A look ahead to the La Liga weekend
Although La Liga is considered to be one of the greatest footballing competitions in the world, this is not to say that it doesn’t invite a fair amount of criticism, and if it is not the theatrics that you see on the pitch, then it is the suggestion that the title race is one contested by only two horses.
The fact that Barcelona and Real Madrid are more often than not the only outfits good enough to challenge for the title is something that cannot be ignored. However, when your two proverbial horses are absolute thoroughbreds, then sometimes you just need to admire their sheer quality.
Once again, it is Spanish football’s main protagonists who are straddling the top of the La Liga ladder, and with the rescheduled El Clásico less than a fortnight away, the build-up for this mega-clash has already begun in earnest.
That said, neither club can afford to take their eye off of the ball before then, and with another round of fixtures on this weekend’s agenda, let’s now take a look at the most eye-catching matches in Spain’s top division.
Catalan connection in Madrid
With the aforementioned El Clásico looming on the horizon, Barcelona will be hoping that their Catalan cousins, Espanyol, can do them a huge favour this weekend and one that would see them halting a title rival.
That’s because the city of Barcelona’s second team travel to the Santiago Bernabéu to face Real Madrid, and although they won’t be in a rush to necessarily help their crosstown rivals, they would love nothing more than to claim a major scalp in the Spanish capital.
They go up against a Real Madrid side who have won their last three league matches, and as a result they find themselves lying second in the La Liga standings, with only goal difference keeping them from occupying top spot.
This means that it could be something of an arms race when it comes to goals, and although the head-to-head record is the first tie-breaker in the league table, this does not mean that Zinedine Zidane’s men will be setting out to win this game by a solitary goal.
Real Madrid will go into Saturday’s encounter as heavy favourites, and when you consider that Espanyol are currently lying second bottom in the table, you begin to get a better understanding as to why.
Admittedly, there is not a great deal of value in this game, though if you are looking for some sure-fire accumulator fodder, then you cannot get much better than this, and with Sportsbet offering odds of 1.20 for a Real Madrid win, it is certainly worth your consideration.
Over to you, Barcelona
With Real Madrid starting Saturday’s La Liga schedule and the high probability of them picking up all three points in front of their own fans, it looks like it will be a case of Los Blancos asking Barcelona a very big question
This is a question that they cannot answer until later in the evening when they play host to Real Mallorca, and with Lionel Messi recently winning another Ballon d’Or accolade, manager Ernesto Valverde will be hoping that his superstar will be shining bright against the Balearic islanders.
Some will point to the fact that Virgil van Dijk was a more worthy winner of the personal accolade, especially when you consider that the Dutch defender played a huge part in Liverpool winning last season’s Champions League.
However, there just seems to be no stopping Messi, and although he did not deliver any major European silverware to the Camp Nou last season, there is no doubting that he was instrumental in continuing Barcelona’s La Liga dominance.
Messi and his teammates are in no mood to relinquish their dominant streak just yet, and although Real Mallorca start the weekend just one place above the relegation zone, this is a side that cannot be underestimated either.
That’s because Real Mallorca have already taken points off Real Madrid this season, and therefore Barcelona will know not to take them lightly. With that said though, the visitors will certainly be the underdogs going into this Catalonian clash and this is reflected in the odds.
Sportsbet has priced Barcelona as short as 1.13 for this one, the kind of odds that suggest nothing more than a home banker – bad news for Real Mallorca fans in attendance and arguably Real Madrid fans who will be watching from the comfort of their own home.
The third wheel keeps spinning
When the focus is continually placed on Barcelona and Real Madrid, there is the tendency to overlook any other potential challengers, and although it is Atlético Madrid who have upset the apple cart in the past, it could end up being another team else this season.
That’s because going into this weekend’s set of fixtures, Sevilla find themselves lying third in the table (albeit having played a game more) and more importantly just a point behind the two usual suspects.
Not only that, but with El Clásico taking place in the near future, it also means that at least one of those two teams will drop points, and this means that Sevilla could move further up the table, while turning the title challenge into a genuine three-horse race.
In order to do so, manager Julen Lopetegui is going to have to make sure that his Sevilla players apply the maximum pressure required, and the only way to do that is to keep winning the games that are ahead of them.
Next up on the Sevilla fixture calendar is a trip to mid-table Osasuna, and although Sunday’s hosts are ninth in the table, a trip to their El Sadar Stadium is one that can never be considered easy.
You only need to ask Barcelona about that, as they fell flat on their faces at the start of the campaign, and Sevilla will need to make sure that they avoid this particular banana skin, especially if they do want to have a say in the destination of the La Liga trophy.
The fact that the El Sadar Stadium is never an easy place to visit is reflected in the pre-match odds, and with Sportsbet offering odds of 2.20 for Sevilla to win, it could be a case of high risk then becomes high reward.
Are you ready for another feast of football? Visit Sportsbet, your home of Spanish football betting.
Words: Man Ngo