La Liga Predictions and Best Bets – January 2-4, 2021
La Liga kicks off another year with Barcelona hoping that 2021 brings it some more luck – and a few more points too. Atletico Madrid finished 2020 top of the table and celebrated 500 games in charge for Diego Simeone as well. We will wait to see whether he can keep Real in check as the rest of the season progresses.
There is a full set of fixtures this weekend – with the final game on Monday – and I will be looking closely at all of them. I will also pick out three bets to consider from the ten games on matchday 17 in La Liga.
Villarreal and Levante to Draw
Unai Emery can feel fairly happy with the first few months of the season. There have been too many draws, but fifth place at the end of the year is about as good as could be expected. His team was soundly beaten on his return to Seville on Tuesday, though. Sevilla completely dominated and showed why it is in the top four – even if the early penalty was a little fortuitous.
A month or so ago, I would have had Villarreal to win this game quite easily, but the form of Levante has been very impressive – none more so in the win against Real Betis in the week. Paco Lopez’ triumphed in a seven-goal thriller that saw some excellent goals, including two incredible volleys from Jose Luis Morales in the space of two minutes. Levante might not rise too much higher in the table, but it is enjoying itself right now and could earn another point here.
Sevilla to Beat Rea Betis
Manuel Pellegrini would have enjoyed the caliber of goals from his Betis team in the defeat to Levante – but not the way his defense crumbled under the onslaught from the opposing attackers. The four conceded in that game were added to the worst defensive record in La Liga – and there are a few players in the Sevilla team that might be able to boost their goal tallies on Saturday.
The 2-0 scoreline doesn’t really convey the dominance that Sevilla enjoyed over Villarreal as it swept to victory in midweek. Lucas Ocampos was a little lucky to be able to dispatch his penalty in the 8th minute after a soft-looking handball infringement, but his team never looked like giving Villarreal a chance to get a foothold in the game. If Julen Lopetegui can keep this good run going, he might be able to challenge the bigger clubs as they stumble through the remainder of the season.
Getafe to Beat Valladolid
Getafe tried its best to beat Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday but failed once again and still hasn’t been able to beat the Madrid club since Diego Simeone took over nine years ago. There were a surprising amount of chances, though, and that suggests that Jose Bordales’ team might be able to get the better of a far weaker Valladolid in its first game of 2021.
For its part, Valladolid played out an entertaining goalless draw in Cadiz in the week and will feel pretty happy with the result after winning just three games this season so far. Sergio’s side also managed a draw away at Sevilla just before Christmas, so there can be some hope for the club. A defeat to Getafe will keep it in the bottom three, though.
Real Madrid and Celta Vigo to Draw
Real Madrid went into its game with relegation-threatened Elche on the back of five straight victories, so it was a huge shock that Los Blancos was held to a 1-1 draw. Luka Modric looked very good, but there was too much sloppy play from the champions, and the stalemate allowed Atletico to extend its lead at the top of the table. Zinedine Zidane will need to make sure his team is tighter on Saturday.
That’s because Real Madrid is coming up against one of the form teams in La Liga – and one of the form players in Iago Aspas. Aspas has been the beating heart of the Celta team for a while now, but he has really performed this season – and especially since Eduardo Coudet took over. Celta beat Huesca to extend its own six-game unbeaten run on Wednesday, and Aspas was on the scoresheet yet again, of course.
Athletic Club to Beat Elche
Athletic lost the local bragging rights on Thursday as it was beaten in the San Mames by Real Sociedad. The Basque derby is always a lively affair, and conceding a goal within the first five minutes would not have been in Gaizka Garitano’s game plan. There was a spirited second-half onslaught from Athletic but to no avail. Elche could now be the recipients of the home side’s frustration on Sunday.
Elche might still be on a high after the performance against Real Madrid that gained the Alicante club a valuable point in the capital. Jorge Almiron’s side offered a few chances of its own but was also able to withstand everything that the champions threw at it to pick up the draw. But as good as that result is, Elche hasn’t won a game since the end of October now and could be in real trouble if that trend continues.
Atletico Madrid to Beat Alaves
Diego Simeone celebrated his 500th game in charge of the Madrid club with another victory over Getafe and a place at the top of the league for the new year. It was just the one goal from Luis Suarez this time, but the win was still a comprehensive one. Alaves shouldn’t pose too much of a problem on Sunday. But Simeone will need to work out how to replace Kieran Trippier, who is banned for 10 weeks, as well as Diego Costa, who has surprisingly decided to leave the club.
It has been a strange season so far for Alaves. The high point has undoubtedly been beating Real Madrid away from home, but the sheer amount of draws have meant that Pablo Machin’s side will still be involved in the lower reaches of the table for the majority of 2021. The final game of 2020 was a familiarly frustrating affair as it was unable to overcome a ten-man Osasuna – and even went behind at one point. That ended in a draw in the end, but Alaves has no chance against Atletico.
Granada to Beat Eibar
Eibar only managed one shot on target against Barcelona in the Camp Nou on Tuesday, but that was all it needed as it celebrated a draw against Ronald Koeman’s beleaguered side. Eibar actually took the lead in that game – and survived an early penalty for the hosts to snatch the point. Confidence should therefore be high for this game – but I have a feeling that the players will drop a little after the high in Catalonia.
Granada also looked very good for its 2-0 win against a self-destructive Valencia side in the week. There was a flurry of three red cards in five minutes at one point in the second half, but the two that were awarded to Granada’s opponents essentially gave it the chance to score the winner two minutes from time after coming back from one goal down. After battling illness and injuries for the majority of the season so far, Granada could do well in the new year.
Real Sociedad to Beat Osasuna
It is another Basque derby, of sorts, for Real Sociedad on Sunday as it takes on a struggling Osasuna at the Reale Arena. Imanol’s side already has the bragging rights in the region, however, after the New Year’s Eve victory over Athletic. Captain and top goal scorer Mikel Oyarzabal was back for that one after being sidelined for the last month. He set up Portu very early on in a sweeping move to take the points, and there shouldn’t be any problem earning three more on Sunday.
Osasuna somehow managed to take a point from its New Year’s Eve game against Alaves, even after losing its keeper to a red card in the 8th minute. It looked as though the Pamplona club’s recent form was going to be on show again, but it actually took the lead before conceding a penalty before the end. That meant Osasuna didn’t end the year bottom of the league – but it is going to be a tough slog for the rest of the season.
Barcelona to Beat Huesca
It shows how poor Barcelona has been this season that I had to think twice about whether I should predict a win for Ronald Koeman’s side against Huesca in the late game on Sunday. Barca was wretched without an injured Lionel Messi in the draw at home with Eibar. It took a 67th-minute equalizer from Ousmane Dembele to earn the point, with Martin Braithwaite ruing a missed penalty and a goal chalked off for offside. Things are not going well at the Camp Nou.
But Barca should still be able to overcome the bottom of the table Huesca. The promoted club has actually played quite well at times this season but has found the jump from Segunda to La Liga very hard to make. The second half of the game with Celta Vigo in the week was better for Michel’s team after he made a raft of substitutions. He may be hoping that Huesca comes up against a dispirited Barcelona team on Sunday, but it should still not make that much difference to the end result.
Cadiz to Beat Valencia
Valencia is in free fall at the moment and may be subjected to further misery on Monday as it takes on Cadiz. Javi Gracia’s side lost again in the week to Granada to finish off 2020 by taking just four points from its last seven games. Some of the opponents in those fixtures were of a high standard, but regular poor performances have seen Valencia tumble down the table. A stubborn Cadiz might not allow Valencia any respite in the first game of 2021.
Cadiz is not on the greatest run of form itself, earning just one point from its last four games. But the performances earlier in the season have allowed the promoted club to endure these minor blips along the way. If Alvero Cerveva’s side can reclaim the form of October – when it memorably beat Real Madrid in the capital – then a comfortable mid-table place could be theirs for the remainder of the season. That might need a few more goals from Alvaro Negredo, though.
My Top La Liga Picks for January 2-4, 2021
Here are my three betting picks for the first La Liga games of 2021 on matchday 17. Odds are courtesy of Betway.
- Real Madrid and Celta Vigo to draw – 4.75
- Granada to beat Eibar – 3.20
- Getafe to beat Valladolid – 2.05
I may be getting carried away with the way that Eduardo Coudet has transformed this Celta Vigo side – and the performances of Iago Aspas – but I think the odds for a draw away to Real Madrid look pretty good considering.
I also think that Granada stands a very good chance of beating Eibar on the road, even though the Basque side was able to take a point from its most recent trip to the Camp Nou.
My final pick is for Getafe to manage what seems like a fairly straightforward home win against Valladolid. The Madrid club is never one for spectacular victories but should be able to grind out three points against this struggling opponent.