Spanish football’s elite top flight, La Liga, is undoubtedly the dominant force in European football in recent times, providing seven of the last 10 finalists in the Champions League, as well as seven of the last 10 winners.
What’s more, Atlético Madrid’s win after extra time in Tallinn on Wednesday night means nine of the last 10 European Super Cups have gone to a Spanish side, in a period where a stunning 21 of the 30 available European trophies, Champions League, Europa League and Super Cup, have headed in the same direction.
Enthused by a domestic league bursting with quality and rivalry, the Sportsman’s Tom Lee, a regular visitor to Spain and its football grounds, takes a weekly look at the best bets on the fixture list…
So, the slate is wiped clean, Barcelona have come through a tricky test against Sevilla in Tangiers to take the Supercopa, while Atleti were stunning in overcoming capital city rivals Real in Estonia, meaning it’s time to get down to business in La Liga with an opening round of fixtures spread over four days.
Girona and newly promoted Valladolid get the ball rolling in the early kick-off on Friday night, but it’s the fixture immediately afterwards which most captures the imagination, as last season’s free-scoring entertainers Real Betis welcome Levante to Andalusia (9.15pm).
Levante have historically struggled to score against Betis in the Benito Villamarin, a predicament that won’t be helped by having lost star man Jefferson Lerma to Bournemouth, although the incoming €28m will have helped soften that particular blow.
Betis for their part have looked sharp in pre-season and can hit the ground running here.
The likes of Loren Moron, Sergio Canales and Ryad Boudebouz will all fancy their chances of opening their account tonight, so the bet looks to be Betis to be ahead at half-time which is a 6/5 or 5/4 chance, depending on where you shop around.
Fast forward 72 hours and Monday night (7.00pm) has a major early season treat in the form of Valencia at home to Atleti in the Mestalla.
The Europa League winners clearly have more quality than the hosts, even though they’ll be wary of one of their own until earlier this week, Kevin Gameiro, coming back to haunt them after his €17m transfer east.
Simeone has stayed, Griezmann has stayed, Oblak has stayed, Godin has stayed, plus you have fresh faces incoming with the likes of Thomas Lemar from Monaco, Rodri (to replace Gabi) from Villarreal, plus Gelson Martins and Nikola Kalinic.
Some squad, full of confidence after destroying Marseille in Lyon in May and then seeing off their bitter rivals on Wednesday night, but this will be a very tough reintroduction to domestic football, and they’ll have to work very, very hard to get the job done.
I like the idea of this being all square at the break, an even money chance. After all, the equivalent fixture ended 0-0 last September.
It’s great to be back. Good luck!
This weekend’s best bets in La Liga:
9.15pm Fri – Real Betis v Levante – Betis to be winning at half time @ 5/4
7.00pm Mon – Valencia v Atlético Madrid – Draw at half-time @ Evs