Morocco’s World Cup heroics left Spanish football fans with a strangely empty-looking schedule for December. But it is now only a matter of days before battle recommences in La Liga after the mid-season break. Most of the European leagues are getting back underway in the new year, but hostilities resume in Spain a week earlier. With seven early fixtures on Thursday and Friday, the eyes of the football world will be on Spain, and bookmakers across Europe and the US will be taking bets.
So where is the smart money if you want to lay down a wager or two? Let’s take a look at some of the Week 15 fixtures and also at the longer term view for the season ahead.
All eyes on Athletic vs Real Betis
Barcelona and Real Madrid are clearly in a two horse race for the title. But the real interest for the true football fans and serious punters starts when you begin to look at the best of the rest. From that perspective, Athletic vs Real Betis is a mouth-watering proposition on 29 December. Both teams are tied on points and have identical records to date.
You can look through all the top rate bookies and every one of them is struggling to call a winner. In fact, many have both teams at 5/8 odds for the win. The 19/5 odds for a score draw look like the best show in town if you agree with the bookies and can’t pick a winner!
The race for third
From a sports betting perspective, it’s hard to get too enthusiastic about backing a winner for La Liga. Barring an upset on a scale of Leicester winning the EPL in 2016, it will be between Barca and Real Madrid, and they are both at short odds. The race for the remaining third place spot is far more interesting.
Atletico Madrid are even money favourites, but Athletic Bilbao, Villareal, Real Betis and Real Sociedad are all genuine contenders. Right now, some sports books are offering 4/1 odds on Athletic Bilbao – grab them while you can.
The relegation battle
Elche seem destined to go down at the end of the season unless they can orchestrate a dramatic turnaround, having failed to win a single game in the first part of the season. The question of who will be joining them, however, is wide open.
Bookmakers suggest Cadiz, and their inability to find the back of the net is certainly worrying. Sevilla must surely find enough to get safe in the weeks ahead, but Getafe could struggle, despite currently looking relatively safe in 15th.
Can anyone catch Lewandowski?
Robert Lewandowski has scored more La Liga goals individually this season than Cadiz or Elche have as an entire team. With 13 to his name, he is five ahead of the pack. Can anyone catch him?
If he remains fit, it is hard to see it, but anything can happen in football. Borja Iglesias from Real Betis and Mallorca’s star Vedan Muriqi are the closest pursuers, but it seems unlikely that either will catch him. If anyone can, Vinicius Júnior is the obvious candidate and is a 25/1 shot. That’s not over-generous given that he is currently on six goals, less than half Lewandowski’s tally.
Written by Alejandro Fernandez