Manchester City have been able to refuse Ferran Torres and Rodri permission to be part of the Olympics squad, while clubs in Spain do not have this right.

Pedri, Unai Simon, Mikel Oyarzabal, Eric Garcia, Pau Torres and Dani Olmo have all been included in the Olympic selection with Barcelona, in particular, concerned about the presence of Pedri and Garcia on Luis de la Fuente’s list.

Again, there are more questions than answers at this stage.

That I’ve barely mentioned defending champions Atletico shows why, once again, Real and Barca will be the two favourites with the Sbotop La Liga betting odds.

And then there’s the new boys.

Alongside Espanyol and Mallorca, who contested a thrilling Segunda Division title race, Rayo Vallecano are back in La Liga.

After relegation two years ago, coach Andoni Iraola, the former Athletic Club player, galvanised the team and led them to an unlikely promotion.

Much will be said about the three promoted clubs over the next month.

Much speculation will become confirmed or otherwise about arrivals and departures over the next month.

For now, though, it’s still up in the air!

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20-Jul 2021 Tuesday 2:28 PM (307 days ago)            #36
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La Liga: The Big Three’s Transfer Targets

The climax to the 2020/21 La Liga season was the most exciting in Europe as Atletico Madrid held off both Real Madrid and Barcelona to win a first league title in ten years.

It seems a while ago, doesn’t it? Football fans have since been mesmerised by stunning action at the Copa America and Euro 2020, while the CONCACAF Gold Cup is well underway in the USA and the Caribbean. But the 2021/22 domestic seasons are just around the corner and the transfer markets are warming up.

In Spain, the pre-season La Liga 2021 betting odds, here at SBOTOPmake it a three-horse race again with Barcelona, at 2.30, a nose ahead of Real Madrid at 2.50. Champions Atletico Madrid are close behind at 4.50 with Sevilla ahead of the rest at odds of 25.00.

With last season going to the wire the top three teams are desperate to strengthen before hostilities resume and the big La Liga 2021 news emerging from Catalonia is that Lionel Messi is ready to sign a new deal to stay at the Camp Nou, and that would be a sensational start for the Blaugrana.

The club has reportedly reached an agreement in principle with the Argentine to stay at the club for another five years and Messi, clearly delighted having helped his country win a first Copa America since 1993, is rumoured to be taking a 50 per cent wage cut to help out his club, and there will be a release clause of 600 million Euros. Lawyers are working on the deal so we’ll keep an eye on that one.

Atleti and Barca pondering a swap

With the news that Messi is prepared to stay in Catalonia, Barca might offload one of their other highly paid stars and there could be a swap deal between two of the big three, as talks are progressing between Atleti and Barca with a view to France star Antoine Griezmann returning to the Wanda Metropolitano and Saul Niguez heading the other way.

Les Bleus crashed out of the European Championships at the Round of 16 stage and Griezmann struggled to impress, so a move back to Madrid may be just what he needs to rediscover his very best form. He scored 133 goals for Atleti in his last stint at the club, and the move could also re-ignite Saul’s career after he suffered inconsistency during Los Rojiblancos’ title-winning campaign.

The move makes sense for Atleti who have confirmed the signing of Argentina’s attacking midfielder Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese. De Paul had a superb Copa America alongside Messi, and the 27-year-old has passed a medical and agreed a five-year deal. He is known for his attack-minded play, strong runs into the opposing half and a steady flow of goals and assists.

Back at the Camp Nou, head coach Ronald Koeman would dearly love to secure a similar attacking talent and Lorenzo Insigne would be a perfect fit for the Blaugrana according to Barcelona’s former sporting adviser Ariedo Braida. Braida admires the Italian’s pace and close control and his impressive return of goals of club and country.

Insigne has been a key player in Napoli’s team in recent seasons and was one of the players of the tournament as Italy won the European crown. There will be plenty of interest in Insigne so Barca will have to move smartly to lure him away from Serie A.

In the meantime, Barcelona have turned their attention to RB Leipzig wing back Angelino. The 24-year-old could leave the Bundesliga big hitters this summer, particularly if they succeed in signing Villarreal’s winger Alfonso Pedraza.

Is Lewi heading to Madrid?

Another big name who might just be heading from Spain to Germany, well a huge name, is that of Polish legend Robert Lewandowski. The FC Bayern man is rumoured to have said he’s been dreaming of a move to Real Madrid and, if there’s anything in that, surely Los Blancos will roll out the red carpet.

Bayern striker Lewandowski is reportedly eyeing a move to La Liga side Real Madrid

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring their first goal against VfB Stuttgart in March 20, 2021

Lewandowski alongside Karim Benzema would be a terrifying prospect for Spanish defences; the Pole had another amazing campaign in Germany, scoring 48 goals in 40 matches in all competitions and, at 32, he’s in his prime.

Two other names which have cropped up at the Santiago Bernabeu are young Danish sensation Mikkel Damsgaard, and German international Leon Goretzka. The Sampdoria forward impressed at Euro 2020 and scored a screamer in Denmark’s quarter final defeat to England and immediately attracted attention from a host of top European clubs, finishing with two spectacular goals and one assist in a series of all-action displays.

Goretzka has been on the radar for longer, having performed consistently well in FC Bayern’s 2020/21 season, contributing eight goals and nine assists, and any suitor will need to shell out around 70 million Euros to secure the midfielder’s services.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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20-Jul 2021 Tuesday 2:32 PM (307 days ago)            #37
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La Liga: Now For the Footballing and Financial Reality

There’s just under a month remaining until the start of the new La Liga season and it’s really starting to hot up.

Only this week, the president of the Spanish Football Federation outlined some measures he’d like to see introduced in the top flight by 2024 and they will prove a talking point in themselves.

But for now at least, the format remains and there is no need to change what undoubtedly works.

In fact, the prospect of more La Liga highlights excites and that will only be heightened by the summer speculation which is gathering pace and expected to reach a zenith over the next few weeks.

After clinching the title on the final day of last season, La Liga champions Atletico Madrid have outlined their intentions by signing Argentina midfielder Rodrigo de Paul from Udinese on a five-year deal.

De Paul, 27, part of Argentina’s Copa America winning side, will play in Spain for a second time in his career having been with Valencia between 2014 and 2016.

They are also reportedly in advanced talks over bringing Antoine Griezmann back from Barcelona in a swap deal for Atlético’s Saúl Ñíguez.

That, presumably, is in the offing so Barca can reduce their wage bill with fringe players such as Junior Firpo, Jean-Clair Todibo and Carles Alena already sold to free up budget.

Based on the speculation, other big-name departures also need to take place.

Of course, the major news emanating from Spain this week and news which surprised this SBOTOP writer was that Lionel Messi has agreed to stay at Barcelona in a deal until 2026 that includes reducing his wages to half of his previous salary.

Re-signing Messi was the principal summer target of new chairman Joan Laporta, the 34-year-old becoming a free agent after his contract – that reportedly paid him £123 million a season – expired at the end of June.

Yet after guiding his nation to Copa America glory, he has extended his stay in Catalonia, a deal which will enhance Barca’s La Liga betting odds significantly next season.

The club has structured Messi’s contract to help them stay within the boundaries of La Liga’s financial fair play regulations. While he has taken a significant salary cut, bonuses have been worked in and he is due to earn less this coming season than he will the season after as Barcelona wrestle with their finances.

Although they fell short in La Liga and the Champions League last season – although they did win the Copa del Rey – the club has kept faith with Ronald Koeman as manager and signed Messi’s compatriot Sergio Agüero, Eric García and Memphis Depay, all on free transfers.

There will be a certain irony to see Griezmann back in Atletico colours in 2021/22, while Aguero – an Atletico favourite – is back in Spain for the first time in a decade at Barcelona.

If the financial plight at Barcelona is as problematic as some believe, Philippe Coutinho could even be prevented from playing for the club again.

The club appears keen to offload Coutinho who is just 10 appearances away from activating a clause that would mean Barcelona would have to pay Liverpool another €20million.

La Liga: Reports are saying Lionel Messi stays in Barcelona

Lionel Messi arrives in Argentina after winning the Copa America

Currently over their La Liga wage cap, Barca can only spend 25% of what they earn, leaving them in a difficult position.

And with a €50million charge to cancel the midfielder’s contract altogether – barring some sort of mutual agreement to reduce that cost – Barca’s only option is to search for a buyer with the hope the 29 year-old is willing to take a reduced salary elsewhere.

While there is plenty of speculation involving other clubs in Spain, it’s commonplace that most of the noticeable rumours and deals involve the top three heavyweights and I get the impression some significant moves are afoot across the capital at Real Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti is back in the hotseat, David Alaba has already joined the club and Nacho Fernandez has signed a new contract that will keep him at the club until 2023.

Real are also hoping their star defender Raphael Varane, linked with Manchester United, will put pen to paper on a new contract, but in the event that he doesn’t they will have to look for a replacement – especially now the Sergio Ramos era has ended

In addition, Eder Militao has a contract until 2025, whilst Jesus Vallejo will be coming back from his loan move from Granada, a player Real Madrid still have a lot of faith in.

Of course, it’s not just Barcelona experiencing financial difficulties.

Los Blancos estimated their Covid-caused losses to be at 300 million euros since March last year when La Liga was forced to stop and the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu shut its doors. The team hasn’t played at its traditional home since.

This next month will shine a true light on the footballing ambitions and finances of Spain’s established big-hitters.

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25-Aug 2021 Wednesday 3:12 PM (271 days ago)            #38
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What Now for La Liga?

Well before we get drawn into all this life in La Liga without Lionel Messi saga, let’s remember the Spanish league has had Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Rivaldo et al in days gone by and it’s still going strong and will again – as it has proved after three years without, alongside Messi, the other top player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo.

In fact, forgive my cynical side, but if Messi really had loved Barcelona as much as he and his advisers have pledged in the past seven days, why didn’t he offer to play this season for free!

Perhaps that’s not realistic but food for thought at the end of a nauseating week which involved four separate media conferences: one for Barcelona to announce the Argentine maestro was leaving, one for Messi to say goodbye personally, one for Paris Saint-Germain to announce his arrival and then one for Messi to greet his new friends in France.

Talk about overkill!

Anyway, back to Spain and, following an opening weekend of La Liga 2021 highlights in which the big three all won, my viewpoint is that Spain’s premier division will continue to thrive, even if some of the stellar star names it has become accustomed to may be absent for a year or two.

Having said all of that, there may be one or two big incoming signings before this transfer window closes. And anyway, events this summer could make for some more exciting, unpredictable results, with none of the top three big-hitters (Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona) as certain of winning as they were a few years back.

We certainly saw plenty of excitement in the results during the opening weekend of the new campaign.

There are also plenty of reasons for compelling viewing further down the league with the return of some truly historic Spanish clubs.

Rayo Vallecano, Real Mallorca and Espanyol are all back in the top tier and desperate to avoid ending up in a relegation scrap come April and May – it should be fascinating as they try to better the likes of Getafe, Levante, Elche and Cadiz to survive.

In terms of the big three, let’s start with the defending champions, Atletico Madrid.

They may only be third favourites with the SBOTOP La Liga 2021 betting odds and I do not think they will retain the crown but they were also third favourites last season and that was when they managed to overcome a Messi-inspired Barca and a Real team managed by Zidane.

The character and will to win imposed by coach Diego Simeone was certainly evident as a double from Angel Correa saw off Celta Vigo, this with the likes of Luis Suarez and Kieran Trippier only playing a part from the bench.

Strength in depth will be key, of course, and at Real, featuring new boy David Alaba, there seems to be more than most.

Sure, the superstar names like Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland continue to be linked with possible moves to the Spanish capital.

But even without them, there appears to be substance as shown when Carlo Ancelotti got his second stint in charge off to the perfect start as Los Blancos earned a 4-1 victory away at Alaves.

A dominant second-half performance saw Karim Benzema pick up where he left off at the end of last season, scoring twice in addition to goals from Nacho and Vinicius.

I think Real will reclaim the title with Ancelotti’s guile proving a difference – although I don’t think either of the leading Spanish clubs are yet ready to win the Champions League again.

Barcelona also hit four to start the post-Messi era with victory and it was perhaps fitting that defender Gerard Pique scored the opener.

La Liga: Barcelona win their first match of the 2021-22 season

Gerard Pique talks with Jordi Alba during a La Liga match between Barcelona and Real Sociedad

The Spanish centre-back agreed to reduce his wages earlier in the week so the club could register three new signings in time for the new season.

That allowed Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Rey Manaj to be included as part of Barcelona’s matchday squad on Sunday, with Garcia and Depay in the starting XI.

The fans will not forget that gesture.

Of course, even before he was ruled out for 10 weeks with a calf injury, Sergio Aguero and Depay faced the seemingly impossible task of filling the Messi void in Catalonia and to me they will fall short in the title race.

Funnily enough, the last time Messi was not playing in La Liga was in 2003/04 when Barcelona still had a phenomenal team, with the likes of Rafael Marquez in defence alongside Carles Puyol, behind midfield legends Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.

In front of that solid spine stood the creative genius of Ronaldinho.

Despite such star names, it wasn’t Barcelona that tasted glory that year, falling five points short in second place to Valencia.

Although unlikely to happen again, that should give hope to any challengers.

La Liga 2021/22 is up and running.

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25-Aug 2021 Wednesday 3:16 PM (271 days ago)            #39
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La Liga: Passion and Paycuts Form Backdrop to San Mames Return

Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona

It’s been yet another lively La Liga week in the life of FC Barcelona.

Ok, perhaps not quite as dramatic and theatrical as the week which directly preceded it. 

You know, the one which involved four separate media conferences: one for Barcelona to announce their Argentine maestro was departing, one for Lionel Messi to say goodbye personally, one for Paris Saint-Germain to announce his arrival, and then one for Messi to greet his new friends in France. 

Talk about overkill! But still dramatic enough.

There was also one in which involved club stalwart Gerard Pique taking a “substantial” pay cut to allow the club to register new players in time for the opening weekend of the season, and another one which saw club president Joan Laporta reveal that Barca have £1.15 billion in debt, describing the situation as “very worrying”.

That is underplaying the situation somewhat me thinks!

The club’s wage bill currently accounts for 103% of total income with Laporta blaming predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu for the debt, accusing him of leaving a “terrible inheritance”.

Oh yes, and between all that, the side managed some La Liga 2021 highlights in front of their returning fans as they ran out 4-2 home winners over Real Sociedad.

Now for the next adventure on this Catalonia merry go-round: a trip the Basque country and Athletic Bilbao.

Talking Points

Who knows with the situation as it is, perhaps manager Ronald Koeman will include the likes of high earners, such as Samuel Umtiti, Philippe Coutinho, and Antoine Griezmann in his team.

If they impress, potentially they could still depart to help ease the financial burden. 

Barcelona are still paying out too much on wages despite other departures and paycuts, so they will have to try and get everything in order by June 30, 2022.

Anyway, back to the football and La Liga.

Ahead of the weekend, Barcelona have welcomed defender Oscar Mingueza back to training. He picked up an injury during the Olympics with Spain and returned straight to the treatment room.

Although he won’t be ready for this weekend, it must be remembered Mingueza made 27 La Liga appearances for Barcelona last season while starting 23 times, and he is very much liked by Koeman. He could come into his own if the club cashes in on Umtiti over the next few weeks.

This fixture, of course, is a repeat of last season’s Copa del Rey Final – a match in which Barca romped to a 4-0 triumph.

I felt so sorry for Athletic Bilbao after successive defeats – the delayed 2020 final was also played last April and they lost that too.

Yet despite bizarrely competing in two Copa del Rey finals in one month alone, reaching successive finals at least shows they have a squad capable of hitting such heights even if they have often fallen short of expectations in recent years.

Athletic Bilbao aim to win over Barcelona and move upwards in the La Liga table

Yeray Alvarez celebrates Athletic Bilbao’s victory in the Spanish Super Cup final against FC Barcelona at La Cartuja Stadium.

Any side managed by Marcelino can be a surprise and Athletic could be a dark horse to make a European challenge, although they will need to improve their goalscoring record.

As if to prove the point, Athletic were forced to settle for a goalless draw at Elche in their first game of the season – a contest in which the Basque giants just about edged the contest in terms of key chances created but were unable to find the all-important breakthrough.

So two sides finding their feet and an entertaining contest awaits in San Mames on Saturday night, although perhaps don’t expect too many goals.

History

As well as their Spanish Cup Final success, Barca enjoyed a league double over Bilbao last term.

They won the corresponding fixture 3-2 in early January when goals from talented Spanish youngster Pedri and a double from Messi bookended early and late Athletic goals from Inaki Williams and Iker Muniain.

They also tasted victory in the return fixture in late January when Messi and Griezmann were on target in a 2-1 win at the Nou Camp.

Between all that, however, Bilbao recorded a memorable victory in the Spanish Super Cup Final.

I am not going to describe that, however.

I am going to leave the final word to acclaimed Spanish football journalist Sid Lowe who summed up better than anyone what it meant to all connected with Bilbao.

This was a night when the team made up entirely of local boys have twice come from behind against the biggest team of all, somehow making it this far thanks to an improbable last-minute equaliser. The ball then falls at the feet of the striker who joined them as a kid and is playing in his 167th consecutive game.

From the edge of the area at an implausible position, he hits an unstoppable shot which flies through the air and rockets into the net.

It was, said Athletic Club’s Iñaki Williams at the end of an exhausting, exhilarating 120 minutes, “without a doubt the best goal of my career”.

Betting Tip

??

Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona SBOBET.com/en/euro/football/spain-la-liga/3687925/athletic-bilbao-vs-barcelona" target="_blank" rel="noopener">1X2 Draw @ 3.45
August 22, 04:00 (GMT+8)

With the SBOTOP La Liga 2021 betting odds, you can back Barca 1X2 @ 1.92 and Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.26, while Athletic can be tipped 1X2 @ 3.85 and Asian Handicap +0.25 @ 2.31.

Total goal 2-3 @ 1.96 was considered but my bet is for Bilbao, cheered on by their returning passionate support, to claim a point against the Blaugrana this weekend.

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25-Aug 2021 Wednesday 3:25 PM (271 days ago)            #40
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La Liga: Passion and Paycuts Form Backdrop to San Mames Return

Levante vs Real Madrid

All roads lead to the Estadio Ciudad de Valencia as Real Madrid pay a visit to Levante for the second matchday of 2021/22 season.

Real Madrid looked virtually unstoppable against Alaves in what was a joyous La Liga homecoming for Carlo Ancelotti. And with more players available at his disposal, they are backed by the SBOTOP betting odds to pretty much do the same this Sunday.

But Levante have different plans upon hosting their first match at home this season and they can make their visitors uncomfortable as shown in their previous matches.

Los Granotas gained a point from their draw against Cadiz in the last time out, although many pundits felt that they should’ve gotten the full three points.

With the new season already underway, let’s take a look and analyse how these two Spanish top-flight clubs stack up in this match preview.

Talking Points

Levante’s stars aren’t at their best form

Levante would’ve easily been in one of the top places at the table if only they got the job done against Cadiz last weekend.

It felt like they were on their way to pick up their first win of the season when they held a one-goal lead after the 39th minute, but a late goal bailed out Cadiz.

Top scorer Jose Luis Morales was the lone bright spot for Los Granotas with his first half goal, but it was cancelled out by Alfonso Espino’s added time score.

And against a team like Real Madrid this Sunday, Levante need their other key players to perform much better in order to have a chance.

Levante’s wide area is a point of concern ahead of their next match since it was exploited by Cadiz in the last time out.

Winger Jorge de Frutos and right-back Son lost the ball for a combined 36 times versus the Pirates, and that won’t cut it against a possession-heavy club like Real Madrid.

Furthermore, Roger Marti — who was their second leading scorer last term with 12 goals — was unable to make his presence felt and he must have a more aggressive approach versus Los Blancos.

Real Madrid are off to a flying start

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti aiming for another win in La Liga

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti gestures before the match

The front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Eden Hazard worked beautifully against Alaves last week and we expect them to create more La Liga 2021 highlights since Levante aren’t exactly known for their defence.

Besides those three, Carlo Ancelotti can mix it up with the likes of Marco Asensio, Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo, and Luka Jovic – who are all capable goalscorers as well.

But the key area of focus for Los Blancos is going to be the midfield since Toni Kroos remains out due to a lingering groin injury.

Jose Campana is Levante’s rock at the middle. And when left unchecked, he can cause problems with his nifty passes to his forwards.

Fede Valverde, Luka Modric, and Casemiro will all have to work double time to contain the 28-year-old playmaker while providing cover for the unestablished centre-back duo of Nacho and Eder Militao.

History

Real Madrid are on a roll and an away win against Levante this weekend would certainly boost their championship aspirations.

Los Blancos haven’t lost in any of their last 19 La Liga fixtures (W14, D5), which is the best current undefeated streak of any team in the tournament.

Moreover, they’ve been superb in playing against Levante on the road, having beaten them 11 out of their last 15 visits while scoring 29 goals total.

On the flip side, Levante have generally done well under Paco Lopez’s tutelage. With him as their manager, Los Granotas have won three of their six meetings with Real Madrid in La Liga.

Before Lopez’s arrival, Levante have only won twice in 24 games against Real Madrid in the Spanish top-flight (L19, D3).

Betting Tip

??
Levante vs Real Madrid Real Madrid Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 2.06
August 23, 04:00 (GMT+8)

The La Liga 2021 odds point to a victory for Real Madrid, but Levante can certainly give them a challenge.

Los Blancos are installed at 1.61 to win, while Levante are priced at 5.20 and a draw is at 3.90 in the 1X2 market.

As shown in their recent head-to-heads, Levante can hurt Real Madrid if they’ll catch them on an off-night and they are opportunistic enough to take advantage when given the chance.

But at the end of the day, Real Madrid’s overall quality is undoubtedly better. And with momentum on their side, Los Blancos should sweep aside their opponents to pick up their second successive victory under Carlo Ancelotti.

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25-Aug 2021 Wednesday 3:32 PM (271 days ago)            #41
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La Liga: Shorthanded Sevilla Set for Gritty Getafe Test

Getafe vs Sevilla

After their strong start to the La Liga season, Sevilla now have their sights set on picking up a second win in a row when they take on Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

Getafe did not get off to a great start to their new campaign after losing 1-0 to old coach Jose Bordalas’ Valencia, who were down to 10 men for virtually the entire match.

The La Liga 2021 betting odds will not be in Getafe’s favour against a strong Sevilla side. However, Julen Lopetegui’s side could be shorthanded once again for this match due to Covid-related absences, which gives the home side some hope of picking up a positive result.

Talking Points

Sevilla still shorthanded due to Covid

Sevilla kickstarted their new season with a fine 3-0 win over Rayo Vallecano at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. They were aided by Rayo goalkeeper Luca Zidane getting sent off after just 16 minutes.

Star striker Youssef En-Nesyri scored from the penalty spot, while new signing Erik Lamela immediately made La Liga 2021 highlights as he bagged a brace on his debut.

Sevilla fans expect Erik Lamela to score against Getafe in their upcoming La Liga clash

Erik Lamela celebrates after scoring his second goal for Sevilla during a La Liga clash against Rayo Vallecano

Lamela did not start despite Sevilla missing winger Lucas Ocampos due to injury. Suso and first-choice keeper Yassine Bounou were also out due to Covid. With all three still doubtful to return against Getafe, Lamela will likely get a spot in the starting line-up after his impressive debut.

Fellow Argentine Papu Gomez could be in line for a start while Ivan Rakitic, who also had Covid, is back in training.

However, new signing Rafa Mir looks unlikely to make his debut against Getafe. The 23-year-old, who completed his move from Wolverhampton Wanderers a few days ago, had 13 goals in 38 league matches last season on loan at Huesca and won the silver medal for Spain during the Tokyo Olympics.

Meanwhile, Marko Dmitrovic will continue to deputise in goal if Bounou remains out. The 29-year-old did not have a single save to make against Rayo, and he will be hoping for a similarly uneventful match against Getafe, who have struggled to find the way to goal in recent matches.

Getafe still missing goals

Getafe made a disappointing start to the season as they lost 1-0 to Valencia, who had gone down to 10 men after just three minutes.

Valencia went up after 11 minutes thanks to a Carlos Soler penalty. But despite controlling 73 per cent of possession and getting off 22 shots, Getafe could not find an equaliser as only four of their shots were on target. Midfielder Mauro Arambarri had a team-high seven shots, one of which hit the woodwork.

Scoring goals remains a major problem for Getafe, who had a league-worst 28 goals last season. Veteran forwards Jaime Mata and Angel Rodriguez shared the team lead with five goals apiece, but Rodriguez left this summer to Mallorca on a free transfer.

New head coach Michel, who replaces the successful Jose Bordalas, has a lot of work to do in order to order to solve this glaring weakness.

Michel will be without promising young midfielder Marc Cucurella for the rest of the month. The 23-year-old has been given a holiday after helping Spain win silver at the Olympics. The former Barcelona man was one of Gefate’s top attacking forces last season with three goals and two assists.

New signing Jakub Jankto, who had six goals in 35 appearances for Sampdoria last season, is also unlikely to make his debut.

Meanwhile, centre-back Erick Cabaco will be available to play despite getting sent off against Valencia after he had one of his yellow cards rescinded.

History

Sevilla have had the upper hand in their encounters with Getafe over the last two seasons. The Rojiblancos have won each of their last four matches by an aggregate score of 9-0.

Although, Getafe did have a lot of success against Sevilla in the past. They won four of nine previous matches, three of which coming at home, with two draws.

Betting Tip

??
Getafe vs Sevilla 1X2 Sevilla @ 2.29
August 24, 02:00 (GMT+8)

The SBOTOP odds for this match are quite competitive. Sevilla are only narrow 2.29 favourites to win away, with Getafe priced at 3.25 at home. Meanwhile, a draw is at 3.05.

Despite their weaknesses going forward, Getafe are still quite capable at the back. They can make things tough for a Sevilla side that will not have some of their key attacking weapons in Ocampos, Suso, and Rakitic. And as impressive as Lamela was in his debut, he has not been a consistent goalscorer during his career.

But still, with En-Nesyri, and Papu Gomez, Sevilla should have enough in attack to eke out an away win at Getafe.

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25-Aug 2021 Wednesday 3:36 PM (271 days ago)            #42
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An Angel Shines in Week Two of La Liga

The second weekend of the La Liga season and more talking points to ponder with 2021/22 in its infancy.

As it stands there is still the chance of more La Liga 2021 highlights to come with two games to be played this evening (August 23).

Regardless of what happens tonight, though, we’ve had a few early indicators from the weekend programme of matches in the Spanish top flight.

Passion play and fans’ favourites

This contest confirmed three factors to me:

1) that Athletic Bilbao really have a much better chance to shake off their nearly-men tag when they’re playing at home with the support of their passionate fans at San Mames.

This showed again on Saturday night as they tore into their illustrious visitors Barcelona from the kick-off and could easily have led by more than Inigo Martinez’s headed opener after Bilbao had dominated.

Perhaps they can be third time lucky in their quest for the Copa del Rey triumph this year.

2) that as Barca try and find their way in the post-Lionel Messi era, that a new fans’ favourite could just have emerged. Certainly, Memphis Depay plays with passion and he scored a blistering first goal for his new club which will endear to him to his new supporters. Real potential, could be the start of a new relationship?

Memphis Depay is fast-becoming a favourite among Barcelona fans following his first La Liga goal

Memphis Depay celebrates scoring Barcelona’s opening goal against Athletic Club at San Mames stadium

3) after a topsy turvy season, this SBOTOP writer can still get some big predictions correct! I was beginning to think I’d lost my mojo but I’m happy again now!

It was far from an ideal night for Barca and coach Ronald Koeman, incidentally.

They lost Gerard Pique to a calf injury midway through the half, an injury that will rule him out next weekend.

Another player that will miss out is the centre back who started alongside him in the heart of Barcelona’s defence, Eric Garcia, after he received a red card for his foul on Nico Williams in the closing stages.

Family links and Fer Nino are spot-on

The last time I reported on Mallorca, they were a goal down before I could blink – inside 66 seconds in fact. They had been relegated within weeks.

This time an almighty happier affair.

Don’t get me wrong, the SBOTOP La Liga 2021 betting odds are still stacked against them as they endeavour for back-to-back seasons in the top flight for the first time since 2013.

Yet, even at this stage of the season, the importance of Fer Nino’s penalty in the colours his father once wore could prove crucial come the end of the current campaign.

For newly promoted Mallorca, the success his 79th-minute penalty earned them at Alaves has ensured they have four points from their first two games.

Fer Niño has come full circle. The new vermilion striker, on loan from Villarreal, could not have had a better debut with the colours that his father also wore a few years ago.

In securing Mallorca their first victory of 2021/22, he repeated the formula he did in January 2020 with the Yellow Submarine when he debuted in La Liga Santander on the same stage.

Atletico have their own Angel

It’s 37 years since a club other than the Real Madrid-Barcelona duopoly won back-to-back La Liga titles.

In many ways, that shows the magnitude of the task Atletico Madrid face this term.

Just like last season, few genuinely expect Los Rojiblancos to win the title, let alone retain it.

And with a lack of big summer signings, with the exception of Rodrigo de Paul from Udinese, there’s probably a lack of enthusiasm in some quarters for their chances.

Yet the character and resoluteness that they displayed last term counts for a lot and manager Diego Simeone can’t have asked for more than six points from their first two games.

Yes, they were expected to win both games but would have been savaged if they hadn’t.

All three goals in those victories against Celta Vigo and Elche have been scored by Argentine Angel Correa.

When Atletico lifted the trophy in 2013-14, their title year was immediately followed by a big exodus of key players from Simeone’s side, including David Villa, Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois (the latter two to Chelsea).

The following season a much weaker Atletico finished 16 points behind eventual champions Barcelona.

The season after their previous title win, Atletico finished the 1996-97 season in fifth place, 21 points off winners Real Madrid.

Within three years they had been relegated, the title-winning team dispersed completely, including Simeone who headed to Lazio and Serie A.

They are not favourites or even second favourites to retain the title in 2021/22, but they already have a two-point advantage over their big two rivals.

The Atletico Angel called Correa has done his stuff.

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28-Sep 2021 Tuesday 12:49 PM (238 days ago)            #43
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La Liga: Koeman’s Days at Camp Nou Could Be Numbered

Barcelona have not had the best start to the La Liga season, and it could just cost head coach Ronald Koeman his job. The Dutchman remains under serious pressure after a disappointing draw against Granada, and the board is reportedly considering his future with the club.

Elsewhere, champions Atletico Madrid – led by Luis Suarez – staged another late comeback to win away at Getafe. And former Atleti star Radamel Falcao continued the fantastic start to his Rayo Vallecano career with a late winner of his own.

Read on below as SBOTOP rounds up the latest news and updates from La Liga.

Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona future looking uncertain

Ronald Koeman’s future at Barcelona is looking far from secure these days. After an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, his Barcelona side needed a late equaliser from centre-back Ronald Araujo to salvage a 1-1 draw at home against Granada.

With that result, Barcelona find themselves in eighth place – six points back of leaders Atletico Madrid – but have two games in hand.

Koeman was criticised for his side’s un-Barca-like style of play. The Catalans sent in 54 crosses – their second-highest tally in a La Liga match in well over a decade – and used Gerard Pique as an emergency forward for the final 20 minutes.

But Koeman pushed back against his critics, pointing out that he was forced to make changes because of all the key absentees in his squad.

“We changed our style a little bit,” Koeman said after the result. “If you see the list of players, what do you do? Play tiki-taka? Tiki-taka when there are no spaces?

“We did what we had to do. We tried to win another way. We don’t have players one-on-one or with speed. We’re talking… I’m not going to say more because it seems I have to argue about everything.”

Koeman added: “We know it’s maybe not Barcelona’s football, but this Barcelona is not that of eight years ago.”

Already weakened by the departure of Lionel Messi, Barcelona were also without Jordi Alba, Pedri, Ansu Fati, Martin Braithwaite, Ousmane Dembele and Sergio Aguero due to injury against Granada.

Koeman declined to discuss his future with the club, but reports suggest the board is already considering parting ways with the Dutch coach.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and former Barca great Xavi Hernandez have been linked as potential replacements should Koeman get the sack.

Luis Suarez leads another Atletico late show

Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez aims to lead his club to a La Liga glory

Atletico Madrid’s Luis Suarez in action against Getafe

Atletico Madrid have done it again. After coming from behind to beat Espanyol 2-1 away from home through to a very late Thomas Lemar goal, they successfully completed another comeback against Getafe thanks to two late goals from Luis Suarez.

Getafe went in front after a header came off the post, then bounced off Atleti keeper Jan Oblak and into the net. However, things turned for the home side when Carles Alena was sent off on 74 minutes for a second yellow card. 

Suarez – who has made too many La Liga 2021 highlights the season – equalised just four minutes later, then grabbed the late winner a minute into stoppage time.

The win sends the reigning champions to the top of the table, one point ahead of rivals Real Madrid. Although, they have played one game more. Atleti will be back in action this weekend away to bottom-club Deportivo Alaves, who have lost their first four games.

Radamel Falcao breaks hearts in Bilbao as Rayo score dramatic win

Former Atletico Madrid favourite Radamel Falcao is having a fantastic time in his return to La Liga. The new Rayo Vallecano striker – who spent the last few seasons playing for Turkish giants Galatasaray – came on as a substitute and scored on his debut in their 3-0 win over Getafe on the weekend.

And things got better for the 35-year-old as he scored the winning goal deep in stoppage time to hand Athletic Club their first defeat of the season.

Rayo took the lead after just five minutes through Alvaro Garcia, but Athletic equalised after a Pathe Ciss own goal.

The two sides looked destined for a draw, but Rayo defied the La Liga 2021 betting odds as two of their substitutes – former Manchester United players Falcao and Bebe –combined to score the winning goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

With that win, Falcao and newly promoted Rayo and are now up to fourth place with 10 points, while Athletic Club are in sixth.

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28-Sep 2021 Tuesday 12:51 PM (238 days ago)            #44
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La Liga: Valencia Desperate for Victory over Athletic

Valencia vs Athletic Bilbao

Valencia’s promising start to the new La Liga season has come to a sudden stop. Los Che have now lost back-to-back games, which has halted their positive momentum under new manager Jose Bordalas.

Valencia will look to get back to winning ways when they host Athletic Bilbao, who are also in need of a win after a dramatic defeat in midweek.

Read on for a full preview of this 4th-vs-7th clash in La Liga at the Mestalla this weekend.

Talking Points

Valencia in a losing skid

After starting out the season strong with three wins in four games, Valencia are now in the midst of their first losing streak under new manager Jose Bordalas. Granted, those two defeats have come against two of the top four teams in Spain: Real Madrid and Sevilla. 

Valencia played quite well against Real and were a bit unlucky to lose as Los Blancos staged a late comeback. However, Los Che were thoroughly outplayed in their midweek clash with Sevilla, who effectively sealed the 3-1 win inside the first half-hour with goals from Papu Gomez, Gonzalo Montiel, and new signing Rafa Mir.

Valencia keenly felt the absence of key midfielder Carlos Soler, who picked up an injury in the loss to Real. They are also still missing star left-back Jose Gaya, right-back Thierry Correia, and midfielder Denis Cheryshev.

But on the bright side for Los Che, Hugo Duro is having a strong start to the season. The 21-year-old, who came over from Getafe on loan, has now scored in back-to-back games after grabbing a consolation goal against Sevilla.

Valencia still need more in attack beyond Duro, though, especially with Soler out. Portuguese striker Goncalo Guedes has cooled off slightly after a promising start and has just one shot in his last two games.

Athletic need attacking spark

Like Valencia, Athletic Bilbao also had a fine run of early La Liga 2021 results as they went unbeaten in their first five games – two wins and three draws, including two against Barcelona and champions Atletico Madrid. 

However, their unbeaten run finally came to an end in midweek at the hands of newly promoted Rayo Vallecano, with Radamel Falcao scoring the winning goal in stoppage time.

Similar to past seasons, scoring goals remains quite a struggle for Athletic. They have managed just five through their first six games, with Inaki Williams contributing two.

Athletic’s attacking woes have been more glaring in the last few games, though, as they’ve managed just one shot on target in their last two outings.

Athletic Bilbao will rely on Iñaki Williams to net goals against Valencia in their La Liga match

Iñaki Williams celebrates after scoring a goal for Atheltic Bilbao during their match against Barcelona at San Mames Stadium

Williams was only a second-half substitute in midweek against Rayo, but Athletic manager Marcelino will likely bring him back into the starting lineup to provide a much-needed attacking spark.

But despite Athletic’s continued attacking shortcomings, they are still a very solid defensive team, with just three goals conceded this season. 

Centre-back Yeray Alvarez, who has yet to play this season, is getting closer to making his return. But young Dani Vivian has done a fine job partnering Inigo Martinez in Alvarez’s absence.

History

Valencia and Athletic Club have been evenly matched over the years. In their last 29 league meetings, Valencia hold a very slight 11-9 edge in wins, with nine draws.

Both of their meetings last season ended in draws. The first matchup at the Mestalla was an entertaining 2-2 stalemate. Carlos Soler put Valencia ahead through a first-half penalty, but Athletic came roaring back to take a 2-1 lead. However, Valencia equalised seven minutes from time through Manu Vallejo.

Athletic have won just once in their last nine meetings against Valencia, but that came at the Mestalla in 2020 when Raul Garcia bagged a brace in a 2-0 win.

Betting Tip

??
Valencia vs Athletic Bilbao 1X2 Draw @ 3.10
September 25, 22:15 (GMT+8)

The La Liga 2021 betting odds at SBOTOP have Valencia priced as slight 2.49 favourites at home, with Athletic not far behind at 2.88. A draw is similarly priced at 3.10.

As the odds bear out, these are two quite evenly matched teams, so expect this to be a fairly competitive game. Both teams also possess fairly limited firepower, so it’s unlikely there will be too many goals flying in.

Being the home team, Valencia should be on the front foot for most of the match, but Bilbao’s defence will not be easy to break down. So with all of those factors in mind, I expect this matchup to end in another draw.

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28-Sep 2021 Tuesday 12:59 PM (238 days ago)            #45
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La Liga: Yellow Submarine to Sink in Madrid…Again

Real Madrid vs Villarreal

League leaders Real Madrid are back at the Santiago Bernabeu for another huge La Liga clash when Unai Emery’s Villarreal come to town.

The last visitors to the stadium went back home with a 6-1 thrashing as Los Blancos took Mallorca apart last week. Four wins and a draw have propelled Carlo Ancelotti’s team to the top of the table and the latest La Liga 2021 betting odds make them clear favourites to win the title in May 2022.

Villarreal are next in line and they will surely present a stiffer challenge than Mallorca, as Unai Emery’s side has just won its first game of the season, having drawn the first four, so they arrive at the Bernabeu unbeaten. At SBOTOP odds of 1.48 Los Blancos are heavily backed to win this game but Villarreal are a quality outfit, though whether they are good enough to avoid sinking under pressure from the favourites remains to be seen.

Talking Points

Real Madrid’s long injury list

Los Blancos’ La Liga 2021 results have been impressive this season, but it hasn’t been all plain sailing for the league leaders. Carlo Ancelotti’s side pulled three points out of the fire with a late, late comeback against Valencia and Levante held them to a 3-3 draw at the end of August, and a Champions League opener against Inter Milan was only decided by a late Rodrygo goal. Real Madrid have been grinding out the results but resources have become a little stretched recently with an ever-growing injury list, which includes midfield general Toni Kroos as well as Marcelo, Gareth Bale, Ferland Mendy and Dani Ceballos.

But there are no shortages upfront for Los Blancos where Karim Benzema has led the line superbly, scoring eight goals and making seven assists, while Vinicius Junior has scored five goals and Marco Asensio hit a hat-trick in the destruction of Mallorca. Benzema and Vinicius have been combining particularly well, both scoring in the dying minutes in the vital win over Valencia, and despite Los Blancos’ injury worries they have Eden Hazard and Luka Modric available for selection again, and that’s a measure of the quality in this squad.

Villarreal have found a long lost winning touch

With four draws and a win Villarreal are currently lodged in mid table and three points away from a top four place. They started the season with four draws, three of which were goalless and the 4-1 win over Elche last time out was a first victory in 13 games, including pre-season.

Paco Alcacer eyes to score his first La Liga goal this season as Villarreal take on Real Madrid

Paco Alcacer during Villarreal’s Europa League match against Qarabag last season

Head coach Unai Emery has already brought silverware to the club after the Yellow Submarine won the Europa League last season, beating Manchester United on penalties 11-10 after outplaying the Red Devils in a 1-1 draw. He has made the team hard to beat but really needs to turn draws into wins more frequently if Villarreal are to challenge for Europe again. Three of the recent draws have been goalless and with star striker Gerard Moreno doubtful there could be a chance for Paco Alcacer to shine, while Yeremi Pinu has been a creative force making three assists and one goal. A draw with Atletico Madrid and a 2-2 stalemate with Atalanta in the Champions League shows that Villarreal can live with top competition and, as Valencia and Inter Milan showed, Real Madrid can be vulnerable, or at least held at bay.

History

Los Blancos have totally dominated the head to heads, winning 28 of the 42 meetings since 1998, losing four and drawing ten. The last encounter was at the Santiago Bernabeu where the hosts ran out 2-1 victors. Villarreal took the lead but late goals from Benzema and Modric turned the match around.

In fact, Los Blancos are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with the Yellow Submarine, winning three successively at the Santiago Bernabeu.

They are also unbeaten in 11 games at home while Villarreal are winless in four matches away.

In terms of recent form, both teams are unbeaten in the last six matches but in rather a different style; Real Madrid winning the last five, drawing the game before that run. Meanwhile, the Yellow Submarine won last time out and drew the five games before.

Betting Tip

??
Real Madrid vs Villarreal Real Madrid Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 1.85
September 26, 03:00 (GMT+8)

This is a game we expect the league leaders to win with the draw at 3.97 and Villarreal out at 6.18. The Yellow Submarine can be a formidable opponent but they could be missing star striker Gerard Moreno, while Madrid’s strike force is firing on all cylinders and should have enough of a threat to sink the visitors.

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28-Sep 2021 Tuesday 1:04 PM (238 days ago)            #46
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La Liga: Injury-Hit Real Sociedad Going for Lucky Seven

Real Sociedad vs Elche

Real Sociedad are on a six-game unbeaten run in all competitions and they are keen on maintaining their fine form when Elche come to visit the Reale Arena.

This La Liga fixture may be pitting together two clubs on different sides of the spectrum. However, we’d expect nothing less as both battle for much-needed points to bolster their campaigns.

Thanks to their strong start, La Real have moved up to third at the standings with 13 points. Imanol Alguacil’s men can find themselves at the summit with a victory here and if the two Madrid clubs get bad results this weekend.

On the other hand, Los Franjiverdes are at 15th with six points and they’re hoping to break out of their inconsistency with a rare away win over their power-hungry hosts.

Elche are the underdogs for this fixture and they would prefer to have it that way. Real Sociedad are not exactly under pressure to win this contest, but a loss here is going to be considered a massive upset. 

Talking Points

Real Sociedad have major injury concerns

David Silva is looking for a La Liga win with Real Sociedad against Elche

David Silva during the match between Barcelona and Real Sociedad in La Liga

The big question heading into this game is whether Real Sociedad can maintain their sizzling start because their health bill is not looking good at all.

As much as they want to take charge of their destiny this season, sometimes there are things that are just beyond their control. 

Since their clash against Sevilla two matchdays ago, La Real have been severely depleted. For this contest, Alexander Isak, Carlos Fernandez, Nacho Monreal, Jon Guridi, Diego Rico, David Silva, Asier Illaramendi, Ander Barrenetxea, and Jon Pacheco are not expected to play.

Although their recent La Liga 2021 results didn’t suffer, this means more burden for the likes of Portu, Alexander Sorloth, and Mikel Oyarzabal to pour in more goals.

Mikel Oyarzabal has been the driving force for Imanol Alguacil’s group with four goals so far, so it’s not unusual to learn that he’s being courted by numerous clubs.

One of them is the Sky Blues over in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola has been a huge admirer of the Spanish forward. And given that Manchester City have a missing piece up front, Oyarzabal certainly fits the profile for them.

With someone like Oyarzabal leading the way, La Real’s top four aspirations should stay intact and he’s expected to take the centre stage once more. 

Elche are missing their top hitman

While attacking is not a concern for Real Sociedad, the same can’t be said for Elche – who are currently the second-lowest scoring team with only four goals.

Like La Real, Fran Escriba’s side has been bit by the injury bug and they will miss key men for this fixture.

Midfielders Pedro Bigas and Jony Alamo are going to sit this one out while Lucas Boye, who was their top scorer last season, is unlikely to be involved due to a groin issue.

Lucas Perez and Dario Benedetto should lead the frontline for Los Franjiverdes and the two veteran forwards are expected to hunt for their first goals this season.

History

A key reason as to why Real Sociedad are the favourites for this fixture is because of their great head-to-head record against Elche.

In their last 13 La Liga matches against Los Franjiverdes, La Real have lost just once in April 2015 (W8, D4). Since then, they’ve won four of the last five and they’ve never conceded a single goal. 

Real Sociedad are flawless against Elche at home (W15, D2), while the latter has yet to score a single goal in their visits to Basque teams this 2021.

Elche’s attack has been sub-optimal since they’ve scored only four times after their first six La Liga games this term, which is level to their worst scoring start in top-flight since the 1988/89 season. 

Their last meeting took place in May where Real Sociedad came out winners via a 2-0 tally. When Elche midfielder Raul Guti was sent off at the 11th minute, La Real took advantage with late goals from Aritz Elustondo and Mikel Oyarzabal.

Betting Tip

??
Real Sociedad vs Elche Real Sociedad Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 1.77
September 27, 12:30 (GMT+8)

The SBOTOP La Liga 2021 odds are inclined to give Real Sociedad a comfortable home victory this Sunday.

Real Sociedad are installed as the favourites at 1.42, while Elche are priced at 7.20 and chances for a draw are at 4.40.

With La Real expected to miss several key players, this should open a sliver of hope for Los Franjiverdes to spring an upset at the Reale Arena.

However, it’s hard to discount the hosts’ form especially recently, so we are leaning towards a narrow victory for them this Sunday.

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28-Sep 2021 Tuesday 1:10 PM (238 days ago)            #47
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La Liga: Real Already Have Look of Authority

Week seven of the new La Liga season and what a promising spell it is proving for Real Madrid.

My tip to reclaim the title at the start of the campaign, they must have dreamed of holding a three-point lead over their city rivals and a five-point advantage over archrivals Barcelona (albeit the Catalans have a game in hand) before the end of September.

Sure, they did not win this weekend, but Los Blancos remain at the summit after Real’s first-ever goalless draw in the Spanish top-flight under Carlo Ancelotti (in 83 games over two spells).

Real stutter but still shine

A battling point with Europa League winners Villarreal at the Bernabeu continued the unbeaten starts to the league season for both clubs.

While they were expected to win, it must be remembered that, until Saturday night, Ancelotti’s Real had been full of La Liga highlights, scoring 21 goals in their opening six games.

This result also marked the best domestic start at Madrid in eleven seasons, since 2011/12 when Jose Mourinho claimed 17 points out of a possible 21.

That, combined to the conclusion of last term, where they managed 13 wins and five draws, means Madrid are on a 25-match undefeated streak.

As far as I am concerned, they will continue to have an edge as long as they can keep Frenchman Karim Benzema fit.

He has made a lively start to 2021/22 and is nothing but prolific – already the club’s fifth top scorer of all time. Ahead of him stand only Santillana, Alfredo Di Stefano, Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Alaves shock La Liga

Few saw this coming!

Certainly, reigning champions Atletico Madrid didn’t, given they were behind inside four minutes and never restored parity against opponents who started the day at the foot of the table.

Alaves, who had lost their first five games of the campaign, took an early lead through Victor Laguardia’s fourth-minute header.

The same player then came to their rescue in the second half when he cleared Rodrigo de Paul’s cross-shot off the line.

It sealed quite a win for the hosts who had less than 30 per cent possession but managed to restrict Atletico to one effort on target.

After a good start to the season, this was a bad afternoon for Los Rojiblancos who were completely out of sorts and, despite pinning Alaves back, the Basque side came under no real threat.

Bilbao let it slip

This seemed to be the moment for Athletic Bilbao to climb into the top six.

I have already written in these pages about their potential and the fact they could well be a dark horse to challenge for a European berth this season.

So when Inigo Martinez put the Basque visitors into the lead in the 69th minute they sensed they could dream of a rare away win – they have only triumphed in Valencia twice since 2007.

When Maxi Gomez then saw red for the hosts it seemed the points would be returning to Bilbao.

Yet with the Sbotop La Liga betting odds stacked against them, Marcos Andre’s 95th-minute equaliser put paid to that notion and ensured the spoils were shared.

A decent point but, from this position, Bilbao should have seen themselves home (they also went down a 96th-minute defeat at Rayo Vallecano in midweek) and, with a lack of goals, it has been questioned whether a unique factor that is such a laudable one is also holding them back.

That is the club’s Basque-only transfer policy which limits them significantly when the club’s youth academy at Lezama fails to produce talented youngsters in certain positions.

Falcao is flying

For a marksman who was once one of the very best in world football, Radamel Falcao must never have thought he would one day be playing for Spanish minnows Rayo Vallecano.

La Liga: Rayo Vallecano have defeated Athletic Bilbao away from home

Radamel Falcao celebrates after scoring for Rayo Vallecano versus Athletic Bilbao

Yet here is El Tigre shining for Los Vallecanos as the newly promoted club ended the weekend in the top five.

The Colombian shot down Bilbao in midweek and here he was doing the same to Cadiz in front of delighted home fans.

The 35-year-old striker has already shown he has more to his game than goals but that is the currency in which he will be judged – and he is truly delivering!

In the history of La Liga, only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have a better goals-per-game ratio than Falcao (0.7).

Falcao netted the second in a 3-1 success which was the club’s fourth win in seven.

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12-Oct 2021 Tuesday 12:49 PM (224 days ago)            #48
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La Liga: Koeman Appears to be ‘Dead Man Walking’

Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona

Whether you read elements of the Spanish media or the English media, there is a similarity in the tone in recent days.

That surrounds the future of Ronald Koeman.

The under-fire Barcelona boss will almost be certainly in charge of this La Liga clash in the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday night but that may be where the Dutchman’s tenure in the Barca hotseat ends – regardless of the result.

The pressure on Koeman is telling – that was even before they suffered a second successive Champions League humbling in midweek.

A 3-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich a fortnight ago was embarrassing enough but the 3-0 loss at Benfica was unacceptable to the club’s hierarchy – a match in which one Spanish media outlet described the Catalans as looking ‘totally broken, disorganised and incapable of responding’.

Koeman’s dream job has certainly arrived at a nightmare time as far as the club’s stability is concerned.

Talking Points

He and president Joan Laporta have had a strained – bordering on toxic – relationship since Laporta was elected as club president in March.

As if that dynamic is not bad enough, the former Holland boss has also had to deal with the fallout from Barca legend Lionel Messi’s departure from the Nou Camp and is in charge at a time when the club are in dire financial straits.

He didn’t help his cause in the eyes of many in midweek when fans’ favourite Gerard Pique was substituted after just half an hour in Lisbon.

With the team falling behind to a goal from Darwin Nunez after three minutes, the coach wanted to make changes. But when Koeman subbed off Pique he replaced him with 17-year-old Gavi, a young midfielder half his age.

It wasn’t due to injury and it wasn’t due to a change in system either as Frenkie de Jong was dropped back into the three-man defence.

Koeman’s supporters argued that the veteran was running a risk as he had picked up a yellow card just 12 minutes into the tie and Benfica were looking to target him.

Whatever the motivation, it served to humiliate Pique, one of the team’s undisputed leaders both on and off the field of play – another potential black mark against Koeman.

This weekend, the Dutchman will not actually be on the bench as he is serving the second of a two-game suspension. Yet it seems his tenure is nearing an end.

What good that will achieve is unclear.

In recent years, the club has parted ways with Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien, both of whom are still owed money as part of their severance packages.

With Barca seemingly in disarray, reigning champions Atletico Madrid are expected to create La Liga highlights and pile more misery on Koeman and Co.

And after netting his first goal since his Los Rojiblancos return in Europe in midweek, now would seem the ideal time for Antoine Griezmann – recently returned to Atletico from Barca – to inflict the final blow.

Atletico Madrid will be looking to bounce back from their defeat in La Liga as they host Barcelona

Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring their first goal with Rodrigo De Paul against AC Milan in Champions League

History

The corresponding fixture last year seemed a pivotal moment in the La Liga title race.

Yannick Carrasco netted the only goal on that occasion to earn Atletico a 1-0 home success which proved crucial in the final standings.

The nervy goalless draw which followed at the Nou Camp in May was also crucial as Atletico stayed ahead of Barca and managed to hold off the challenge of city rivals Real to be crowned champions a few weeks later.

Atletico may have only won two of their last 13 meetings but they were both last year and are fresh in their memory, including a Spanish Super Cup thriller at the start of last year.

They will also remember fondly the Champions League quarter-finals in 2016, played at their former Vicente Calderon ground, when two first half goals from Griezmann sealed a 2-0 success and a 3-2 aggregate win to send the holders crashing out after they had won the first leg 2-1.

Overall, Barcelona have triumphed in exactly half (31) of their 62 matches with 16 Atletico successes and 15 draws.

Betting Tip

??
Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona Atletico Madrid Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.26
October 3, 03:00 (GMT+8)

It is doubtful that Atletico have been so clear favourites against Barcelona – at least this side of the millennium.

With the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds, the hosts are available with Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 1.94, 1X2 also @ 1.94 and Half Time Full Time Home Home @ 2.67.

Barcelona, meanwhile, are on offer Asian Handicap +0.25 @ 2.28 and 1X2 @ 3.95.

A re-run of last year’s 1-0 Atletico success will earn you a pay day of @ 6.00 with Correct Score and the 1X2 draw will pay out @ 3.35.

This fixture tends to be tight so goals can be rare. The odds in that regard include under 2.25 goals @ 2.14, over 2.75 @ 2.36, total goal 0-1 @ 3.10, 2-3 @ 1.90 and 4-6 @ 3.85.

I do think this will be close but I’m edging towards Atletico, spearheaded by a fired-up Griezmann and Luis Suarez.

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12-Oct 2021 Tuesday 12:51 PM (224 days ago)            #49
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La Liga: Real Madrid Head to Barcelona for Redemption!

Espanyol vs Real Madrid

They are probably still laughing in the red and white half of Madrid, after Real suffered one of their most embarrassing moments in recent history, losing to Moldovan minnows Sheriff in the Champions League.

But the mood will be a little more serious in Barcelona when Los Blancos face Espanyol in a big Sunday La Liga clash. Real Madrid are top of the table going into this clash while Los Periquitos have made a decent start to their return to the Primera Division.

Well it isn’t exactly El Clasico, but Barcelona based Espanyol will give Los Blancos a hot reception in any case!

Talking Points

Espanyol must prepare for a furious backlash

Champions League humiliation for Real Madrid sent shockwaves throughout Spain and beyond as the Euro debutants Sheriff stunned Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu. The La Liga giants dominated possession as expected, and had plenty of chances with ten shots on target but, after Sheriff took a first half lead, Real were lucky to be awarded a VAR penalty which Karim Benzema buried. The home fans expected the floodgates to open but they didn’t, and the Moldovans’ fairytale was complete when Sebastien Trill scored an 89th minute winner. The young striker has admitted he’s watched his goal over 100 times and who can blame him?

It was one of the biggest shocks for Los Blancos’ fans and the SBOTOP football world for the year, maybe even the decade!

Carlo Ancelotti won’t have much work to do to get his players focussed for this clash in Catalonia and, despite this midweek setback, Los Blancos have had the look of champions in the start of their domestic campaign. They have become hot favourites to lift the title next May, at odds of 1.72, with champions Atletico Madrid at 4.25 and Barcelona out at 6.00. Sevilla at 11.00 must think they too are in with a chance, having stayed in the race throughout the 2020/21 season.

With Lionel Messi now in France, the red hot  Benzema is odds on to win the Golden Boot at a price of 1.60, and with eight goals to his name already he’ll take some catching. Strike partner Vinicius Junior is in joint second place with five goals, alongside Real Sociedad forward Mikel Oyarzabal. Vinicius is joint second favourite for top scorer at odds of 13.00, alongside Atleti’s evergreen striker Luis Suarez.

Their league form has seen them rise to the top, but Los Blancos are actually without a win in two games, having played out a goalless draw with Villarreal last weekend.

Los Periquitos aim to fly clear of danger

After suffering relegation in 2020 RCD Espanyol wasted no time in returning to the top division, winning the Segunda Division in 2021. The hosts shouldn’t find themselves in a relegation scrap this time, but they need to be careful, at odds of 8.00, that they don’t get sucked into one. So far their La Liga 2021 results have been solid enough, losing just three of their opening seven fixtures, but Victor Moreno’s side has only picked up one win, in their last home game against struggling Alaves, and they currently sit in 14th place.

Can Raul de Tomas score a goal against La Liga giants Real Madrid?

Espanyol striker Raul de Tomas celebrates scoring their first goal against Atletico Madrid

They come into this game on the back of a 2-0 defeat away to Sevilla, but they will be hopeful of picking something up on home soil, particularly if star striker Raul de Tomas finds some space. He scored 23 goals in 37 appearances last season and has already scored twice on his return to the Primera Division.

History

Real Madrid have totally dominated the meetings with Espanyol, winning 40 of the 54 games played since 1994, drawing six and losing just eight.

In fact Los Blancos have won the last four and they took three points in this fixture in the 2019/20 season. Real went top of the table thanks to Casemiro’s strike after a clever back heel from Benzema, while doomed Espanyol were rooted at the bottom of the table.

Real Madrid are unbeaten in five games on the road, and have won four of the last six, in all competitions, while Los Periquitos have won just the one game over that period.

Betting Tip

??

Espanyol vs Real Madrid Real Madrid Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 1.84
October 3, 22:15 (GMT+8)

Real Madrid have had a long injury list this season but Ancelotti has a big squad, and the Espanyol vs Real Madrid betting odds are firmly in the visitors’ corner, with Los Blancos odds on at 1.61, with the draw at 3.78 and Espanyol at 4.84 to spring a major surprise.

Better quality, some fury and a healthy smattering of embarrassment will surely be enough to see Los Blancos home.

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12-Oct 2021 Tuesday 12:55 PM (224 days ago)            #50
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La Liga: Sevilla Can Defuse Granada With Ease in Andalusia

Granada vs Sevilla

The search for the first La Liga win continues for Granada and they’ll have another crack at it when they host Sevilla at the Los Carmenes this Sunday night.

The hosts are languishing at the 18th spot having collected just three points thus far, and they are in danger of sliding down further if they can’t dig themselves out of the hole that they’re in. 

Meanwhile, Julen Lopetegui’s side has been impressive to start the new season as they’re placed third at the standings with 14 points.

The SBOTOP betting odds favour the visitors since they are in much better form compared to their hosts. However, Granada have shown that they can hang around with Sevilla in recent occasions.

Without further ado, here is the match preview between these two Andalusian clubs. 

Talking Points

Robert Moreno is fighting for his Granada coaching job

Robert Moreno is currently on the coaching hot seat given his squad’s poor run of La Liga 2021 results.

Granada have yet to win a single La Liga fixture this season as they’ve gathered four losses and three draws in the first seven matchdays.

It hasn’t been the same since Diego Martinez left after turning down an extension this summer, especially with what he has done to the club during his tenure.

When he took over in 2018, Martinez led Granada to promotion from the Segunda Division before taking them to a seventh-place finish and qualify for the Europa League for the first time in club history.

Last season, Granada reached to as far as the Europa League quarter-finals while finishing ninth in La Liga.

To be fair, Robert Moreno shouldn’t shoulder all the blame since he has been dealt with a bad hand as Granada lost two of their top scorers from last season in Roberto Soldado and Kenedy to Levante and Flamengo respectively this past offseason. 

Luis Suarez — not the one in Atletico Madrid — has been tasked to fill in the void and he’s doing an admirable job with two goals so far but he will need more support from his attacking partners.

Sevilla poised to move up

If things go according to plan for Sevilla, they could find themselves at the table summit by the end of this matchday.

Along with this fixture, Real Sociedad and Real Madrid have games against Getafe and Espanyol respectively, so Julen Lopetegui’s men are praying that their fellow pacesetters will suffer upsets.

Julen Lopetegui aim to claim another La Liga win for Sevilla as they go against Granada at Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes

Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui coaches from the sidelines in match against VfL Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena

Either way, Sevilla must take care of business by grabbing three points from this contest and they have the necessary personnel to do so.

Summer acquisitions Erik Lamela and Rafa Mir have been phenomenal for Los Palanganas and they are expected to start here with Youssef En-Nesyri and Thomas Delaney sidelined.

En-Nesyri won’t play until the end of October due to a hamstring injury while Delaney will serve his suspension after being sent off against Espanyol previously.

They are unbeaten in all competitions for a reason and they’ll look to maintain their form to gain more traction in the championship race. 

History

Sevilla hold an impressive head-to-head record against Granada. Out of their last 20 games, Sevilla have won in 12 while Granada managed only two victories along with six draws.

Their previous encounter took place in April where Sevilla came out 2-1 winners as Ivan Rakitic and Lucas Ocampos got one goal apiece while Roberto Soldado scored one in the losing effort. 

Granada have lost each of their last four Andalusian derbies against Sevilla in Spanish top-flight. If they’ll lose this Sunday, it would be the second time since 1960 that they’ve lost five straight against their visitors.

Not winning at least once after the first seven matchdays is bad omen for Granada. When this happened previously in the 2016/17 season, they were eventually relegated to the Segunda Division.

Betting Tip

??
Granada vs Sevilla Sevilla Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 1.83
October 4, 03:00 (GMT+8)

As expected, Sevilla are installed as the favourites to win in the La Liga 2021 odds.

Los Palanganas are pegged at 1.83, whereas Granada are priced lower at 4.30 and a draw is at 3.45 in the 1×2 market.

Given their lighter schedule this week, Granada would have enough time to prepare for this fixture and we see them coming out with better energy given that they are the fresher team.

However, Sevilla remain the better side overall in this matchup and we expect them to adjust right away en route to claiming their fifth win of the 2021/22 season – and maybe the top seed as well.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

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12-Oct 2021 Tuesday 12:58 PM (224 days ago)            #51
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La Liga: Suarez Seals the Inevitable

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Barcelona

The script had long been written.

In one corner was the reigning champion: comprising two former Barca men – one of which was discarded by the club last summer, the other recently returned to what is considered his spiritual home.

In the other corner was a failed champion: one struggling to get up off the canvass and seemingly with the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds stacked against it.

Then, hours before kick-off, came the coup de grace.

Ronald Koeman will remain as Barcelona manager and “deserves a margin of confidence”, club president Joan Laporta revealed.

Talk about the dreaded vote of confidence.

Laporta’s intervention was as telling as the likelihood that either Antoine Griezmann or Luis Suarez would deliver a killer blow for Atletico Madrid in the 90 minutes that followed.

And so it proved.

La Liga: Ronald Koeman enjoyed a successful career as a Barcelona player but has struggled as manager

Ronald Koeman watching from the stands as he serves the second of a two-game touchline ban

Highlights of the game

While new signing Matheus Cunha was ruled out of the contest with a thigh injury, there were some positives in the home team selection as Koke returned from injury, Joao Felix from suspension and Kieran Trippier was named among the substitutes after picking up a slight knock in midweek.

Barcelona were treated with mixed news on the injury front with Jordi Alba back in contention and on the bench but midfield prodigy Pedri out, along with the likes of new signing Sergio Aguero and Ousmane Dembele.

Amidst the build-up to the game, it was easy to forget that Barca had actually been unbeaten in the league so far this term.

Yet how would they fare against the reigning La Liga champions looking to bounce back from a first defeat of the season – a surprise setback at Alaves seven days ago.

What followed was a first half full of La Liga highlights for Los Rojiblancos.

Thomas Lemar and Felix had already gone close with efforts from the edge of the box before Suarez fed Lemar 23 minutes in and he smashed the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Philippe Coutinho went within a whisker of immediately levelling matters but then, just before half-time, Suarez doubled Atletico’s advantage.

It was another quick break as Felix combined with Lemar who clipped the ball to Suarez and the Uruguayan had time to slot into the bottom corner.

With that the match was over and the predicted morning headlines could be written.

Even in the second half, bar another Coutinho shot which was superbly saved by Jan Oblak, the outcome was not in doubt.

As Suarez departed to a heroes welcome, he was replaced by Griezmann.

Barca’s blushes were further spared in that at least the 71st minute substitute didn’t rub salt in their wounds.

Yet if Suarez can keep on scoring and Griezmann can trigger a resurgence of his first spell in Atletico colours, then optimism abounds for a successful title defence.

This result will go some way to giving them every chance.

Regardless of this result, it was hard to escape the fact that Koeman appears a dead man walking, much of it through no fault of his own – right club wrong time.

He and Laporta have had a strained – bordering on toxic – relationship since Laporta was elected as club president in March and the whole set-up has led to constant and an undeserved lack of respect for Koeman.

As if that dynamic is not bad enough, the former Holland boss has also had to deal with the fallout from Barca legend Lionel Messi’s departure from the Nou Camp and is in charge at a time when the club are in dire financial straits.

In the end it all comes down to a struggle between Koeman’s realism and Laporta’s illusion.

Only one man is to blame but you can guarantee the Dutchman will be the one to be shown the exit door.

It is inevitable.

Key statistics

Atletico have not lost any of their last four meetings with Barcelona in La Liga (won two drawn two).

Koeman has not won any of his three managerial games against Diego Simeone in La Liga (drawn one, lost two).

Suarez has now scored against all 31 opponents he has faced in La Liga (172 goals in total).

Atletico have won just two of their last 12 home matches against Barcelona in La Liga (drawn three, lost seven).

What’s next?

Atletico travel to Granada for their next La Liga assignment on October 16 before hosting Liverpool in the Champions League (October 19).

Barcelona have successive home matches with Valencia due in town on October 17 before the Catalans try and get their European campaign up and running at home to Dynamo Kiev.

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20-Jan 2022 Thursday 12:38 PM (124 days ago)            #52
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La Liga: Real Madrid-Barcelona Battle for Haaland Heating Up

Real Madrid and Barcelona look ready to battle it out to bring young phenom Erling Haaland to La Liga. The two Spanish superpowers have been linked with the Borussia Dortmund striker for some time now, and Haaland’s recent comments have only poured more fuel to the fire.

Elsewhere, title challengers Sevilla are starting to get involved in some business this transfer window, with potentially big incomings and outgoings being touted.

Meanwhile, Eden Hazard looks determined to prolong his stay in Madrid despite his lack of playing time this season.

Read on below as SBOTOP rounds up all the biggest and latest La Liga transfer news.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have eyes on Haaland

Real Madrid and Barcelona appear to be locked in another battle to sign a superstar player; this time, it’s Erling Haaland.

The Borussia Dortmund striker made waves with his recent comments claiming the club was pressuring him into deciding about his future sooner rather than later.

“The last six months I have chosen not to say anything out of respect for Dortmund, but now the club has started to press me into making a decision,” Haaland said. “All I want to do is play football. But they press me … about my future, so that means I have to make a decision soon.”

Real and Barca are two of the biggest contenders to land Haaland, although they face competition from other European giants such as Manchester City, Chelsea, and Paris Saint-Germain.

Real Madrid have been strongly linked with PSG’s Kylian Mbappe in recent months, but they could still move for Haaland, especially amid the latest news that PSG are growing more optimistic that Mbappe and they can come to terms on a new contract.

Meanwhile, Barcelona still appear confident in signing Haaland despite their financial difficulties coupled with the fact that they just signed striker Ferran Torres from Manchester City for a massive fee.

Barcelona, Sevilla in the market for Martial

Will Anthony Martial, who is looking for a way out of Old Trafford this January, sign with La Liga club Barcelona?
Manchester United’s Anthony Martial applauds fans as he walks off the pitch during a Premier League match against Everton

Aside from Haaland, Barcelona also have their eyes on a possible loan for Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, who is looking for a way out of Old Trafford this January.

Barca face stiff competition from fellow La Liga side Sevilla, as well as Italian giants Juventus. Manchester United are reportedly asking for Martial’s full salary to be covered, as well as a loan fee, to agree on a deal.

Martial could be a potential replacement for fellow Frenchman Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona. Dembele’s contract is expiring in the summer and has yet to agree to a new deal.

Dembele’s agent claims Barca have threatened not to play his client for the remainder of the season if he does not come to terms on a deal, so the relationship between the two sides does not appear to be on good terms.

As for Sevilla, they could use Martial to help strengthen their La Liga title challenge. They are currently five points back of leaders Real Madrid, although they have a game in hand.

Sevilla have Lucas Ocampos, Papu Gomez, and Munir El-Haddadi as options on the wing. Erik Lamela has been injury-prone, while struggling Suso has yet to score this season.

Sevilla defender wants Newcastle move

Sevilla might also be on the market for a new centre-back, with Diego Carlos reportedly asking to leave the club and join Newcastle United.

The Brazilian defender has already agreed to personal terms on a five-year contract with the Premier League club, but Sevilla are standing firm with their valuation of over €35 million to sell the defender.

Newcastle have already landed right-back Kieran Trippier from reigning La Liga champions Atletico Madrid during this window as they look to bolster their defence to avoid relegation.

The 28-year-old Diego Carlos has spent the past three seasons at Sevilla. He’s started 19 of the team’s 20 La Liga matches this season, scoring two goals.

Diego Carlos has been a key contributor in Sevilla’s excellent defence this season. The Rojiblancos have conceded just 13 goals thus far, by far the best defensive record in La Liga.

Sevilla’s La Liga 2022 odds of winning the title are unlikely to take a massive hit with Diego Carlos’ departure, but they could find it tough to replace such an integral part of their league-leading defence.

Premier League
EVERTON
ASTON VILLA
Over 2.50 @ 2.07
1X2 Aston Villa @ 2.61
Total Goals 2-3 @ 1.90
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Eden Hazard wants Real Madrid stay despite lack of playing time

Eden Hazard is another La Liga player who has been linked with a move to newly rich Newcastle, but the Real Madrid star has reportedly snubbed a move to Tyneside and wants to stay at the Bernabeu despite his lack of playing time.

Hazard, who has had an injury-plagued time since his €100 million move to Madrid in 2019, has made only 13 La Liga appearances this season, and just six have been starts. He has also failed to make too many La Liga 2022 highlights as he is yet to score a goal and has only one assist.


 

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25-Jan 2022 Tuesday 12:29 PM (119 days ago)            #53
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La Liga: Real Betis Seek Another Winning Trip to Catalonia

RCD Espanyol vs Real Betis

Real Betis have been one of the biggest surprises of the La Liga season thus far. They are flying high in third place, four points clear of defending champions Atletico Madrid.

Betis are coming off a big win in midweek, and they will look to strengthen their hold on third spot even further when they travel to Barcelona to face Espanyol.

Los Verdiblancos beat Barcelona in their most recent trip to Catalonia, and the La Liga 2022 betting odds like their chances of doing the same against Espanyol, who have not been the most consistent side of late.

Talking Points

Espanyol continue to rely heavily on RDT

Espanyol have had a rough last couple of games. After suffering a shock 2-1 loss at home to relegation-threatened Elche, they very nearly lost to second-from-bottom Cadiz in midweek. They needed a late stoppage-time equaliser from Raul de Tomas to salvage a 2-2 draw.

de Tomas is almost singlehandedly keeping Espanyol afloat in midtable. The 27-year-old striker has scored 11 of the team’s 25 goals this season, including two in the first three games of 2022.

Aside from de Tomas, Espanyol don’t have much of a Plan B in attack, so they can only hope the Spanish international can continue his fine form.

Meanwhile, Espanyol have also been lacking in defence. They have already conceded 26 goals this season and have not kept a clean sheet in any competition since the end of November.

First-choice defender Leandro Cabrera will miss the match due to suspension, which will further weaken their backline. Fernando Calero looks set to step in and make just his third start of the season alongside Sergi Gomez.

Espanyol’s defence has been markedly better at home, though, and has been a big reason for their success at the RCDE Stadium this season. They have won six of their 10 home games, with two draws and two defeats.

Betis finally bounce back from rough patch

Real Betis put the chaotic scenes of their Copa del Rey clash with rivals Sevilla behind them as they returned to winning ways in La Liga with a dominant 4-0 win over relegation strugglers Deportivo Alaves.

It was Betis’ first win in four La Liga matches. Manuel Pellegrini’s side had suffered back-to-back defeats to Athletic Bilbao (3-2) and Celta Vigo (0-2) and drew 1-1 away to Rayo Vallecano. But because of Atletico Madrid’s ongoing struggles, Betis are still four points clear of the champions in the race for third place.

Borja Iglesias had a brilliant brace in the win over Alaves, while Sergio Canales continued his recent hot streak with his third goal in as many games.

Raul de Tomas is all set to help Espanyol beat Real Betis when they face one another in La Liga
RCD Espanyol’s Raul de Tomas holds the ball during a La Liga clash against Barcelona in 2021

Juanmi also snapped his recent cold spell with his first goal in three games. The 28-year-old is having a remarkable season and is La Liga’s joint-second leading scorer with 12 league goals, the most he’s ever had in a single season in his career.

As if Betis’ attack wasn’t already strong enough, they also received a big boost with the return of striker Willian Jose from injury. The Brazilian has been terrific in his first season with Betis and already has 5 goals and 4 assists in 17 La Liga appearances.

But Los Verdiblancos are still missing key defensive personnel in Martin Montoya and Paul Akouokou due to injury, while Marc Bartra is also doubtful to play.

Betis have been fairly decent away from home this season, with 5 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses in 10 games. However, they have only managed to score 14 of their 37 goals outside the Benito Villamarin Stadium.

History

It has been quite a while since Real Betis have lost to Espanyol. Their last defeat came in 2017, when Espanyol won 1-0 at home. After that, Betis have gone unbeaten in their last eight meetings in all competitions, six of which have come in La Liga (three wins, three draws).

La Liga

ATLETICO MADRID

VALENCIA

TO SEE UPDATED ODDS

Espanyol and Betis played out quite an exciting 2-2 draw in their first meeting this season. Espanyol equalised deep in stoppage time through Leandro Cabrera to deny the hosts a home win.

The two sides also drew this fixture 2-2 back in the 2019-20 season, this time with Betis equalising in the second half after losing an early lead.

Betting Tip

??

RCD Espanyol vs Real Betis 1X2 Real Betis @ 2.44
January 22, 04:00 (GMT+8)

The SBOTOP odds for this match are quite close. Real Betis are slight 2.44 favourites, while Espanyol are priced at 2.83 to get the home win. A draw is 3.25.

Espanyol are certainly capable of scoring the upset here. They have a strong home record and have a legitimate match-winner in Raul de Tomas.

But Real Betis have more weapons at their disposal with Juanmi, Willian Jose, Canales, and Nabil Fekir. Expect one of them to find a way past the Espanyol defence in what should be quite a competitive affair.

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25-Jan 2022 Tuesday 12:35 PM (119 days ago)            #54
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La Liga: Atleti are Top Four Insiders and Valencia are looking in…

Atletico Madrid vs Valencia

There’s a fascinating clash for us to take in on Saturday night in Spain’s La Liga, when out of form Atletico Madrid host sleeping giants Valencia at the Wanda Metropolitano.

After a disappointing run of La Liga 2022 resultsLos Rojiblancos have fallen out of contention for the title and now a top four place is priority. Meanwhile Valencia, currently in 10th place, are three points behind the last Europa League spot, but only five behind Atleti in fourth.

Valencia are six times La Liga winners, twice this century, in 2002 and 2004, but the passionate fans at the Mestalla Stadium have had little to cheer in recent seasons, though they look certain to improve on last season’s 13th placed finish.

Talking Points

Correa can lift Atletico’s mood

At SBOTOP odds of 1.46 to win this game, anything other than three points will be a poor return for Atleti, and they need a pick up after suffering a Spanish Super Cup loss to Athletic Bilbao in the heat of Saudi Arabia, closely followed by a disastrous Copa del Rey exit at the hands of Real Sociedad. 

draw with Villarreal last week was a disappointing result and the La Liga 2022 betting oddsreacted by chucking Los Rojiblancos out to a price of around 35.00 to retain their title. So now head coach Diego Simeone must ensure Atleti keep hold of their top four position which is now under serious pressure from Sociedad and Barcelona. 

Angel Correa has the third most direct goal contributions (11) in La Liga this season
Angel Correa and Inigo Martinez fight for possession during the Super Cup semi final match between Atletico and Bilbao

One man who has maintained his performance level is winger-cum-forward Angel Correa who scored a spectacular goal from the half way line in the match against the Yellow Submarine, to make it seven for the season. With Antoine Griezmann injured, Correa has been a key figure alongside Luis Suarez who was suspended for the trip to Villarreal but should be back in action for this big game.

Simeone will be looking for more from forward Joao Felix who could make a start, while Brazilian striker Matheus Cunha, who has three goals might have to settle for a place on the bench. Argentine midfield ace Rodrigo de Paul has shown glimpses of the reason Los Rojiblancos gave him a five year contract after his switch from Udinese and his boss will hope to see him start to dominate in the big games.

Gaya out for Valencia

Valencia faced Sevilla on Wednesday night and came back from an early setback to draw 1-1 as Goncalo Guedes scored his eighth goal of the campaign. And that would have been a decent night’s work against the title chasers. League leaders Real Madrid were certainly happy, but Head Coach Pepe Bordelas’ mood darkened when he lost his influential captain and centre back Jose Gaya who picked up a second yellow card, and now he’s unavailable for Saturday’s shootout in Madrid. Gaya is a key figure, a commanding presence, an inspirational leader and an attacking threat as he showed when he provided the assist for Guedes’ equaliser with a superb cross.

Los Ches suffered a 4-1 defeat the last time they visited Madrid, losing to league leaders Real, Guedes scoring Valencia’s consolation goal, but with four wins in the last seven games they are on a good run of form. The loss of Gaya could be a hammer blow though, particularly as the highly rated Carlos Soler is also out, with an injury.

Bordelas might look to experienced Danish midfielder Daniel Wass for leadership on the pitch, while Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen is a class act as the last line of defence.

History

These two giants of La Liga have had some great battles over the years and honours have been fairly even over the past 61 games, with Atleti holding a slight edge at 22 wins to Valencia’s 20, while there have been 19 draws. But Los Rojiblancos have had the upper hand in recent seasons, winning three and drawing three of the last six meetings. 

The November encounter at the Mestalla Stadium ended in a 3-3 draw while, last season, Atletico beat Valencia at home, 3-1.

Valencia have failed to win on their last 12 visits to the Wanda Metropolitano, while Atleti have a home record of five wins, three draws and a single defeat

Betting Tip

??

Atletico Madrid vs Valencia Atletico Madrid Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 1.83
January 23, 04:00 (GMT+8)

Valencia are at odds of 2.06 with a one goal start (+1.00) and you can make a good case for them getting something from this game, having held off Sevilla in midweek.

But Atleti desperately need a win to hold on to their fourth place and, while Valencia will be without Gaya, the hosts welcome back Suarez and, with a strong home record, they will see this as a chance to get back on track and keep Valencia on the outside. We’re not expecting another six goal thriller so a score line of 2-0 at 5.60, or 1-0 at 4.84, might be worth a closer look.

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25-Jan 2022 Tuesday 12:39 PM (119 days ago)            #55
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La Liga: Real Drama for Top Two

After another great weekend of La Liga action, it’s pretty much as you were at the top of the table as the leading two both came back from two-goal deficits to draw.

Real Madrid’s lead remains four points after Eder Militao headed an injury-time equaliser to save their blushes against 15th-placed Elche and Sevilla had to settle for a point against Celta Vigo.

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid staged a late, late fightback to take all three points against Valencia and there was some cheer for struggling Cadiz as they won away to Levante. 

It could have been worse for Los Blancos

With just ten minutes left on the clock at the Santiago Bernabeu, the crowd was hushed because Real Madrid trailed 2-0. In one of the strangest games of the campaign, we even saw a Karim Benzema penalty miss after Vinicius Junior was upended by Helibelton Palacios, and that rarity looked like costing Los Blancos when Lucas Boye and Pere Milla gave Elche the initiative.

But the door was opened when Milla handled in the penalty area, and this time, Luka Modric planted the spot-kick home with ease. Carlo Ancelotti has expressed an interest in bringing Norwegian scoring sensation Erling Braut Haaland to Madrid, and when Benzema limped off in the second half that might have started to weigh on the boss’s mind. And it was centre-back Eder who saved a point, heading in Vinicius’ injury-time cross. 

Premier League
NEWCASTLE UNITED
EVERTON
Over 2.50 @ 1.96
1X2 Newcastle United @ 2.60
Total Goals 2-3 @ 1.90
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Sevilla miss a second chance

With Atletico Madrid and Barcelona both struggling for form throughout the first half of the campaign, it has been left to Sevilla to take the challenge to Real Madrid, but the La Liga 2022 betting odds took a shift away from Julen Lopetegui’s team as they had to settle for a draw for the second week in a row.

Last week, they conceded a lead to draw 1-1 away to Valencia, and on Saturday, Sevilla had to come from behind to save a point at home to Celta Vigo.

A good run of form has lifted Los Celestes up to a mid-table position and they raced 2-0 ahead at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan thanks to two goals in four minutes courtesy of Franco Cervi and the veteran hitman Iago Aspas.

Sevilla got back into the game on 71 minutes when Papu Gomez took a pass from Jesus Corona just outside the penalty area and rifled his shot into the top left corner.

That strike was one of the La Liga 2022 highlights of the weekend and it spurred Sevilla on. The ultimate comeback looked on when Oliver Torres made it 2-2 with a quarter of an hour remaining, but Celta held on for an impressive point.

Los Sevillanos had a chance to close the gap at the top of the La Liga table to two points, but the pressure eased on Real Madrid with this result. With 65 per cent possession and 16 shots to six, this was a missed chance for Sevilla.

When the going gets tough… Atleti get going

La Liga: Correa and Hermoso both scored in stoppage time to help Atletico Madrid earn all three points against Valencia
Atletico Madrid’s Mario Hermoso celebrates scoring his side’s winning goal against Valencia

The most spectacular and latest comeback of the weekend came at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium where Atletico Madrid entered the 91st minute 2-1 down to Valencia, but they scored twice in injury time to take three points and hold on to their Champions League place.

Los Che could have made a move on the top seven with a win and they looked right on course at half-time thanks to goals from Yunus Musah and Hugo Duro. But midway through the second half, Matheus Cunha gave Los Rojiblancos hope when he converted a corner from Yannick Carrasco. The hosts then laid siege to Valencia’s goal, but they had failed to breach the visitors’ defence as injury time approached.

We previewed this game, here at SBOTOP, and suggested that Atleti’s desire and home advantage might decide the match and they came through in the dying minutes. First, the in-form Angel Correa levelled on 91 minutes and then Mario Hermoso smashed the ball into the roof of the net to lift the roof off the stadium. 

The Beast has Cadiz up for the fight

Cadiz moved up to 18th place and within touching distance of safety thanks to a 2-0 win in a relegation six-pointer away to Levante.

Alvaro Negredo, known as the Beast of Ballecas, has enjoyed an impressive career, spanning 17 years, and the well-travelled target man has graced (if that’s the word) the stadiums of top European clubs including Manchester City and Sevilla. Negredo terrorised the Levante defence when he met a cross from Anthony Lozano with a firm header into the bottom corner of the net.

Levante pushed for a leveller but Cadiz took the game away, on 73 minutes, when Salvi Sanchez made no mistake from close range.

It’s now just two defeats in six for Cadiz, who climb to within two points of safety, while Levante are in serious trouble, as they remain rock bottom and seven points further back.


 

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02-Feb 2022 Wednesday 2:39 PM (110 days ago)            #56
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La Liga: Benzema is Key to Real Madrid’s Title Tilt

Does anybody really want to win La Liga?

Well, of course they do, and my tip remains the same now as it did back in August before a ball was even kicked – Real Madrid all the way.

The SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds agree and we both can’t be wrong!

Even after Real were surprisingly held at home by lowly Elche, it still turned out to be a decent enough weekend.

My only doubt, however, would be if their talisman is out for a while.

When Karim Benzema left the field holding the back of his leg as he was substituted for Luka Jovic, and it was believed he had sustained a hamstring injury.

If that is the case, then perhaps this current international break has arrived at an ideal time.

The extent of Benzema’s injury is yet to be seen but he is a doubt for the Copa del Rey quarter-final against Athletic Bilbao on February 3 and possibly the La Liga meeting with Granada three days later.

After that, Real will hope the Frenchman can be back to himself for the game against Villarreal ahead of their all-important Champions League round of 16 first leg against PSG in the middle of the month.

Certainly, it is imperative Benzema now gets to rest.

The reason the weekend wasn’t too bad for Real was because, while they had to settle for a point after fighting back from two goals down thanks to a last-gasp Éder Militão goal in stoppage time, second-placed Sevilla also stumbled at home with a draw against Celta Vigo.

That means Real have 50 points from 22 games, still four ahead of Sevilla.

Premier League
NEWCASTLE UNITED
EVERTON
1X2 Draw @ 3.20
Everton Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 2.02
Total Goals 2-3 @ 1.90
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Elche opened a two-goal lead with Lucas Boyé netting in the first half and Pere Milla scoring after the break.

The character shown by Carlo Ancelotti’s men – the newly-crowned Spanish Super Cup winners – was clear as Luka Modric reduced the deficit with a penalty after 82 minutes and Vinícius Júnior found Militão inside the box in the 92nd minute and he headed the equaliser.

Sevilla may well turn out to be genuine contenders but would need to strengthen this month and have been linked with bringing Moussa Dembele back to La Liga from Lyon, initially on loan with an option to buy if reports are to be believed.

The 25 year-old is said to be their main alternative if they fail to reach a deal to bring in Anthony Martial on loan from Manchester United.

The main news away from the Madrid–Elche encounter was a report that thieves had broken into Benzema’s house, located in a luxury home complex in San Sebastián de los Reyes, during the match.

Back on the field, defending champions Atletico Madrid were responsible for the most exciting La Liga 2022 highlights of the weekend as they fought back from 2-0 down to defeat Valencia as they look to rediscover their form – although surely too late for a title tilt.

La Liga: Atletico Madrid are close to signing both Reinildo Mandava and Daniel Wass
Lille’s Reinildo Mandava in action with Brest’s Franck Honorat during their Ligue 1 game at the Stade Francis-Le Ble

Again, if speculation is correct, Los Rojiblancos are preparing to make moves for both Daniel Wass and Reinildo Mandava before the end of the January.

After allowing Kieran Trippier to move to Newcastle United at the beginning of the month, boss Diego Simeone is keen to bring in a suitable replacement.

Wass has been identified as that man and his contract with Valencia ends at the end of the season, while Reinildo is in the same situation with Lille in France.

That means that Atletico can negotiate directly with both players, although they will have to pay a fee to free them from their contracts.

The Mozambican didn’t train with the French club yesterday amid claims Atletico have bought out his contract so he can join immediately.

Atletico remain a point above Barcelona in the all-important top four chase after Frenkie De Jong scored a late winner as the Catalan giants edged past struggling Alaves to move up to fifth.

The Dutch midfielder converted Ferran Torres’ first-time cross with three minutes remaining to settle a contest in which 19th placed Alaves created the better chances.

Barcelona know they need to strengthen only too well or run the risk of missing out on Champions League qualification next season – something that would not have even been considered over the last few decades.Again, it’s been suggested they may not have completed their transfer business yet either.


 

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04-Feb 2022 Friday 1:58 PM (108 days ago)            #57
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La Liga: Who Grabbed the Best Deals?

The January transfer window, particularly deadline day, has never really caught my eye in La Liga until now.

Presumably that’s because most of the leading clubs in the Spanish top-flight have done their business the previous summer or, in the case of the New Year, long before the ticking clock appears on January 31.

This year has largely been no different and, with that in mind, there have been no distinct winners and losers in the market with most Spanish sides keeping their main men from the clutches of others.

However, a couple of moves – three to be precise – jump out to me as being the smartest.

And if the deals prove as astute on the pitch, then the clubs who have acquired those new faces are set to benefit in the months ahead.

The one that truly excites me, that could produce some real La Liga 2022 highlights and perhaps even give Sevilla a sniff in the title race, is the loan acquisition of Anthony Martial from Manchester United.

Only a week and a half ago, I watched the out-of-favour Frenchman come off the bench and play a part in a last-gasp victory at Old Trafford.

To me, he remains one of the most talented players in Europe when he is in the right frame of mind – especially when he was previously dubbed as the ‘Golden Boy’ – and perhaps a change of scenery could help in that regard.

Serie A
INTER MILAN
AC MILAN
1X2 Draw @ 3.45
Over 2.75 @ 1.85
Total Goals 0-1 @ 4.40
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Remember, he is joining a team who trail leaders and clear favourites with the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds in Real Madrid by only four points and have a 10-point advantage over reigning champions Atletico Madrid.

No one expects Sevilla to win La Liga, although their chances will increase if the currently injured Karim Benzema was to miss more than a handful of games for Real.

Either way, the temporary signature of Martial appears to be good business by Julen Lopetegui.

Speaking of Atletico, their title charge is all but over but they have potentially tightened things up with a good signing of their own in Lille defender Reinildo.

The Mozambique international has signed a three-year deal until 2025 and made 35 appearances last season as Lille surprisingly won Ligue 1.

Left-back Reinildo has 31 caps and will be a tidy recruit for Diego Simeone’s men as will Daniel Wass from Valencia, who are in fourth this season and 14 points adrift of their city rivals and leaders Real.

With Wass leaving, Valencia have brought in Bryan Gil on loan from Tottenham, while another Spurs man in Giovani lo Celso has also gone out on loan to Villarreal.

The other club which has grabbed my attention, though, is Barcelona.

For all their financial woes, they have managed to bring in some exciting talents during the window such as Ferran Torres (Manchester City, £46.3 million), Fabio Blanco (Eintracht Frankfurt, £840,000), Adama Traore (Wolves, loan), and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal, free).

And it is the latter move which has got everyone talking.

There was always likely to be a radical squad overhaul after the club crashed out of the Champions League group stage and were subsequently eliminated from both the Spanish Supercopa and Copa del Rey last month.

In December, Barca boss Xavi pledged that the club will return to the level of Europe’s elite and wasted no time in delving into the transfer market.

Veteran full-back Dani Alves became his first signing as a free agent, but the defender will turn 39 before the season is out and he was signed in November before his registration kicked in this year.

The Catalan giants then confirmed the arrival of the Brazilian before completing the signing of Torres from Manchester City.

Barca were not finished there and secured the loan signing of La Masia graduate Adama Traore from Wolves.

The Spanish club will pay the 26-year-old’s wages and have an option to buy him in the summer.

Traore, who began his career at Barcelona before leaving the Nou Camp for Aston Villa in 2015, is far from the finished article.

After a spell at Villa, he spent two years at Middlesbrough before joining Wolves for a then club-record £18 million in 2018. The winger has made 154 appearances for the Black Country club, scoring 11 goals.

Yet, a return to familiar territory could have a positive impact on a player of undoubted natural ability.

The last word must go to the signing of Aubameyang.

Barcelona believe Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a good addition to their squad this La Liga season
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the warm up before a Premier League match versus Manchester United

Stripped of the captaincy and dropped by Arsenal for disciplinary reasons, his boss Mikel Arteta said the Gabon international had failed to demonstrate the commitment and passion to play for the club. That may well be true and Arteta has acted decisively.

Barca, though, will know if the player can reproduce the form which inspired the Gunners to FA Cup success just 18 months ago then they have a free transfer bargain.


 

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08-Feb 2022 Tuesday 2:21 PM (104 days ago)            #58
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La Liga: Real Betis Have a Score to Settle With Villarreal

Real Betis vs Villarreal

Two teams who are vying for Champions League berths are set to go toe-to-toe once more as Real Betis host Villarreal over at Benito Villamarin.

If the season ended today, Real Betis are to achieve such objective since they hold the solo third spot in the La Liga standings with 40 points. On the other hand, their visitors in Villarreal are on the outside looking in, sitting at seventh with only 32 points.

Real Betis and Villarreal were bothered by inconsistencies before but both sides appear to be past that now since the hosts have a two-game winning streak while the visitors are unbeaten in four of their last five.

Just like before, the SBOTOP pre-match betting odds see this as another competitive affair despite their disparity at the table.

La Liga
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Talking Points

Real Betis continue to defy expectations

Manuel Pellegrini has done a commendable job for Real Betis. Since taking over as head coach in the summer of 2020, the Chilean tactician has taken Los Verdiblancos to new heights.

After guiding the squad to a sixth-placed La Liga finish to earn a spot in the Europa League last term, this time, they’re on the brink of securing a Champions League spot which is way beyond their expectations.

What’s more, Real Betis are alive in both the Copa del Rey and the Europa League. They are looking forward to the cup semis and they’ll play Zenit St. Peterburg later this month.

Los Verdiblancos’ campaign isn’t all that smooth, though, as they’ve hit a rough patch earlier this year.

After losing to Celta Vigo and being held to a draw against Rayo Vallecano, Real Betis bounced back with four consecutive wins against Sevilla, Alaves, Espanyol, Real Sociedad with an aggregate tally of 14-2.

Top scorer Juanmi remains in fine form and he now has 14 goals and one assist, while Borja Iglesias has 10 goals and assist. Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales are also doing well as they’ve accounted for nine goals and 13 assists.

Real Betis have a realistic chance of bringing home some silverware for the first time in a long while. And although it’s not going to happen in La Liga, being in the running is already quite an achievement in itself.

Now is the time for Villarreal to make a run

Villarreal boss Unai Emery will be looking to upset Real Betis in La Liga
Villarreal boss Unai Emery during the La Liga match against Atletico Madrid

Villarreal, meanwhile, have been playing below their standards at least in La Liga. Following their Europa League triumph last term, their fans were probably expecting a level up from them this season.

But points have been hard to come by for Unai Emery’s men earlier this season since they’ve dealt with injuries and COVID-19. So now that they have a healthier group, this is their chance to make a run for an European berth.

Unai Emery has enough that can give any opponents problems on the pitch. Gerard Moreno and Arnaut Danjuma are their leading scorers with nine apiece, while Manu Trigueros has six goals and two assists.

The race for fourth to sixth is getting tighter each week, so getting positive La Liga 2022 results is going to come in handy for them.

History

Villarreal have been the superior side over Real Betis in these past few seasons. Since the start of the 2016/17 season, the Yellow Submarine have won seven of their last 11 league encounters (L3, D1) while conceding only one goal in each of these meetings.

However, Villarreal have lost four of their last six away games in La Liga (W1, D1), and they’ve conceded at least one goal in each of those six fixtures.

Real Betis have lost just one of their last four home league games against Villarreal recently (W3, D1). They’ve also won six of their last nine La Liga games, scoring at least three goals in five of those six games.

Unai Emery’s side will achieve a double over their hosts should they win this Sunday. In their reverse fixture last October, Villarreal defeated Real Betis 2-0 at home as Arnaut Danjuma scored a brace.

Betting Tip

??
Real Betis vs Villarreal Real Betis Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 2.38
February 7, 1:30 (GMT+8)

Real Betis have been given the slight edge in the La Liga 2022 odds. Los Verdiblancos are priced at 2.38 to win, while Villarreal are pegged at 2.85 and chances for a draw are at 3.85 in the 1X2 market.

Villarreal have been a huge thorn on Real Betis’ side and we expect the Yellow Submarine to give Los Verdiblancos a huge run for their money this Sunday.

However, given the strong form that the hosts have shown in recent weeks, we’re more confident that Real Betis will come out victorious and pick up all three points this time around.

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08-Feb 2022 Tuesday 2:26 PM (104 days ago)            #59
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La Liga: Renewed Impetus Could Make This a Cracker

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

Fifth versus fourth, one point between them, and the reigning cup holders against the defending league champions – there’s no doubting what’s the biggest match in La Liga this weekend.

The fact both teams have struggled so far this term – out of the title race, out of the Copa del Rey and, in Barca’s case, out of the Champions League – cannot be ignored.

However, both could have a revived second half of the campaign with new faces potentially bringing renewed impetus.

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FIORENTINA

LAZIO

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Talking Points

Atletico’s impetus may have been triggered even if they had not entered the transfer market to buy Daniel Wass and Reinildo Mandava in the past few weeks.

Los Rojiblancos made moves knowing the contracts for both players were due to run out at the end of the season.

The Mozambique international, who made 35 appearances last season as Lille surprisingly won Ligue 1, has signed a three-year deal until 2025.

The left-back has 31 caps and will be a tidy recruit for Diego Simeone’s men, as will be Wass from Valencia, who were the opponents when Atletico staged a remarkable last-gasp turnaround – and some of the most exciting La Liga 2022 highlights of the season – when they fought back from 2-0 down to win.

It will surely be too late for a title tilt after all since Atletico are fourth this season and 14 points adrift of their city rivals and leaders Real.

But the confidence from that success, coupled with some new faces, may well give them some initiative as they look to cement a top four spot and progress in the Champions League with Manchester United awaiting in the last 16.

Barcelona have been boosted because for all their financial woes, they have managed to bring in some exciting talents during the window such as Ferran Torres (Manchester City, £46.3 million), Fabio Blanco (Eintracht Frankfurt, £840,000), Adama Traore (Wolves, loan), and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal, free).

And it is the latter move which has got everyone talking.

There was always likely to be a radical squad overhaul after the club crashed out of the Champions League group stage and were subsequently eliminated from both the Spanish Supercopa and Copa del Rey last month.

Can Barcelona still revive their 2021-22 La Liga season?
Sergio Busquets celebrates after Barcelona won their Copa del Rey final match against Athletic Club in April 2021

In December, Barca boss Xavi pledged that the club will return to the level of Europe’s elite and wasted no time in delving into the transfer market.

Stripped of the captaincy and dropped by Arsenal for disciplinary reasons, his boss Mikel Arteta said the Gabon international had failed to demonstrate the commitment and passion to play for the club. That may well be true and Arteta has acted decisively.

Yet Barca will know if the player can reproduce the form which inspired the Gunners to FA Cup success just 18 months ago, then they have a free transfer bargain after the late dash to Catalonia.

The scene is certainly set for an exciting contest at the Nou Camp on Sunday afternoon.

Key statistics

When they met earlier in the season, there was a certain inevitability as Luis Suarez, the player Barcelona let go for Atletico, scored in a 2-0 win for the champions which was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.

The corresponding fixture last season saw a nervy goalless draw at the Nou Camp in May which was crucial as Atletico stayed ahead of Barca and managed to hold off the challenge of city rivals Real to be crowned champions a few weeks later.

Atletico may have only won three of their last 14 meetings but they were all over the last two seasons, including a Spanish Super Cup thriller at the start of 2020.

They will also remember fondly the Champions League quarter-finals in 2016 played at their former Vicente Calderon ground when two first half goals from Antoine Griezmann sealed a 2-0 success and a 3-2 aggregate win to send the holders crashing out after they had won the first leg 2-1.

Overall, Barcelona have triumphed in virtually half (31) of their 63 matches with 17 Atletico successes and 15 draws.

Betting Tip

??

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid 1X2 Draw @ 3.25
February 6, 23:15 (GMT+8)

Barca are slight favourites with the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds, priced 1X2 @ 2.36 compared to Atletico at a slightly distant @ 2.95.

With Asian Handicap odds, you can back the hosts -0.50 @ 2.36 and Atletico 0.00 @ 2.28.

With so much attacking talent on display, then how about over 2.75 goals @ 2.33 or total goal 4-6 @ 3.80?

Another goalless draw is on offer @ 8.75 with Correct Score.

I do think there will be goals in this one but I think it may well be honours even.

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08-Feb 2022 Tuesday 2:32 PM (104 days ago)            #60
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La Liga: Real Madrid to Take Frustration Out on Granada

Real Madrid vs Granada

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid are back in La Liga action on Sunday when they welcome Granada to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Los Blancos will not be in a generous mood having been dumped out of the Copa del Rey this week by Athletic Bilbao, while Granada come into the game on the back of a lacklustre performance at home where they lost 2-0 to Osasuna, and they are now in danger of losing three league games on the bounce.

Real Madrid currently lead the league table by four points, and the hosts will be determined to lay the ghost of their cup exit, and at least maintain that lead by the end of the weekend.

Talking Points

Ancelotti still smarting after Copa exit

Alex Berenguer’s late, late strike for Athletic Bilbao stunned Real Madrid who had designs on a domestic league and cup double, but that dream has now gone. With a two leg Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain looming, Ancelotti has been forced to use his squad and he was rather irritated by questions around why he rested Gareth Bale, Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard from his cup team.

Of course with 17 goals Karim Benzema is crucial to Real Madrid’s title tilt, but he can’t do it all on his own and he doesn’t need to. Vinicius Junior has 12 goals and both strikers will fancy their chances of adding to their tallies against Granada while Marco Asensio too is having a good campaign. Whether either Bale or Hazard make a start remains to be seen, neither have been overly reliable and both have been hampered by injury; but the experienced midfield pair of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos is set to continue. Modric was on target in Real’s recent 2-2 draw with Elche and he remains a world class creative talent, while Kroos is one of Madrid’s best midfield operators of all time, winning 13 trophies in his seven seasons at the Bernabeu and representing Germany over 100 times.

La Liga: Luka Modric was on target in Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw with Elche
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric runs during a Spanish La Liga match against Elche at the Bernabeu stadium

The latest La Liga 2022 betting oddsare right behind Los Blancos to win the 2022 title, but they must win this game to avoid losing the grip they currently have. Atletico Madrid’s visit to Barcelona will attract the most attention this weekend but Real Madrid fans will be watching out for the outcome of second placed Sevilla’s trip to Osasuna on Saturday night. Should Los Sevillanos win then they will climb to within a point of the leaders. 

Los Nazaries in a slump

Granada head coach Robert Moreno needs to pick his side up pretty soon as they are four games without a win, drawing two and then losing two in recent weeks. The run has seen Granada drop to 14th place, six points clear of the drop zone but with work to do to avoid being sucked into a competitive relegation scrap, and way off the form that took them to ninth place in the 2020/21 campaign.

The influential Ruben Rochina is injured, and so the midfield men Luis Milla and Frenchman Maxime Gonalons will have their work cut out in the battle to control the middle of the park. Colombian striker Luis Suarez scored twice when Granada were last on the road in a 4-2 defeat to Getafe, and he is the best chance Los Nazaries have of breaching the Real Madrid defence. But it will take a huge effort and a slice of luck for Granada to emerge with a result from Madrid.

History

Real Madrid have totally dominated the head to head meetings with Granada, winning 16 and losing one of the last 17 encounters over the past decade.

Over the last six meetings, all won by the Madrid giants, Los Blancos have scored 20 goals and conceded five, both the last two meetings ending in a 4-1 result. 

In terms of recent form Los Blancos have the advantage too, winning four, drawing one and losing one of the last six games, while Granada have won two, drawn two and lost two over the same period. But Real Madrid’s two disappointments arrived in the last two games.

Betting Tip

??
Real Madrid vs Granada Real Madrid Asian Handicap -1.50 @ 1.80
February 07, 04:00 (GMT+8)

With a home record of seven wins and four draws there is no appetite from me to back a second successive defeat for Real Madrid, even at SBOTOP odds of 8.92. I can’t see a draw at 5.60 coming in either. Granada fans need to brace themselves for a continuation of their disappointing run of La Liga 2022 results.

Los Blancos at a price of 1.25…yes of course; and I’m putting my faith into a ‘business as usual’ return at the Bernabeu and a comfortable win for the league leaders. And if you fancy a third consecutive 4-1 win for Real Madrid against Granada then 13.00 is the offer.

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08-Feb 2022 Tuesday 2:35 PM (104 days ago)            #61
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La Liga: Excitement Returns to the Nou Camp

What a weekend full of La Liga highlights.

There was Barcelona threatening to roll back the years, Real Madrid persevering and getting the result that mattered, and Mallorca giving themselves some serious wriggle room.

It all began on Friday evening with Getafe seeing off rock bottom Levante and ended on Monday night as Athletic Bilbao edging out Espanyol.

But there’s only one place to start.

Smiles return to Xavi and Catalonia

I suggested renewed impetus could make the clash between Barcelona and defending champions Atletico Madrid a cracker.

And, sure enough, the match duly delivered a flurry of La Liga 2022 highlights.

Only one of the new signings for both sides made the starting XI – Adama Traore marking the occasion with an assist – and the contest was all but over by the time most of the new faces came off the bench.

But the excitement that new recruits can bring was evident throughout the 90 minutes as both sides yearned for a better day.

It would be a stretch to suggest that Barcelona are back – it would be absurd, in fact – but this victory was their first against Atletico in five meetings, lifting them above Simeone’s side and into a Champions League place they have not looked like occupying all season.

Yannick Carrasco scored early on but, before the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds had time to switch, Barca hit back with three first-half goals.

With a combined age over 70, the full-backs combined for an immediate leveller as Dani Alves chipped a gorgeous ball into the path of Jordi Alba and his connection was equally impressive.

A header from Gavi gave them the lead and then, just before the break, Ronald Araújo smashed in the third.

When the hosts added a fourth soon after the restart, the contest was over.

It was also a special moment for Alves who fired in a shot after neat work from Gavi, 21 years his junior, and the Nou Camp rejoiced as the Brazilian embraced his manager Xavi – a teammate last time he was here.

Luis Suarez, who scored 198 goals during six years for Barcelona, reduced the arrears but, even after Alves saw red with little over 20 minutes later, Barca seemed unlikely to relinquish their advantage.

To cap off Atletico’s misery, new signing Daniel Wass picked up a knee injury after coming on and the club has confirmed he suffered a grade two sprain of his right internal lateral knee ligament.

Premier League
BURNLEY
MANCHESTER UNITED
1X2 Draw @ 3.95
Over 2.50 @ 1.88
Total Goals 0-1 @ 3.45
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Could Yellow Submarine make Champions League surge?

Europa League holders Villarreal could well hope so after a result which brings them right back in the mix for a top four berth.

Their victory at third-placed Real Betis, coupled with other results, has certainly opened up the race.

Manuel Pellegrini has done a commendable job for Betis. Since taking over as head coach in the summer of 2020, the Chilean tactician has taken Los Verdiblancos to new heights.

This was their chance to settle a score after an Arnaut Danjuma double sealed a 2-0 victory for Villarreal in October.

Unai Emery’s men repeated the victory though with late goals in each half from Pau Torres and Etienne Capoue to boost confidence. A busy month awaits with Real Madrid up next domestically, soon to be followed by Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Mallorca show character in six-pointer

It would have been easy for Mallorca to feel sorry for themselves after missing out on a place in the Copa del Rey semi-finals just days earlier.

But instead, a goal from Vedat Muriqi on his La Liga debut settled their relegation six-pointer against Cadiz.

Just two points separated the newly promoted side from the relegation zone with Cadiz directly below them, inside the bottom three.

It briefly looked as though Cadiz might leapfrog the Balearic side to safety after Ruben Alcaraz put them ahead.

Yet Mallorca put together an impressive comeback to take all three points and put distance between themselves and the drop zone.

Salva Sevilla scored from the spot to level the scores, and Muriqi, on loan from Lazio, netted the winner with a penalty of his own with just over 20 minutes remaining.

After a miserable few seasons, Mallorca are well on their way to securing their top-flight safety.

Madrid make it count

Thanks to Marco Asensio, Real Madrid defeated Granada in their latest La Liga clash
Marco Asensio celebrates after scoring for Real Madrid during a La Liga match versus Granada at Santiago Bernabéu

After second-place Sevilla were held a day earlier, this was Real’s chance to restore their six-point lead at the summit – and they did just that.

Without four players, including top scorer Karim Benzema, they struggled at times to break Granada down.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men were also without the suspended Vinicius Jr, the league’s joint-second top scorer with 12 goals (behind Benzema’s 17), Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez (stomach bugs).

However, as if to show their depth, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale were on the bench and Marco Asensio netted the only goal with 17 minutes remaining to end the visitors’ stubborn resistance.


 

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11-Feb 2022 Friday 2:56 PM (101 days ago)            #62
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La Liga: Atletico Madrid Fighting to Keep Their Top Four Hopes Alive

Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

After winning La Liga last year, Atletico Madrid now find themselves in uncharted territory.

They’re currently fifth in the Spanish top-flight standings with 36 points. And following their heavy defeat in the last time out, Diego Simeone’s men have to pick themselves up when they’ll host Getafe at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Los Rojiblancos are virtually out in the running for this year’s La Liga championship and the only way they can make the best out of this season is a return to the Champions League.

But as of the moment, Getafe are standing in their way and they’ve been much better compared to the start of this season. By going undefeated in four of their last five, Los Azulones are now at 15th with 25 points.

With another competitive La Liga game on the horizon, allow SBOTOP to analyse these two sides in today’s preview.

Talking Points

Health is wealth for Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone is hopeful to have a healthier squad to choose from this weekend after they were outplayed by Barcelona last Sunday.

Atletico Madrid were missing the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Marcos Llorente, and Antoine Griezmann, while veteran centre-back Stefan Savic looked rusty after a lengthy spell in the sidelines.

Joao Felix, on the other hand, hasn’t looked right on the pitch and he’s yet to reach his peak form. Apparently, he’s been playing with a broken bone in his foot for six months.

So basically it all boils down to staying healthy for this squad since they have enough depth to win games, and there’s some good news.

Antoine Griezmann missed La Liga games due to hamstring injury
Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann celebrate after scoring against Cadiz

According to Diario AS, Antoine Griezmann has returned to training after missing their last five matches and he’s aiming for a spot in the starting lineup this Saturday.

A healthy Griezmann would certainly boost Atleti’s attack since he’ll rejoin his strike partners in Luis Suarez and Angel Correa, who have scored nine goals apiece so far this season.

Getafe suddenly on a roll

Getafe have been punching above their weight at this juncture of the 2021/22 season. After a subpar start to their campaign with just three points in the first 11 games, Los Azulones have bagged 22 points in the next 12 to move away from the relegation zone.

The man behind this drastic turnaround is Quique Sanchez Flores, who rejoined the team last October. The 56-year-old coach offers a ton of coaching experience and he has instilled a winning mentality at the club.

They’re playing without fear and that has helped them gain positive La Liga 2022 results. Their biggest win up to date was when they defeated title favourites Real Madrid with a score of 1-0.

Los Azulones aren’t known as a prolific scoring side but they have enough weapons that can give their opponents problems. Enes Unal and Sandro Ramirez are their best scorers as they’ve accounted for 12 goals so far this term.

During the transfer window, they’ve improved their attacking depth with the addition of Borja Mayoral via loan. The 24-year-old hasn’t played much under Jose Mourinho and he’s looking to prove himself once more in La Liga.

History

While there’s a reason to be optimistic if you’re a Getafe supporter given their strong recent form, their losing record against Atletico Madrid is something to consider.

Atletico Madrid have won their last 10 La Liga home games against Getafe. And overall, they’re unbeaten in the last 18 meetings (W16, D2).

What’s more, Atletico Madrid have kept a clean sheet in those 10 La Liga home wins, which is the joint-longest run any team has had without conceding at home against any opponent in the league ever.

Getafe’s last road victory against Atletico Madrid dates back to May 2010 (3-0), when they were still coached under Michel Gonzalez.

Should Getafe win this weekend, it would mark the first time ever that they’ve won two straight league games against Madrid-based sides.

Betting Tip

??
Atletico Madrid vs Getafe Atletico Madrid Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 1.78
February 13, 04:00 (GMT+8)

Atletico Madrid are favoured to get the league double over their visitors this weekend, according to the La Liga 2022 odds. They’re priced at 1.43 to win, while Getafe are the underdogs at 7.60 and chances for a draw are at 4.20 in the 1X2 market.

Getafe’s odds should’ve been higher since they’re not the same as before, but they should use it as motivation to try and upset their hosts this weekend. But while Los Azulones can give Los Rojiblancos problems on the pitch, the latter’s unbeaten record over the former speaks volumes and they should have enough to put them in their place.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.


 

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11-Feb 2022 Friday 2:58 PM (101 days ago)            #63
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La Liga: Madrid Need to Dig Deep in Villarreal

Villarreal vs Real Madrid

Carlo Ancelotti takes Real Madrid to the Estadio de la Ceramica on Saturday for a testing La Liga clash against Unai Emery’s Villarreal.

We’re at a crucial point of the campaign; Los Blancos are six points clear of Sevilla at the top of the table, with 15 games and 45 points to play for. But they have one win in three games and are missing their main striker, hardly the ideal preparation before a game against Europa chasing Villarreal.

The hosts come into the game with back to back wins while Real narrowly beat Granada last week, following a surprise home draw to Elche.

Talking Points

Real Madrid without Benzema again

Los Blancos star striker Karim Benzema looks likely to sit this game out and that has to be a worry for head coach Carlo Ancelotti who relies so heavily on the league’s top scorer. Benzema has plundered 17 goals so far, while striker partner Vinicius Junior has 12. The Madrid stars are the two SBOTOP favourites to win the Golden Boot, the Frenchman heavily odds on at 1.10 while Vinicius is the next in line at a price of 15.00. But Benzema limped off during the 2-2 draw with Elche, feeling a strain in his left leg. Doctors have warned Ancelotti that his man may have been overloaded and that is a concern midway through the campaign.

Last week a home game against Granada gave Los Blancos a chance to recover from the draw with Elche which was followed by a Copa del Rey disappointment when they lost to Athletic Bilbao in the fifth round. But Granada didn’t give Madrid an easy ride by any stretch of the imagination and it took until the 75th minute to break through as Marco Asensio fired in a rocket from distance. He earned a yellow card for his over enthusiastic celebration and that showed just how much the result meant to the league leaders.

Second placed Sevilla are at home to 14th placed Elche on Friday night and should reduce the gap at the top of the table to three points. Once the La Liga 2022 updatesfrom Sevillecome in Los Blancos will know exactly where they stand but it is likely to be just three points clear.

Seven suits Villarreal just fine

La Liga Update: Villarreal's Gerard Moreno is out for 3-4 weeks
Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno celebrates after Paco Alcacer scored their first goal vs GNK Dinamo Zagreb

The latest La Liga 2022 betting oddspredict the Yellow Submarine will finish in seventh place, the exact position they landed in last season, and a return of Europa League football will signify another success. Unai Emery’s team has been beset by injury and Covid absences but they have kept themselves in an extremely competitive race with back to back victories, and are currently sitting in sixth place, ahead of Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao. 

Only once in the last nine seasons has Villarreal finished below seventh place and I wouldn’t bet against them taking a top seven place again in this campaign.

Gerard Moreno is top scoring with eight goals, scoring two in a recent 5-0 destruction of Levante and, alongside Paco Alcacer; he could prove a handful for the Real Madrid defence. In midfield the experienced Dani Parejo is working well alongside Etienne Capoue, signed from Watford in the summer. Meanwhile, highly regarded centre half Pau Torres is a big player at both ends of the pitch, scoring four goals, while wingback Alberto Moreno has been playing in a more advanced position and has weighed in with three goals.

There is plenty of quality in this Villarreal group and Emery has them playing well as a unit; this will be a good test of Real Madrid’s superiority.

History

With just four wins from the last 43 meetings with Real Madrid, the Yellow Submarine has that sinking feeling every time Los Blancos come into view. But while victories have been hard to come by Villarreal have drawn their last two at home against these opponents, and they picked up a goalless draw at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this season.

Villarreal are unbeaten in five games at home and will give the league leaders a tough afternoon, and there is little difference between the two teams in terms of recent form. Real have won four, drawn one and lost one of the last six games, in all competitions, while Villarreal have won three drawn one and lost two.

Betting Tip

??
Villarreal vs Real Madrid 1X2 Draw @ 3.16
February 12, 23:15 (GMT+8)

This is a really tough assignment for the league leaders as the odds show. There’s so little to choose between the two sides for this match and we’re pricing the Yellow Submarine at 2.55 and Los Blancos at 2.56. Another 1-1 draw is the most likely score line at odds of 5.41 and that’s where I’m h