La Liga Predictions and Best Bets – March 5-8, 2021
It seems like every week is huge in La Liga these days – and the games from last weekend, as well as the fixtures on matchday 26, definitely prove that theory.
Atletico Madrid saw off Villarreal to stay top of the table. But Barca and Real Madrid are both just waiting for Diego Simeone’s side to slip up now. The points gap has decreased in recent weeks. Barcelona has endured an even more fraught week than usual, with a dramatic cup victory continuing the rollercoaster ride that included a former president being arrested on Monday. To keep the circus going, a new president will be revealed this weekend.
That won’t be the biggest news story in La Liga this week, though, as the Madrid derby takes center stage on Sunday. A Real win would cut the gap to just two points at the top. As usual, I’ll be looking at all ten fixtures in the Spanish top-flight – and picking out three of the best bets to consider for matchday 26.
Villarreal to Beat Valencia
It is a continuing mystery as to how Valencia remains so high up in the La Liga table after the way it has been playing for the majority of the season. There was another woeful performance against Getafe last weekend that ended in a 3-0 defeat – and if results continue in that vein, Javi Gracia could be overseeing a sensational relegation from La Liga in a season where he would have left a long time ago if the club could have afforded it.
Villarreal should do its part in that story by coming back from a 2-0 home defeat to Atletico last weekend to beat Valencia on Friday. That kept the Yellow Submarine just out of the European places, but Unai Emery’s side needs to remember how to win a game if it is to be jet-setting across the continent next season. There have been five draws, and no wins in the last seven La Liga games – and that has stalled what had been looking like a good season.
Valladolid and Getafe to Draw
It was a surprising draw away from home for Valladolid last weekend, as it kept Celta Vigo to one goal apiece. The result saw Sergio Gonzalez’s side jump out of the bottom three for the first time in a month and gave the club some hope that it can retain its top-flight status for another year at least. There has only been one win this calendar year – but it was against Saturday’s opposition, so a repeat of that result would be warmly welcomed.
Getafe might not be quite as easy to beat than at the start of January, though. A thumping 3-0 win over a frankly terrible Valencia on Saturday was the first victory for the Madrid side in over a month. It also saw the first goals scored by Getafe in six games, so manager Jose Bordalas will be hoping that his players kick on from that. Getafe isn’t exactly known for scoring goals, though, so a draw might be more likely.
Sevilla to Beat Elche
Things are getting very serious for Elche. With just one win since the end of October, even the return of Fran Escriba as head coach has not had the desired effect. He oversaw that win, against Eibar, in his first fixture – but has now experienced back-to-back defeats. The latest was against Granada on Sunday. Although the 2-1 scoreline suggests a close game, Elche cannot afford to drop any points now as the bottom of the table gets very congested.
Sevilla, on the other hand, will just be happy that it is not playing Barcelona again this weekend. Julen Lopetegui’s side has faced the Blaugrana in the league and cup in the space of five days and lost both without scoring. The Copa del Rey semifinal defeat on Wednesday was a tiring affair, with Barca scoring in the 90th minute before triumphing in extra time. Sevilla should be able to come back with an easy win against Elche, but the players may well be a little tired by the end.
Cadiz to Beat Eibar
This may not be quite the biggest game of the weekend in Spain, but it might have a big say in which teams end up battling against the drop in a few weeks time. Cadiz has performed a little more like it was expected to in the last few weeks, but it still took a late goal for Betis to tale all three points on Sunday. It has been a season to remember for Cadiz, but a recent run of just one win in 13 means that three points against Eibar are definitely needed.
The Basque club has endured a similar record since the start of 2021, so it will be after a vital win itself. Last weekend saw Eibar draw at home to bottom-placed Huesca – a result that the visitors probably enjoyed more. It could have been worse when Huesca took the lead in the 81st minute. But an equalizer from Pape Diop just two minutes later saved a point for the host. Another one this Saturday would count as a good result, I think.
Barcelona to Beat Osasuna
Osasuna was deep in trouble last year but has turned things around spectacularly in 2021 to go into this game six points clear of the bottom three and with the possibility of even climbing into the top half of the table on Saturday. That probably won’t happen as the opponent this weekend is Barcelona. But a lot of credit has to be given to Jagoba Arrasate and his players to be in this position at this stage of the season.
Barcelona’s players have already put up with a lot this season, but the events of this last week have been dramatic even in comparison. Ronald Koeman’s side kept up its impressive league form last weekend by beating Sevilla 2-0 – and then beat the same club in the cup on Wednesday. The joy and relief shown by players such as Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi proved just how invested they are in the club’s fortunes. The less said about the off-field drama surrounding Barcelona, the better – and another win against Osasuna will help with concentration staying on the pitch.
Huesca and Celta Vigo to Draw
Both these sides relied on late-headed goals to snatch a point last weekend, but it is Huesca that is more in need of victories at the moment. There was some terrible finishing from both teams in its game against Eibar last weekend, but it had looked as though the bottom-placed club had won the game when it scored with just nine minutes remaining. An equalizer just two minutes later kept Huesca in last place and still in deep trouble.
The influence of the talismanic Iago Aspas has failed to rub off in the last few weeks, as Celta Vigo has struggled for form. It had been thought that results would improve when Celta’s captain returned from injury, but Eduardo Coudet’s side has won just once in the last nine games now. A disappointing home draw with Valladolid last weekend might mean more effort on Sunday, but Huesca is the team desperate for points – and that could mean a draw here.
Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid to Draw
This is the big one. First plays third as Atletico welcomes Real to the Wanda Metropolitano. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Diego Simeone’s side was virtually being crowned as champions – with its points gap at the top and multiple games in hand. But a downturn in results now sees Atleti five points clear with just the one game in hand. Defeat here would see that gap close to two before another crucial game against Athletic on Wednesday.
Real Madrid could – and probably should – have made life even more difficult for Atleti before this derby but could only draw at home with Real Sociedad on Monday. It took an equalizer from Vinicius Junior in the 89th minute to win that point – and it just shows that there are a lot of nervous players in La Liga this year. If Zinedine Zidane’s side could win on Sunday, it would really make it a three-horse title race. But the draw would also make things interesting and keep all the big players involved.
Real Sociedad to Beat Levante
La Real endured a torrid run of results just before Christmas and has not been able to break back into the top four that it inhabited for much of the early part of the season. But there has been a definite resurgence in the last month, culminating with a good draw away at Real Madrid on Monday. Although Imanol’s defense was the busiest in the first half, Real Sociedad was much better in the second period and was unlucky to finally concede with just a minute to go.
That upturn in form should see the Basque club power past Levante on Sunday. Paco Lopez’s side helped open up the title race by taking four points off Atletico Madrid the week before but could only share two penalties with Athletic on Friday to pick up a solitary point. That keeps the Valencia club in the top half of the table, though – and even losing this one on Sunday should not take away from what has been a relatively successful campaign.
Athletic Club and Granada to Draw
Defeat for either of these two would probably spell the end of any European qualification hopes this season. Athletic goes into this one with a slight points advantage, but the team will also be more tired due to the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg against Levante on Thursday. The result of that may have a psychological effect on the players as well – but, either way, a draw might be the most a fatigued home side can expect.
A draw will not be the end of the world for Diego Martinez and his players as they aim to qualify for Europe for the second successive season after gaining promotion to La Liga. The sensational victory over Napoli in the Europa League has set Granada up very nicely with a tie against Norwegian outfit Molde in the round of 16. Nothing will be taken for granted, but that gives Granada a great chance of a quarterfinal place now. As far as the league goes, a draw against Athletic in the San Mames would be gratefully taken.
Real Betis to Beat Alaves
Betis scored with just six minutes to go last weekend to come away from Cadiz with all three points. That was the third win in a row and helped Manuel Pellegrini’s side back into the top six and the final Europa League berth. Another win on Monday would really put the pressure on Villarreal to catch up. It has been an excellent 2021 for Betis so far, with just the one defeat – at the hands of Barcelona – to take away from a climb up the table. It has been a real team effort, and that should be rewarded with three more points this week.
Alaves will be the club aiming to disrupt Real Betis’ European plans, but recent results would suggest that the home team has little to fear. Defeat at home to Osasuna last weekend kept it at just one win this calendar year – and showed that the arrival of Abelardo as head coach has not had the desired effect. Alaves has gotten even worse, if anything and another loss on Monday could see the club fall to the bottom of the league table.
My Top La Liga Picks for March 5-8, 2021
Here are my three betting picks for this week’s La Liga games on matchday 26. Odds are courtesy of Betway.
- Cadiz to beat Eibar – 3.10
- Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid to draw – 3.30
- Athletic Club and Granada to draw – 4.00
Cadiz and Eibar will not attract the headlines in the same way as my second pick fixture will do this weekend, but the result could have a huge impact on the relegation battle. I think Cadiz has what it takes to put in a good performance for the first time in a while and beat Eibar to give it a little more breathing room in the lower half of the table.
My next pick is for the match of the day. A win for Atletico would probably mean that Real’s title hopes would be over. But, as much as Diego Simeone would love to put one over the city rivals, he is also a very pragmatic head coach. He will know that a draw could be nearly as good at keeping the competition at a safe distance. This game should be fascinating – but I think it might end up all square and keep the race for the title ongoing.
My final pick is for Athletic to raise itself after Thursday’s Copa del Rey semifinal to earn a point at home against Granada. The visitors have their own European adventure to think about, and I have a feeling league position will be taking a back seat now. A draw doesn’t really help either club as far as league position goes – but it would do for now.