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29-Apr 2022 Friday 2:16 PM (110 days ago)               #1
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La Liga: Points at a Premium For Sevilla and Cadiz

Sevilla FC vs Cadiz

Five games to go in the 2021/22 La Liga season and things are getting hotter at both ends of the table. Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla have a chance to cement their top four place when Cadiz come to town, but the visitors too have a huge incentive.

This gameis a great weekend curtain-raiser as the two sides meet at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Friday night.

The hosts are in third place in the La Liga table, coming into the game on the back of a 3-2 win away to strugglers Levante, while the visitors are in 17th -a place and a point above the drop zone. Cadiz lost to Athletic Bilbao by the same margin, a result which leaves Sergio’s team in a precarious position.

The La Liga 2022 betting odds say we’re heading for a home win, but at this time of the season the bottom-end clubs become very dangerous opponents. 

Talking Points

Papu Gomez’s return is vital for Sevilla

Los Blancos are on the way to the 2022 title for sure, so the race for a top four place is where the action lies and there is an eight-point gap between Barcelona in second and Real Sociedad in sixth place. Sevilla, on 63 points alongside the Blaugrana have a six-point cushion to fifth place and one or two more victories might be enough to see them over the line.

The return of attacking midfielder Papu Gomez from injury has come at a good time for Los Sevillistas. During his absence, they scored just twice in four games. And in the three since he returned, Sevilla have bagged eight goals.

A Copa America winner with Argentina in 2021 and with an 89-per cent pass completion in La Liga this term, he is a player who can keep control of the ball in the key areas of the pitch and he links up well with top scorer Rafa Mir, who is on nine goals.

With the influential Lucas Ocampos in good form, Sevilla have a dangerous attack. But the defence has conceded eight goals in the last four games and that is where Lopetegui has his work to do.

Lucas Perez can fire Cadiz to safety

trip to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona last week seemed like a daunting prospect but Cadiz did Sevilla and themselves a huge favour when they inflicted a shock defeat on the Blaugrana.

Sergio’s side took advantage of a lacklustre performance from the Catalans and former Arsenal striker Lucas Perez made them pay with a goal early in the second half.

Lucas Perez gears up to help Cadiz avoid the relegation zone in the La Liga table
Cadiz’s Lucas Perez celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during La Liga match against Barcelona

He could easily have scored in the first 45 minutes but narrowly missed when a glorious chance arrived. The unexpected three points lifted Cadiz up to 16th but they slipped down a place when they lost last weekend.

Perez scored in that defeat to Bilbao too and he could be the man to fire Cadiz to safety, while another former Premier League star will also pose a threat to the Sevilla defence.

Ex-Manchester City star Alfredo Negredo has six goals this season and he is well-known to Sevilla fans, scoring 70 goals for their club in 139 games leading up to his 2013 move to Manchester. 

With two wins from the last five, Cadiz have given themselves a fighting chance of survival, also beating seventh placed Villarreal, and they will play Sevilla with a battling defence and quick counter attack.

One young player we expect to see in the La Liga 2022 highlights package is 22-year-old centre-back Victor Chust, who has made 23 appearances for Cadiz in this campaign.

A Spain U21 international, he is strong in the air and has a good reading of the game, able to launch counter-attacks with well-placed long passes. A cultural player, Chuck has only been carded twice this season and he won’t be panicked by the Sevilla offence.

History

Sevilla have won eight, drawn two, and lost one of the 11 meetings with Cadiz in all competitions since 2005, and the top four club won the return match 1-0 as Lucas Ocampos scored the only goal of the game midway through the second half – firing home a cross from Ivan Rakitic.

Recent form is identical as both sides have won two, drawn three, and lost one of the last six games, but Sevilla’s home record this season of 11 wins, four draws, and a single defeat means this will be one of Cadiz’s toughest tests over the remaining five league games.

Betting Tip

The pre-match SBOTOP odds of 1.52 on the home win, 3.64 for the draw, and 5.99 for the away win suggests a victory for the hosts, which will further strengthen their top four claims while heaping pressure on Cadiz.

But the visitors will have their chances and a 2-1 home win at odds of 6.95 may not be far from the mark.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 29-Apr-2022 at 2:17 PM





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29-Apr 2022 Friday 3:44 PM (110 days ago)            #2
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La Liga: Real Madrid Ready for Their Coronation

Real Madrid vs RCD Espanyol

Real Madrid are on the cusp of being crowned La Liga champions for a record 35th time. Los Blancos only need to avoid losing at home to 13th-placed Espanyol to seal their title.

Getting a draw at the Bernabeu against a mid-table foe doesn’t seem all too daunting, and the La Liga 2022 betting odds unsurprisingly have Real heavily favoured to win at home.

But with their Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City looming on the horizon, might Real slip up and make their fans wait a while longer?

Talking Points

Real Madrid could rest for Champions League clash

Real Madrid winning the La Liga title has been a foregone conclusion for the last few months. They are 15 points clear of rivals Barcelona and Sevilla, with the latter missing several opportunities to make it a much closer title race.

Meanwhile, Real have continued to rack up wins in the league. They have won eight of their last nine, with their only defeat coming in El Clasico against Barca.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema is among the nominees for La Liga's Player of the Month of April
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates scoring their third goal vs Manchester City

Real beat Osasuna 3-1 in their last league outing, although it could have been more if Karim Benzema had not missed two penalties.

But Benzema made amends for those misses as he bagged a brace in Real Madrid’s 4-3 defeat to Manchester City in their semi-final first leg. And to prove he wasn’t fazed by his recent misses, Benzema did a Panenka to score a late penalty which keeps Real in the tie.

Carlo Ancelotti is likely to make several changes to his side against Espanyol to rest his key players – including Benzema, Luka Modric, and Vinicius Jr – ahead of the second leg.

But Real’s second-string side, which will likely feature Rodrygo, Marco Asensio, and Eduardo Camavinga, still possesses a lot of quality, enough to get the draw they need to clinch the title.

Real will also have home advantage, which has been big for them this season. They have won 11 of their 16 home league games, with four draws and just one defeat.

Espanyol slowing down

Espanyol’s first season back in La Liga has been a success. They are currently in 13th place with 39 points, a comfortable nine points clear of the relegation zone.

With their status in the Spanish top-flight secure, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Espanyol’s overall effort level slowly begins to wane.

Espanyol’s recent La Liga 2022 results have slipped as they’ve lost three of their last four games, although two of those were very narrow away defeats to Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid. On both occasions, Espanyol lost due to stoppage-time penalties.

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However, Espanyol lost 1-0 at home to mid-table Rayo Vallecano last time out. It was a disappointing performance from Espanyol, who saw their five-game unbeaten run at the RCDE Stadium come to an end.

As has been the case for most of the season, scoring enough goals is still a big concern for Espanyol. They have scored just twice in their last four games.

Raul de Tomas remains their lone reliable source of goals. The Spanish international has 15 goals on the season, including two in his last four. As a former Real Madrid player, de Tomas will not be short on motivation to take on his old club.

Espanyol have been disastrous away from home this season. They have won just once in 16 games – tied for the fewest in the division – with five draws and 10 defeats.

History

Real Madrid have absolutely dominated Espanyol in recent years. They have won 21 of their last 26 league meetings, with only three draws.

However, Espanyol beat Los Blancos in their first meeting this season. Raul de Tomas and Aleix Vidal gave the Catalans a two-goal lead, while Karim Benzema pulled a goal back.

But it will be an uphill battle for Espanyol to beat Real in Madrid. Espanyol’s last win at the Bernabeu came all the way back in 1996.

Betting Tip

SBOTOP odds have Real Madrid installed as significant 1.51 favourites to clinch the title with a victory. Espanyol are priced at 5.80 to spoil Real’s party, while a draw is 4.20.

While Ancelotti is likely to field a less than full-strength side for this match because of their upcoming Champions League clash with Man City, Real Madrid should still get the point they need to clinch the championship.

Look for Los Blancos to get off to a fast start right out of the gate and take a lead into half-time as they celebrate their title at home.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 29-Apr-2022 at 3:44 PM





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03-May 2022 Tuesday 4:27 PM (106 days ago)            #3
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La Liga: Barcelona Pushing For Second Place

Barcelona vs Mallorca

Rest is considered a luxury for the Catalans these days since this will be their third La Liga match in just a span of nine days. The same can’t be said for Mallorca, though, as they’ll look to take advantage of their hosts’ tired legs.

Xavi’s men have fallen to third place following their upset loss against Rayo Vallecano last Monday and Sevilla’s draw against Cadiz yesterday. The Catalans now have 63 points, while Los Palanganas have 64 and Atletico Madrid are at solo fourth with 61.

On the other side of the standings, that’s where you can find Mallorca as they’re placed 16th with 32 points. They got the much-needed three points against Alaves on Wednesday in a nail-biting encounter, and they must gain more positive La Liga 2022 results to stay in top-flight next term.

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Talking Points

No rest for weary Barcelona

Xavi would prefer to have more options in order for Barcelona to finish their campaign strong. Injuries have ruined their title chances this year and now they’ll have to settle for another possible runner-up finish – marking their third straight season of not winning La Liga.

Barcelona can still aim for a second place finish since they have the head-to-head advantage over Sevilla. They have plenty to fight for despite being out of the title race since their top four spot is not yet fully confirmed, especially having lost two of their last three.

Against Cadiz, the Catalans’ backline was compromised as Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Dani Alves, and Ronald Araujo all limped off, while Clement Lenglet took a shot at the head.

Araujo and Alba played against Rayo Vallecano and the two are likely to play alongside Eric Garcia and Sergino Dest for their back four.

Gerard Pique is progressing well as he was seen in training alongside fellow centre-back Samuel Umtiti. However, Pique might not be rushed back while Umtiti has yet to play since January due to a toe injury.

Sergi Roberto is still suffering from a hamstring injury and he remains out, leaving more opportunities for both Sergio Busquets, Gavi and Frenkie de Jong.

The good news is that their frontline looks intact with Ferran Torres, Ousmane Dembele, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Adama Traore, Luuk de Jong, and Memphis Depay present. We expect Torres, Aubameyang, and Dembele to get the starting nod here.

Mallorca eager to retain top-flight status

La Liga: Mallorca to visit Barcelona for another top-flight match
Real Mallorca’s Vedat Muriqi celebrates after scoring a goal against Atletico Madrid at the Visit Mallorca Stadium

Los Bermellones secured a return to La Liga by finishing second in the Segunda Division last term and they’re bidding to stay in back-to-back seasons at this level for the first time since 2013.

Mallorca have a tough four-game stretch to wrap up their campaign as they’ll face Granada, Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano, and Osasuna, so Javier Aguirre has his work cut out for him in these next few weeks.

Their leading scorers so far are Salva Sevilla and Vedat Muriqi, who have four goals apiece this season. Other than those two veterans, Barcelona may want to keep an eye on the young Asian duo of Takefusa Kubo and Lee Kang-in on the wings.

History

Barcelona hold an eight-game winning streak against Mallorca here in La Liga prior to Sunday since their 1-1 draw at Camp Nou in 2010 where Pep Guardiola was still their head coach. In those eight losses, Mallorca have failed to score in six of them while conceding an average of four goals per game.

Furthermore, Mallorca have only won once in their last 11 visits to Catalunya in La Liga (D1, L9) after having won two of their previous four away league games against them.

But Barcelona have lost their last three home games in all competitions. Should Mallorca somehow win, it’ll be the first time that they’ve lost four in a row in their history.

Xavi’s side cannot underestimate Los Bermellones looking at their reverse fixture last January. Both teams had 13 total shots, but Barcelona got the victory thanks to Luuk de Jong’s 44th-minute goal and because they held 65-per cent possession.

Betting Tip

Barcelona are unsurprisingly favoured by the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 odds for this contest. The Catalans are installed at 1.30 to win, while Mallorca are the underdogs at 7.20 and chances for a draw are at 5.20.

Given how their last meeting went, Barcelona know that Mallorca are not to be taken for granted, especially since they’re playing with a big sense of urgency.

This might a closer game than most would expect, but Barcelona should have enough to secure the victory at home despite being undermanned.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 03-May-2022 at 4:27 PM





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03-May 2022 Tuesday 4:30 PM (106 days ago)            #4
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Salute to Ancelotti’s Aces as Alaves Give Themselves a Glimmer

It has long been known that the La Liga title was staying in the Spanish capital – even if there were going to be different hands on the trophy this year.

And so, following the last-day excitement of Atletico Madrid pipping city rivals Real last term, the title of Spain’s top team is back in more familiar hands.

That is the only place to start this weekend.

For the crown is a fully deserved triumph for Carlo Ancelotti and his Real Madrid players who hoisted their manager aloft in celebration of their title success but also after he became the first coach to win the five major European leagues – Ancelotti has also won titles in Italy’s Serie A (AC Milan), France’s Ligue 1 (Paris St Germain), the Premier League in England (Chelsea) and the German Bundesliga (Bayern Munich).

He won his first league title as a coach almost two decades ago, topping Serie A in 2004 with Milan. He went on to win the Premier League in 2010 with Chelsea, Ligue 1 in 2013 with PSG and the Bundesliga in 2017 with Bayern. To be the best in each of Europe’s top five leagues is something no one has ever achieved before.

In his first spell at Real Madrid, between 2013 and 2015, La Liga eluded him as Atletico and Barcelona lifted the title during those two seasons. However, Ancelotti’s Real Madrid have been the best team in Spain this year and the Italian now has 22 titles in his coaching career.

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Real needed only a draw at home to mid table Espanyol to win the title but victory was never in doubt once Rodrygo stroked home from just inside the area.

The Brazilian doubled that advantage a minute before the break when he fired low into the bottom corner.

Marco Asensio finished off a rapid counter-attack to make it three before Karim Benzema came off the bench to sidefoot home from Vinicius Jr’s cutback.

Regardless of whether Real progress from the second leg of their Champions League semi-final in midweek, the veteran Italian has proved his worth to ensure Los Blancos are challenging for all the major honours again after a year where they missed out at home and abroad.

The fact some of the Madrid team is ageing and soon needs replacing is so true but that misses the point.

The achievement is the fact Ancelotti has managed to get another successful season out of the squad he inherited, coupled with helping the development of some younger players such as Vinicius – the Brazilian who has really made his mark this term.

They have created numerous La Liga highlights and should be saluted.

While they were doing the business, their Spanish compatriots in the Champions League semi-final, Villarreal, were resting key men which basement battlers Alaves took full advantage to move off the bottom and give their survival bid a glimmer of hope.

Captain Victor Laguardia headed home the opener after just four minutes before Gonzalo Escalante doubled the advantage on the half hour.

Villarreal suffered another setback with defeat to La Liga bottom club Alaves
Sloppy Villarreal stay seventh in La Liga after slipping up at Alaves

Samuel Chukwueze’s replied just after the restart but Alaves would not be breached again and, just a fortnight after seeming on the brink of relegation, they are within four points of safety.

Arguably the result of the weekend came on Friday night as Cadiz drew at Sevilla to defy the Andalusians, defy the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds and, crucially, stay one point clear of the bottom three after Granada could only match their result at home to Celta Vigo.

In fact, it required an equaliser in the second minute of stoppage time from substitute Darwin Machis to earn a point as his cross eluded everyone and nestled in the corner. Turning point?

They certainly remain just a point off Cadiz and Real Mallorca who were defeated by Barcelona.

That meant Barca moved back above Sevilla and into second place as Memphis Depay gave them a 25th-minute lead and Sergio Busquets doubled the lead nine minutes after the interval.

Antonio Raillo gave Mallorca hope 11 minutes from time but Barcelona claimed a first home win in four games after defeats to Eintracht Frankfurt, Cadiz and Rayo Vallecano.

Among the other results, Radamel Falcao earned Rayo Vallecano a 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad by cancelling out Alexander Sorloth’s first-half effort, while Elche and Osasuna also drew 1-1.

Meanwhile, Atletico’s slip at Athletic Bilbao has provided Real Betis with a chance to close to within a point of fourth place should they defeat Getafe this evening (Monday).

There’s still plenty to play for in La Liga – except at the top where Real’s coronation has begun.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 03-May-2022 at 4:30 PM





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05-May 2022 Thursday 7:26 PM (104 days ago)            #5
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La Liga: Betis and Barca Are the Best of the Rest

Real Betis vs Barcelona

All eyes will be on the Benito Villamarin Stadium in Andalusia on Saturday night when Real Betis welcome Barcelona in a top-five clash which has plenty at stake.

With the 2022 title already in Madrid, this La Liga clash is the biggest game of the weekend as Betis try to gatecrash the Champions League places and the Blaugrana aim to end the season on a high.

Xavi’s Barcelona are pushing for second place and that is quite a turnaround after a poor opening half of the campaign, but they have stuttered recently.

Meanwhile, Real Betis still have faint hopes of making a top-four place. They are currently in fifth, three points behind Atletico Madrid and with four games to go, there is no time to lose.

Barca come into the game on the back of a 2-1 home win against Mallorca while Betis played out a goalless draw away to Getafe.

Talking Points

Betis’ attack needs sharpening

Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis have been free-scoring for most of the campaign and, with 56 goals, they are the fourth-highest scorers in La Liga, with six more than third-placed Sevilla. But Los Verdiblancos are without a goal in their last three league outings, drawing 0-0 away to Getafe and Real Sociedad while losing their last home game 1-0 to Elche.

Borja Iglesias and his Real Betis teammates will try to pull off a win against Barcelona in La Liga
Real Betis forward Borja Iglesias argues with Valencia midfielder Carlos Soler during their Copa del Rey match in the La Cartuja Stadium

They have the firepower for sure, but the Betis strikers have been blunted and now they need to sharpen up for a fast finish. 28-year-old attacking midfielder Juanmi has had a fine season with 14 goals, while man striker Borja Iglesias has weighed in with nine. He scored Los Verdiblancos’ goal in their Copa del Rey final with Valencia which they won on penalties. 

One player we’re sure to see in the La Liga 2022 highlights package is the quick-footed and spiky winger Nabil Fekir. The former Liverpool target has contributed six goals and six assists and he is keen to stake his claim for a place in the France team for the 2022 World Cup, while attacking midfielder Sergio Canales remains a class act.

This team will start scoring again soon.

Barca back on track

Since Xavi’s arrival and a superb January transfer window, Barcelona’s season has been transformed and, at one point, the Catalans were even dreaming of a spectacular La Liga triumph.

But a series of poor results, particularly at the Camp Nou, has rather derailed their campaign. A shock Europa League exit at home to Eintracht Frankfurt was followed by a bigger surprise when Cadiz won at the Camp Nou and then another home defeat to Rayo Vallecano.

But, last time out, the Blaugrana got back to winning ways with a 2-1 win over Real Mallorca as striker Memphis Depay scored his 11th goal of the campaign and Sergio Busquets made it 2-0 before Mallorca scored a late consolation.

Depay has had a productive partner in attack since the arrival of Pierre Emerick-Aubamayang from Arsenal in the January transfer window. The Gabon international has nine goals and, along with newly signed Ferran Torres, he has galvanised the team into one which can challenge Real Madrid again.

Supporting striker Ousmane Dembele has been in scintillating form too, with ten assists. Manchester United are said to be interested in signing the out of contract star, but Barca are hopeful of striking a new deal to keep the 24-year-old France international at the Camp Nou.

Full-back Jordi Alba has been a prolific assister with nine so far this season, but in defence the Blaugrana are still without the injured duo of Sergi Roberto and Sergino Dest.

While they have struggled at home Barcelona have been better away from the Camp Nou in recent weeks and they will be out to bag all three points in Seville.

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History

Barcelona have had the better of the head to head meetings, winning 32 of the 51 encounters while Real Betis have won ten and there have been nine draws.

Betis won the return match 1-0 this season while Barcelona won 3-2 at the Benito Villamarin in the 2020/21 campaign. 

Betting Tip

The La Liga 2022 betting odds say all three results are in play with Real Betis at 3.01 to win or 3.26 to draw and the Blaugrana at 2.18 to bag an away victory which would keep them in second place.

Barca have been good on the road with eight wins, seven draws and two defeats away from home and are unbeaten in their last ten away games in all competitions.

But Betis are a formidable opponent and a 1-1 draw is at SBOTOP odds of 5.99 may not be far from the mark.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 05-May-2022 at 7:26 PM





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07-May 2022 Saturday 1:01 PM (102 days ago)            #6
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La Liga: Seething Atletico Aiming to Rain on Real’s Championship Parade

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

With Real Madrid confirmed as 2021/22 La Liga champions, there’s not much to play for except for the three other Champions League spots.

And it’ll be a fiercely-contested during these next few weeks for Barcelona, Sevilla, and Atletico Madrid – who sit at second, third, and fourth respectively – while fifth and sixth-seeded Real Betis and Real Sociedad are both looking to sneak in.

So Atletico Madrid will have all the motivation when they host Real Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano this weekend since their job isn’t done yet, and because they’re hurt after ceding the domestic trophy to their city rivals.

This match would’ve been the title decider if the race is still close today, but Atletico Madrid are eager to get a measure of revenge against their visitors nonetheless.

The pre-match SBOTOP betting odds are slightly favouring Los Rojiblancos because of this, which would somehow give Diego Simeone and co. some consolation should they claim all three points.

Talking Points

Atletico Madrid keen to lock top four place

With their top four spot far from being secured, Atletico Madrid’s La Liga 2022 results must improve in these next few weeks to salvage their campaign.

Since being eliminated in the Champions League quarter-finals by Manchester City, Los Rojiblancos have been inconsistent – especially with their recent losses against weaker sides such as Mallorca and Athletic Bilbao.

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Diego Simeone has been curiously experimenting with his formation and lineups which may have led to their mini-slump, but they need to tighten up with tougher games coming up. After Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid’s last three games will be against Elche, Sevilla, and Real Sociedad.

In their recent defeat against Athletic Bilbao, Diego Simeone used a 5-4-1 formation and he didn’t start the likes of Rodrigo De Paul, Koke, Matheus Cunha, and leading scorer Angel Correa.

Correa has 12 goals and five assists and after being rested, he should get the starting nod to partner up with either Luis Suarez, Joao Felix, or Antoine Griezmann. Meanwhile, the rest of the starting XI should remain unchanged.

Real Madrid have bigger fish to fry

We won’t blame Carlo Ancelotti if he’ll rest most of his players since they’re on the cusp of making history yet again, as they’re fresh from a wild comeback against Manchester City to secure their date with Liverpool in the Champions League final.

Rodrygo recorded the brace to nullify Riyad Mahrez’s goal, while Karim Benzema hit the dagger to break the Sky Blues’ hearts with his 95th-minute penalty.

La Liga: Carlo Ancelotti is the first manager to reach five European Cup/Champions League finals
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti and assistant coach Francesco Mauri celebrate reaching the Champions League final after the match with Manchester

Ancelotti would be prudent to rest Benzema especially with his share of niggling injuries, so Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio are likely to soak up more attacking responsibilities up front.

This is the same case for Casemiro, Toni Kroos, and Luka Modric since they’re all on the wrong side of their 30’s, so Federico Valverde, Dani Ceballos, and Eduardo Camavinga will all be given a chance to get more playing time.

History

Atletico Madrid are hopeful to end their drought against Real Madrid. Prior to Sunday night, Real Madrid haven’t lost in eight straight matches against Atletico Madrid in all competitions (W4, D4) while securing a clean sheet in six of them.

Real Madrid have been solid on the road either as they’ve won their last five away league matches while scoring three goals in three of them. They haven’t won six in a row away from home in La Liga since their 13-game winning streak in 2017.

Los Rojiblancos have only lost once in their last 10 league home games. However, they have the worse recent form compared to Los Blancos with two wins, two losses, and one draw in their last five league matches, whereas their visitors have won all five in the same span.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side won in their reverse fixture last December as Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio led Los Blancos to a 2-0 win.

Betting Tip

The La Liga 2022 odds are for Atletico Madrid in this contest. Los Rojiblancos are priced at 2.09, while Real Madrid aren’t far behind at 3.35 and a draw is pegged at 3.45 in the 1X2 market.

With Real Madrid’s focus now on the Champions League final, we don’t expect them to put in much effort here since this is pretty much a no-bearing contest. Real Madrid are indirectly doing Atletico Madrid a favour. And if the hosts can’t capitalize, that would complicate their Champions League hopes especially if Real Betis and Real Sociedad win their respective matches this weekend.

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07-May 2022 Saturday 1:03 PM (102 days ago)            #7
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La Liga: European Targets For Villarreal and Sevilla

Villarreal vs Sevilla

Unai Emery and Julen Lopetegui are two of the most ambitious coaches in the league and they manage two teams who play some of the best passing football in La Liga. There will be plenty of players with great quality on the ball on show and we’ll take a look at some of the stars we expect to shine.

Emery’s Villarreal come into the game on the back of a dramatic Champions League exit to Liverpool while Sevilla earned three points in a 3-2 win away to Levante last time out.

And they both have a European target now in mind.

Having been a fixture in the top four throughout the campaign, Sevilla want to nail down their Champions League place, while the Yellow Submarine might qualify for the Europa Conference League in seventh and they can rise another place or two if they finish the campaign with a string of victories.

Talking Points 

Parejo can make Villarreal tick

Emery’s Villarreal have been exceptional in the Champions League, beating Juventus and Bayern Munich, and the second leg semi-final tie against Liverpool started with a bang as Boulaye Dia scored for the Yellow Submarine on three minutes and Frances Coquelin wiped out Liverpool’s first leg advantage before the half-time break. But three goals in 12 second half minutes ended Villarreal’s valiant attempt as the Reds ran out 5-2 winners on aggregate.

La Liga
MALLORCA
GRANADA
TO SEE UPDATED ODDS

In their last home game in the league, Villarreal beat Valencia 2-0 and, once again, 33-year-old midfield playmaker Dani Parejo pulled the strings as he has for much of the season.

With six assists in 29 appearances in central midfield, Parejo is the catalyst for much of Villarreal’s attacking play. He is constantly hungry for the ball and uses it well with a passing accuracy of 88-per cent and he’s also sharp in the tackle, winning more midfield duels than he loses.

24-year-old defender Juan Foyth could be an important player too. The Argentine star is a cultured defender with good use of the ball and strong in the tackle, but he is prone to overstepping the line.

And with three yellow cards and a red, the former Spurs centre-back is a regular target for referees as he was in North London.

Ocampos key for Sevilla

Lopetegui’s Sevilla have been in pursuit of Real Madrid for much of the campaign though a recent loss of form has seen them drop to third.

But with second-placed Barcelona facing fifth-placed Real Betis, Sevilla have the chance to leapfrog the Blaugrana should Los Verdiblancos earn a win in the Camp Nou.

The La Liga 2022 highlights are sure to feature the Argentina wide-man Lucas Ocampos who made two assists in Sevilla’s 3-2 win away to Levante. He will come up against his countryman Foyth and that will be a fascinating duel.

Lucas Ocampos scored six goals for Sevilla this La Liga season
Lucas Ocampos in action during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Granada CF played at Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium

With six goals and four assists from his 27 appearances, Ocampos is Sevilla’s most dangerous attacker. But like Foyth, he needs to tread carefully having already picked up seven yellow cards and committed 43 fouls – a hefty total for a creative wide-man.

Behind Ocampos and on the other flank sits 36-year-old captain wing-back and club legend Jesus Navas, and he too is a strong creative threat with his raids down the wing, making three assists this season.

He has superb crossing ability having played much of his earlier career in a more advanced position, but now he needs to be aware of his position to avoid being caught out in defence.

History

There have been some great tussles between these two sides in recent years, including an all action 2-2 draw in 2020. And over the last 25 years, Los Sevillistas have had the better of the exchanges, winning 24 to Villarreal’s 12 while there have been 13 draws.

Sevilla won the return match 1-0, but in this fixture last season, Villarreal ran out 4-0 winners in a match which put a huge dent in Sevilla’s title hopes as Carlos Bacca scored a hat-trick and Sevilla centre-back Diego Carlos was sent off.

Villarreal’s home record of 10 wins, five draws, and two defeats is a good match for Sevilla’s strong away form of six wins, eight draws, and three defeats.

Both teams have won just twice in the last six games. But in the case of Villarreal, that sequence does include two matches against the might of Liverpool.

Betting Tip

The pre-match La Liga 2022 odds tell us what a wide open game this is, with the Yellow Submarine favourite at 2.29 while Los Sevilliastas are at 2.97, with the draw slightly further out at SBOTOP odds of 3.11.

I think home advantage gives Villarreal the edge but it will be very tight.

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10-May 2022 Tuesday 12:33 PM (99 days ago)            #8
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35 Down, Three To Go In La Liga

The 2021/22 campaign has brought us La Liga highlights aplenty but there’s still time for some more with three weeks remaining.

This was clear again over the weekend, particularly from those desperately trying to cling onto their top-flight status.

Granada hit six of the best in the nick of time

When you have won just once in the league since December, then it’s hardly surprising if you are in trouble.

That is the reality facing Granada, surprise Europa League quarter-finalists just over a year ago, but now fighting for their La Liga futures.

The importance of a clash with Real Mallorca then, a point above them and outside the relegation zone, was clear.

What followed was a score the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds didn’t even predict.

After the visitors took an early lead through Luis Suarez, Mallorca responded well and for much of the first half looked the better side, drawing level when Vedat Muriqi laid the ball back for Salva Sevilla to rasp a long-range effort into the corner.

That felt significant at the time. Yet just a minute into the second half Sergio Escudero played a one-two with Antonio Puertas who nipped clear and found the corner of the net.

Jorge Molina bagged a brace in Granada's La Liga win against Mallorca
Granada’s Jorge Molina in action during their match against Mallorca

Less than 10 minutes later, Puertas had one of his own – backheeling a Jorge Molina cross into the net from close range. Again Mallorca mustered a response through a Antonio Raillo header.

Cue 40 year-old Molina.

If he had set up Puertas’ goal within five minutes of entering the fray, he soon took control of the match.

Picking up the ball in midfield he turned and fired a precise effort along the ground inside the left post to make it 4-2.

He then laid the ball into the path of Myrto Uzuni for number five before Molina twisted, turned and fired in the sixth in the final minute.

He may just have saved the day for his employers.

Not that Cadiz and Levante are finished – far from it, in fact.

Cadiz leave it late

The former gave themselves a renewed chance of survival thanks to a 3-0 win at home to Elche.

Sergio Gonzalez’s side continued their recent run of positive form with a dominant second half display, even though they had to wait until the final 10 minutes to secure a breakthrough.

Elche were forced to play the final 20 minutes with ten men and there was 10 left on the clock when veteran Alvaro Negredo nodded the home side in front from close range.

A defensive blunder gifted Ruben Sobrino a second goal and Anthony Lozano wrapped it up in added time.

Levante finish Friday night with a flourish

Premier League
ASTON VILLA
LIVERPOOL
1X2 Draw @ 4.20
Under 2.75 @ 2.08
First Half Over 1.25 @ 2.33
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Levante are still alive too – just!

That’s after Gonzalo Melero kept his cool to slot home a last-minute penalty to clinch a vital three points.

It was a result which kept alive their faint survival hopes and also damaged Real Sociedad’s top five aspirations.

Veteran David Silva had headed them level after Jorge Miramon edged the hosts in front early in the second period.

Sociedad remain in touch with Real Betis though after they lost to their own last-gasp goal as Barcelona confirmed the runners-up position behind Carlo Ancelotti’s aces, arch rivals Real Madrid.

Xavi seals second spot

Barcelona players gave their Betis counterparts a guard of honour before kick-off following the hosts recent Copa del Rey win over Valencia.

It was an entertaining game with Ronald Araujo’s header tipped onto the bar by Betis keeper Rui Silva, and Betis’ Guido Rodriguez striking the post.

Xavi’s side led when Ansu Fati, just off the bench, shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box – his first La Liga goal since November after a campaign impacted by injury. Former Barca defender Marc Bartra headed Betis level moments later but Jordi Alba volleyed in Dani Alves cross in the fourth minute of stoppage time to seal the points and second place.


 

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12-May 2022 Thursday 2:41 PM (97 days ago)            #9
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La Liga: Kylian Mbappe is a Step Closer to Achieving His Childhood Dream

It feels like it’s just a matter of time to where La Liga will have a new golden boy for years to come in the form of Kylian Mbappe.

The PSG star, who grew up with the hope of playing for current champions Real Madrid someday, looks to be closing in on his dream transfer with his departure from France looking inevitable now.

Yes, it’s a great time to be a Los Blancos supporter given their stronger La Liga 2022 odds next season in line of this development. However, nothing has been formally agreed or signed yet, so fans and neutrals will all have to wait and see.

As we look ahead this summer, SBOTOP examines and break down the impact of Kylian Mbappe’s imminent move to the Bernabeu.

Premier League
LEEDS UNITED
CHELSEA
1X2 Leeds United @ 4.90
Over 3.00 @ 2.00
Total Goals 0-1 @ 4.60
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Kylian Mbappe’s PSG journey so far

As a response to PSG’s disappointing Ligue 1 campaign in 2016/17, the Parisiens splashed a huge amount on cash to pry Neymar away from Barcelona while bringing in Kylian Mbappe via loan with a buy option at the end of the year.

Those moves signaled change for the capital club, signifying their intent to become an established European powerhouse, to which they did a few years later.

Fast forward to today, Mbappe is at the stage of his career where he aims to prove that he’s the best in the world given his immense talent. This means playing for a club who can win the Champions League, but so far he isn’t there just yet.

He came close when PSG finished as runners-up in 2020 behind Bayern Munich, but were eliminated in the semi-finals by Manchester City a year later. This season, they were knocked out of the Round of 16 by Real Madrid.

Last summer, the Parisiens added Lionel Messi to form a powerful attacking triumvirate with Mbappe and Neymar. However, the general sentiment is that PSG are a squad of individuals rather than a team.

It makes you wonder if you’re in Mbappe’s shoes: Can he win the Champions League anytime soon? Will he win a Ballon d’Or and not get overshadowed by Lionel Messi and Neymar?

Those questions along with his expiring contract may have prompted the 23-year old to ponder about his long-term future.

How will he fit in Madrid?

Real Madrid have been courting Kylian Mbappe for quite some time now. Even with Karim Benzema in the lineup, who remains a constant in the La Liga 2022 highlights reel, Los Blancos are already planning ahead since Benzema isn’t getting any younger.

Mbappe is seen as the heir apparent, and with a proven cast under Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid seems to be the ideal place for him to contend for the biggest trophies every season.

Karim Benzema has been vital in Real Madrid's La Liga championship this 2021/22 season
Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema celebrates after advancing to the Champions League final

Picture this if you’re a Real Madrid fan where Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior are racing down the flanks to tee up Kylian Mbappe inside the box for goals.

Meanwhile, Mbappe can also be effective as a winger where he’ll be the one to feed either Asensio or Vinicius Junior. Or from time to time, Toni Kroos or Luka Modric can dish to him the ball with their exquisite passing and all he needs to do is to get in proper position.

Playing for Real Madrid also means that Mbappe will now have frontline partners who share the same high work rate as he does that is ideal for high pressing when needed. They weren’t able to do that in PSG since Neymar and Lionel Messi aren’t those type of players.

According to reports, Los Blancos went as far as to bid around $225-M last summer despite Mbappe having one more year left on his PSG contract. But PSG rejected any bids, meaning that he can now walk for nothing, opening a golden opportunity for Los Blancos.

Real Madrid presents a new challenge for Kylian Mbappe

He was spotted in Madrid recently alongside PSG teammate and former Real Madrid full-back Achraf Hakimi to try and get a feel on what it’s like to be in Madrid. Naturally, Los Blancos fans gave him a warm reception to make him feel comfortable at his future new home.

Real Madrid have a rich winning tradition fueled by star power – from the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano Ferenc Puskas, Raul, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo Nazario and Cristiano Ronaldo – and maybe Kylian Mbappe will join this list soon.

There’s no doubt that Kylian Mbappe has the makings to be Real Madrid’s next superstar for the foreseeable future. But as soon as he joins them this July, barring any unforeseen circumstances, he must prepare himself for the daunting spotlight and the heavy burden of lofty expectations.


 

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13-May 2022 Friday 12:50 PM (96 days ago)            #10
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La Liga: Ancelotti reaching for the Stars

Carlo Ancelotti is, without doubt, one of the best head coaches in European football; so was anyone really surprised when he led Real Madrid to the La Liga title in his first campaign in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu?

He has added the Spanish title to those already won in France, Germany, England and Italy to become the first manager to win all five of Europe’s top leagues, and Ancelotti is one of only three head coaches to win the Champions League three times, twice with AC Milan and once with Real Madrid. And now he’s on the brink of adding his fourth Champions League when Los Blancos take on Liverpool, having already dispatched Premier League leaders Manchester City.

So he has one more big game to navigate this term, but Ancelotti is already planning for next season, with an eye on a resurgent Barcelona he wants the Madrid club to stay in control. The La Liga 2022 betting odds, for the start of the next campaign, are sure to back the Madrid giants but they cannot afford to stand still.

With 26 goals and 11 assists Karim Benzema has just got better and better, but the boss is determined not to be over reliant on the France star and, having watched Manchester City agree a deal to take Erling Braut Haaland to the Etihad, he is ready to move for another Galactico.

Paris Saint Germain star Kylian Mbappe has long been a fan of Los Blancos and reports in France suggest that Real Madrid are gearing up to announce his move to the Bernabeu as soon as the season comes to a close. PSG have just won the Ligue 1 title for a record equalling tenth time but they were dumped out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in the Round of 16, and it appears that Mbappe knows where he would rather be. 

It’s looking increasingly likely that PSG are about to lose their most valuable asset. 

Ancelotti has already agreed a deal to bring Chelsea centre back Antonio Rudiger to the Bernabeu on a four year contract worth around 400,000 Euros a week. The German defender has been a mainstay of Chelsea’s success over the last four seasons and has an FA Cup final to look forward to on Saturday but, at 29 years of age, he is ready for a new challenge.

With a Champions League final in view, these are exciting times for Los Blancos fans and Ancelotti is determined for the good years to carry on rolling.

Auba homing in on a record

The transfer of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Arsenal to Barcelona, in the January transfer window raised a few eyebrows in both North London and Catalonia. The Gabon star was suffering his worst campaign as a Gunner, while Barcelona too were having a miserable time in the second half of 2021.

But it has been a match made in heaven.

Auba took a big pay cut to move to the Camp Nou but he is set to be rewarded next season as he turned out to be head coach Xavi’s best move so far.

Barcelona are currently at the second spot in the La Liga table, five points ahead of Atletico Madrid
Barcelona’s Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang celebrates scoring their goal against Celta Vigo

With just two games to play the Barca striker needs just two goals to equal a record, set by Racing Santander hit man Nicola Zigic in 2009, for the most goals scored in the league by a player arriving in January. Auba has bagged 11 in 15 league appearances, the sort of ratio which made him one of the Premier League’s most prolific strikers and Xavi has hailed him a ‘gift fallen from the sky’. Few Blaugrana fans will disagree.

After a poor first half of the campaign the Catalans have had a massive uplift in La Liga 2022 results and they can confirm their second place when they visit Getafe on Sunday. Auba will be on the hunt for goals but the hosts have their own man with an eye for goal, Enes Unal who has scored 15 for the season.

This week’s big games

Elsewhere there are more matters to be settled and Atletico Madrid can nail down their third place when they host fourth placed Sevilla at the Wanda Metropolitano. Los Rojiblancos are at SBOTOP odds of 2.15 to win with Sevilla at 2.91 and the draw at 3.11.

Sevilla are five points clear of Real Betis but Los Verdiblancos could keep their hopes of a top four place alive with a win over 16th placed Granada, who should be safe with a four point cushion, but mathematically can still go down. In 17th Cadiz have a good chance of survival, two points clear of the drop zone, but they host Real Madrid on Sunday. The hosts are at 2.71 to win, remarkably short for a game against the Champions but they may benefit from Real Madrid’s sole purpose; to add the Champions League to their domestic title.

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14-May 2022 Saturday 4:44 PM (95 days ago)            #11
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La Liga: Final Champions League Spots Up For Grabs in the Capital

Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla FC

There’s a La Liga match between third versus fourth on Sunday evening and that will usually mean La Liga 2022 highlights.

As it stands with two games remaining, I’d be staggered if both these clubs aren’t competing in next season’s Champions League.

Atletico have already sealed their place, while Sevilla need a point from their remaining two matches which means they may well have secured their place by 9pm on Sunday.

Third place is up for grabs too which Atletico can seal with victory so both have something to play for.

Talking Points

Atletico Madrid will welcome Sevilla in their next La Liga match
Diego Simeone reacts during the La Liga match against Elche

Make no mistake, Atletico will be disappointed when they reflect on 2021/22.

Despite strengthening the squad, their title defence was all but over by the halfway point of the campaign and their frustrations have been best highlighted by their two most famous players.

Luis Suarez, seen as a catalyst in last year’s triumph, has been virtually anonymous, while Antoine Griezmann’s return has not had the anticipated effect with just three La Liga goals to his name so far.

The French international opted to return to Atletico on a season-long loan deal from Barcelona at the start of the season after growing disillusioned at the Camp Nou.

Indeed, the 31 year-old faces a crucial decision over his future in the coming weeks but is clear on staying in the Spanish capital.

Although it looked far from certain right up until recently, Atletico have now qualified for the Champions League for the 10th year in a row, an achievement boss Diego Simeone is pleased with.

Simeone’s team have impressed at Wanda Metropolitano this season, picking up 40 points from their 18 matches, but they will be welcoming a Sevilla side that have lost just three times on their travels in the league this term.

Sevilla, meanwhile, missed the chance to secure their spot in the top four by playing out a 0-0 with battling Mallorca on Tuesday night which made it three draws in a row for Julen Lopetegui’s side.

Los Nervionenses are five points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis with two games left, and a point in this match would be enough to secure a top-four spot as they have a superior head-to-head record over their rivals.

For the hosts, Thomas Lemar and João Félix remain injured and Sime Vrsaljko is also a doubt, but Marcos Llorente will be back after suspension.

Anthony Martial came off the bench on Wednesday night after over a month out due to injury.

The on-loan Frenchman potentially could lead the line for goal-shy Sevilla for whom Karim Rekik, Fernando, and Suso remain on the sidelines.

La Liga
ESPANYOL
VALENCIA
TO SEE UPDATED ODDS

History

It’s 2008 since Sevilla won at Atletico in La Liga.

They have twice managed victories on Los Rojiblancos turf since though, on both occasions in the Copa del Rey.

The corresponding fixture last term was won by Atletico, thanks to goals from Angel Correa and Saul Niguez.

That was preceded by four straight draws.

Sevilla won the return fixture last April in what appeared at the time would be a damaging defeat as Marcos Acuna scored the only goal.

Atletico would go onto win the title, of course, but they have since been dethroned by Real Madrid.

One of the games when it became clear they were unlikely to retain the title came just before Christmas when Lucas Ocampos grabbed the winner in the closing moments for what turned out to be one of their highlights of the campaign.

Betting Tip

With home advantage, the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds favour Atletico. You can back them 1X2 @ 2.31 or Asian Handicap -0.50, also @ 2.31.

Likewise, Sevilla are on offer @ 1X2 @ 3.20 and Asian Handicap +0.25 @ 2.00 and 0.00 @ 2.51.

The 1X2 draw will pay out @ 3.10 which I have strongly considered, especially given the fact there is only a point between the two teams.

Another 2-1 Sevilla success is available @ 13.00 with Correct Score, while if Atletico repeat their 2-0 victory from last term, you stand to earn with odds of @ 9.75.

For goals, the options include total goal 0-1 @ 2.51, 2-3 @ 1.93 and 4-6 @ 5.00 but my tip is Over 2.50 goals @ 2.38.

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21-May 2022 Saturday 1:04 PM (88 days ago)            #12
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La Liga: Buoyant Barca to Sink the Yellow Sub

Barcelona vs Villarreal

Barcelona welcome Villarreal to the Camp Nou on Sunday for the final game of the La Liga season. It’s a day of celebration for the Blaugrana while the Yellow Submarine still has work to do to guarantee European football next season.

Real Madrid fans might ask what Barca have to celebrate about as, while Los Blancos sit at the top of La Liga and are in the Champions League final, the Catalans are still in the shadows. But they are about to emerge after a brilliant second half of the campaign following the arrival of head coach Xavi which has produced a second-place finish.

This game brings together two of the best passing sides in the Spanish league and Unai Emery’s visitors are currently in seventh place in the La Liga table and just a point above Athletic Bilbao, who have a tough fixture away to fourth-placed Sevilla.

The pre-matchLa Liga 2022 betting odds back a home win, but only just. It promises to be an entertaining final to the campaign and I expect Xavi’s Barca to finish on a high. 

Talking Points

Xavi’s Barca revolution

It isn’t too much to describe Xavi’s influence at the Camp Nou as revolutionary as he picked the club up in its darkest moments for over a decade. The loss of talisman Messi and a poor first half of the 2021/22 campaign gave little hope to the fans, and the departure of head coach and Barca playing legend Ronald Koeman became inevitable.

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When the new man arrived, he was another beloved by the fans for his outstanding service on the pitch and he vowed to bring the good times back, though supporters would need to be patient.

But he set to work immediately, making shrewd recruitments in the January transfer window, notably the signing of Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has scored 11 goals from 16 games and taken some of the weight from the shoulders of top scorer Memphis Depay who has 12 goals.

And Ousmane Dembele has raised his game to stratospheric levels since the arrival of Xavi, making 11 assists since February. As well as providing ammunition for the strikers, the energetic Dembele provides cover for full-back Dani Alves and the two players use intricate passing movements down the flank to launch many attacks.

19-year-old wunderkind Ansu Fati entered the La Liga 2022 highlights reel when he scored his first league goal since November in Barca’s 2-1 victory over Real Betis and his return from injury is a real boost.

Xavi has already got the fans excited about the next transfer window with his interest in Bundesliga scoring machine Robert Lewandowski.

Behind the front men, Barca legend Sergio Busquets continues the pull the strings. He has transformed the role of the defencive midfielder in his time at the Camp Nou and is one of the most successful passers in the league.

Things are happening quickly at the Camp Nou under Xavi and the steadying influence of Busquets is priceless. 

Emery the tactician

Xavi’s counterpart in Unai Emery is known for his tactical nous, which has made him one of the most successful managers in Europe in recent seasons. The Basque-born boss has won the Europa League four times, three with Sevilla, and last season with the Yellow Submarine.

And this term, Villarreal enjoyed an outstanding Champions League campaign by beating Juventus and Bayern Munich before giving Liverpool an almighty scare in the semi-final.

Dani Parejo is one of the most underrated midfielder in La Liga
Villarreal’s Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin in action vs Liverpool in the Champions League

Only a master tactician can take on the best as Emery does year after year and he will be working hard to spoil Barcelona’s last day celebration.

A win would cement seventh place for Villarreal and Emery will create a defencive block with a packed midfield and hope to penetrate the Barca defence with a killer ball.

Dani Parejo is one of the best passers in La Liga and has made nine assists, while Giovanni Lo Celso is another fantastic ball player. But the Yellow Submarine is without its two top scorers in Arnaut Danjuma with 10 goals and Gerard Moreno with nine because of injuries.

Highly-rated defencive pair Pau Torres and Raul Albiol will need to be at their best to cope with the pace of Dembele and the finishing of Auba, and that promises to be the main battle.

History

Barca have won 29 of the last 47 meetings, drawing 10 and losing eight, and the most recent have gone entirely the way of the Catalans as they have won the last five – scoring 15 goals and conceding four.

In the return match, goals from Frenkie de Jong, Depay, and the departed Philippe Coutinho gave the Blaugrana a 3-1 victory.

Barca have won four, drawn one, and lost one of the last six, while Villarreal have won just one, drawn one, and lost four. 

Betting Tip

With the draw at SBOTOP odds of 3.49 and an away win at 3.30, there is more than a fighting chance for Villarreal.

But Barca are unbeaten in their last 13 games against Villarreal at the Camp Nou and, with an expectant crowd behind them and a depleted attack facing them, I expect Xavi’s men to finish with a bang.

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21-May 2022 Saturday 1:07 PM (88 days ago)            #13
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The La Liga Boys Done Good!

Real Sociedad vs Atletico Madrid

When these two clubs reflect on their respective La Liga campaigns, sure there will be disappointments – particularly for Atletico Madrid who were unable to make a serious title defence and were all but out of the running by Christmas.

There will, however, also be La Liga highlights to look back on.

For almost a decade we have almost come to expect too much of Los Rojiblancos as they so often overachieve under the canny stewardship of Diego Simeone. Yet the Argentine has once more guided the second club in the capital back into the lucrative land of the Champions League.

Likewise, Real Sociedad cannot finish lower than sixth this term and will be back in the Europa League next season.

As they prepare to meet on the final weekend of the season, surely both teams would have taken this as some form of success at the beginning of 2021/22?

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Talking Points

Atletico sit in third place going into the final weekend, even if their season was effectively over a month ago in terms of silverware when they were knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester City, despite their best efforts to disrupt the rhythm of the English champions.

Meanwhile, Sociedad have kept chipping away in their quest for European qualification.

Indeed, under Imanol Alguacil they have improved in recent years with seventh and fifth place finishes over the last two seasons – their highest since fourth position in 2013 secured qualification for the Champions League.

A Europa League berth was secured last weekend when they beat Villarreal on their own turf.

Trailing at the break, Alexander Isak tapped in at the back post to equalise before Martin Zubimendi was on hand to net the winner after Alexander Sorloth’s effort was smothered.

In truth, goals have been the problem all year for Sociedad and five in the space of two matches turned out to be decisive. They qualify for the Europa League again, which is the prize for their perseverance after things threatened to be derailed.

Indeed, according to one Spanish writer, with better finishing and a healthy Mikel Oyarzabal they would easily have easily made it to the Champions League, and they’ve been on the end of some shocking refereeing too.

With both sides now qualified for Europe next term, this could turn out to be a low-key affair in what could well be a farewell for Atletico frontman Luis Suarez after two years with the club.

La Liga: Luis Suarez is set to leave Atletico Madrid after this campaign
Luis Suarez applauds the fans during their match against Sevilla

Although perhaps he has already played his final match for the club, given  Simeone substituted Suarez off to widespread applause during last weekend’s draw with Sevilla before home fans showed him gratitude at full time

A total of 21 league goals powered Atletico to the league title last year but his reduced role this season has persuaded the board not to offer him an extension.

Changes certainly lie ahead for both clubs this summer but, for now, both can enjoy Sunday and look back on a decent return.

History

Sociedad have had the edge this season.

They drew 2-2 at Atletico earlier this season when goals early in each half from Sorloth and Isak put the visitors in the ascendancy before a Suarez double rescued a point.

Then, in January, Sorloth was on target again, along with Adnan Januzaj, as Sociedad sent Atletico packing from the Copa del Rey at the last 16 stage.

Atletico did win the corresponding fixture last season when second half goals from Mario Hermoso and Marcos Llorente sealed a 2-0 victory.

Until this season, Atletico had won 11 out of their last 16 meetings.

Betting Tip

Could the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds be any closer?

Well, not really.

For Sociedad are priced 1X2 @ 2.65 and Atletico 1X2 @ 2.64.

The draw @ 3.20 also represents good value.

As for Asian Handicap odds, among the bets on offer are Sociedad 0.00 @ 1.97, -0.25 @ 2.38, Atletico 0.00 @ 1.97 and -0.25 @ 2.33.

For a repeat of their 2-2 league draw earlier in the campaign, Correct Score will pay out @ 13.00, whereas a repeat of last season’s 2-0 Atletico victory is on offer @ 13.50.

Should Sociedad repeat their 2-0 cup win, then you also stand to earn a pay day of @ 13.50.

As suspected, this could well be a low-key affair, but I don’t think that means it will be a low scoring encounter.

So while I am tempted by Total Goal 0-1 @ 2.99, not to mention 4-6 @ 4.00 and Over 2.50 goals @ 2.13, I am going to plump for a 1X2 Draw @ 3.15 as my *** tip.

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24-May 2022 Tuesday 12:02 PM (85 days ago)            #14
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La Liga: Granada Go Down on Dramatic Final Day

As final days go in La Liga, this was one outcome I was not expecting.

We knew we were all set for a raucous final day battle to survive and, with just a single point separating three clubs vying for safety, it was always likely to be close.

What I did not expect, however, was that the team that started the day top of that pile would slip into the drop zone – especially just after a fortnight after hitting one of their rivals for six.

Yet it is Granada who have slipped out of the Spanish top-flight.

Football Espana’s pre-match description was executed word-perfectly: ‘Arguably no other situation in football can cause a stomach to take on the incredible depths that are inspired by relegation. The prospect of losing a place in the division, especially if it happens suddenly, digs a pit within a fan.’

The cocktail of three simultaneous matches provided a drama which, in equal measures, proved gripping and cruel.

The precipice upon which Granada, Cadiz and Real Mallorca tiptoed was also clear.

Cadiz are safe from La Liga relegation this season
Cadiz supporters after a La Liga match against Real Madrid at Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla

Win at home against an Espanyol team that was just four points above them and Granada were safe.

The SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds would have backed them too given that Cadiz and Mallorca were both away.

Yet try as they might, Granada could not break though and that point, coupled with away successes for the other two, meant heartbreak – despite a fairly respectable points tally of 38.

Only in 2009 (Real Betis, 42) has a side collected more points this century and still gone down.

As that stalemate was being played out, Anthony Lozano’s 76th-minute goal saw off already relegated Alaves to earn Cadiz a 1-0 victory and safety. That feat was matched by Mallorca, who triumphed at midtable Osasuna, courtesy of second-half goals from Angel Rodriguez and Clement Grenier.

Cadiz’s revival was the most dramatic of the two stories as they entered the final 15 minutes still inside the bottom three in the Basque Country, before Lozano got across his man to poke home the winner.

An incredible finish at the bottom and the Segunda Division awaits Granada next term.

That left the remaining night’s action to focus on the final European place with a straight battle between Villarreal, taking on Barcelona at the Nou Camp, and Athletic Bilbao, on the road at Sevilla.

Midway through the first half and it seemed advantage Bilbao as Yuri Berchiche rifled the ball into the bottom right corner only for VAR to intervene.

Had it stood, it could have applied some pressure on the ‘Yellow Submarine’ but, instead, Alfonso Pedraza gave them the lead just before the break, an advantage doubled by Moi shortly after the restart.

Villarreal had sealed seventh place, a position confirmed when Rafa Mir gave Sevilla a 1-0 victory over Bilbao.

That ensured the Andalusians stayed fourth after second-half goals from Rodrigo de Paul and Ángel Correa earned Atletico Madrid third place with a 2-1 win at Real Sociedad, who will play in the Europa League next term.

After another campaign of La Liga 2022 highlights, the final word should go to the champions Real Madrid, who ended their triumphant league campaign with a draw against Real Betis.

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Carlo Ancelotti named his strongest XI for the game between the La Liga champions and the Copa del Rey winners.

Real Madrid’s players gave a guard of honour to their opponents before Betis’ players returned the compliment

Last August, I predicted Real would reclaim the title with Ancelotti’s guile proving a difference.

It hardly took a footballing genius to point that out.

I also wrote that I didn’t think either of the leading Spanish clubs were yet ready to win the Champions League again.

Well, if Real do complete a La Liga and Champions League double, I will happily eat humble pie and they will deserve all the plaudits possible.

That was La Liga 2021/22.


 

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25-May 2022 Wednesday 1:27 PM (84 days ago)            #15
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La Liga: The 2021/22 Triumphs and Disasters

La Liga: The 2021/22 Triumphs and Disasters

 by 

The dust is settling on all of Europe’s big leagues and now for the winners it’s time to look back fondly on a great 10 months, but the losers must wipe away the tears, work out what went wrong and come back stronger.

Believe me, as a Burnley fan I know.

There were highs and lows in La Liga this season as Real Madrid marched to a 35th Spanish title and Barcelona began a revival. But in Andalusia, there was a final day nightmare for Granada as they were relegated against all the odds.


The Highs

Clasico bosses can take a lot of credit

Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have endured some turbulent times on and off the pitch over the past few years, but there is an air of calm and confidence at both clubs now following the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti in Madrid and Xavi in Catalonia. 

Thereis no denying Ancelotti is one of the greatest managers ever to walk the planet but even he must be delighted by the way his team has performed, fired by the goals of Karim Benzema to the title. And this week, Los Blancos are preparing for a Champions League final date with Liverpool and that is not a game to miss.

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Liverpool Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 1.86
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Over in Barcelona, the season started terribly with the loss of Lionel Messi and poor results on the pitch, but the return of another playing legend turned things around as former midfielder Xavi arrived to coach the team he loves.

And he’s done a great job. Despite a last day defeat to Villarreal, Barca finished in second place as the January signings of Dani Alves, Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang, and Ferran Torres proved to be crucial.

At one poin,t the La Liga 2022 betting odds brought the Blaugrana into the title race but it turned out to be a step just too far.


Iago Aspas and Raul de Tomas

Celta Vigo and newly promoted Espanyol had comfortable mid-table finishes in 11th and 14th and they each had a talismanic striker to win the big games. 

Celta had struggled in the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, finishing 17th both times, but recovered in the 2020/21 campaign to a top half finish and it was the goals of all-time top scorer Iago Aspas which had kept Celta in the top-flight. And the 34 year old was at it again this term, scoring 18 times. He’s been capped 18 times for his country and Celta fans wonder why Aspas hasn’t played for Spain more often.

At 27 years of age, Raul de Tomas is coming into his prime. And after top scoring in Espanyol’s Segunda Division promotion campaign, he impressed again by bagging 17 goals on his return to the top-flight and picking up his first two international caps in the process.

Both Aspas and De Tomas have a rate of 0.52 goals per 90 minutes and one-in-two striker is worth his weight in gold.


And a surprise result

The SBOTOPvote for the result of the season was Barca’s stunning 4-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu in March. Aubameyang scored twice on his Clasico debut while Torres scored one and Ronald Araujo also headed in a cross from the excellent Ousmane Dembele.

With 10 games to play, Xavi refused to rule out a late run for the title. There were some surprising LaLiga 2022 resultsin this campaign, but this was the biggest and the most significant of all as, despite failing to catch Los Blancos, the belief had returned to Barcelona.


The Lows

Granada down and out

Granada’s last day relegation came as a shock to many fans from outside Andalusia as well as Granada’s faithful. The last two seasons had resulted in seventh and ninth-place finishes and a Europa League adventure but this campaign ended in disaster despite the best efforts of a new manager.

Appointed in April, Head coach Aitor Karanka was given six matches to save Granada. He started with a 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid and beat relegation rivals Real Mallorca 6-2 to put Granada in control, and they just needed to win at home to Espanyol on the final day to secure their survival, with the safety net of both Cadiz and Mallorca playing away. 

But as Cadiz won away to Alaves and Mallorca recorded back-to-back wins in their triumph over Osasuna, Granada just couldn’t break through the stubborn Espanyol defence and a point wasn’t enough to save them.

Granada join Alaves and Levante in the Segunda Division. 


Antoine and Ansu had seasons to forget 

Will Antoine Griezmann find his best form in the next season of La Liga?
Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann celebrates after their La Liga match against Real Madrid

With seven goals at an average of over 300 minutes per strike, Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann laboured throughout the campaign on his return to the Wanda Metropolitano.

Angel Correa top scored for Los Rojiblancos with 13 goals while Luis Suarez had 12. Griezmann’s rate of 0.28 goals per 90 minutes made him the club’s fifth-most productive goal scorer, while only Suarez took more shots and eight players had a better shot accuracy than the Frenchman

Griezmann would not like to be known as a one in four striker.

Over in Barcelona, Ansu Fati was fit for only 45 days of the 2021/22 campaign, suffering a knee niggle in September and then being sidelined with a hamstring injury for almost five months between November and March.

After being hailed as “the new Messi” by desperate Barca fans, there is a huge weight of expectation on the teenager’s shoulders and next season will be crucial.


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25-May 2022 Wednesday 1:29 PM (84 days ago)            #16
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La Liga: It’s About Trusting the Process For Xavi’s Barca

Xavi has sparked a turnaround at Camp Nou once again – this time as their manager after being their star midfielder before – and it’ll be interesting to see how high Barcelona can go in La Liga and in Europe next season.

When Lionel Messi announced that he’ll leave his boyhood club for PSG, the atmosphere around Catalonia was gloomy since it felt like they were headed in no man’s land.

Barcelona were in dire need of a savior, and that’s where Xavi comes in as he eventually led the Blaugrana to second place in the La Liga table after slumping down to as low as around ninth at one point.

Xavi still has his work cut out for him, though, and he knows it. But for the first time in a long while, Barcelona fans now can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Barcelona before Xavi

Prior to Xavi’s arrival, Barcelona have had a revolving door of coaches in these past few seasons due to the instability from the higher ups with the much-maligned Josep Maria Bartomeu still in charge.

Barcelona have had three different coaches in the last three years since the departure of Ernesto Valverde. Valverde, at the time, was one of their most successful managers this decade and his replacements couldn’t replicate his success.

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First Half 1X2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima @ 2.82
Nagoya Grampus Asian Handicap +0.25 @ 2.04
First Half Under 0.75 @ 2.02
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Ronald Koeman was the latest collateral damage under the Bartomeu regime. Barcelona had a decent campaign during the Dutchman’s first season at the helm as their flaws were basically masked by Lionel Messi’s brilliance. But when Messi left town, they have been exposed.

Following their 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano last October which saw themselves slide down to ninth place, Barcelona relieved Koeman of his coaching duties, especially since Joan Laporta – who eventually replaced Bartomeu – already had Xavi in his shortlist prior to the Dutchman’s dismissal.

Prior to taking over Barcelona, Xavi was coaching Al-Sadd and he guided them to winning the Qatari domestic league title. He once turned down the chance to coach Barcelona back in January 2020 after Ernesto Valverde was sacked, but finally he took the job much to the fan’s delight.

Youngsters and cast-offs have gained new lease of life under Xavi

Xavi, a La Masia graduate himself, knows a thing or two about internal development and focusing on the youth and he took that to heart upon moving back to Camp Nou.

He gave Ronald Araujo, Gavi, and Pedri more playing time earlier than expected to hasten their development, while he has restored confidence of the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, Martin Braithwaite, and Gerard Pique.

It also helped that Joan Laporta and co. spent money last January to bring in reinforcements from young and old in Dani Alves, Adama Traore, Ferran Torres, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

La Liga: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang joined Barcelona in February 2022
Barcelona’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring against Celta Vigo

Alves provided a much-needed veteran presence on the defencive end while Traore and Torres have been great at the wings, and Aubameyang even surpassed his goal total with Arsenal this year in just a span of four months.

Although they weren’t immune to a couple of bad La Liga 2022 results, Xavi’s revival of Barcelona has been nothing short of revolutionary and that means that their SBOTOP La Liga 2022 odds ahead of next season has rose dramatically.

Xavi’s honeymoon period is coming to a close

Barcelona may have ended their 2021/22 campaign on a disappointing note with a 2-0 loss against Villarreal last Sunday, but they can give themselves a pat on the back and it’s only going to get better from here.

Xavi is hell-bent on bringing Barcelona back on top of the food chain. After their final game against Villarreal, the manager made it clear that they’re just getting started.

“Football is over, the competition is over, and I think we have saved a season that could have been catastrophic. The diagnosis is made and things have to be changed. We cannot hide reality. This has to change. And they tell us that it is possible,” said Xavi.

“Like the club, I am a demanding person, we did great things but we did not improve enough. We cannot accept another season without a trophy. We will win titles next season,” he added.

Many from the current squad might leave Camp Nou due to the team’s financial issues, so there’s a chance that we might see a whole new group next season. However, Barcelona have been successful with Xavi before, and there’s no doubt that they will be successful again with him leading the revolution anew.


 

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26-May 2022 Thursday 12:47 PM (83 days ago)            #17
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La Liga: Five Great Defenders in 2022

La Liga has some of the best strikers in the business.

Karim Benzema is currently, alongside Robert Lewandowski, one of the hottest shots in Europe. The French hitman scored 27 goals in 32 appearances and that’s a rate of one goal every 96 minutes.

Just imagine how many he could score if the La Liga defenders were off their game.

Well, head coaches up and down the country have been working hard to stop the top strikers and there are a number of defenders who rarely, if ever, have an off day.

So let’s have a look at five of the best- the players the goalkeepers love to see lining up in front of them.

Inigo Martinez: Athletic Bilbao

Former Real Sociedad defender Inigo Martinez made the tricky move to rivals Athletic Bilbao three years ago but his all action displays and leadership on the pitch have won the admiration of the Bilbao fans.

At a relatively short height of 5’11”, he is known for his heading ability and Martinez has been compared to Barcelona legend Carles Puyol and Burnley skipper Ben Mee.

His tough tackling and reading of the game make him a born leader and only Real Madrid and Sevilla conceded fewer goals in the 2021/22 campaign. Athletic Bilbao had 13 clean sheets and Martinez is also a threat from set pieces, scoring three goals.

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1X2 Draw @ 3.40
Over 2.75 @ 1.99
Total Goals 0-1 @ 3.90
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Eder Militao: Real Madrid

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid stormed to the league title thanks to the goals of Benzema and, at the other end of the pitch, the commanding performances of Brazilian centre-back Eder Militao.

Since arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu from Porto in 2019 for a reported fee of 50-M Euros, the 24-year-old has made himself a mainstay of the back four. The La Liga 2022 betting oddsalways backed Los Blancos for the title and Militao was one of the main reasons why.

A fast and strong defender at 6’1”, Militao is not a giant but he has a physical advantage over most attackers since he is good in the air and skilful for a centre-back, and he has already picked up 21 caps with Brazil. He’ll be a player to watch at the Qatar World Cup and he’s in action for Real Madrid again very soon.

Los Blancos have a Champions League date with Liverpool on Saturday and, here at SBOTOP, we’ll be reporting on that and keeping a close eye on the battle between Militao and Mohammed Salah.

Jules Kounde: Sevilla

French central defender Jules Kounde is a summer target for Chelsea following the exit of Antonio Rudiger, but Sevilla will be keen to keep the 23-year-old as they embark on another Champions League campaign. A fourth place finish was a good outcome for Los Sevillistas and Kounde played his part.

Alongside Diego Carlos, Kounde makes up a formidable defencive pair. And in Sevilla’s recent clash with Atletico Madrid, he comfortably kept Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez at bay. 

He reads the game brilliantly and made a whopping 170 interceptions in his 31 games, but Kounde needs to keep a cool head since he has picked up two red cards during the campaign.

Pau Torres: Villarreal 

Pau Torres has been Villarreal main defenders in their La Liga campaign
Villarreal’s Geronimo Rulli and Pau Torres in action against Liverpool’s Sadio Mane

The surprise package of the 2021/22 Champions League were Villarreal, and at the heart of the Yellow Submarine’s defence are skipper Raul Albiol and 25-year-old Pau Torres – who have put in some immense performances.

Torres was imperious as Villarreal beat Juventus and Bayern Munich and gave Liverpool an almighty scare.

The most impressive achievement was keeping Robert Lewandowski and co. at bay in a 1-0 win over Die Bayern at the Estadio de la Ceramica and Torres has become one of the most sought after centre-backs in European football.

He impressed with Spain at Euro 2020 and is sure to add many more to his 17 international caps.

Ronald Araujo: Barcelona

Barcelona’s second-half-of-the-season recovery was widely attributed to the arrival of head coach Xavi and his recruitment of some superb attacking talent in the January transfer window, not to mention the resurgence of wide-man Ousmane Dembele.

While Barca’s La Liga 2022 resultstook an upturn, at the back Xavi just tinkered, bringing in wing-back Dani Alves from Sau Paulo and he was happy to see Ronald Araujo develop at the heart of defence.

While Gerard Pique suffered with injury and Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti struggled for form, Araujo was a model of consistency.

And at 23 years of age, he has an old head on young shoulders. He weighed in the four goals and had one of the highest pass completions in the league at 90-per cent.

For his international team, Araujo is a natural successor to Uruguay legend Diego Godin.


 

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31-May 2022 Tuesday 12:48 PM (78 days ago)            #18
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La Liga: Five Red Hot Strikers

Attackers are the rock stars of football.

Blistering runs can get the fans off their feet, and so too can a crunching tackle. But when the ball hits the net, the roof comes off the stadium.

And that’s why the best goalscorers sell the most shirts; they cost the most money and are loved by their club, their team-mates, their head coach, the owners and, of course, the faithful hoards in the stands.

Every club needs a clinical striker. So let’s take a look at five of the best from the 2021/22 La Liga campaign. 

Karim Benzema, Real Madrid

This French hitman, at the ripe old age of 34, is just getting better and better.

While the battle for world supremacy between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is all but over, and Mohamed Salah continues to win fans for Liverpool in the Premier League, while Robert Lewandowski re-writes history in Munich, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema is the best of the lot on current form. 

Benzema spearheaded the La Liga and Champions League winners’ attack brilliantly this season and led the race for the Golden Boot from the start of the campaign, eventually racking up 27 league goals. But, even more impressively, he was the Champions League top scorer with 15 strikes, two more than Lewandowski and seven more than Salah.

With eight assists, he has helped the young strikers alongside him but with 99 shots in the league season he never stops trying to increase his own tally.

Benzema is the player who has covered the most column inches in the media this season, including here at SBOTOP, and that won’t change until he hangs up his boots. 

Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid

The La Liga 2022 betting oddsbacked Los Blancos throughout the campaign and with Benzema and Vinicius leading their attack, the league triumph was never in doubt.

And Benzema’s 21-year-old strike partner hit the winner in Los Blancos’ 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final. While Real were under the cosh for much of the game and keeper and Thibaut Courtois put in a man-of-the-match performance, it was Vinicius who bagged the crucial goal, just before the hour mark, turning in a low cross from the industrious Federico Valverde.

He scored a hat-trick in the recent destruction of Levante, which relegated the Granotes, and with 42 of his 80 shots on target, the young Brazil international has a sharp eye for goal.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has been frustrated by the club’s failure to land either Erling Braut Haaland or Kylian Mbappe to join his attack, but with Benzema and Vinicius up front, he has time on his side. 

Iago Aspas, Celta Vigo

With ten years as a youth player and 12 in the senior squad Iago Aspas is Mr Celta. He’s scored 121 goals in 225 games for his beloved club and he’s been at it again this term.

Iago Aspas has scored 18 goals to become the second top scorer this 2021/22 La Liga season
Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas looks delighted after scoring a goal during La Liga match against Barcelona

He scored Celta’s goal in a recent 3-1 defeat to Barcelona to make it 18 for the campaign and with six assists too, Aspas was La Liga’s second top scorer in the 2021/22 season.

At 34 years of age, he made it a one-two with Benzema at the top of the scorers’ charts and Aspas deserves to be there. Celta have flirted with relegation in recent years and without their talisman’s goals the team would have finished below a comfortable 11th place.

Jose Luis Morales, Levante

34 years seems to be a good age for La Liga strikers as Levante forward Jose Luis Morales has proved as he has bagged 13 goals and made seven assists for his club. But unlike Aspas, he has been unable to save them from the drop. With 32 of his 76 shots on target, Morales is a skilful striker who belongs in the Primera Division.

UEFA Nations League
BELGIUM
NETHERLANDS
1X2 Netherlands @ 3.10
Over 2.75 @ 2.20
Total Goals 0-1 @ 3.25
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

The 6-0 thumping at the hands of Real Madrid sent Levante through the relegation trapdoor. Two wins in the last two games couldn’t save them and in the end Levante’s La Liga 2022 resultssimply were not good enough, but Morales’ goals were a beacon of hope throughout the campaign.

Joao Felix, Atletico Madrid 

As Diego Simeone guided Los Rojiblancos into the Champions League again, one of his young strikers had a breakthrough season as 22-year-old Joao Felix scored eight goals and made four assists in his 24 appearances for Atletico Madrid. It may not seem a prolific return, but one goal involvement in every two games is a good contribution and is will give Joao Felix confidence to grow, following his 127m Euro switch from Benfica in 2019.

The huge price tag has weighed heavily on his shoulders and Joao has been hampered by injury, but he has started to show the fans that they have bought and 2022/23 promises to be an exciting campaign for the Portuguese striker. 


 

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31-May 2022 Tuesday 12:49 PM (78 days ago)            #19
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La Liga: Fond Farewells, Big Signings and Squabbles!

La Liga has conquered Europe yet again, as the competition which has provided the Champions League winners for the sixth time in the last decade.

Real Madrid won their 14th European Crown with a 1-0 win over Liverpool in Paris, as Brazilian striker Vincius Junior scored the winner. Los Blancos made it a Premier League treble with their win over Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, having already beaten Chelsea and Manchester City and the celebrations are set to go on for days in Madrid.

But fans at the club will also say goodbye to one of their best players of all time as defender Marcelo announced his departure in the aftermath of the showcase match. He skippered Los Blancos in the Champions League final and the Brazilian star was clearly emotional as he spoke to the mass of media, saying: “I’m leaving Real Madrid; and to leave this club while winning a Champions League and being the most decorated player in the history of the club gives me immense joy. It’s not a sad day, it’s a happy day. I spent many years here, many magical nights at the Bernabeu and obviously this is something that makes me and my family very proud”.

The departure of Marcelo after 15 sparkling years at the club is a big moment for Los Blancos fans; but what a way for the legendary left back to bow out.

Barca close to landing Lewi

La Liga: Robert Lewandowski is one of Xavi's target for Barcelona
Robert Lewandowski in action during Bayern Munich’s match against VfB Stuttgart

What else is happening in theLa Liga 2022 newsthis week?

Well, Barcelona head coach Xavi has continued negotiations to bring Robert Lewandowski to Catalonia and it could be that the move is inching ever closer. The pursuit of Lewandowski is the most important job of the summer for Barca as they try to put together a squad that can challenge for trophies. This has been a season of transition at the club and it has ended with the team in better shape than at the start of the campaign.

But the Catalans remained trophyless and that’s something Xavi is determined to put right. The signing of Lewandowski would show Barca’s rivals they are serious, especially Real Madrid who have just completed the La Liga/Champions League double.

The arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January was a masterstroke on Xavi’s behalf but the signing of the Polish star would eclipse that move. The 33 year old has one year left to run on his FC Bayern contract and, having dominated the Bundesliga for so long, he has stated his ambition to test himself in a different league. The Bavarians would dearly love to keep hold of their star striker but they have already started to plan for his departure, preparing a move for Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane. If that transfer happens it could be a difficult week for the Reds. On the back of losing the Champions League final and the Premier League race, there have been suggestions circulating that Real Madrid might try to lure Mo Salah from Anfield to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Back in Catalonia; if Xavi can pull off this deal to buy Lewandowski in the next few days, the La Liga 2022 betting oddswill take a closer look at the Blaugrana for next season’s title race.

La Liga and Ligue 1 fight over Mbappe

World Cup
SCOTLAND
UKRAINE
1X2 Draw @ 3.10
First Half Under 2.00 @ 2.00
Total Goals 0-1 @ 2.32
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Kylian Mbappe’s decision to stay at Paris Saint-Germain last week sent shock waves around European football, especially in Spain where Real Madrid were furious that they had failed to land the French scoring sensation. Here at SBOTOPwe reported the news and no-one thought that would be the end of the story.

And so it wasn’t, as bosses the Spanish and French leagues have continued to row over the player. Following the Bleus star’s announcement that he was happy to sign a new three year contract at the Parc des Princes, La Liga president Javier Tebas described the development as an insult to the game and La Liga are preparing an attack on PSG’s alleged financial irregularities. 

Following Tebas’ comments, the president of the French Professional League, Vincent Labrune, has demanded the Spaniard ‘treats players in our league with respect’ while taking a well aimed swipe at La Liga. He said: “Two of your clubs – Real Madrid and Barcelona – have broken a multitude of records in the past decade. In terms of transfer fees, these two clubs have broken the world record six times. In terms of player salaries, Real Madrid currently has two of the highest-paid players in the world sat on their bench.”

Labrune’s irritation may have something to do with Real Madrid dumping PSG out of the Champions League at the Round of 16 stage. Who knows? But it’s fun watching this squabble!


 

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01-Jun 2022 Wednesday 5:57 PM (77 days ago)            #20
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La Liga: The Ones Who Stood Out in the 2021/22 Season

The 2021/22 La Liga campaign has witnessed so many standout players from the 20 top-flight clubs.

So without further ado, SBOTOP pays homage to those top players by sharing to you our best XI of the season.

Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)

Courtois was the main reason why Los Blancos are winners of the Champions League for the 14th time ever, so he deserves the recognition for being one, if not, the top shot stopper in the world right now.

Here in La Liga this season, the Belgian has a save ratio of 76-per cent which has only been bettered once within a top-flight season in England or Spain – making him the no-brainer pick as our best goalkeeper.

David Alaba (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid made one of the best moves last summer when they added David Alaba via a free transfer to replace Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

The Austrian centre-back has held his own at the Bernabeu right away by forming a robust partnership with Eder Militao. His versatility has been instrumental for Los Blancos since he can also play as a full-back or as a defencive midfielder.

Eder Militao (Real Madrid)

Speaking of Militao, the Brazilian has established himself as a cornerstone for Real Madrid for the foreseeable future alongside David Alaba. The 24-year-old has logged 3,033 minutes in La Liga this season, which is 881 more than his first two seasons at the club combined following his arrival from FC Porto.

Militao is not only known for his defence as he’s also an adept distributor with 454 ball carries, which has led to some of their attacking build-ups this season.

Jules Kounde (Sevilla)

Kounde has paired up with Diego Carlos over at Sevilla to form the league’s best backline with only 30 goals conceded in 38 matches this season.

The 23-year-old defender is one of the hottest commodities in the transfer market, which isn’t surprising at all given his current upside.

David Garcia (Osasuna)

Garcia is a key reason why Osasuna have had their best tally in a La Liga campaign since 2011/12 with 54 points – which is good for 10th place at the table.

It’s surprising that he was overlooked in our previous list of top La Liga defenders, but it’s hard to ignore his stats. He has made the third-most clearances (166) and he’s the best in aerial duels with 180 of them won at 75-per cent.

Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

In a team where most of their key players are 25 and under, Sergio Busquets’ steadiness has been a vital part of Xavi’s Barcelona revolution.

Busquets is a physical presence in midfield and he has proven that he’s still got it despite being on a slump earlier this term as he had the most open play possession regains with 196, with 13 of those leading to a shot on target.

Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Luka Modric has played a big role to help Real Madrid lift the La Liga title for 2021/22 season
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric lifts the Champions League after winning against Liverpool in the final match

Luka Modric continues to age like fine wine for Los Blancos. He is their oldest player at 36 years old, but he looks and plays like he’s still 26.

While his passing wizardry and ball handling are his main strengths, his durability often goes unnoticed as he’s one of the eight players to log at least 2,000 La Liga minutes this season.

Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)

Real Betis have emerged as one of the top Spanish sides this season – which is further validated by their Copa del Rey triumph last April.

Nabil Fekir is a fixture in the La Liga 2022 highlights reel with 14 goal involvements (six goals and eight assists) and he also attempted the most shots following a ball carry in La Liga this year (46).

Because he’s a threat either as a scorer or as a distributor, the Frenchman is also the most fouled La Liga player this year with 92.

Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Dembele was once a forgotten man in Catalunya, but he was revitalised by Xavi’s arrival where he appeared in 21 of Barcelona’s 26 matches since then.

In the said stretch, the Frenchman has assisted a league-high of 13 goals, which is a personal best for him after he had 12 during the 2016/17 season at BVB.

Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)

UEFA Nations League

ITALY

GERMANY

1X2 Germany @ 2.82

Over 2.75 @ 2.25

Total Goals 0-1 @ 3.15

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Not many people anticipated Vinicius Junior’s explosion this season. This year, he has scored 17 goals in 35 league games, which is more than he scored in his previous three La Liga seasons.

He has great chemistry up front with Karim Benzema as they’ve assisted 11 goals for each other, which is the best of any duo in the competition.

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Lionel Messi recently said that Karim Benzema should be the frontrunner for this year’s Ballon d’Or and we couldn’t agree more.

Karim Benzema led Real Madrid to the title with eye-popping totals of 27 goals and 12 assists. And assuming he stays healthy throughout the summer, the La Liga 2022 odds are backing him to win the Trofeo Pichichi again next season.


 

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04-Jun 2022 Saturday 12:01 PM (74 days ago)            #21
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La Liga: Ancelotti’s Aces Deserve All Our Praise

Any piece about La Liga right now should begin and end in exactly the same place – with wide acclaim for the newly-crowned champions.

It was a season in which Real Madrid were well ahead of the chasing pack and had already secured their 35th league title before the month of May began.

That achievement capped a remarkable milestone for Carlo Ancelotti as the Italian became the first manager to capture titles in each of Europe’s top five leagues – England, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France.

That title was something this SBOTOP writer predicted last August which was hardly going out on a limb given the guile of Ancelotti was returning to shape the club from the capital going up against a Barcelona in disarray and city rivals Atletico.

But what I also said at the time was that none of the leading Spanish clubs were yet ready to win the Champions League again.

How wrong was I!

For Los Blancos not only treated us to plenty of La Liga 2022 highlights but only went onto become champions of Europe for a record 14th time.

It was a magnificent achievement for the Spanish giants who beat Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool in the knockout stages.

No one can say they haven’t done it the hard way. No one can say they do not deserve to win the 2022 Champions League.

La Liga: Luka Modric still oozes quality at 36 years old
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Marcelo celebrate with the trophy after winning the Champions League

This from a team which is aging in key areas, was deemed to be “past its best” and lost its two central defencive stalwarts last summer – all true factors but, nevertheless, something Ancelotti was able to overcome.

As the Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson noted last Saturday in Paris: ‘It has not been a normal season for Madrid. They have survived by their nerve, by their capacity to produce moments of brilliance when they have needed them.”

‘The way Thibaut Courtois saved them again and again is in part a measure of his own excellence, but also of the fact that this is not a Madrid that can control games. They have needed Karim Benzema to convert an absurd proportion of his chances, they have needed Luka Modric to conjure magical passes again and again, and they have benefited from Vinícius’ growing danger running in behind the opposing full-back.”

‘Perhaps if you have enough great players still just about firing, that is enough. Modric’s outside of the boot pass to Benzema to equalise against Chelsea at the Bernabeu is the defining moment of their campaign because it required such virtuosity at such a vital time. Stars are ageing and Kylian Mbappé, who had seemed Madrid’s future for so long, will not be arriving any time soon. There is rebuilding to be done, but the essence of Madrid, that sense of belief, remains as strong as ever.”

Those words perfectly summed up a team which displayed a character few possess or can continue to possess over many months when up against it.

A team which are Champions of Europe, Champions of Spain, and Supercopa de Espana champions.

After a season that ended without titles and with the departures of three big names in the form of Zinedine Zidane, Sergio Ramos, and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid faced 2021/22 with uncertainty.

Nine months on, Real have closed the campaign by winning three of the four titles they competed for and still they don’t stand still.

Attention has already turned to the future with Antonio Rudiger officially confirmed as a Real Madrid player yesterday following the end of his Chelsea contract.

His signature shows a club not resting on its laurels, a club that wants to go again, even stronger, in 2022/23 and needs to recruit intelligently in order to do that.

UEFA Nations League
FRANCE
DENMARK
1X2 Denmark @ 5.60
France Asian Handicap -1.25 @ 2.38
Under 2.25 @ 2.06
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

The German centre-back has been a pivotal part of Thomas Tuchel’s team ever since he took over at Stamford Bridge.

It has been suggested this is part of Real’s transfer strategy: Experience at zero cost with Rudiger following David Alaba, whose Bayern Munich contract had ended and he went to the Bernabeu.

The speculation will increase in the next few months about more arrivals with Aurelien Tchouameni the latest name bandied about and Real rumoured to be closing in on a deal for the AS Monaco star despite late interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

In the words of midfield maestro, Toni Kroos: “Carlo is an exceptional coach. He is incredibly calm and he transmits that to the team.”

‘You don’t see his calmness often in this business and we act accordingly,’ Alaba added.

True words indeed.

What a season they have had and, mark my words, they will be top of the pile when the La Liga 2022 betting odds for 2022/23 are revealed.

Viva Real!

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11-Jun 2022 Saturday 12:22 PM (67 days ago)            #22
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La Liga: Clasico Rivals Aim to Increase Firepower

Goals are worth gold dust in every major league in the world and La Liga is no exception to the rule. And last season, the top two sides had some strikers who were banging in form.

Karim Benzema top scored in the Spanish league and the Champions League as Real Madrid won a spectacular double while their Clasico rivals looked on with envy.

But there were good signs at the Camp Nou where the arrival of Xavi as head coach prompted a superb second half of the campaign, as new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored 11 goals from 17 appearances to make it into La Liga’s top 11 goal scorers in just half a season.

The La Liga 2022 betting odds will install Los Blancos as favourites for the next campaign, but Barcelona are doing all they can to strengthen in readiness for the new season. If Barca can sign Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, then next season’s Clasico will be a blockbuster for sure.

But while some reports suggest he has agreed terms with the Catalans, the deal is some way from fruition as the Pole’s club seems to be digging its heels in as their star striker still has a year to run on is contract and the Bavarians expect him to see that out.

I’m not sure what an unhappy player would do to the German champions’ morale, particularly their talisman, so I suspect there is a deal to be done and it’s just a matter of being patient.

We’re following this story very closely here at SBOTOPAnd when it does reach a climax, the outcome will be the biggest La Liga 2022 newsof the summer if Lewy does arrive in Catalonia.

The Blaugrana eventually climbed to second place under Xavi but still 13 points behind champions Real Madrid so Xavi is keen to strengthen.

And reports have emerged that he is also in talks with Paris Saint-Germain attacking midfielder Angel Di Maria. The 34-year-old’s contract is up at the Parc des Princes and, with proven success in La Liga with Real Madrid, the Argentine would be a shrewd buy for the Blaugrana.

Di Maria made 14 goal contributions in 31 matches for PSG last season but Xavi might face competition from Juventus who are also keen on the versatile winger. 

Do Real have faith in Jesus?

Over in Madrid, Los Blancos have missed out on the signing of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe and boss Carlo Ancelotti is also keen to strengthen.

Of course, Los Blancos already have two of the hottest strikers in Spanish football with Benzema and Vinicius Junior paired up front in the 2021/22 campaign. But there may be a chance to strengthen if they can do a deal to bring Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Brazilian will find his opportunities limited following the arrival of Haaland at the Etihad and his agents are working on an exit with Premier League rivals Arsenal looking to bring the player to north London.

Jesus’ representatives are reported to have offered him to Los Blancos and he could slot in to replace Luka Jovic who looks like he is on the way out. Whether the player would be prepared to battle with Benzema and Vinicius for a place remains to be seen, but it would be a high profile move which might appeal.

As La Liga and Champions League winners, Real Madrid’s squad has a lot to live up to and Jesus might just be the man to help them kick on.

Soler to Atleti?

La Liga Transfer News: Carlos Soler to Atlético Madrid operation is already underway
Atletico Madrid are very interested in Valencia’s Carlos Soler

Valencia’s sought-after creative midfielder Carlos Soler looks set to leave the Mestalla pretty soon and he may well be on his way to Madrid, but not to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Atletico have been in talks with the player who, at the age of 25, has already made 222 appearances for Valencia, scoring 35 goals and making 31 assists.

Los Che are ready to offload their main asset this summer and are asking for 30-M Euros for the Spanish international who has one year left to run on his contract, but Rojiblancos head coach Diego Simeone will hope he can get his man at a cut price. 

The money men have work to do but Valencia won’t want to lose their star man for nothing next summer and he has already been linked with both Juventus and Barcelona as well as Los Rojiblancos. Soler will have to make his decision whether he wants to stay in Spain or try his luck in Serie A. If he chooses to stay in La Liga, then that would make Los Rojiblancos favourite to win his services as a move to Barcelona would be contingent on the sale of their midfield star Frenkie de Jong.

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15-Jun 2022 Wednesday 1:37 PM (63 days ago)            #23
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La Liga: The Transfer Merry-Go-Round is Underway!

It may be the summer break but it’s anything but quiet as far as La Liga is concerned.

Just a little over a fortnight after Real Madrid clinched a brilliant Spanish league title and Champions League double, attention is starting to turn to the next campaign and the top team in Spain and in Europe has already strengthened its offering.

France midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni has arrived from Monaco on a six-year deal.

The 22 year-old racked up 50 appearances across all competitions last season, contributing five goals and three assists and has made 11 appearances for France since making his international debut in September.

Real, who had been negotiating with the player since March, got in ahead of the competition. Considered to be one of the game’s most exciting young talents, Tchouameni is now a regular in France’s national team and was part of the starting line-up in last year’s Nations League final against Spain.

Adding to a stellar but ageing Real Madrid midfield led by Luka Modric, 36, Toni Kroos, 32, and Casemiro, 30, it shows how Carlo Ancelotti is already planning for the future and Tchouameni will join up with his fellow France midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, 19, who joined Madrid last September from Rennes.

Only Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Cristiano Ronaldo have arrived in the Spanish capital with higher transfer fees, but if Tchouameni has half of the success that trio have managed, he will be worth every penny of the 80 million euros fee.

Across the city, one club which has created plenty of La Liga highlights over the past decade and at times upset the Real-Barcelona duopoly, is Atletico Madrid.

Yet it seems the days of big signings for Los Rojiblancos may be over for the moment with the club sporting director this week outlining as such.

Perhaps that means swap agreements are the way forward, as illustrated by talks with Juventus over a possible Moise Kean and Alvaro Morata deal in the months ahead.

If Atletico fail to strengthen, they may even find themselves outside the top three in the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds for next term.

J-League
KAWASAKI FRONTALE
CONSADOLE SAPPORO
1X2 Draw @ 3.85
Under 2.75 @ 2.00
First Half Over 1.25 @ 2.16
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

While Real have announced the arrival of a midfielder and have already recruited Antonio Rudiger from Chelsea, it is possible Barcelona could be parting company with one of their own middle men.

The cash-strapped Catalans have reportedly begun talks with Manchester United about the availability of Dutch international Frenkie de Jong, who would be reunited with his former manager at Ajax, Erik ten Hag, should agreement be reached.

After finishing well adrift in the standings last term, Barca could certainly do with strengthening rather than shifting.

They have made a start with Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie from AC Milan both due to arrive on free transfers when their respective contracts expire at the end of June.

The Catalan club is also now being linked with the highly rated Napoli central defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

Koulibaly is out of contract in 2023 and, if Napoli cannot convince him to sign a new deal, the Naples club may be forced to sell in order to recoup any money.

Another player linked with Barcelona is midfielder Carlos Soler, although if interested, they may have to act quickly with Atletico and Juventus reported to be entering the race to land the Valencia captain.

Overall, there remains a delicate situation with Barca seemingly needing to reduce their wage bill to make room for the two signings they have already made.

However, a few more recruits could certainly spell out a message that the club is not in the dire straits it was last summer and perhaps show players like Ousmane Dembele, who finished the season with a flourish and has been linked with a move to England, that it may be worth him extending his deal at the Nou Camp.

Of course, goals are a vital currency worth gold dust in every major league in the world and La Liga is no exception.

Karim Benzema showed as much at home and abroad as their rivals looked on with envy.

And to prove the point, there were promising signs at Barcelona too where the arrival of Xavi as head coach prompted a much improved second half of the campaign as new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted 11 goals in 17 appearances – helped by Dembele’s return to form.

Although the massive debt leaves little room for manoeuvre when it comes to signing and register new players, one big name could change the mood music.

La Liga reports have been linking Robert Lewandowski with Barcelona
Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski is the Bundesliga top scorer with 35 goals scored

If that man happens to be a 33 year-old widely regarded as one of the best strikers of his generation, Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, then we may even have a title race to savour.

All will be revealed now the transfer season is up and running!


 

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16-Jun 2022 Thursday 12:31 PM (62 days ago)            #24
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La Liga: Real Madrid Aren’t Likely to Rest on Their Laurels This Summer

Real Madrid are expected to have a busy transfer window after a solid year on and off the pitch. They have around £350-M available to spend because of the windfall from their wins this season – particularly in La Liga and in the Champions League.

The amazing thing about Los Blancos is that they’ve kept on winning despite being frugal in these past windows. But with a huge target on their backs because they’re backed heavily by the La Liga 2022 odds, now is the time for them to further strengthen.

Los Blancos started briskly by bringing in Aurelien Tchouameni to further bolster their vaunted midfield that already has the likes of Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Fede Valverde, and Eduardo Camavinga. And they’ve also brought in centre-back Antonio Rudiger from Chelsea via a free transfer.

For a club like Real Madrid, they always feel that there’s more room for improvement. And today, we’ll examine their biggest transfer needs as of the moment.

Striker/Forward

It’s no secret that Carlo Ancelotti has an aging team at his disposal, so it makes sense for them to add some young blood.

While they’re still benefitting from Karim Benzema’s brilliance up front with 42 goals and 14 assists in all competitions this term, the 34-year-old talisman is slowly approaching the twilight of his decorated career.

Karim Benzema has played a vital role in Real Madrid's La Liga and European championships
Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema on the pitch during La Liga match against Real Betis

Benzema had his share of injuries this season and they looked lost without him on the pitch, so pairing him with another top forward alongside Vinicius Junior should make Los Blancos even stronger.

Kylian Mbappe was supposed to be Benzema’s heir apparent and it looked like he was about to join them, but he decided to stay in Paris instead.

Also, they’re expected to offload the likes of Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz while Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale are also likely to move elsewhere, with the former gaining interest from several rival clubs.

So Christopher Nkunku would be the most marquee option for Los Blancos given his strong 2021-22 season, amassing 31 goals and 14 assists for RB Leipzig.

He is also French like Benzema and they already know each other. But more importantly, Nkunku is versatile enough to play either as a striker, winger, or an attacking midfielder.

Amine Gouiri is another Frenchman that Real Madrid might consider given his untapped potential. Playing for Nice this season, the 22-year-old had 10 goals and nine assists and he apparently models his game after Karim Benzema.

Goalkeeper

Real Madrid should also try to get a serviceable backup keeper behind Thibaut Courtois, who is currently in his physical prime. The big Belgian just turned 30 last month and he was the main reason why his team won the Champions League final versus Liverpool.

Playing behind him is Andriy Lunin, who is looking to go elsewhere since Courtois is there. The 23-year-old is understandably tired of playing second fiddle to the Belgian shot stopper.

Los Blancos are reportedly offering Lunin a new contract before loaning him out in the transfer window in order for him to get more playing time, while West Ham United and Tottenham are reportedly looking to scoop him up.

J-League
JUBILO IWATA
SAGAN TOSU
1X2 Sagan Tosu @ 3.15
Over 2.50 @ 2.13
Total Goals 0-1 @ 2.85
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

According to reports, they’re keeping tabs on David Ospina’s situation since his current contract with Napoli expires at the end of this season. Ancelotti and Ospina have worked together in Naples before, so bringing him over at the Bernabeu gives Courtois a suitable backup.

Ospina has fared decently since joining Napoli from Arsenal in 2019. He has been the Partenopei’s first-choice goalkeeper ever since and he has secured 39 clean sheets in his 103 appearances.

Full-back

Los Blancos are fairly deep in the full-back position. But with Marcelo leaving the club this summer, perhaps they might consider adding another capable body there.

As of now, Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal are their first-choice full-backs while David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez are also options with the arrival of Antonio Rudiger. But other than those five, there’s not much else.

Real Madrid can go young and bring in Fran Garcia from Rayo Vallecano. The 22-year-old has the tools physically and he played a huge role to their 1-0 wins over Barcelona in October and in April.

Another intriguing option would be Feyenoord’s Tyrell Malacia, who’s also a target for several other clubs in Europe. The Dutchman’s pace as a defender is off the charts and he only commands a market value of €17-M despite his upside.

A big summer awaits for Real Madrid and the rest of La Liga, so continue to tune in here at SBOTOP for the latest La Liga 2022 updates.


 

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23-Jun 2022 Thursday 6:15 PM (55 days ago)            #25
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La Liga: Barcelona in the Middle of Manchester Midfielder Merry-Go-Round

Barcelona are having a busy summer transfer window. Aside from their much-publicised pursuit of Robert Lewandowski, they are also dealing with the potential sale of midfielder Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United.

And Barca also appear set to do more business with another Manchester club, Man City, as they apparently have their sights set on bringing Bernardo Silva to La Liga as de Jong’s replacement.

Elsewhere, Antonio Rudiger reveals he signed for Real Madrid amid interest from rivals Barca while young Brazilian superstar Vinicius Jr looks set to sign a new long-term deal for the reigning European champions.

Read on as SBOTOP shares the latest news and updates surrounding the Spanish top flight.

Barcelona brace for new Man United bid for Frenkie de Jong

Manchester United are not giving up their chase for Frenkie de Jong. The Red Devils are reportedly set to submit a new proposal to Barcelona in the coming days after their opening bid of €60 million for the Dutch midfielder was turned down.

According to top football insider Fabrizio Romano, the talks between the two clubs have entered the “key stages” and United have their full focus on signing Frenkie.

Despite the arrival of former Ajax manager Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford, de Jong publicly stated that Barcelona was his “dream club” and that he preferred to stay.

Nevertheless, United appear determined in their pursuit of de Jong as they look to strengthen their midfield ahead of next season.

Barca eye Man City’s Bernardo Silva as Frenkie replacement

La Liga: Barcelona are reportedly keen in bringing Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva to the Camp Nou
Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva celebrates during a Premier League match

As the de Jong transfer saga continues to develop, Barcelona appear to have an ideal replacement lined up should the Dutchman depart.

Barca are reportedly interested in bringing Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva to the Camp Nou.

Xavi is reportedly a big fan of Silva’s and has the City star at the top of his wish list should they decide to sell de Jong.

When asked about Barca’s interest in Silva, Pep Guardiola replied: “As of today, I think Bernardo will continue at Man City next season – but as I always said, I don’t like to keep players that are unhappy”.

Just last season, Barcelona bought Ferran Torres from Man City in a €55m deal and also signed both Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero from City on a free transfer.

Rudiger rejected Barcelona for Real Madrid

Antonio Rudiger revealed that Barcelona were interested in signing him on a free transfer. But the German international centre-back rebuffed the Catalans’ offer to sign for rivals Real Madrid.

“Yes, there was interest from Barcelona,” Rudiger said in his introductory news conference. “But I told my brother it was Real or nothing.”

Rudiger said Real initially held talks with him last season and revived them earlier this year.

“The first time there was contact it wasn’t really myself, it was my agent,” Rudiger said. “That was in September last year. The second time, when I spoke directly with Mister Ancelotti, was in April. That was the most important moment. That was when I made my choice.”

Rudiger, 29, will compete with David Alaba, who signed for Real on a free transfer last summer, and Eder Militao for playing time at centre-back this upcoming season.

K-League
DAEGU
JEJU UNITED
1X2 Draw @ 3.25
Over 2.25 @ 1.85
Total Goals 0-1 @ 2.99
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Vinicius Jr set to sign new Real Madrid deal

Vinicius Jr looks set to sign a new deal in the next few days that will keep him with reigning European champions Real Madrid until 2027.

According to Fabrizio Romano, Real president Florentino Perez decided to change Real’s offer from a four-year deal to five, and Vinicius accepted.

The 21-year-old Brazilian had a breakout season at the Bernabeu as had 22 goals and 16 assists in all competitions and played a crucial role in Real claiming the La Liga and Champions League double.

Vini’s presence is a big reason why the La Liga 2022 odds have Real as favourites to defend their title next season and will likely be contenders for years to come.

Axel Witsel on his way to Atletico Madrid

In some non-Real Madrid or Barcelona-related La Liga 2022 news, Atletico Madrid are reportedly close to signing Axel Witsel on a free transfer.

Atleti appear to have beat out Olympique Marseille, Fenerbache, and multiple MLS clubs for the Belgian midfielder’s signature.

Witsel will compete with club captain Koke, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Rodrigo De Paul, and Saul Niguez in Atleti’s midfield this upcoming season. The 33-year-old Witsel has spent the past four seasons in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. After suffering a torn Achilles in January 2021, Witsel played 29 games (22 starts) for BVB last season.


 

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24-Jun 2022 Friday 1:19 PM (54 days ago)            #26
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La Liga: Barcelona’s Transfer Plans Gather Pace

second place finish in the Spanish league has never been a sign of success for Barcelona, but last term it was.

2021/22 was a campaign of two halves in Catalonia. Under Ronald Koeman, Barcelona suffered a poor first half, but when former playing legend Xavi took over as head coach last winter, the Blaugrana immediately regained some pride and confidence.

But winning the La Liga title will take more than a boost in morale and the head coach will be asking the club’s money men to dig deep as the title is his clear priority.

And the club might have an unexpected opportunity to invest as reports emerged on Thursday suggesting that Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to offer Neymar to the Catalans at a cut-price fee.

The Brazilian star left the Camp Nou in 2017 after four successful seasons with Barca, winning a Champions League, two La Liga titles, and three Copa del Reys. Of course, he has continued to pick up silverware in Paris, but he might be willing to move back to the more competitive La Liga, according to reports.

Neymar is still contracted to the French club for another three years, but PSG may be willing to offload the 30-year-old with a price of £43-M being discussed. Barcelona is the player’s preferred destination if he does move and, if this deal comes off, it will be the biggestLa Liga 2022 news of the summer so far.

K-League

JEONBUK MOTORS

DAEGU

1X2 Draw @ 3.40

Over 2.25 @ 1.82

Total Goals 0-1 @ 2.90

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

The club continues its efforts to sign Bayern Munich’s wantaway striker Robert Lewandowski, and if the two megastars were to link up at the Camp Nou, that would be a huge boost to the Blaugrana fans.

At the other end of the pitch, Barcelona seem to be making progress in their attempt to sign 23-year-old Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde.

With Gerard Pique now 35, Xavi needs a long-term partner for Ronald Araujo who had an impressive breakthrough season in 2021/22 which made him one of the SBOTOP defenders of the season, and Kounde would be the perfect fit.

Premier League club Chelsea are looking to strengthen in defence too and they will provide competition for Kounde’s signature. But Barcelona believe they have an advantage in the race as club president Joan Laporta has an excellent relationship with Sevilla. Kounde is yet to speak to Chelsea and is reported to be waiting for a deal with the Blaugrana to be settled.

The French defender is valued at around €70-M, which would be a big chunk of Barca’s war chest and they may look to negotiate a player plus cash deal, with wing-back Sergino Dest the likely makeweight as a long-term replacement for Sevilla’s Jesus Navas.

Barca aim to keep hold of their brightest stars

Since the departure of Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona have been looking for a way to replace the great man, which is pretty near impossible. But whisper it quietly, they have potentially another world beater.

Gavi burst on to the Spanish and European scene last season and the two biggest clubs in England have been eager to tempt him to move. Manchester City and Liverpool are both very keen on the young star, but he may be happy to avoid the lure of the Premier League if Barca can extend his current deal which expires in 2023.

Club bosses are working hard on a new agreement and Gavi’s agent Ivan de la Pena has been in constant contact with Barca over the past few days.

Ousmane Dembele is likely stay in the next season of La Liga with Barcelona
Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele kicks in action during a friendly match against the A-League All Stars

And the Catalans have received another boost this week with the news that striker Ousmane Dembele is about to make a U-turn and sign a new deal to stay at the Camp Nou. The English press have linked the France star with Chelsea, but if Dembele agrees to stay with Barca, that would be a double blow to the London giants.

The Spanish press believe the out-of-contract star is now ready to sign the deal which has been on the table for months after improving dramatically under Xavi in the second half of the season. If Barca can keep hold of Gavi and Dembele, then it would be a good week’s work and the 2022/23 La Liga 2022 betting odds will take notice.

Meanwhile, the future of Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong remains in the balance. Manchester United have been in pursuit of the player since the close season began, but there seems to be some way to go before a deal is agreed.

The Catalans have already rejected one bid and the Red Devils must be starting to wonder whether they can get this one over the line as they are unable to offer Champions League football.

De Jong may yet stay at the Camp Nou.


 

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24-Jun 2022 Friday 1:21 PM (54 days ago)            #27
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La Liga Line-Up Focuses Minds

So, the fixtures are out and La Liga will be bursting back into life before you know it!

Just a month after 2021-22 drew to a close, you can now look ahead to another chapter in the Spanish top flight and plan your viewing, note the key weekends and make predictions based on where and when matters may be decided.

Ok, so we are far from knowing how all 20 clubs will look like next season with the transfer window open until September 1.

But fixture release day is still one that brings excitement as fans think of potential La Liga highlights from their favourites.

For the record, the campaign will begin on August 14 with Barcelona hosting Rayo Vallecano and Spanish and European champions Real Madrid travelling to newly promoted Almeria.

It will then end on June 4 when Carlo Ancelotti’s aces entertain Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona visit Celta Vigo.

Two dates for your diary incidentally – the first El Clasico takes place at the Bernabeu on October 16 with the Nou Camp return in mid-March.

Of course, it’s more than just two teams and, among the other opening day fixtures, 2021 champions Atletico Madrid begin their campaign at Getafe, Sevilla – who sealed the fourth and final Champions League spot – are at Osasuna, while the other promoted teams, Girona and Real Valladolid, travel to Valencia and are at home to Villarreal respectively.

The first game after the World Cup will take place over New Year with several derby fixtures lined up.

Barca will take on neighbours Espanyol, while Villarreal and Valencia face off and Cadiz do battle against Almeria.

Real, meanwhile, will return to action with a visit to Valladolid, while Atletico will mark the start to 2023 with a home encounter with Elche.

Clearly, Real will start as favourites with the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds and, as well as being runaway title winners, saw off the best teams in Europe on their way to a 14th European Cup crown.

What’s more they have already strengthened during the summer transfer window through the acquisition of Aurelien Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger, acquisitions which shows they are not resting on their laurels.

La Liga: Antonio Rudiger have completed his transfer to Real Madrid from Chelsea
Anotnio Rudiger during the unveiling with Real Madrid

It’s no secret that Ancelotti has an aging team at his disposal, so it makes sense for them to add some young blood and Tchouameni fits the bill.

And while he is now 34 and presumably approaching the twilight of his decorated career, as long as Los Blancos are still benefitting from Karim Benzema’s brilliance up front – 42 goals and 14 assists in all competitions in the season just concluded – they will always have a chance.

Barcelona and Atletico will remain the two most likely clubs to challenge Madrid. Neither are in a great moment right now but there is still a lot of the window to go – Barcelona are currently riding a somewhat chaotic wave as they try to get as much business done as possible and Atletico are trying to improve Diego Simeone’s squad.

By the way, it’s not just the fixtures to think about with a number of potential rule changes on the way.

Indeed, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) will meet next Monday in Doha to approve rule changes that become official on July 1.

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SAGAN TOSU
FC TOKYO
1X2 Draw @ 3.10
First Half Under 0.75 @ 2.17
Total Goals 0-1 @ 2.52
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

The option of making up to five changes will be allowed in all competitions that wish to take advantage with each team permitted to use three substitution windows, plus half-time.

Likewise, when a player prevents a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity for the opposing team by committing a handball offence, he must be sent off, irrespective of where it occurs.

They’re among the tweaks in a league which is proving popular with ESPN bosses in America delighted with how their coverage is being received – it was recently announced some La Liga matches games draw bigger television audiences in the States than baseball.

That billing will surely only increase across the globe with stellar talent set to be joined by even more household names in the next few months, including the possible arrival of a frontman who, along with Benzema, has been the top striker in Europe in recent years.

Barcelona will reportedly offer under €40 million for Robert Lewandowski’s services and are fully aware that negotiating with German champions Bayern Munich isn’t going to be a simple task.

The Bavarians have been clear that they’re going to play hardball but Barcelona hope that they realise getting a deal done before July 12, when Bayern return for pre-season, is in the interest of all parties. Watch this space!


 

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29-Jun 2022 Wednesday 12:54 PM (49 days ago)            #28
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La Liga: How Will Real Madrid Line Up Against Almeria?

Real Madrid begin their title defence in precisely seven weeks time, and head coach Carlo Ancelotti knows those weeks will pass quickly as he prepares his squad to go again.

The 2021/22 La Liga champions face newly promoted Almeria at the Juegos del Mediterraneo Stadium on the Sunday 14th August and there will be some new faces pushing for a start with fierce competition for places.

The early La Liga 2022 betting odds marginally favour Los Blancos for the title, over a Xavi inspired Barcelona and with Atletico Madrid making up the front three. With the Blaugrana resurgent, Real Madrid need a fast start and this is how I think they might line up, to give themselves the best chance of taking three points from their visit to Andalusia. 

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois

At 6’7”, Courtois towers above opposition strikers and his aura gives his defencive teammates huge confidence. As the last line of defence, he is among the best in the world and at 30 years of age, he’s in his prime as he showed in a man-of-the-match performance in the Champions League final.

Right wing-back: Lucas Vazquez

If anything, Ancelotti has gaps to fill down the right side of his team and rumours are circulating that he may be looking to raid his former club Chelsea for young England star Reece James. But the Blues don’t need to sell and I expect the experienced Vazquez to start the campaign down that flank.

Centre-back: Eder Militao

Brazilian defender Eder was a standout performer for Los Blancos in the back four last term, and he is fully justifying the fee of €50-M Real paid to Porto three seasons ago. He’s a strong tackler with a good reading of the game and will be hard to displace in the 2022/23 campaign.

Centre-back: Antonio Rudiger

La Liga: Antonio Rudiger starts a new chapter at Real Madrid
Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger officially signs for Real Madrid

Rudiger’s arrival from Chelsea has been on the cards for months and I expect him to make a start in the opening game on the left side of Eder. The competition will come from versatile Austrian defender David Alaba.

Left wing-back: Ferland Mendy

With the legendary Marcelo now departed the French flying wing-back Mendy should make the left berth his own. He has pace to burn and a dangerous cross which makes him an asset at either end of the pitch.

Defencive midfield: Casemiro

The signing of 22-year-old France midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni will give Casemiro some competition but I expect Ancelotti to keep faith with the 30-year-old Brazilian star. With 24 goals in 221 games, Casemiro is entering his 10th campaign with Los Blancos and he will be a great mentor for Tchouameni.

Midfield: Luka Modric

This could be the last season for Real Madrid’s creative midfielder but, at 36 years, the Croat shows no sign of aging. His movement on and off the ball is second to none. He remains a brilliant dribbler with a superb array of passes and shots and Modric is always a joy to watch. 

Premier League
CRYSTAL PALACE
ARSENAL
1X2 Arsenal @ 2.13
Crystal Palace Asian Handicap +0.25 @ 2.04
Under 2.25 @ 2.14
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Midfield: Federico Valverde

I think the midfield trinity of Toni Kroos, Modric, and Casemiro will see a change on the right side as 23-year-old Federico Valverde has shown enough to oust the experienced Kroos. The Uruguayan’s pace, stamina, and work ethic gives Los Blancos the tempo they need in the tight games.

Right attack: Mo Salah

Here’s the wild card!

The future of Liverpool’s Egyptian talisman has been the subject of wild speculation in the UK and Jurgen Klopp is making little progress in his attempt to persuade him to stay at Anfield. My Manchester United supporting SBOTOP colleague, James, would be happy enough to see the Reds lose their star man.

And at a price of £60-M, Liverpool may well be persuaded to sell, with Real Madrid the most likely destination for Salah. If he doesn’t arrive then Rodrygo deserves to continue.

Centre attack: Karim Benzema

One thing you can pretty much guarantee is that the red hot Benzema will continue to write theLa Liga 2022 newsheadlines with his all action attacking displays and prolific goal scoring antics. He stormed to Golden Boot wins in La Liga and the Champions League last term and is primed to lead the way again this season. 

Left attack: Vinicius Junior The young Brazilian striker is one of the stars we expect to shine at the Qatar World Cup in November and he’ll be pushing Benzema all the way in the race for the 2022/23 Golden Boot. At 21 years of age, Vinicius has the potential to be a Galactico for a decade to come and he is an asset Ancelotti is desperate to keep.

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29-Jun 2022 Wednesday 12:55 PM (49 days ago)            #29
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La Liga: A Big Summer Awaits for Los Rojiblancos

When assessing the second club from the Spanish capital, it is hard to be too critical given how they have punched above their weight for a decade under the stewardship of Diego Simeone.

Yes, in recent seasons they have not had the all-round quality of some of their predecessors, but it hasn’t stopped them from holding their own at the top table.

After winning La Liga in 2021, their title defence was all but over by Christmas – seven days before to be precise.

And despite their best efforts, defensively and in some of football’s dark arts, their European adventure was ended by Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Yet they produced enough La Liga 2022 highlights and know-how to seal third place and a return to the Champions League next season with plenty to spare.

Assessing the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds for next season and you can see Los Rojiblancos are third-favourites, well ahead of the chasing pack, which suggests they are going nowhere.

So, what do they need transfer-wise ahead of next season?

Well not a new goalkeeper, that’s for sure.

Diego Simeone eyes to revamp Atletico Madrid for the new La Liga season
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone instructs his players from the sideline during La Liga match against Espanyol

Jan Oblak has retained his brilliance, despite saying farewell to defensive teammates such as Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez and Juanfran Torres in recent years, talents who have not truly been replaced.

Hope springs eternal, though. Reinildo Mandava has impressed since his January arrival from Lille and will surely be better for three and a half months of La Liga under his belt going into next season.

Likewise, left-back Renan Lodi and Geoffrey Kondogbia saw their value increase last term and should be regulars in Simeone’s first-choice starting XI.

Overall, though, the Argentine boss will know his team needs strengthening in most positions, especially given farewells have now been said to midfielder Hector Herrera and veteran striker Luis Suarez who was unable to replicate his first season with the club after leaving Barcelona.

One player strongly linked with a move to Atletico is Hector Bellerin who has just had a season-long loan at Real Betis and the Verdiblancos have now registered their interest in bringing him back to the club on a permanent deal.

Bellerin’s future at Arsenal appears uncertain and Simeone has earmarked right back as a key area in need of strengthening following the sale of Kieran Trippier to Newcastle in January.

Betis remain as Bellerin’s first-choice option, but Arsenal’s demands for a €20 million fee – despite his Gunners contract expiring in 2023 – could give Atletico a key advantage in the race for the 27-year-old defender.

Once Trippier left in January, they seemed to lose some shape which makes the position a priority. One of the more exciting names amongst the numerous amounts that have been linked is RC Lens’ Jonathan Clauss. Now a French international, Clauss confirmed that he was talking to Atletico at the beginning of the month.

Elsewhere, Pablo Sarabia may be on his way back to Spain and Atletico have previously been linked with the wide-man, who enjoyed a fine season for Sporting Lisbon where he was on loan from Paris St Germain.

Perhaps more pertinently, he has become a crucial part of Luis Enrique’s Spain squad in the last two years. Renowned for his crosses, he has also contributed nine goals in his 22 international appearances so would surely fit Simeone’s requirements.

Further forward, with Edinson Cavani needing regular football – and to stay fit – to ensure he is part of Uruguay’s World Cup squad, Atletico could do a lot worse than sign the veteran striker on a short-term deal. He would certainly be an ideal stop-gap replacement for his South American compatriot, Suarez.

K-League
GANGWON
JEJU UNITED
1X2 Gangwon @ 3.05
Over 2.50 @ 2.17
Total Goals 0-1 @ 2.79
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Talking of veterans, Angel Di Maria has been rumoured with a return to Spain with Barcelona or Atletico, although whether they would want a former Real Madrid man – someone who secured the man of the match award against them in the 2014 Champions League Final – is unclear.

Among other names reportedly linked with a move to the Metropolitano Stadium are Spurs full-back Emerson Royal, Pablo Maffeo of Mallorca, RB Leipzig star Nordi Mukiele and Udinese defender Nahuel Molina.

We wait and see.

Whatever the incomings, Atletico do need to make sure they keep hold of their main names, including Yannick Carrasco. Carrasco is said to have a £51.5 million release clause in his contract with rumours suggesting a number of clubs from the English Premier League are interested.

The Belgian international has been an important member of Simeone’s squad after coming back from the Chinese team, Dalian FC in 2020.

It’s unlikely he will be allowed to leave but, either way, we will know more once the manager recalls the majority of his squad for training from July 13, ahead of four warm up games.

There’s plenty of work to be done.


 

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29-Jun 2022 Wednesday 1:09 PM (49 days ago)            #30
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La Liga: Atleti Have Two Big Gaps To Fill

Atletico Madrid will start the 2022/23 campaign as third favourites, according to the early La Liga 2022 betting odds,and ever was it so. But Rojiblancos fans don’t have to look back too far to recall when their team was top of the tree.

Just two years ago Atleti won the La Liga title, edging out Real Madrid, as Luis Suarez scored the winner in a final day clash against Real Valladolid. But now Suarez is heading for the exit door at the Wanda Metropolitano and he will be a big loss which the club needs to deal with, while the departure of experienced right back Kieran Trippier, five months ago, is the second big area to be addressed.

Both Los Blancos and Barcelona are working to strengthen their teams, as we reported in our recent SBOTOP blog, and Atleti will need to do the same to keep pace with the El Clasico giants.

But the financial situation at the club could be kinder for head coach Diego Simeone.

The current squad at the club is exceeding La Liga limits and while the departure of Suarez will ease the situation slightly, Simeone has work to do to balance the numbers and plug the gaps.

Efforts to offload Alvaro Morata to Juventus and Saul Niguez to Chelsea, where they were on loan last season, have stalled with neither club yet ready to spend the money Atleti are looking for. Suarez’ future looks to be settled though, as the 35 year old Uruguayan is close to a move to River Plate in Argentina.

J-League
CEREZO OSAKA
KAWASAKI FRONTALE
1X2 Draw @ 3.35
Under 2.25 @ 2.09
First Half Over 1.00 @ 2.03
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Any fears that fellow striker Joao Felix may be on his way have been dispelled by the player who, despite interest from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, has said he’s happy to stay in Madrid. Felix is a guy we can rely on for La Liga 2022 highlights, and he could be set to link up with another young striker if Simeone can bring Sassuolo hitman Gianluca Scamacca to the club, but the Atleti boss does have serious competition.

Juventus have been tracking the striker who, at 6ft 5in tall, is a real handful and has already won seven caps with the Azzurri. The Bianconeri’s interest may cool if they can come to an agreement to sign Morata; the Spaniard has plenty of experience and a good relationship with Juve boss Max Allegri. And Scamacca may be tempted by a move to Atletico where he would be the main man, spearheading the attack with Felix in the Number Ten role or drifting in from the wing.

A replacement for Trippier

Since the departure of England right back Kieran Trippier, Atleti have been unbalanced and haven’t really settled on a replacement within the squad, with Sime Vrsaljko also set to leave with his contract at an end. As things stand Simeone can only plug the gap with a makeshift defender; midfield pair Daniel Wass and Marcos Llorente have both been asked to slot in at times.

The boss is after a high quality right back to complete his first 11, and ideally two to give himself some cover throughout a long and grueling campaign.

Kieran Trippier played in La Liga club Atletico Madrid for three years
Kieran Trippier during Newcastle United’s match against Aston Villa at St. James Park

So who is on Simeone’s list?

Udinese’s Argentine star Nahuel Molina is Simeone’s favourite but, until he can raise some cash, the 20M Euro price tag may be a sticking point. So he is looking elsewhere, predominantly in the Premier League where he is keeping tabs on Wolves right back Nelson Semedo and Tottenham Hotspur’s Emerson Royal. Portuguese star Semedo has La Liga experience, previously with Barcelona, and Atleti were keen to buy him when Wolves swooped in 2020. He’s impressed at the Midlands club but suffered a recurring hamstring injury in the second part of last season and still has work to do to regain match fitness by the start of the campaign. 

Third on the list is Celtic full back Josip Juranovic who, at 26 years of age, is the type of player Simeone could happily replace Trippier with. Like the England man, Juranovic isn’t the tallest of defenders but he is strong in the tackle and provides good support for the forwards, with a willingness to raid down the flanks and he has a good delivery.

There is another potential opportunity for Simeone to raid Tottenham as centre back Japhet Tanganga has been out of favour, and then he suffered a knee injury to keep him out of the second half of the campaign. He has played on the right side of Spurs’ three man defence but the 23 year old has also operated at right back where he has arguably had his better games under Antonio Conte. The move might tempt Tanganga who will have limited opportunities at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but he might fit in very nicely at Atletico Madrid. 


 

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30-Jun 2022 Thursday 1:28 PM (48 days ago)            #31
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La Liga: Barca Juggle the Financial Balls to Break Back into Big Time

As July beckons, La Liga transfer news is intensifying and much of it seems to be centring on Catalonia.

And now, at last, there are appears to have been a breakthrough.

For a club which was in financial disarray less than a year ago and is now still seemingly in a difficult position, it appears one departure from the payroll could get things moving.

After much speculation, it is reported Frenkie de Jong is open to joining Manchester United.

In a significant development in Erik ten Hag’s pursuit of the midfielder, it is understood the 25-year-old midfielder is minded to sign and re-join Ten Hag after working under the Dutchman at Ajax.

Barcelona reportedly need the transfer fee which would also free up some room with salaries and allow them to go for the signings that their manager, Xavi Hernandez, has asked for.

It has been suggested that, should he stay at Barca, de Jong’s contract would increase next season as he is set to receive around 20 million euros for the deferred payments that he had pending. The club could be keen to avoid that.

Either way, Barcelona certainly can’t afford another failed transfer window and may need more than the club’s history and president Joan Laporta’s promises in its bid to convince players to sign this summer.

It is easy to forget that, last summer, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba all reduced or deferred their salaries in order to help register Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay.

It is also an open secret that Milan midfielder Franck Kessie and Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen will be joining them but, over a month after last season concluded, they have yet to be formally announced. Part of the reason is that Barcelona want to close out its financial year, which ends today (June 30), without adding any expenses.

La Liga
BARCELONA
RAYO VALLECANO
Barcelona Asian Handicap -1.75 @ 1.95
1X2 Barcelona @1.24
Total Goals 2-3 @ 2.12
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

According to one media outlet, changes are being made to the contracts of both players with ‘small adjustments’ to fit in better with financial fair play and more pertinently, the La Liga salary limit.

And then there’s Robert Lewandowski’s potential move which is already threatening to drag on with the Polish international seemingly keen to join the Catalans, but Bayern Munich not willing to allow him depart.

All in all, nothing seems straightforward nor gives the impression of a club with stability.

Another English club could also help ease the club’s wage structure too with Tottenham close to reaching an agreement for a season-long loan signing of Clement Lenglet.

Barcelona currently have seven centre-backs – Pique, Ronald Araujo, Eric Garcia, Lenglet, Oscar Mingueza, Samuel Umtiti and, to be confirmed, Christensen – and would ideally like to wrap up the deal before next Monday when Lenglet is due to report for training.

In addition, manager Xavi wants Jules Kounde to sign in the summer.

The next few days could be key as it seems players have to leave if summer plans are to really gather pace as the club would like the footballing world to think.

Barcelona can, at least, take heart from the fact other big clubs are struggling.

The side which is third favourites with the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds for next season, Atletico Madrid, have been unable to register their first signing of the summer, Axel Witsel.

Reportedly that is because Los Rojiblancos have exceeded their salary limit by €100 million and so are unable to register the veteran Belgian midfielder, despite him being a free agent after the expiry of his contract with Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.

Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann will be staying with their La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid for the next season
Antoine Griezmann acknowledges the fans after their Champions League match against Manchester United

Aside from their wage bill, Atletico have already admitted that they need to generate sales of €40m no matter what to be able to reinvest in their playing squad this summer transfer window.

One way to reduce the wage bill could be by parting ways with Antoine Griezmann, currently on loan at the Wanda Metropolitano from Barcelona.

Yet a return to the Nou Camp for a player who has provided so many La Liga 2022 highlights seems out of the question and it has now emerged they have officially asked Barcelona to extend his loan for a second season.

That news will presumably be greeted gleefully in Catalonia as Atletico will now have to purchase Griezmann for a fee at the end of the loan, provided he plays 50% of the matches he was available for over the two seasons.

Although it is a risk to be investing in both the fee and the salary in a 31-year-old, if Diego Simeone can inspire the best version of Griezmann then Atleti will receive a jump in quality.It’s fair to say a big summer awaits them, just as much as Barcelona.


 

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06-Jul 2022 Wednesday 2:50 PM (42 days ago)            #32
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La Liga: Six of the Best for Spain’s World Cup Campaign

The Qatar World Cup is fast approaching and Spain are one of the fancied teams to go all the way.

A semi-final appearance at Euro 2020 and then a runners-up prize at the 2021 UEFA Nations League are a pretty good indication that this is a nation on the up…in contrast with Italy perhaps. And La Liga is one of the best leagues in the world, boasting the champions of Europe, Real Madrid, and packed to the limit with world-class talent.

Many of the Primera Division players will represent other countries in Qatar, but there have been plenty of homegrown players making the La Liga 2022 news too.

So let’s take a look at six of the La Liga stars who will be wearing the famous red of Spain in Qatar. It’s a relatively inexperienced squad in places, but there is bags of talent in the ranks and one or two old faces which are sure to feature. 

Sergio Busquets: Barcelona 

Luis Enrique is putting together an exciting young team but can anyone imagine Spain lining up with talismanic skipper Sergio Busquets? The Barcelona man has represented his country 137 times and, at 33 year of age, this might well be his last World Cup. He’s one of the best holding midfielders of all time, protecting his defence and allowing the creative players the space to thrive.

Busquets won a World Cup medal in 2010 at the start of his career. According to the La Liga 2022 betting odds Spain are one of the four favourites, and it would be a fine way to close the curtains on his career to lead La Roja to glory in Qatar.

Koke: Atletico Madrid

Koke is to Los Rojiblancos what Busquets is to the Blaugrana. The midfield ace has been at the Wanda Metropolitano since 2009, making 385 league appearances and scoring 37 goals, while he hasn’t scored for Spain in his 66 international appearances, he has become a key player for La Roja, progressing through the Under 19s and Under 21s to the full team.

He is a brilliant ball player and Koke can play on the left, the right or down the middle, in a more advanced position than Busquets, as a prolific creator of chances for his teammates.

Carlos Soler: Valencia 

Carlos Soler scored 30 La Liga goals in 179 appearances for Valencia
Carlos Soler scored a hattrick of penalties vs Real Madrid

One of Spain’s new generation, the 25-year-old Soler already has 179 league games under his belt with Valencia and he is one of the most sought-after players in Europe. Barcelona have been tracking him and Los Ches will have a difficult task this summer to keep their main man. An attacking midfielder Soler is a big contributor to Valencia’s goal tally as a scorer and assist maker, and he has scored three goals in nine appearances for La Roja, including a volley after four minutes of his debut against Sweden last September.

Pau Torres: Villarreal 

Here at SBOTOP we’ve been watching the progress of Pau Torres and we’re not alone.

He had an exceptional season with Villarreal, starring in the Champions League in victories over Juventus and FC Bayern, and he’s now one of the hottest properties in Europe. Premier League giants Manchester United are weighing up an approach for Torres and if they land the deal, the Red Devils will be getting a player at the peak of his powers.

Torres is one of the most comfortable defenders, on the ball, you are likely to see; he is fierce in the tackle and gets his fair share of goals. He could easily turn out to be one of the stars of the Qatar World Cup.

La Liga
BARCELONA
RAYO VALLECANO
1X2 Rayo Vallecano @ 9.75
Barcelona Asian Handicap -2.00 @ 2.21
Over 3.25 @ 2.25
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Unai Simon: Athletic Bilbao

Manchester United’s David de Gea is Spain’s highest-profile keeper but Athletic Bilbao stopper Unai Simon has staked his claim for the number one spot. He has been the first-choice keeper for Bilbao, over the past three campaigns, and he kept goal for Spain throughout the Euro 2020 campaign, putting in a man-of-the-match performance in the quarter-final victory over Switzerland, which included two penalty saves in the shootout.

Mikel Oyarzabal: Real Sociedad 

25-year-old Mikel Oyarzabal, like Soler, has become his club’s talisman at a very young age. He made his debut for Real Sociedad in 2015 and has stayed at the Basque club ever since, racking up 63 goals in 224 league appearances. Oyarzabal can play as an attacking midfielder or a winger and he scored Spain’s goal in the Nations League final, picking up a ball from Busquets before beating the challenge of Dayot Upamecano to give La Roja the lead.

With six goals from 21 caps he has shown he can play at the highest level and Qatar is the perfect stage for Oyarzabal.

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06-Jul 2022 Wednesday 2:52 PM (42 days ago)            #33
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La Liga: Barca Playing the Waiting Game

What exactly will Barcelona’s first-choice XI look like when La Liga begins in six weeks’ time?

It’s a question no-one knows the answer to, not least manager Xavi Hernandez who is said to be worried about the club’s financial situation as it would appear the only way Barca can break back into the big time is by juggling the financial balls.

What appears certain is that their ability to compete in the forthcoming season will likely depend on the growth of younger stars with one or two adornments.

From low points to highs, it is seemingly all about trusting the process for Xavi’s Barca.

He gave Ronald Araujo, Gavi, and Pedri more playing time earlier than expected to hasten their development, while he has restored confidence of the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, Martin Braithwaite, and Gerard Pique.

It also helped that money was spent in January to bring in reinforcements from young and old in Dani Alves, Adama Traore, Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

What now though?

Let’s focus on Dembele. After five years, a €140-M transfer fee and 149 matches, he is no longer a Barcelona player.

The Frenchman was actually a record signing when he moved to Catalonia from Borussia Dortmund. But overall, his spell has been plagued by injuries and a failure to find a rhythm in the team.

Barcelona manager Xavi wants a strong starting XI in La Liga’s new season
Barcelona manager Xavi during the El Clasico match in La Liga against Real Madrid

Only during his final months at the club with Xavi did he have both his fitness and the trust of the manager.

I say final because, while his contract has run out, it’s not certain he will depart.

Xavi has made it public just how much he wants Dembele to stay, which the Frenchman values.

One suspects both player and manager, let alone fans, are somewhat tired of the soap opera that has grown around his future – the club and the player began talks last year and disagreements have been constant.

With pre-season training starting shortly, Dembele is said to want his future resolved soon. And although had money not been a factor, one suspects he’d have long signed on.

One man who definitely won’t be returning is Traore who is back at parent club Wolves after a mixed loan spell.

Veteran Alves’ contract has expired too and Barcelona have decided not to renew his deal. Likewise, Ferran Jutgla and Philippe Coutinho have left, along with the players whose contracts and loans were up: Traore and Luuk de Jong.

All in all then, following a tricky end to the last campaign, it remains to be seen how and if Barcelona can push ahead in the transfer market despite Xavi requesting a significant overhaul of the squad to increase competition and with the desire to compete for trophies.

Of course, the coach is aware of the club’s challenging circumstances, but he is anxiously awaiting word from Joan Laporta and the executives. Neither have the reinforcements he expected arrived, nor have the agreed departures taken place.

Returning to the club are Miralem Pjanic, Inaki Pena, Alex Collado, and Francisco Trincao, who were on loan.

J-League
GAMBA OSAKA
URAWA RED DIAMONDS
1X2 Draw @ 3.45
Over 2.50 @ 2.03
Total Goals 0-1 @ 2.98
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

However, players such as Clement Lenglet, Riqui Puig, Samuel Umtiti, Martin Braithwaite, and Oscar Mingueza, players who were expected to leave, still remain at the Nou Camp.

As it stands, the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds may make Barcelona as second favourites in next season’s title race but does anyone really think they can sustain a long-term challenge with the current squad?

One man who could help them create La Liga 2022 highlights is Leeds United winger Raphinha, though it seems Barcelona are hanging onto hope of signing the Brazilian by their fingernails.

Chelsea have already agreed a deal with Leeds United with the fee thought to be in the region of €65-M– a figure that all parties are aware that Barcelona cannot meet.

The Catalan club have managed to keep themselves in the fight though with Raphinha reportedly delaying any decision, while his agent Deco – a former Barca player of course – pushes the Yorkshire club hard to accept an offer from his former employers.

Perhaps some good news is just around the corner with the signings of both Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen due to be announced after completing all the required paperwork.

Both players are free agents following the expiry of their contracts with Milan and Chelsea respectively and will bring experience and much-needed energy, strengthening the centre of defence and midfield. It can surely just be the start though for a side which finished 13 points behind Real Madrid last season.


 

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06-Jul 2022 Wednesday 2:54 PM (42 days ago)            #34
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La Liga: The Unsung Goal Heroes

They are the fans’ favourites at their own clubs, but there’s a breed of striker who delivers season after season, goes under the radar and has opposing fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

La Liga is blessed by some of the finest goal scorers in world football. Currently, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema is the hottest striker in world football, having fired Los Blancos to league and European glory. But take a look at theLa Liga 2022 highlightsand you might well see some players you hadn’t expected. They aren’t all prolific goal scorers but they are feared by defenders for their menace, skills and threat in the final third.

They score spectacular goals, tap ins, bullet headers and the odd fluke, and to their teams these goal scorers are worth their weight in gold. Though one or two of them may be heading for pastures new…

Iago Aspas: Celta Vigo

For much of the season it seemed like Real Madrid youngster Vinicius Junior was set to follow Benzema into second place in the race for the Golden Boot. But a goal in Celta’s 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in May meant Aspas ended up on 18 goals and that took second place and made it 121 from 235 games for the striker since he returned to the club in 2015.

Aspas is a Celta legend, scoring 46 goals in 139 games in his first stint at the club, before he took a couple of seasons, at Liverpool and Sevilla, to work out that home is where the heart is, and he returned to Galicia where he has legendary status.

Now 34, Aspas he is in the twilight of his career but I wouldn’t bet against him being in the top ten strikers again next season.

Enes Unal: Getafe

25-year-old Turkish striker Enes Unal had his best campaign of his career so far, scoring 16 goals. And they were absolutely priceless as they fired Los Azulones to safety, finishing on 39 points and just a single point above relegated Granada. Getafe struggled for goals, managing just 33 for the season so Unal’s contribution was a fraction under 50 per cent.

He stunned Real Madrid with an early goal in January which gave Getafe a 1-0 win and ended Los Blancos 15 match winning run.

A Manchester City academy product, Unal can kick on now and realize his undoubted potential. That may mean a move at some stage and reports have surfaced that he is being closely watched by Liverpool.

Marco Asensio: Real Madrid

La Liga club Real Madrid will not be offering Marco Asensio a new contract
Real Madrid won’t offer Marco Asensio a new deal

After eight years as a Real Madrid player Marco Asensio looks like he might be on the way out. With just a year left on his contract the 26-year-old Spaniard has also been linked with a move to Liverpool; but would that be wise for both the player and his current club?

Alongside Benzema and Vinicius, Asensio has terrorized opposing defences with his pace, close control and clever use of the ball. He scored ten goals during the 2021/22 campaign and his 71 per cent shot accuracy was the highest of any player scoring ten or more. While the next few weeks might determine whether or not Asensio is a Los Blancos player next season; he has high hopes of being to be on the plane to Qatar with Spain in November.

The La Liga 2022 betting oddshere atSBOTOPare pointing to a battle royal between Los Blancos, Barcelona and Atleti, and Asesnio is the type of player Real might wish they had, should he walk out through the door. But such are the riches at the Santiago Bernabeu; Asensio might struggle to make the starting line-up when Los Blancos kick off their 2022/23 campaign against newly promoted Almeria.

Jose Luis Morales: Levante transferred to Villarreal

13 goals and seven assists, with an impressive shot accuracy of 59 per cent, meant Morales was comfortably one of the most productive ten forwards in La Liga last term. But his efforts couldn’t save the Los Granotes from relegation as a 19th-placed finish sees them head to the Segunda Division along with Alaves and Granada. 

And the club couldn’t expect to keep hold of their prized asset this time after Morales stayed loyal on the last occasion Levante suffered relegation. So he’s moved across the Valencia region to join Unai Emery’s Villarreal in a cut-price deal. Morales can play out on the wing or through the middle and, now 34, he deserves his chance to try his luck at the top end of the league and in the Europa arena.

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06-Jul 2022 Wednesday 2:55 PM (42 days ago)            #35
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La Liga: Barca Finances Threaten to Cause Transfer Hotch-Potch

The new kits for all La Liga clubs in 2022-23 have been revealed and that must mean the season isn’t too far away.

Granted, there is still, presumably, much transfer business to accommodate over the next few months, but the release of the kits gives you an indication that players are returning to pre-season training.

What interests me is the situation Barcelona find themselves in as they juggle seemingly unending financial balls to bounce back into the big time – something they will need to achieve to come close to catching up on Spanish and European champions Real Madrid.

They have made a start by confirming the double captures of Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen on free transfers.

Kessie, 25, should boost the Catalans’ midfield following five years at AC Milan where he finished his time as a Serie A champion.

Premier League
CRYSTAL PALACE
ARSENAL
1X2 Arsenal @ 1.91
Over 2.25 @ 1.77
Total Goals 2-3 @ 1.90
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Likewise, Christensen has signed a deal until 2026 and is due to be unveiled to Barca fans later this week. The Dane decided against renewing his deal with Chelsea.

There’s no doubt that both are good players, especially on free transfers. Yet a bigger test for the club will surely be to assess who they can attract via transfer fees.

To attract their main targets, they may have to offload Frenkie de Jong and it’s reported while the club and Manchester United have already reached an agreement over a fixed fee of €65 million, the issues lie in how to structure potential add-ons.

It is said De Jong’s priority has always been to stay at Barcelona rather than leave the club but it’s understood the idea he’ll take a salary cut – as suggested by president Joan Laporta – to do so is highly unlikely.

Another midfield man, Miralem Pjanic, is due to return from loan but he is also expected to depart the club, with his high salary the only issue for potential suitors.

Indeed, to save some money, it looks like a number of players will say farewell over the next few weeks.

In defence, Samuel Umtiti, Oscar Mingueza and Clement Lenglet are closing in on their respective departures.

The former is heading to Rennes, who are negotiating a formula with Barcelona to avoid covering his entire salary. Meanwhile, Mingueza is in talks with Monza and Lenglet is set to sign for Spurs on a season-long loan deal.

Up front, Robert Lewandowski appears to be Barcelona’s primary target, although German champions Bayern Munich are not willing to let him leave, while Ousmane Dembele is a free agent with the two parties still in talks over a potential contract renewal.

Regardless of what happens, Barcelona still have the talent to create many La Liga 2022 highlights next term.

Yet there is a reason why they are quite a way behind champions Real Madrid in the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds and that is because uncertainty seems to be at their every turn, unlike Real who already secured some eye-catching deals within a few weeks of the last campaign concluding.

Real Madrid expect Aurelien Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger to help them defend the La Liga title next season
Karim Benzema with the Champions League trophy after Real Madrid were crowned winners in May 2022

Aurelien Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger will only enhance the squad Carlo Ancelotti is developing and gets the very best out of with a collective will to win and know-how.

We do know of one departure from the Spanish capital, though, with Luka Jovic on the verge of joining Italian outfit Fiorentina according to reports. Negotiations had initially centred on a loan but Jovic will sign a two-year deal with Viola with the option of two more years.

Across the city, Atletico Madrid are another club which needs to strengthen to be able to push Real closer.

It’s been suggested the 2021 champions could reignite their long-standing interest in Italian international Federico Bernardeschi. He is available as a free agent after being released by Juventus following the expiration of his contract in Turin last month

Despite playing a regular role for the Serie A giants in 2021/22, the club opted against offering the 28-year-old an extension, and he is now looking for a new challenge.

Back to Barca and two other players may well prove the most difficult to attain.

Sevilla have accepted that the Frenchman Jules Kounde will leave the Sanchez-Pizjuan this summer after fighting off rival interest for the past two years. Barca appear to be the frontrunners for his signature but, again, their big issue could be producing the right financial package.

Likewise, English Premier League club Leeds United have also accepted that Brazilian international Raphinha will leave to play at a higher level.

Over the past two seasons, he has become one of the most explosive players in England and, while Arsenal and Chelsea are understood to be pushing hard to sign him, Barcelona are his preferred destination.

What happened to the days when their finances did not cause such a hotch-potch!

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08-Jul 2022 Friday 1:24 PM (40 days ago)            #36
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La Liga: My New Top Three is the Old Top Three

When I was asked to rank my three favourites in next season’s La Liga title race, I didn’t need to study the SBOTOP La Liga 2022 betting odds.

What I did do, however, was go back season-by-season as I simply could not remember the last time that a club other than Real Madrid, Barcelona, or Atletico Madrid finished outside of the top three.

And I went back and back until I eventually found the La Liga table from the 2011-12 season.

It was notable because Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid gained 100 points and lost just two league games in the process en route to finishing nine points clear of the summit.

It was also noticeable because Barcelona secured 91 points that campaign, which would have been enough to win all bar one of the titles since, only being defeated three times domestically and, even more staggeringly, finishing 30 points ahead of the team in third.

The team in third place was Valencia and, what will surprise you, is that the side in fourth was Malaga – two points clear of fifth-seeded Atletico Madrid who, granted, had been 10th at the halfway point of the season when Gregorio Manzano was replaced by Diego Simeone.

Since then, the Argentine has never finished outside of the top three, also guiding them to two league titles and two Champions League Finals.

The point I am making, though, is that it is 10 years since Atletico ensured the “big two” became an “established three”.

Why then should 2022-23 be any different?

For a start we know the champions Real Madrid aren’t going to rest on their laurels this summer and have already started briskly by bringing in Aurelien Tchouameni and centre-back Antonio Rudiger from Chelsea via a free transfer.

Carlo Ancelotti’s aces possess good players but so much more than that with their collective will to win and spirit seeing them clinch a La Liga and Champions League double in glorious fashion.

They will start next season as the team to beat and both Barcelona and Atletico have ground to make up.

In fairness to Atletico, they continue to punch above their weight and it is only because of the success of Simeone that they continue to be mentioned in the conversations.

Their first major signing of the summer was confirmed by the La Liga 2022 news this week with Axel Witsel arriving on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund following four seasons in the Bundesliga.

La Liga club Atletico Madrid's first major signing of the summer is Axel Witsel
Belgium’s Axel Witsel celebrates scoring their first goal against Poland in the Nations League

The 33-year-old midfielder, part of Belgium’s so-called golden generation, has been a fixture in international football, earning 124 caps for his country and will improve their midfield.

Alvaro Morata could also be back to lead the line following a spell on loan at Juventus in Italy, despite suggestions he and Simeone have a strained relationship.

Perhaps they have little choice after the club’s sporting director recently warned the days of big signings are over.

It has been suggested this week that Atletico are on the limit when it comes to their accounts as they are struggling to offload expensive wages.

Many will not understand this after 10 consecutive years of playing in the Champions League, a competition that distributes the most money and in which Atletico usually surpass the €70-M mark in annual income.

Yet it’s reported the club is now in a very tough financial situation and needs to find €40-M that top-level signings cannot come to Atletico because the wage bill is already suffocating the club with high salaries for players like Jan Oblak, Koke, and Antoine Griezmann – who even took a pay cut to return last year.

Of course, no transfer policy appears quite as disjointed right now as Barcelona whose financial issues have been well documented.

Only 48 hours ago I pinpointed the reality as they juggle seemingly unending financial balls to bounce back into the big time.

They have made a start by confirming the double captures of Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen on free transfers.

La Liga
CELTA VIGO
ESPANYOL
1X2 Celta Vigo @ 1.96
Celta Vigo Asian Handicap:-0.50 @ 2.00
Under 2.25 @ 2.09
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

The Dane’s former teammates at Chelsea, Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso, are also said to be interesting Barcelona who could use Frenkie de Jong – strongly linked with Manchester United – in discussions.

Either way, Barca need some bigger names to get their fans believing again.

Yes, the mid-season arrival of Xavi as boss saw them improve and they put together an impressive unbeaten run of 15 games between January and April, including a 4-0 thrashing of Real, but it showed what can be achieved.

So, can they push Real closer next term? Yes.

Do I see them winning the league? Probably not.

My top three will be exactly the same three in exactly the same order as last time.


 

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12-Jul 2022 Tuesday 1:43 PM (36 days ago)            #37
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La Liga: Barcelona Fans Still Waiting…

Last season the Xavi revolution was clear for all to see as Barcelona had an impressive second half of the 2021/22 La Liga campaign to finish as runners up to Real Madrid.

When the former Blaugrana midfielder arrived as head coach of the Camp Nou he had an immediate impact and made some shrewd January signings which transformed the Catalans. Now he wants to strengthen again and the latest La Liga 2022 betting odds say his team is not at all far behind Real Madrid in the betting markets. But Xavi needs some new blood in and, with just five weeks to go before the new season starts, there is a lot of work to be done on and off the field.

Barca fans have been getting a little anxious but, to be fair to the club, Xavi has already made two decent signings. Midfield star Franck Kessie has arrived from 2022 Scudetto winners AC Milan and Spurs free agent Andreas Christensen has arrived to bolster the defence. Kessie said he was happy to join Barcelona to play under Xavi, who he believes can improve his midfield game, and he has signed a four year contract.

La Liga
GIRONA
GETAFE
1X2 Getafe @ 2.68
Getafe Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 1.97
Over 2.00 @ 1.98
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

But there hasn’t been any serious movement on the big saga of the summer as FC Bayern star Robert Lewandowski is still in Munich. The Polish striker announced his intention to leave the Bundesliga champions as soon as he emerged from the showers after the last game of the 2021/22 campaign!

But Barca are still restricted by the Primera Division’s Financial Fair Play rules and that means they may not be able to recruit before they sell. President Joan Laporta has insisted Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong is not for sale and the Dutch player wants to stay with the club; but Barca are no where near Bayern’s asking price for Lewandowski and the wait goes on. 

Another player in Xavi’s sights is Leeds United wide man Raphinha but before anything happens there it remains to be seen whether Ousmane Dembele stays at the Camp Nou. It looked like the France striker had performed a U-Turn after the club tabled a new contract offer for him but reports in the Spanish media says that he and his agent are still weighing up their options. 

And while Christensen is a solid addition, Barcelona have offloaded their centre back Clement Lenglet who has become a Tottenham Hotspur player. It will be interesting to see whether Spurs boss Antonio Conte can get the best out of the France international after securing his services on loan. He was superb at Sevilla but has blown hot and cold with the Blaugrana.

Clement’s departure, and with Gerard Pique not getting any younger, there is another space at centre back to fill and Sevilla’s current defensive star, Jules Kounde, is the player Xavi fancies. The France star wants to come to Barcelona but he too needs to wait.

Bale heads to USA

La Liga: Gareth Bale joins Los Angeles FC on a free transfer on a one-year deal
Gareth Bale joins MLS side Los Angeles FC

During the last couple of seasons this SBOTOP writer has been trying to work out where Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale is off to. Once he had made it clear that he was not happy at the Bernabeu and the Los Blancos fans mirrored his displeasure it looked certain that he was moving to China, before turning up at his old club Spurs. In this close season there were even rumours that he was about to sign for English second tier club Cardiff City but that didn’t come off.

Well the La Liga 2022 news is clearer on Bale’s future for sure. The Wales star has finally landed in the United States of America after signing for California based Los Angeles FC on a one year deal with an option to extend. At 32 years of age the MLS club is getting a player wit plenty left in the tank. His nine year stay at the Santiago Bernabeu hasn’t been the happiest but Bale’s goal conversion rate has been impressive with 81 goals in 176 appearances for Los Blancos. 

Real boss Carlo Ancelotti wants to strengthen but, like Xavi, he needs to raise some funds and with Marco Asensio entering the final year of his contract he might be the man to go. Asensio scored 12 goals last term and has been monitored by some of Europe’s top clubs, including Liverpool, but there hasn’t been a solid offer for the 26 year old Spain star as yet. One striker who has already left the building is Luka Jovic who has signed a two year deal with Serie A club Fiorentina. The Serbian hitman hopes to revive his fortunes with La Viola after a wretched time in Madrid where he scored just three goals in 36 appearances. 

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13-Jul 2022 Wednesday 12:25 PM (35 days ago)            #38
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La Liga: Barcelona and Real Madrid Aren’t the Only Ones Who Have Been Busy

Besides the Barcelona transfer saga and Real Madrid’s revamp, the other La Liga clubs have been fairly busy too in this transfer window.

2020/21 champions Atletico Madrid are coming off a disappointing campaign as they failed to defend their title. However, Diego Simeone and co. are confident about their La Liga 2022 odds next term but they’ll need a couple of tweaks.

Meanwhile, Sevilla have been active sellers in the market and they’ve yet to get their first marquee signing, while fellow Champions League contenders Real Betis are doing their best to retain their core while searching for some team-friendly deals.

Read on below as we bring to you the latest La Liga 2022 updates.

Atletico Madrid to reshape their whole roster

Here at SBOTOP, we previously highlighted the fact that Los Rojiblancos have big gaps to fill to keep pace with the El Clasico giants.

Several departures have already been finalized as Sime Vrsaljko and Luis Suarez are both expected to play elsewhere in 2022/23, while backup goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte will return to Monaco after riding the bench for much of the 2021/22 season.

Vrsaljko joined Atletico from Sassuolo in 2016 and made 100 appearances over the course of five seasons, but he never quite won the trust of Diego Simeone despite Kieran Trippier’s departure.

Suarez, on the other hand, was the club’s second-leading scorer behind Angel Correa last term. The 35-year-old has scored 34 goals in 83 games for Atleti and reports indicate that he is pondering a move away to Europe to possibly join an MLS team in the US.

Atletico Madrid signed Axel Witsel on a free after four years at Borussia Dortmund, while they’ve also announced the returns of Alvaro Morata and Saul Niguez after being away on loan. They’re hopeful that Morata and Niguez would feel like new signings following their underwhelming stints with Juventus and Chelsea respectively.

Diego Simeone is keen to add young blood into his roster so they went out and got 22-year-old Samuel Lino from Portuguese side Gil Vicente, and they have their eyes on the likes of Udinese’s Nahuel Molina and Mallorca’s Pablo Maffeo.

On paper, Atletico Madrid are considered contenders given their strong roster, so it’s all about finding form and consistency in 2022/23.

Sevilla cannot afford to lose more defenders

Los Palanganas boasted the top defence in La Liga last season as they’ve only conceded 30 goals total and they have Jules Kounde, Diego Carlos, and Ludwig Augustinsson to thank a lot for that.

Diego Carlos is expected to leave La Liga side Sevilla for Aston Villa
Sevilla’s Diego Carlos celebrates after scoring a goal during La Liga clash against Granada

However, Sevilla are in danger to lose all three of them in one summer as Carlos and Augustinsson are off to Aston Villa, while Kounde is a highly-coveted and is reportedly close to leaving the club amid interest from Chelsea and Barcelona.

Sevilla are trying to compensate by bringing in Marcao from Galatasaray to replace Diego Carlos, while they’re also keeping tabs on Benoit Badiashile – who is also a young prospect that’s attracting a ton of interest around Europe.

Other than their backline, Julen Lopetegui’s side is also looking to strengthen their midfield, with Giovani Lo Celso as their primary target.

Lo Celso was loaned out by Tottenham last season. And following the arrival of Yves Bissouma at North London, the Argentine may seek a move back to Spain given his limited opportunities.

Sevillla will propose a bid for him but they’ll face resistance against Villarreal, who Lo Celso played for last term via loan.

La Liga
OSASUNA
SEVILLA FC
1X2 Osasuna @ 3.10
Over 2.25 @ 2.09
Total Goals 0-1 @ 2.56
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Real Betis likely to run it back

Last summer, Real Betis were under pressure to offload some of their squad since their revenues were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but their decision to stay put has paid dividends as they managed to win the Copa del Rey title to end their 17-year drought last season.

And after having more spending power because of last season’s success, now’s the time for Los Verdiblancos to further reinforce their lineup.

Real Betis did just that by bringing in Luiz Henrique and Willian Jose on cheap deals from Fluminense and Real Sociedad, while former Lazio centre-back Luiz Felipe was signed via a free transfer.

Moreover, Betis are also linked to Edinson Cavani and Isco, and the club can sign them both without having to pay much since both players are currently free agents.

Other than bringing in new recruits, Real Betis must also prioritise maintaining their core by rewarding them with new deals.

Nabil Fekir, Borja Iglesias, and Alex Moreno have already extended their stay with the club, and the ones who are next in line are Juanmi, William Carvalho, and Marc Bartra.


 

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15-Jul 2022 Friday 2:25 PM (33 days ago)            #39
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Bale Leads List of La Liga’s Most Under-Utilised Stars in 2021-22

Real Madrid successfully reclaimed the La Liga title last season as they were far and away the best team in Spain. And they managed to win without the help of Gareth Bale, who was relegated to Real bench for most of the season despite his massive salary.

Bale leads the list of SBOTOP’s most under-utilised La Liga stars during the 2021-22 season, and read on to learn who else made the cut.

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale was far and away the most under-utilised player in La Liga last season. The Welsh star was the third-highest paid player in Europe behind only Neymar and Lionel Messi, but he made just five La Liga appearances and scored only one goal for Los Blancos in the 2021-22 season. Even fellow Real outcast Isco and the crocked Eden Hazard made well over double-digit appearances.

Bale’s hardly been the most reliable player himself due to his constant injury issues, but he still could have played more than just a handful of games and contributed to Real’s title-winning campaign.

La Liga
CELTA VIGO
REAL MADRID
1X2 Draw @ 3.40
Real Madrid Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.25
Over 2.75 @ 1.90
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Alas, he clearly wasn’t part of Carlo Ancelotti’s plans. Moreover, his strained relationship with Real and their fans – especially after his infamous flag incident – meant it was just a matter of time before his time in Madrid came to an end.

And it finally did this summer as he made his way to MLS with LAFC. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and get much more playing time in LA than he did with Real last season.

Dani Ceballos, Real Madrid

After spending two years out on loan to Arsenal, Dani Ceballos returned to Real Madrid in 2021 hoping to get more playing time.

But that did not turn out to be the case as Ceballos appeared in just 11 games for Los Blancos, the lowest total in his three actual seasons with the club.

With the holy trinity of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro still going strong, Fede Valverde fully established as an Ancelotti favourite, Eduardo Camavinga set to take on a larger role, and big-money signing Aurelien Tchouameni expected to take up the remaining minutes, there just doesn’t seem to be any space for Ceballos in Real’s midfield.

The talented 25-year-old will most likely have to move away from Madrid in order to get more consistent playing time. But Real’s La Liga 2022 odds to win the title will remain high with or without him.

Clement Lenglet, Barcelona

After being a consistent starter at centre-back in each of his first three seasons at Camp Nou, Lenglet’s role was significantly reduced in 2021-22 as he made just 21 appearances, 14 of which were as a substitute.

Clement Lenglet will not be in the next La Liga season as he joined Tottenham Hotspur
Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet waits prior a training session in Munich

Granted, Lenglet was not in the best of form when he did play. But new signing Eric Garcia also had his troubles this past season and was still handed 23 starts – over three times more than Lenglet.

Lenglet has now gone out on loan to Tottenham this summer and could get more playing time in Spurs’ back three system.

Denis Cheryshev, Valencia

Four years ago, Denis Cheryshev was on top of the world. The Russian midfielder was one of the standout stars as he led his country’s unlikely run to the 2018 World Cup quarter-finals. He scored four goals – tied with superstars Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, and Antoine Griezmann – and was picked as part of the tournament’s All-Star Team.

But fast forward to today and the now-31-year-old Cheryshev is coming off a disappointing campaign with Valencia. He made just 17 appearances (five starts) for Los Che, with no goals and an assist.

Cheryshev’s contract with Valencia expired at the end of the season, and he is now free to sign with any club. At 31, it’s unlikely he can recapture the magic of 2018, but he should still have a bit more to offer if given a chance to play more consistently.

Matheus Cunha, Atletico Madrid

There are a few Atletico Madrid players who could be considered under-utilised, many of them attackers. Midfielders Thomas Lemar and Rodrigo de Paul both came to the side with big price tags and bigger expectations, but have not quite lived up to them.

However, Matheus Cunha might have been the most under-utilised of them all. The 22-year-old Brazilian forward had a fine debut season as he scored six goals and had four assists. He also led the team in both shots and shots on target per 90 minutes.

But despite Cunha’s impressive production, he was limited to just eight starts and 21 substitute appearances as Diego Simeone continued to stick with the big names in Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann even though they were in steady decline. With Suarez’s departure this summer, Cunha should get more minutes and more opportunities to produce plenty of La Liga 2022 highlights at the Wanda Metropolitano.


 

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19-Jul 2022 Tuesday 1:40 PM (29 days ago)            #40
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La Liga: Madrid Real-ly are the Team to Beat

It is hardly a massive statement of intent when I tell you that Real Madrid, the champions of Spain and champions of Europe, will once again be the benchmark for all their opponents when the 2022-23 La Liga season kicks off in a month’s time.

After all, they romped to the Spanish title last term and added to it by beating a string of Europe’s best en route to winning a magnificent 14th European Cup.

So, when asked to assess whether Los Blancos will retain their domestic crown, the answer from this SBOTOP observer was an emphatic yes – the La Liga betting odds agree (although arch-rivals Barcelona are not too far behind).

While it’s far from a one-way race, I fully expect last season’s top three to be next season’s top three in exactly the same order.

They started briskly in the transfer market last month by bringing in Aurelien Tchouameni to further bolster a vaunted midfield that already has the likes of Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Fede Valverde, and Eduardo Camavinga. And they’ve also brought in centre-back Antonio Rudiger from Chelsea via a free transfer.

 La Liga: Antonio Rudiger starts preseason with Real Madrid
Antonio Rudiger agreed to join Real Madrid on a four-year deal as a free agent

Incidentally, Rudiger is the 10th German to play for the club and if he is half as successful as the ninth – in nine seasons in the capital Kroos has won 16 titles, including four Champions League titles – his time at the Bernabeu will be a real triumph.

Transfer-wise, I would have thought Real were far from finished there, however, only yesterday, when asked whether there was anything else in the pipeline, boss Carlo Ancelotti indicated their business was likely complete for this summer.

The theory that an excess of players in the dressing room creates unrest and tension could well be right and is something the club is supposedly trying to minimise.

But could that leave them short in certain areas?

Well, Luka Jovic has been sold to Fiorentina, experienced duo Marcelo and Gareth Bale have also moved on and Isco’s future is still undecided, two weeks after his contract expired, although offers have not been lacking and he’s not expected to remain at the club next term.

It has been suggested that talented German Leroy Sane, who has a contract until 2025 at Bayern Munich, has been offered to the club.

Reportedly, during negotiations over Jovic’s departure, an offer was made as the two players share representation, yet it’s unlikely the German champions would be willing to sell such a player when star striker Robert Lewandowski is expected to depart.

Perhaps Ancelotti is not keen because he has a player whom, if injury-free, could end up being like a brand new signing.

La Liga
CELTA VIGO
REAL MADRID
1X2 Celta Vigo @ 3.50
Real Madrid Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.25
Under 2.75 @ 2.00
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

The Italian has revealed he is willing to try out playing Eden Hazard as a false no.9 when Karim Benzema needs some rest and the Belgian has returned to the Spanish capital in the best shape he’s been in since joining the club three years ago.

Former Chelsea man Hazard has been slowed down by injuries, but his most recent surgery, which saw a plate removed in his right leg, has seen the discomfort in his ankle disappear.

If those muscular injuries can also be consigned to history, he could well become a regular figure in the starting line-up and be responsible for La Liga highlights.

Along with Benzema, Hazard could also be a valuable role model for the likes of Champions League match-winner Vinicius and Rodrygo, both of whom are currently ahead of him in the pecking order.

The latter is on the verge of signing a new deal, reward for his form which, since April, has been particularly impressive.

In the decisive stretch of the season, he scored seven times and provided three assists in 13 appearances – three of those goals helped his team to that European triumph: the goal that forced extra time in the quarter-final second leg against Chelsea and the injury-time brace that took Real into extra time in the dramatic semi-finals against Manchester City.

The final word, however, should go to the boss. One of the finest managers the game has ever produced and a wily operator still proving his worth after all these years.

If Ancelotti wants a smaller squad, he will get his wish; if he wants a key name, he will be backed to the hilt.

This title race will be a lot closer to last season and we should remember, Real have not retained a La Liga title since 2008, 14 years ago. However, they remain the team to beat.

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19-Jul 2022 Tuesday 1:41 PM (29 days ago)            #41
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La Liga: Almeria Lead the Charge of the New Boys

Of the three teams newly promoted to the Primera Division of La Liga, Union Deportiva Almeria is the one best placed to put up a good fight in the top-flight. 

Each of the promoted teams needs a decent set of La Liga 2022 resultsearly in the campaign to steer clear of the relegation mire. Last season, Espanyol was the club which shone on its return to the elite league, happily sitting in mid table for much of the campaign, and the pre-season La Liga 2022 betting odds reckon Almeria should do okay this time around.

Founded as recently as 1989, the Andalusian club made a rapid rise through the ranks and first appeared in the top division in 2007, managed at the time by current Villarreal boss Unai Emery. They stayed in the top-flight for four seasons and then bounced between Primera and Segunda for a while before exiting the premier league in 2015.

After a seven-year stay in the second tier, quite often in the bottom half, Almeria began to challenge again at the top. And following a fourth place finish in 2021, head coach Rubi led them to the promise land in his first full season in charge with a first place.

And now, the 15,000-seat capacity Estadio de los Jueqos Mediterraneos will once again see the best players in the Spanish league strut their stuff. 

La Liga
OSASUNA
SEVILLA FC
1X2 Osasuna @ 3.10
Sevilla Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 2.21
Under 2.00 @ 2.11
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Almeria begin their first campaign in the top-flight for seven years with a mouthwatering opening day clash against champions Real Madrid. And while the eyes of the world will be on Los Blancos as they begin their title defence, the Almeria fans will be hoping for an open day upset. 

The battle for supremacy at the top of La Liga will be contested once again by the two Madrid clubs and Barcelona, with a chasing pack of teams like Sevilla and Real Sociedad making it a competitive race.

But the rest of the league is made up of teams hoping to extend their stay in the top-flight and hand out the odd bloody nose to the biggest teams.

Almeria’s 25-year-old hitman Umar Sadiq could be a player to watch. He has the ability to hurt any defence, scoring an impressive 38 goals in 76 games since joining the club on a five year contract in 2020, and the Nigerian international looks like he has the pace and ability to step up a league. 

Here at SBOTOPwe’ll be reporting back on the first round of fixtures due to start on 12th August and the Almeria vs Real Madrid clash is the one we’re most looking forward to.

Last season, Levante dropped to the second tier after a five-year stay in the top-flight and they were joined by Alaves, who dropped out after six seasons in the elite, while Granada returned to the Segunda Division after a three-year run in the Primera.

Girona secure La Liga promotion after beating Tenerife in Second Division Playoffs
Girona defeated Eibar in the playoff semifinal thanks to a 91st-minute winner by their captain and talisman, Cristhian Stuani

And they were replaced by Real Valladolid, who finished second and were mathematically promoted, and Girona who earned promotion after beating Tenerife in a play-off. 

Captain and Uruguay international Cristhian Stuani was on target for Girona as they returned to the top-flight after a three-year absence. The former Espanyol star was devastated when Girona were relegated in only their second season in the Primera Division and it has been a long and hard road back.

Stuani was 31 when he arrived at Girona in 2017 and he described it as “love at first sight”. Now 35, he is ready for another shot in the top-flight and, with 101 goals in 163 appearances, the love affair looks set to continue.

Real Valladolid head coach Pacheta swapped one relegated team for another 12 months ago when he resigned as boss of SD Huesca and took over at Valladolid. And he backed the right horse as his new club was promoted while his former employers finished in 13th place. Valladolid finished tied on 81 points with Almeria, and a point clear of third place Eibar.

Skippered by goalkeeper Jordi Masip, there is plenty of experience in the side with 33-year-old Sergio Leon leading the line in attack and former Sevilla star Roque Mesa patrolling the middle of the park. 

There is a case to be made for all three of the newly-promoted teams. Valladolid and Girona have more recent experience in the top-flight, but I like the look of Almeria who have the firepower to win games at the very best level.

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19-Jul 2022 Tuesday 1:43 PM (29 days ago)            #42
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La Liga: Stand-off in Catalonia Yet to Reach Conclusion

There’s nearly a month until the new La Liga season gets going.

Interestingly, it may take until then – or even longer – to resolve one issue which is threatening to shape one club’s summer.

That is the stand-off between Barcelona, second favourites for next season’s title with the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds, and their Dutch midfielder Frenkie De Jong.

The situation develops by the day.

Today, Barca have revealed their squad list for the pre-season tour of the USA, with no shortage of storylines to running parallel to it.

And, despite reports that De Jong may be left out to encourage him to agree a move, the Netherlands man has been included in the party.

Ultimately, management decided he should travel but, if the club’s financial predicament is as accurate as widely reported, surely he will have to be sold.

It is certainly a strategy Barcelona have employed with other senior members of the squad. The likes of Oscar Mingueza, Samuel Umtiti, Martin Braithwaite, Neto and Riqui Puig have all been left out of the travel plans in the hope that they will find moves away from the club in the meantime.

Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic is also supposedly on the list of players the club would like to leave, but has been included in the tour, showing that perhaps he could have a role with manager Xavi Hernandez this season.

From where I am standing the question is, how can Barcelona afford to keep such players when they are bringing plenty of names in?

La Liga
CELTA VIGO
ESPANYOL
1X2 RCD Espanyol @ 3.40
RCD Espanyol Asian Handicap +0.25 @ 2.26
Over 2.50 @ 2.03
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

The Brazil winger Raphinha completed his €58 million move from Leeds United on Friday, joining Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen, who were out of contract at Milan and Chelsea, respectively.

Now it seems the most prolific frontman of all in recent years is set to deliver La Liga highlights in Catalonia.

According to reports, the club has reached an agreement in principle with Bayern Munich to sign striker Robert Lewandowski.

The Pole will join the Spanish team om a three year-deal in a contract worth 45 million euros, plus five million euros in variables.

On Saturday, the frontman trained with his Bayern teammates for the final time and was seen chatting with coach Julian Nagelsmann and colleagues before receiving a round of applause.

Initially, Bayern wouldn’t budge but agreement has finally been reached to continue a busy summer of recruitment for Xavi.

Having arrived in Munich from Borussia Dortmund in 2014, Lewandowski scored an incredible 238 goals in 253 games. He has won eight league titles and one Champions League trophy at Bayern, as well as setting a Bundesliga scoring record in 2020-21 with 41 goals.

His impending arrival means Xavi now has Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, talented teenager Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres, Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha competing for the front positions.

Indeed, it’s been quite a few days for the club with Raphinha supposedly turning down a move to Chelsea, while the prospect of Barcelona was on the table and certainly the legacy of a the Blaugrana’s 21st century success appears to be turning to their benefit.

Several players appear to have turned down more lucrative contracts as a result of their allure and, even with financial problems, Barcelona are able to pursue most of their targets.

La Liga: Frenkie de Jong is included in the squad of Barcelona's pre-season tour in US
Frenkie de Jong has been named in the Barcelona squad heading to the US for their summer tour

Yet the main story goes back to De Jong because, due to the club’s position and with all these incomings, it surely means he has to leave?

It makes you wonder what arch rivals Real Madrid make of it all.

They did their business early with Aurelien Tchouameni brought in to bolster a vaunted midfield and centre-back Antonio Rudiger arriving from Chelsea via a free transfer.

The champions won’t be making any more signings according to Carlo Ancelotti, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any more business to be done at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Atop the agenda sits Dani Ceballos. The 25 year-old is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Ancelotti is trying to persuade him to stay with the promise that he will have minutes next season on account of the six competitions that Real will play.

However, Ceballos is trying to force his way into the Spain squad ahead of the World Cup, which he may need a starting role for. He has been linked with a return to hometown club Real Betis.

The sticking point there is that Los Verdiblancos are not willing to spend to bring Ceballos in.

Let’s wait and see.

Either way, it’s a lot less complicated than the situation in Barcelona.

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21-Jul 2022 Thursday 6:20 PM (27 days ago)            #43
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La Liga: Barcelona Finally Land Lewandowski

The Robert Lewandowski transfer saga is finally over. The Polish superstar has completed his long-awaited move to La Liga as Barcelona came to terms on a deal with Bayern Munich.

And it appears Barca’s summer transfer business is still far from over, with Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta and Sevilla’s Jules Kounde reportedly in their sights.

Meanwhile, the latest Cristiano Ronaldo rumours have him making a return to Madrid, but not with Real. And another veteran Manchester United striker could be on his way to Spain.

Read on below as SBOTOP rounds up the biggest La Liga 2022 news from the last few days.

Robert Lewandowski completes Barcelona move

After a protracted transfer saga, Barcelona have finally landed Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich in a €50 million deal.

The Catalan club will reportedly pay a fixed fee of €45 million and a potential €5 million more in add-ons.

The Polish international has signed a three-year contract with a fourth-year option. He is also reportedly set to earn a 9 million euros per year, which is similar to his salary with Bayern.

The soon-to-be 34-year-old scored an incredible 344 goals in 375 career appearances in his eight years with Bayern, including 50 goals last season.

Lewandowski will lead a star-studded Barca attack that already features former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres, Raphinha, Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, and Memphis Depay.

Lewandowski is already with Barcelona, who are on their tour of the US in Miami, but he didn’t play in their pre-season match against Inter Miami, which they won 6-0. Barca new boy Raphinha got his first goal for the club, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ansu Fati, and Gavi also got on the scoresheet. Memphis Depay scored a brace to complete the blowout.

Barca set sights on new centre-back

With the deals for Lewandowski and Raphinha all sorted out, Barcelona are now set to turn their attention on strengthening their defence. They have been strongly linked with Chelsea centre-back Cesar Azpilicueta, who only has one year left on his contract.

Barcelona have already signed one Chelsea defender this summer in centre-back Andreas Christensen and have also been linked with left-back Marcos Alonso. The Catalans have apparently had a contract proposal for Azpilicueta since March.

Barca have also been linked with Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, whose arrival could significantly boost their La Liga 2022 odds for the title. Although they face stiff competition from Chelsea, who have long been interested in the 23-year-old Frenchman.

The Blues reportedly had their initial bid of €55 million plus add-ons for Kounde rejected by Sevilla, who are seeking a €65 million fee for their star defender.

Chelsea have already signed Kalidou Koulibaly, but they still need to sign at least one more centre-back after losing Antonio Rudiger, Christensen, and potentially Azpilicueta.

Meanwhile, Memphis Depay – who has fallen lower in the Barca pecking order with Lewandowski’s arrival – could be used by Barcelona as a potential make-weight in a deal for Kounde.

Depay, 28, contributed to 14 goals in 28 LaLiga appearances for Barca last season and could add another attacking option to the Rojiblancos.

Cristiano Ronaldo linked with shock move to Atletico Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo’s uncertain future is once again a massive storyline this summer. The 37-year-old has expressed his desire to leave Manchester United this summer in a bid to play Champions League football, but his options appear limited, with big clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea ruling out a move for the Portuguese superstar.

Cristiano Ronaldo is being linked with a move to La Liga side Atletico Madrid
Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo looks frustrated during Premier League match against Brighton & Hove Albion

But now, a new team has been linked with a shock move for Ronaldo, and it’s Atletico Madrid, who have been on the receiving end of Ronaldo’s brilliance countless times in the past.

However, that rumoured move might not come off, with Atleti reportedly lacking the financial capability to make a deal work with Ronaldo.

 Atletico currently have Alvaro Morata, who played with Ronaldo at Juventus, Joao Felix, who is Ronaldo’s Portuguese international team-mate, Antoine Griezmann, the under-utilised Matheus Cunha, and Angel Correa as options at striker.

Edinson Cavani closing in on Villarreal deal

While Ronaldo’s return to La Liga is looking unlikely, there’s another veteran Manchester United striker who is getting closer to a move to Spain, and it’s Edinson Cavani.

The 35-year-old, who is currently a free agent, is reportedly close to sealing a move to Villarreal, according to Marca.

Premier League
EVERTON
CHELSEA
1X2 Everton @ 4.00
Over 2.50 @ 2.06
Total Goals 0-1 @ 3.05
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Cavani spent the last two seasons with Manchester United, scoring 19 goals in 59 appearances. However, he was limited to just 2 goals in 20 appearances last season, in part due to Ronaldo’s arrival at the club.

Cavani would add to Villarreal’s striker options, which currently include Spanish international Gerard Moreno, Arnaut Danjuma, Paco Alcacer, and Samuel Chukwueze.

Takefusa Kubo makes Real switch

Takefusa Kubo is switching from Real to La Real as the Japanese international completed his move to Real Sociedad.

The 21-year-old did not make a single appearance for Real Madrid’s first team as he was sent on loan to Mallorca, Villarreal, and Getafe over the last three years. He spent last season with Mallorca, where he scored a goal in 28 La Liga appearances.

Kubo will play alongside David Silva, Mikel Merino, and Martin Zubimendi in the La Real midfield.


 

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26-Jul 2022 Tuesday 1:29 PM (22 days ago)            #44
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La Liga: Sleeper Picks For the 2022/23 Golden Boot

La Liga has always been the home of some of the finest goalscorers in the world, so football fans are understandably excited to see them all back in action soon.

Karim Benzema took home the Pichichi award last season with ease as he plundered 27 goals which is at least nine more than the rest of the pack.

Since he remains in top form, the Real Madrid talisman is being backed once again by the La Liga 2022 odds for the said award, but he’ll certainly face some stiff competition given the abundance of talent in the Spanish top-flight.

With so many to choose from, join us today as SBOTOP picks out the potential winners who you wouldn’t necessarily pick as the favourites but have the capability to do so.

Juanmi

Juanmi’s €8-M transfer back in 2019 is suddenly looking like a huge bargain for Real Betis as he finally realised his potential in 2021/22.

After an injury-riddled stretch in his first two years with Los Verdiblancos, he surprised everyone last season when he notched 20 goals across all competitions, with 16 of them in La Liga – good for fifth in the Golden Boot race.

The 29-year-old forward has formed a fruitful partnership with Borja Iglesias, Nabil Fekir, and Sergio Canales and was a key reason why Real Betis won their first Copa del Rey since 2005 and why they’re returning to the Europa League next term with their fifth place finish.

There’s higher expectations for Real Betis next season and they can only go to as far Juanmi takes them, but he should be a contender in the Golden Boot race nonetheless if he stays healthy.

Angel Correa

La Liga: Atletico Madrid’s foreseeable future is in good hands with Angel Correa
Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa celebrates scoring their first goal against Villarreal at Estadio de la Ceramica in January 2022

Angel Correa topping Atletico Madrid’s scoring charts last season is not by coincidence since he has improved tremendously in these past few seasons.

Before recording 12 goals and five assists last term (good for ninth in the La Liga Golden Boot race), the Argentine forward hasn’t always featured in the starting lineup under Diego Simeone.

Atletico Madrid have a bevy of top strikers. But with Luis Suarez, Joao Felix, and Antoine Griezmann held out from time to time, that gave Correa the opportunity to shine up front.

Although they were unsuccessful in their title defence last season, Atletico Madrid’s foreseeable future is in good hands with Angel Correa.

Vinicius Junior

While Karim Benzema gets majority of the plaudits after a world-class campaign last term, let’s not forget his partner up front.

Like Benzema, Vinicius Junior was also a vital cog for Los Blancos as he scored 17 goals and 10 assists in La Liga – which is good for third in the Golden Boot rankings.

The Brazilian winger was also the reason why they’ve won the Champions League final against Liverpool since he scored the only goal of the match during the 59th minute when he chipped the ball past Allisson.

Vinicius Junior is only 21 years old and he still has a long career ahead of him. He just signed a new extension with the club until 2026 with a mammoth €1-B release clause inserted into his contract.

Bundesliga
EINTRACHT FRANKFURT
BAYERN MUNICH
Bayern Munich Asian Handicap -1.25 @ 1.92
1X2 Bayern Munich @ 1.42
Over 3.50 @ 2.05
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Inaki Williams

Inaki Williams may not be as prolific as the other guys in this list, but his durability might just help him make a strong case for the Pichichi next term. Last season, he notched eight goals and five assists for Athletic Bilbao.

The 28-year-old forward was dubbed as the iron man of football since he hasn’t missed a single match for six years and counting. And their new head coach, former Barcelona mentor Ernesto Valverde, has high expectations for him come August.

In their club friendly last night, he scored against VfL Bochum en route to a 4-1 victory which should give him more confidence.

Besides Athletic Bilbao, Williams is expected to star for Ghana in the upcoming World Cup this November after switching nationalities.

Robert Lewandowski

It’s hard to believe that we’re considering Robert Lewandowski a sleeper candidate for the La Liga Golden Boot award for 2022/23.

After all, the Pole was a goalscoring machine with Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, scoring an incredible 344 goals in 375 appearances while bringing home titles along the way.

Lewa will lead a star-studded Barcelona attack that already features Ferran Torres, Ousmane Dembele, Memphis Depay, Ansu Fati, and former BVB teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Yes, he’ll be turning 34 years old this August, but Lewandowski is still very much capable of producing La Liga 2022 highlights and he’ll show what Bayern Munich are going to miss next season.


 

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26-Jul 2022 Tuesday 1:37 PM (22 days ago)            #45
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La Liga: Raphinha Stuns Los Blancos in Pre-season El Clasico

Barcelona picked up a huge pre-La Liga boost with a hard-fought win over arch-rivals Real Madrid on their tour of the USA.

The 1-0 victory in Las Vegas came courtesy of Barcelona new wide man Raphinha who beat Thibaut Courtois with a beauty worthy of settling any game. The former Leeds United star unleashed an unstoppable shot from outside the penalty area into the top corner… and it’s a sign of things to come.

We’re going to see plenty of La Liga 2022 highlights from the Brazilian wizard and Real Madrid have already had a warning about what he can do.

The clash was billed as a friendly but El Clasicos just aren’t like that, whenever and wherever they are played. There were plenty of tasty tackles, particularly from the Blaugrana who won the battle of strength as well as skill. It was a good night all round for the Barca fans who also saw an impressive 45 minutes from another of their summer recruits. The Catalans saw off a challenge from Chelsea for the signature of Robert Lewandowski and the former Bayern striker looked as sharp as ever, though he didn’t get on the scoresheet.

A nil for Lewy is a collector’s item and I don’t think we’ll see too many more of those over the next nine months.

On the back of a 6-0 thrashing of Inter Miami, in which Raphinha scored once and had two assists, this was another great result and head coach Xavi was delighted, saying: “The first half was brilliant.”

La Liga: Robert Lewandowski made a start in Barcelona's club friendly match against Real Madrid
Barcelona Robert Lewandowski during training session

The La Liga 2022 betting odds here at SBOTOP have now pitched the El Clasico giants as joint-favourites at odds of 2.05 to win the 2022/23 title with Atletico Madrid at 6.00 and Sevilla at a price of 22.00. On the evidence of this game the Catalans have a real chance of lifting the trophy again.

The addition of Lewandowski and Raphinha to an attack which already boasts Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang is a mouth-watering prospect but Los Blancos are not so confident in that department. 

With no Karim Benzema, Real Madrid didn’t register a single shot on target. Federico Valverde coming closest when he crashed a rocket of a shot against the upright in the first half.

Rudiger’s sticky start

At the other end of the pitch we haven’t yet seen the best of Carlo Ancelotti’s team either. Real Madrid’s new centre-back signing Antonio Rudiger has had an interesting first few weeks at the club. He had a torrid time of it in a dual with Barca’s Ronald Araujo, who beat him for pace hands down, and he didn’t look his usually composed self against Barcelona’s livewire attack.

The former Chelsea man had already put a mark on one of his team-mates in training…a day before El Clasico!

La Liga
OSASUNA
SEVILLA FC
1X2 Draw @ 3.10
Under 2.00 @ 2.11
First Half Over 1.00 @ 2.40
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

In the middle of a quick passing exercise Rudiger stretched for the ball and totally wiped out another former Blue, Eden Hazard. His team-mates’ reaction was one of shock while Hazard rolled around in pain and Rudiger looked sheepish.

Los Blancos open their 2022/23 campaign with a match against new boys Almeria who know to expect more than just fast-flowing and clever football, the Madrid giants now have a brutal side too.

Meanwhile, in Barcelona’s defence the veteran centre-back Gerard Pique made an appearance after returning from injury but Xavi is looking to strengthen in that area too. After beating Chelsea to the signature of Lewandowksi, and then Raphinha, they are going head to head again with the London club, chasing a deal to sign Sevilla defender Jules Kounde. Chelsea thought they had the signing all but confirmed with a £55m bid apparently accepted but it looks like Barca may be about to sneak in.

Thomas Tuchel must be sick of the Blaugrana after reports emerged on Sunday that the French international has decided to reject Chelsea’s offer in favour of a move to the Camp Nou. This comes on the back of the Blues losing another centre back Andreas Christensen who joined Barca in the summer and the Chelsea boss has been irritated by noise in the media that his defender Cesar Azpilicueta may be open to a move to Barcelona too.

Tuchel is not in the best of moods after watching his side get hammered by Arsenal in a pre-season friendly where his team looked short in defence and attack. But that won’t worry Xavi one bit because it looks like his preparations at Barca are going just fine. Ancelotti, on the other hand, has some thinking to do.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.


 

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28-Jul 2022 Thursday 5:26 PM (20 days ago)            #46
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La Liga: Atletico Madrid May Have to Temper Their Expectations Next Season

As Real Madrid and Barcelona retooled their rosters this transfer window, these two El Clasico giants are likely to dominate La Liga once again, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the pack.

This means that teams like Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are going to have a harder time in contending for the domestic trophy, and the fact that some of their key players have departed this summer doesn’t help their La Liga 2022 odds.

Without further ado, we’re listing all clubs – including Atleti and Sevilla – who might disappoint their supporters if higher expectations are placed upon them next season.

Atletico Madrid

Atleti weren’t able to repeat last campaign because they were inconsistent all season long. Los Rojiblancos are primarily known for their stifling defence, but that wasn’t the case in 2021/22 as they’ve surrendered 43 goals last season – which was 18 more than their most recent title-winning year.

Centre-back Jose Maria Gimenez was too often missing in action last term, missing 13 matches through injury to make it 62 total across the last four seasons. The Uruguayan was once dubbed as the successor to former club icon Diego Godin for good reason, so his absence was surely felt at the back.

Los Rojiblancos are hoping that the 27-year-old will stay healthy this time, although they’d be better off if they bolster their defencive depth rather than hoping for the best.

So far, Atletico Madrid have done little to address such need since they only have the additions of Axel Witsel and Samuel Lino to show for it, and they’ve also lost some depth up front with the departures of Hector Herrera and Luis Suarez – who was their second leading scorer last campaign behind Angel Correa.

Diego Simeone and co. should still be able to secure a Champions League spot, but their ceiling is a third place finish as previously mentioned here at SBOTOP.

La Liga
GETAFE
ATLETICO MADRID
1X2 Atletico Madrid @ 1.97
Over 2.00 @ 1.96
Total Goals 2-3 @ 1.95
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Sevilla

Sevilla are in a similar situation with Atletico Madrid and finishing in the top four is no longer a guarantee, with the likes of Real Betis, Real Sociedad, and Villarreal lurking.

The departures of Diego Carlos and Ludwig Augustinsson to Aston Villa are such a huge loss, and their backline might be at its most vulnerable state should they lose another vital cog in Jules Kounde this summer.

The 23-year-old centre-back is inching closer to a move to Barcelona, who are in a tug-of-war with Chelsea. Sevilla fans would understandably prefer to see him move to Stamford Bridge rather than to their rivals over at Camp Nou.

Sevilla might find it hard to meet the expectations to win against their best rivals in La Liga
Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui coaches from the sidelines during one of their La Liga matches last season

Los Palanganas had Giovani Lo Celso as one of their primary targets to strengthen their midfield, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll get him since Villarreal are pushing hard to retain the Argentine in their ranks.

Julen Lopetegui’s group can compete for a Champions League spot, but there’s a bigger chance that they’ll drop back to the Europa League at the end of next season.

Rayo Vallecano

Rayo Vallecano raised eyebrows when they finished 12th in their first season back in La Liga. In fact, at one point, they were hovering around the 8th to the 10th spots and were in contention for a Europa Conference League berth.

But it’s unlikely that they’ll finish at the same place or higher this upcoming season since their roster hasn’t changed much, although they should be able to maintain their top-flight status.

Sergi Guardiola – who was their top scorer with eight goals – is about to return to Real Valladolid after the end of his loan, which is going to be a huge blow for them. Rayo Vallecano are reportedly looking to replace him with Diego Costa, but the former Chelsea star is approaching the twilight of his career.

And since they have one of the lowest budgets in the league, Rayo Vallecano can’t do much in this summer transfer window that would’ve reinforced their lineup.

Celta Vigo

Los Celestes’ attacking firepower is going to be a big question mark next season. While they still have Iago Aspas, who was their top scorer last term with 18 goals plus six assists, the 35-year-old can’t do it alone especially in a demanding tournament here in La Liga.

Santi Mina was their second-best scorer last season with seven goals and three assists, but his future with the club looks uncertain after being found guilty of sexual abuse earlier this year, although he was eventually cleared for some reason.

Still, him making it to the La Liga 2022 news for the wrong reasons casts a dark cloud over Galicia, which doesn’t help in their bid for a top half spot.


 

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28-Jul 2022 Thursday 5:28 PM (20 days ago)            #47
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La Liga: Big Two in Battle for Spanish Bragging Rights

It would be manifestly unfair to say that La Liga is all about two clubs.

For that would dismiss some of the magnificent achievements of recent years, such as Atletico’s double title triumphs of 2014 and 2021, Sevilla’s ‘super six’ Europa League successes and the way in which a number of smaller clubs have consistently defied the La Liga 2022 betting odds.

Yet for the purposes of this article, this SBOTOP observer is going to focus on the two big guns who almost everyone thinks about when it comes to Spanish football.

Right now, one of them is walking the walk, the other is talking the talk – mainly from one man in fact – although some think that may be about to change.

But despite claims to that effect, and results like the other night, I would be reluctant to read too much info one-sided friendly encounters. In fact, I would recommend against it.

For as we await a new season, the substance lies with the reigning Spanish and European champions Real Madrid.

Los Blancos did their business swiftly and early on, bringing in Antonio Rudiger and Aurelien Tchouameni, while Barcelona’s summer continues to be a drawn-out drama full of sagas.

Yes, Barca emerged victorious when the two met in Las Vegas on Sunday morning through a stunning strike from new boy Raphinha. However, it wasn’t a result or performance that will greatly worry manager Carlo Ancelotti, as it was their first encounter of the pre-season.

Call it arrogance or confidence, Barca certainly seem ready to mount a challenge this time though, taking significant steps to strengthen their squad, after finishing a distant second to Real last season (13 points adrift) and going out of the Champions League at the group stage.

They have signed Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and young Pablo Torre for a combined £91.6 million, brought in Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessié on free transfers, and continue to pursue players.

With the addition of Robert Lewandowski, expect Barcelona to contend for the 2022-23 La Liga title
Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski controls the ball against Juventus during a club friendly match

Attack seems to be their biggest strength with new signings Raphinha and Lewandowski further increasing competition for places and Memphis Depay’s starting spot now under threat.

Indeed, don’t be surprised if Juventus come in with an offer for the Dutch star.

He could be just one departure from the Nou Camp in the coming weeks as part of a squad overhaul in Catalonia.

So, is the financial position as bad as initially thought?

Well, the news that the club has sold another 15% of its La Liga television rights to a US investment firm to release finances will strengthen their hand in the transfer market.

When Barcelona confirmed that deal they said it would generate a total capital gain of €267m (£227m) for this season and that Sixth Street would initially invest €207.5m.

Perhaps that is why the club appears to have everything ready for the arrival of French centre-back Jules Kounde. Barca have been competing with Chelsea for the Sevilla defender who would cost about £55m.

In fact, earlier this week they even gave fans the option to buy the club’s shirt, marked with Kounde on the back.

This was for only a few minutes, but as multiple sources have reported, Sevilla and Barcelona have finally reached an agreement for the player. Again – confidence or arrogance?

Perhaps this TV deal news will also mean they keep hold of Frenkie de Jong, a player courted by Manchester United.

De Jong is due to receive 21 million euros next season and then 28m euros the following campaign. with Barca seemingly reluctant to pay

La Liga
BARCELONA
RAYO VALLECANO
1X2 Barcelona @ 1.24
Over 2.75 @ 1.74
Total Goals 2-3 @ 2.11
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Former Man Utd captain Gary Neville has made his stance clear: ‘De Jong should consider legal action v Barcelona and all players should be behind him! A club spending fortunes on new players whilst not paying the ones they have under contract their full money is immoral and a breach. @FIFPRO should be all over bullying like this and stop it.’

Neville is correct, of course, and I expect the situation to be resolved over the next week.

So, what appears to be a straight fight between two teams is ready to go.

Expect plenty of fiery moments in the El Clasico clashes, expect plenty of La Liga 2022 highlights and expect a title race this time rather than a one-way procession.

Above all though, let us finish with the words of ‘wise owl’ Ancelotti who believes the squad he has at his disposal now is superior to the one that won La Liga and the Champions League last campaign.

In a change to the Los Galacticos era, he and Real appear confident in their strategy of waiting for value rather than rushing to make a statement signing.

Building on what they already have, that is why they start as favourites once again for me.


 

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04-Aug 2022 Thursday 7:43 PM (13 days ago)            #48
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La Liga: Madrid Win and Barca’s Messi Situation

La Liga’s big three have been busy in pre-season, on and off the pitch, with transfer business continuing at pace and warm-up matches going to plan.

Real Madrid and Atletico both had friendly wins over European heavyweights over the weekend, while rumours have emerged that Barcelona may be preparing a move to bring former talisman Lionel Messi back to the Camp Nou.

Following the arrival of Robert Lewandowski in Catalonia, an agreement with Messi, possibly for the 2023/24 campaign, would be the biggest La Liga 2022 news of the summer and it will be fascinating to see if that story has legs. In the meantime the Madrid clubs continue their preparation for the 2022/23 campaign and the signs are good on both sides of the city.

Los Blancos see off the Old Lady

The La Liga 2022 betting odds here at SBOTOP have pitched Real Madrid and Barcelona as joint-favourites for the title and Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti has been pleased with his team’s gradual progress in pre-season. They lost the El Clasico match to a Raphinha goal and then drew with Club America, but on Saturday, Madrid beat Serie A giants Juventus with a clinical display at both ends of the pitch. 

Main man Karim Benzema gave Ancelotti’s side an early lead at the Rose Bowl in California, converting a 19th-minute penalty with his customary ruthlessness, before Marco Asensio doubled the lead midway through the second half.

Los Blancos dominated for long periods and were only threatened when Leonardo Bonucci’s free-kick hit the crossbar, and the boss was happy with his day’s work, saying: We’ve finished this first stage of the season well with a good performance, showing improvement on the previous game. The team is used to playing with the guys who have played in the past. We’ve trained well and we’ve got minutes in the players’ legs, it’s all gone really well.”

The next big test for Real Madrid; it’s the European Super Cup clash with Europa League winner Eintracht Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, third favorites for the 2022/23 La Liga title, Atletico Madrid, put in a superb Diego Simeone-style performance to beat Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United in Oslo. Los Rojiblancos soaked up a lot of pressure and then hit the Red Devils with a sucker punch, seven minutes from time as second-half substitute Joao Felix drilled home a low drive.

One interesting subplot was that Cristiano Ronaldo was absent after being linked with a move to Atletico Madrid in the media. Simeone insists his business for the summer is complete and the array of talent he brought on in the second half against Manchester United, including Felix, Koke, Rodrigo de Paul and Antoine Griezmann shows he already has some real depth in his squad.

Ronaldo is due to play in the Red Devils’ Sunday clash against Rayo Vallecano.

Barca’s squad chaos continues…

La Liga reports are linking Lionel Messi back to Barcelona
Lionel Messi playing for Paris Saint-Germain against Nantes

The financial situation at the Camp Nou is complex, to say the least, with the incoming of Lewy from Bayern, the never-ending saga of Frenkie de Jong’s future, another marquee signing in Raphinha and the constant need to balance the books.

So, wait for it…news from the Barca camp has emerged that Barca head coach Xavi would dearly love to bring his former team-mate Messi back to the club. Word is it that Xavi is seriously considering a move for the Argentine star in 2023 when his contract expires, but that has set pulses racing in the French capital. 

Officials at Paris Saint-Germain have contacted Messi to try to extend his contract at the Parc des Princes. They know that the spat between Kylian Mbappe and Messi’s mate Neymar has increased tension, and that could make their position more difficult.

Back in Barcelona two exits are looking likely from the Camp Nou, the first being striker Martin Braithwaite who looks like he may be on the way to Saudi Arabia. The Danish international preferred to stay near Madrid with a move to Rayo Vallecano or Getafe mooted, but a chance to play in Saudi might turn his head.

22-year-old midfielder Riqui Puig has failed to nail down a place in the Barca team and was not on the pre-season tour. There were suggestions that he might be sold, but the latest thinking at Barca is to loan him out and see how he develops. 

And then there is De Jong.

The Dutch midfielder got his first start for the Blaugrana on their pre-season tour of America, in a 2-0 victory over New York Red Bulls. Manchester United have agreed to pay 75m Euros for De Jong but he is still not keen to go to Old Trafford, preferring to stay and fight for his place in Catalonia.

It may be that he wants repayment of the 17m Euros owed in deferred wages, and Barca need him to go so that they can register new players; but they have so far offered just half of the owed money.

It’s a weird situation for sure!


 

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09-Aug 2022 Tuesday 2:51 PM (8 days ago)            #49
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La Liga: Barca Face Race to Register New Stars

Barcelona have had an absolutely bonkers summer transfer window as they’ve signed several big-name stars despite their ongoing financial difficulties. As we speak, they are closing in on another signing with Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso likely on his way to the Camp Nou.

However, Barca face a race to register all of their new stars before the start of the new La Liga season next weekend. Meanwhile, they are also busy trying to unload a few more players, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being linked with a return to London.

Read on below as SBOTOP shares the latest La Liga 2022 news a week before the start of the new season.

Barca yet to register new stars with La Liga

Barcelona begin their new La Liga campaign on Aug. 13 as they host Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou. However, it remains to be seen whether Xavi will have all of the club’s new summer signings available for the season opener as they remain unregistered with La Liga.

Barca bought Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde for over €150 million this summer. Meanwhile, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie have arrived on free transfers.

La Liga
OSASUNA
SEVILLA FC
1X2 Sevilla @ 2.40
Over 2.00 @ 1.80
Sevilla Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 2.07
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Furthermore, Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto signed new contracts with the club and must be registered again for them to be able to play in La Liga.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has already sold off significant portions of the club’s domestic television rights as well as their in-house production company to fund their summer transfer business.

But La Liga have told them they will need to pull the fourth of these so-called ‘financial levers’ if they want to have everyone available for the season opener.

Barca close to Marcos Alonso deal

Despite Barcelona’s inability to register their newly signed players, they are still keen on adding another member to their squad, with Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso reportedly close to joining.

If he completes his move, Alonso would be the fourth player with Chelsea ties to join Barca this summer. Christensen joined on a free transfer, while Barca pipped the Blues for both Raphinha and Kounde. But Cesar Azpilicueta, who was also strongly linked with a move to the Camp Nou, opted to sign a new contract with Chelsea.

Alonso has spent the last six seasons with Chelsea, providing 25 goals and 15 assists in 154 Premier League appearances for the Blues. He will likely be the primary backup to 33-year-old Jordi Alba at left-back.

Aubameyang set to join Barca exodus?

Will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leave La Liga giants Barcelona to join English side Chelsea?
Barcelona’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang controls the ball during their pre-season friendly against Juventus at the Cotton Bowl

While the list of incoming Barca players is already long and seemingly growing, their outgoings are starting to catch up.

Last week defender Oscar Mingueza was sold to Celta Vigo on a €3 million deal. Backup goalkeeper Neto looks set to join Premier League side Bournemouth, former highly rated prospect Riqui Puig has left for Los Angeles Galaxy on a free transfer, and the Frenkie de Jong saga remains unresolved.

Meanwhile, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s time at Camp Nou could be short-lived. The 33-year-old just joined Barca last January from Arsenal, but he could be coming back to the Premier League as he’s been linked with a move to Chelsea.

Aubameyang, who scored 11 goals in 17 La Liga appearances for Barca last season, previously worked with current Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund.

Aside from Aubameyang, Memphis Depay could also be headed out of the Camp Nou. The Dutchman is reportedly seeking a deal to terminate his contract and become a free agent.

Sevilla looking to strengthen

While Barcelona are busy sorting out their transfer business, Sevilla are also trying to strengthen their La Liga 2022 odds of winning the title ahead of the season opener.

The Rojiblancos just sealed a loan deal for Manchester United left-back Alex Telles. The 29-year-old Brazilian will compete with Argentine Marcos Acuna for the starting spot in defence.

Sevilla are also being touted as a potential landing spot for Lazio playmaker Luis Alberto.

Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri admitted Luis Alberto is keen on a move to Spain, but while the two clubs are negotiating, it remains to be seen whether the 29-year-old will leave Lazio this summer.

Luis Alberto has spent the last six seasons with Lazio after moving from Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna. He has been one of the Biancocelesti’s most important players during that time, providing 36 goals and 47 assists in 174 Serie A appearances.

Gattuso confirms Goncalo Guedes Valencia exit

New Valencia coach Gennaro Gattuso has confirmed that Goncalo Guedes is set to leave the club this summer.

Gattuso claims Valencia have received a huge proposal for the Portuguese forward, who will not be called up for the club’s upcoming game against Girona.

Leeds United have been linked with Guedes, but sporting director Victor Orta has denounced these rumours as ‘clickbait’.

Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle United, and Arsenal have also been touted as potential Guedes landing spots.


 

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10-Aug 2022 Wednesday 1:23 PM (7 days ago)            #50
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La Liga: Barcelona Pushing Open the Exit Door

The summer of transfer madness continues at the Camp Nou with just three days to go before the new La Liga campaign begins.

The action starts when Sevilla visit Osasuna for the curtain-raiser on Friday night, and Barcelona get their season underway 24 hours later at home to Rayo Vallecano. But while the Blaugrana work on the training pitch to get ready for action, the chaos continues in the boardroom and among the club’s accountants.

The latest La Liga 2022 betting odds here at SBOTOPshowed Barca closing in on Real Madrid following the signings of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha and a pre-season El Clasico win.

But the off-field drama won’t be helping Xavi to prepare his team.

Barcelona can still not register their summer signings after the league refused the club permission to use its own funds to inflate asset sales they have used to balance the books. Now, the Catalans are planning to sell 25-per cent of their media production company Barca Studios so that it can register Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, and co. in time for the clash with Rayo Vallecano.

As well as selling non-playing assets, Barcelona have flung the exit door wide open in the hope they can push a few of their big earners through, notably Frenkie de Jong. The club is putting pressure on the Dutchman by threatening to annul his contract, claiming that there was criminality relating to the terms agreed by the previous board.

It’s all turning into a soap opera and experienced centre-back Gerard Pique has added more pressure to de Jong after he took a huge paycut to help the club. But the midfielder, wanted by Manchester United and now watched by Chelsea, is holding out for full repayment of wages deferred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The previous board led by Josep Bartomeu insist they did nothing wrong in the deal and the sorry situation looks likely to rumble on.

Which club will Memphis Depay join if La Liga giants Barcelona offload him?
Barcelona’s Memphis Depay in action during their El Clasico friendly against Real Madrid at Allegiant Stadium

Barca are looking elsewhere to move some high earners on and the club has announced it is prepared to sell one of last season’s top scorers in either Memphis Depay or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who arrived in the January transfer window.

I suspect it is more likely that Depay will be the man to go as former Arsenal player Aubameyang was sensational during Barca’s second half of the season revival and Xavi will be keen to see him link up with Lewandowski and Raphinha.

Depay’s No. 9 shirt has already been handed to Lewandowski, a heavy hint to this Dutchman where he stands in the pecking order.

Barcelona need to move some players on to bring new faces in and one Blaugrana imminently on his way is 20-year-old midfielder Nico Gonzalez, who the club have agreed to loan to Valencia.

Gonzalez is a player who can make some special La Liga 2022 highlightsand Los Che will be delighted to get him on board.

At the start of the campaign, it looked like he was in Xavi’s plans after he burst onto the scene in the 2021/22 campaign. He’s been heavily involved in pre-season and is one of the most talented midfield players to emerge in La Liga in recent years, but Xavi now feels the time is right to give him some loan experience and he is likely to get a full season under his belt at the Mestalla.

La Liga
BARCELONA
RAYO VALLECANO
Barcelona Asian Handicap -2.00 @ 2.01
Over 1.25 @ 1.95
Total Goals 2-3 @ 2.16
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

It’s a deal which works well for Valencia head boss Gennaro Gattuso who has recently admitted the club’s pursuit of Juventus star Arthur Melo is as good as over. It hasn’t worked out for Arthur at Juventus and the Turin giants are keen to offload the Brazilian but Valencia can’t afford his wages and so the deal has collapsed.

Arthur’s big salary means it’s been difficult for the Old Lady to move him on, not a problem excusive to I Bianconeri as we know. But the fat salary has put off potential suitors and the Serie A club has received precious few enquiries.

Gattuso, who has just signed a two-year deal to manage Valencia, knows he is expected to improve on last season’s ninth place finish. But he has to spend wisely, saying: “He has a salary that is absolutely out of our reach. We can not afford it. This is the truth.”

Arthur is blocking a space in the Old Lady’s squad but his recent form has been distinctly underwhelming and Gattuso might well have got a much better deal with the loan of the young Barca player. 

Valencia open their season on Sunday with a home game against Girona. The Mestalla Stadium will be bouncing as ever, full of anticipation, and they may get to see a new star in Gonzalez.


 

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 10-Aug-2022 at 1:23 PM





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13-Aug 2022 Saturday 1:44 PM (4 days ago)            #51
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La Liga: Catalonia Chaos Threatens to Disrupt Barca Opener

Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano

La Liga is back and with it a meeting between the club responsible for the biggest soap opera this summer and the club whose achievements in the first half of last term were as special as anything across Europe.

In the home corner is Barcelona and may I recommend you listen to the podcast which questions and examines exactly what is going on at the club?

Whatever it is, and we can explore that in a moment, Barca certainly seem ready to mount a challenge this time though, taking significant steps to strengthen their squad after finishing a distant second to Real Madrid last season (13 points adrift) and going out of the Champions League at the group stage.

They have signed Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Kounde and young Pablo Torre for more than £140 million, brought in Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessié on free transfers, and continue to pursue players.

In the away corner is Rayo Vallecano who began last season as the newly promoted club which had finished in sixth place in the Spanish Second Division and ended the campaign in a respectable midtable,

In between all that, however, they took Spanish football by storm.

Indeed, at the back end of 2021 the side held a one point lead over then defending champions Atletico Madrid and were two points clear of the mighty Barca, including a famous win over the Catalonians courtesy of a Radamel Falcao strike – one they repeated at the Nou Camp in April through Alvaro Garcia’s early goal.

Now, of course, no-one expected them to stay there and they didn’t but that should not detract from the achievement of Los Franjirrojos last season under coach Andoni Iraola.

Lightning surely can’t strike twice though, can it?

Talking Points

Rayo Vallecano's Radamel Falcao managed to score against Barcelona in La Liga last season
Radamel Falcao in action playing for Rayo Vallecano

Well, let’s stay with Vallecano for a moment because, while it won’t happen in time for this weekend, they could soon have an exciting front line with Falcao partnered by another experienced marksman in Diego Costa.

Yes, that’s right, the veteran former Atletico and Chelsea striker who is available as a free agent following his exit from Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro at the start of the year.

How they would love to welcome back a former favourite for it was Costa won over the Rayo fans, after netting 10 goals in 16 games during a six month loan move, to save them from top-flight relegation in 2012.

Rayo have been locked in talks with the 33 year-old and his representatives, over a one-year deal back in Vallecas, with a €1m annual salary.

We wait and see.

The club has already made a few acquisitions this summer such as a season long-loan move for Alaves defender Florian Lejeune and midfielder Salvi Sanchez, a stalwart from Cadiz.

Of course, most of the attention not just in Spain but across Europe has involved Barcelona and that remains the same on the eve of football’s return.

As it stands, they still cannot register their summer signings. All teams in La Liga need to comply with the league’s financial fair play rules, especially around salary caps, before they are allowed to register players for competition.

La Liga rejected an attempt to use the club’s own funds to inflate the value of two of the asset sales they had resorted to balance the books and strengthen their team.

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The intention now is to turn to a fourth source of extraordinary income with the sale of a further 25% of their content production company, Barça Studios, for an estimated €100m in the hope that it will allow them to include their new arrivals against Vallecano.

What’s more, the club has reportedly told Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong, wanted by both Manchester United and Chelsea, that they want to annul his existing contract and return to the terms he had before – claiming the terms given to him by the club’s previous board contained certain irregularities.

It is a mess borne out of the pandemic and massive salaries. Put simply: the wage bill is out of control.

What happens between now and Saturday now is unclear.

Barcelona have the players to create plenty of La Liga highlights this season but whether they can play them remains to be seen.

It is a situation which could go right up until the first whistle is sounded in the Nou Camp in less than 48 hours time.

History

Vallecano’s memorable victories last season were the only time they had avoided defeat against Barca since 2002 and ended a run of 13 successive Barcelona victories.

Overall, Barca have 24 league wins with eight draws and six Vallecano victories.

Betting Tip

Given the run I’ve just mentioned, no wonder the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds back Barca. Even given the uncertainty surrounding the club at the moment, as well as the spirit of the visitors, I’m plumping for a winning start to the new campaign for Xavi’s team.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (⭐) BETS ARE WORTH:

⭐⭐⭐= €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT)

⭐⭐= €10 (CONFIDENT)

⭐= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.


 

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 13-Aug-2022 at 1:45 PM





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13-Aug 2022 Saturday 1:46 PM (4 days ago)            #52
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La Liga: Atletico Can Win Their First Madrid Derby

Getafe vs Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid launch their 2022/23 La Liga title campaign with a trip to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez on Sunday to face Quique’s Getafe. 

It’s a Madrid derby in which Los Rojiblancos are strong favourites. Los Azulones finished 15th in La Liga last term and are likely to hover between halfway and the drop zone again this season, but that will not stop a capacity 17,000 crowd from giving Atleti a hostile welcome and their own team a boost.

Diego Simeone will have his team primed for a tough opening and they come into the game in good shape.

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TO SEE UPDATED ODDS

Talking Points

Atleti’s near perfect pre-season

While the La Liga 2022 betting odds reckon this season’s title race will be fought out between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the Atleti fans will be determined their team can gatecrash the El Clasico party.

And they have plenty of reason to be optimistic after watching their side reel off four successive victories in pre-season, including a classic Diego Simeone performance in 1-0 win over Manchester United and a 4-0 drubbing of Juventus in their last outing.

Alvaro Morata scored a hat-trick in the victory over I Bianconeri and the 29-year-old has made a good case for a starting place.

Atleti’s performance against the Italian giants was pretty much faultless as they conceded the majority of possession but won the shot count by 10 to four and seven to one on target.

Simeone can be pleased with his pre-campaign work.

One player we expect to produce plenty of La Liga 2022 highlights is Portuguese forward Joao Felix. Since his big money transfer from Benfica, he has struggled to reach his full potential. But last season was his best so far and, if he stays fit, this could be his year.

The suggestion that Cristiano Ronaldo might possibly be on the way to the Wanda Metropolitano has angered a section of Los Rojiblancos’ fans.

And when you look at their star-studded team, including Felix, Morata, Koke, Rodrigo De Paul, Renan Lodi, and Jose Gimenez, you can see why they don’t think the need the 37-year-old former Real star.

Getafe still need to strengthen

Goalkeeper Kiko Casilla returned to La Liga after joining Getafe this season
Goalkeeper Kiko Casilla during his time with Premier League club Leeds United

While Atleti have been firing on all cylinders in pre-season, we can almost say the opposite for Getafe who, following a 2-1 win over Championship club Preston North End, have played out two draws and suffered three defeats without really facing a big name club. They did suffer a morale-sapping defeat to fierce local rivals Leganes, who currently ply their trade in the Segunda Division.

Former Leeds United keeper Kiko Casilla has returned to Spain and signed for Getafe. The 35-year-old spent last season on loan at Elche where he made 16 appearances, and he will add a lot of experience to the squad.

And Los Azulones have made permanent the signing of striker Borja Mayoral to play alongside the dangerous Enes Unal. Quique may be set to raid Real Madrid again, with his eyes on 22-year-old midfield star Antonio Blanco.

History

Pre-season form certainly favours Diego Simeone’s men and there isn’t a lot of comfort for Getafe fans in terms of head-to-head meetings. Los Rojiblancos have won 26 of the 39 meetings since 2001, drawing nine and conceding just four losses to Getafe.

Last season, Atleti did the double, winning 4-3 at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in February after eking out a 2-1 win on Getafe’s home turf earlier in the campaign. The underdogs were kicking themselves after throwing away a 1-0 lead, gifted to them by Atleti keeper Jan Oblak late in the game.

It all seemed to be plain sailing. But when midfield enforcer Carles Alena was sent off on 74 minutes, the balance of the game changed and Luis Suarez made the hosts pay.

The Uruguayan hit man levelled the scores on 78 minutes before snatching an injury-time winner to break the home fans hearts, while Atletico continued their unbeaten start to the 2021/22 campaign.

Betting Tip

The pre-match SBOTOP odds are pointing to an away win and I have faith in Los Rojiblancos to get off to a winning start. But Getafe fans will rightly have high hopes of their own side to earn a result.

At odds of 3-01 to draw and 4.07 to win, it would not be a shock of major proportions for Getafe to spoil Atleti’s opener, and home fans might fancy an option of either the double chance, Getafe Draw at 1.76 or Getafe +0.50 at a price of 1.96.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (⭐) BETS ARE WORTH:

⭐⭐⭐= €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT)

⭐⭐= €10 (CONFIDENT)

⭐= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.


 

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CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 13-Aug-2022 at 1:46 PM





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13-Aug 2022 Saturday 1:50 PM (4 days ago)            #53
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La Liga: Real Ready to Take on Segunda Champions

Almeria vs Real Madrid

Real Madrid kick off the defence of their 2022 La Liga title with a visit to newly- promoted Almeria in a match to set the pulses racing at the Estadio del Mediterraneo.

The Andalusian hosts will come into the game full of hope and expectation after storming to the 2021/22 Segunda Division title and Almeria boss Rubi will have his team primed to take on the best.

And who better than Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, who simply obliterated the opposition in Spain’s top-flight last season to win a record 35th La Liga title, leaving runners up Barcelona 13 points in their wake.

Los Blancos expect the Blaugrana to put up a much better fight under Xavi and a fast start, including a win start in Almeria, is key to their hopes of defending their title.

Talking Points

Benzema aiming for another Golden Boot

2-0 UEFA Super Cup victory over Eintracht Frankfurt was the perfect way for Los Blancos to tee up this season opener. David Alaba and Karim Benzema were both on the score sheet as Ancelotti’s side brushed way the Europa League champions with a professional display.

Benzema was also on target in a pre-season 1-0 win over Juventus and the French scoring sensation looks to be in the perfect mood to carry on where he left off last season. He won the La Liga and Champions League Golden Boots in 2022 and it’s difficult to see who can stop him.

But then again, Robert Lewandowski has just rocked up at Barcelona and that could launch the biggest one on one battle since Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi dominated the Spanish league.

There could be a start too for summer signing Aurelien Tchouameni, who made a cameo appearance in the Super Cup triumph in Helsinki and he might take his La Liga bow alongside fellow newcomer Antonio Rudiger.

Sadiq can fire Almeria to safety

Umar Sadiq has scored 38 goals in La Liga in the last two seasons
Nigeria striker Umar Sadiq is on his way out of newly-promoted Spanish La Liga side Almeria

The La Liga 2022 betting odds give Almeria a decent chance of survival with a handful of clubs, including fellow newcomers Girona and Real Valladolid, while the likes of Cadiz, Elche, and Mallorca more likely to take the drop. Rubi’s side put in an impressive run to win the Segunda title, winning five and drawing four of the last nine games to pull away from the chasing pack.

They will turn up to their home ground in a confident mood with a 1-0 win over Cartegina in their last pre-season outing.

25-year-old striker Umar Sadiq will be Almeria’s biggest goal threat. He was outstanding in their promotion campaign and has scored 38 goals in 76 appearances for the club.

If he can get anywhere near maintaining a one in two record, then Almeria will be just fine. It’s a big ask, but Espanyol’s Raul de Tomas proved it can be done, scoring 17 in 34 last season in his first campaign in the top-flight.

The 15,000 capacity crowd at Almeria will love to see their team face up to the best clubs in Spain, but they will not turn up to admire the likes of Benzema, Luka Modric, and David Alaba.

Sadiq is their man and they’ll back him all the way as the leader of the fierce underdogs.

History

These two teams have met 12 times and Los Blancos have won nine of those meetings, drawing two and losing just the once back in 2008. In fact, Real Madrid have won each of the last five encounters with a goal difference of 24 to two.

The SBOTOP stats team have come up with an encouraging note for the hosts, though, in that Almeria are unbeaten in five on home soil.

But then Los Blancos haven’t played there since 2014 and that ended in a 4-1 victory for Madrid as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace as Carlo Ancelotti, in his previous stint as head coach, led his team to a 20th consecutive victory in all competitions.

Betting Tip

An Almeria win, or even a draw, would dominate the La Liga 2022 news headlines but the price of 6.76 for the hosts to win will surely be too good for their fan to resist.

It’s been seven years since Almeria were last in the Primera Liga and, founded in 1989, their experience in the top-flight is relatively limited. But they have only lost one of their last six top-flight opening day appearances, winning two and drawing three.

This is the type of games which dreams are made of and the draw at 4.45 would also send the underdogs into raptures, while 1.39 is about as good as you can get on a Los Blancos victory.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (⭐) BETS ARE WORTH:

⭐⭐⭐= €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT)

⭐⭐= €10 (CONFIDENT)

⭐= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

●●●

CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 13-Aug-2022 at 1:50 PM





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La Liga: The Challenge to Madrid Makes a Stuttering Start

2022 La Liga champions Real Madrid begin their title defence on Sunday night, away to new boys Almeria, but the new campaign has already started well for Los Blancos.

The pre-season La Liga 2022 betting odds pitched Xavi’s Barcelona as serious challengers to Real’s supremacy but, having spent heavily to strengthen their squad, the Blaugrana stumbled at the first hurdle at a packed Camp Nou against a stubborn Rayo Vallecano.

Champions League qualifiers Sevilla had already lost their opener on Friday night, so the Madrid giants (Atletico visit Getafe on Monday) can steal a march.

Lewi gets a tough welcome to La Liga

Some of Barca’s new signings made their first competitive appearance at the Camp Nou after the club had hurriedly registered all but one of the new boys so they could face Rayo Vallecano. But while winger Raphinha had a lively game, Robert Lewandowski discovered that La Liga is a different prospect to the Bundesliga and he barely had a touch as Barca were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw. 

The Catalans dominated possession and racked up 18 goal attempts to two, but Rayo’s five-man defence did a superb job, and the best two chances fell to the visitors as Marc-Andre Ter Stegen made a fine stop to deny Alvaro Garcia while Sergio Camello shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

Centre-back Jules Kounde was the one who missed out as Barca registered his fellow new recruits and he is sure to feature as soon as the paperwork is done.

It won’t be the biggest shock of the season but this will certainly be one of the La Liga 2022 results of this weekend.

Sevilla missing Kounde already

While Kounde sat in the stands to watch his new team, his old mates at Sevilla went down to a shock 2-1 defeat away to Osasuna. Los Sevillistas will fancy their chances of another top-four place or even better, but they were stunned as early as the ninth minute when Argentine striker Ezequiel Avila gave the hosts a lead.

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NOTTINGHAM FOREST FC
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1X2 Nottingham Forest @ 3.90
Over 3.00 @ 2.61
Total Goals 0-1 @ 3.50
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The visitors hit back straight away through Rafa Mir, after good work from Papu Gomez. But Osasuna, who finished the 2021/22 campaign in tenth and 27 points behind Sevilla, won the game when Aimar Oroz scored a 74th-minute penalty.

As well as losing Kounde to Barcelona, Sevilla also said goodbye to his defensive partner Diego Carlos who transferred to Aston Villa and, on Friday, they were also without new midfielder Isco after his arrival from Real Madrid.

Yellow Submarine off to a winning start

Meanwhile, another Champions League hopeful made a superb start as Villarreal thumped newly promoted Real Valladolid 3-0. An away win with this margin is always impressive but the Yellow Submarine worked hard for it after a goalless first half.

Just four minutes after the break Senegalese striker Nicolas Jackson got a debut goal, and when head coach Unai Emery threw on Alex Baena and Samuel Chukwueze, just after the hour mark, it had the desired effect. Chukwueze teed up Baena to double the lead, and then Baena scored his second and Villarreal’s third with a stunning strike from distance into the top corner. 

Next up for the Yellow Submarine…it’s Atletico Madrid. 

Aspas opens his 2022/23 account

While Lewandowski had a frustrating debut for Barcelona one of La Liga’s old hands showed him how to do it as Iago Aspas scored the opener for Celta Vigo in their 2-2 draw with Espanyol.

Iago Aspas has scored the opener for Celta Vigo in their 2-2 draw with La Liga rivals Espanyol
Espanyol’s Iago Aspas in action during a La Liga match against Athletic Bilbao back in 2020

Only Karim Benzema scored more than Aspas’ 18 goals last season and the 34-year-old striker opened his 2022/23 account on the stroke of half time, picking up a headed pass from Augusto Solari, before firing in from a difficult angle.

It was a typical poacher’s goal and Celta Vigo thought they had the three points in the bag when Goncalo Paciencia met a cross from Javi Galan and powered his header into the top corner. But Espanyol fought back hard and were in the game again when Edu Exposito fired a left-foot shot from distance low into the bottom corner to halve the deficit… and the hosts got the jitters. 

Espanyol’s comeback was complete when Oscar Mingueza tripped former Celta academy player Joselu in the penalty area deep into stoppage time. The hosts protested but Joselu kept his cool and smashed the spot kick home, down the centre of the goal, with 98 minutes on the clock. 

So now it’s over to Los Blancos. The SBOTOP odds say they will win their opener and top the table after Round One. 


 

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 16-Aug-2022 at 7:19 PM





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La Liga: Real Madrid Remind Us Why They’re the Reigning Champs

Almeria certainly made a huge impression during their first match back in La Liga as they had Real Madrid’s backs against the wall.

After seven years away from the first division, it took them less than seven minutes to score as Largie Ramazani finished from a brilliant pass by Inigo Eguaras, and the fans over at the Power Horse Stadium were ecstatic.

But such feeling was fleeting as the defending champions took charge to secure the victory. Still, Almeria left the arena with a sense of validation that they belong with the big boys.

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid and Real Betis have kicked off their campaigns with huge wins too, while Real Madrid’s El Clasico rivals Barcelona are back to the drawing board following their goalless draw against Rayo Vallecano.

Read on below as SBOTOP reviews the latest La Liga 2022 updates.

La Liga
CELTA VIGO
REAL MADRID
1X2 Real Madrid @ 1.82
Over 2.50 @ 1.88
Total Goals 4-6 @ 2.93
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Real Madrid’s youngsters still have a long way to go

Carlo Ancelotti critiqued Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga as the young pair didn’t play up to par against newly-promoted Almeria.

The Italian tactician tweaked his starting XI by fielding them alongside Toni Kroos, opting to rest Casemiro and Luka Modric after they helped the team win the UEFA Super Cup not too long ago.

Neither Tchouameni nor Camavinga made an impact and both were eventually subbed off since the latter was left on the bench at half-time after picking up a yellow card while the former only lasted 59 minutes.

Perhaps this is just growing pains for the young midfielders and Ancelotti pointed out that the pressure of playing for such a big club like Real Madrid has probably affected them.

Almeria would’ve been more than happy for the game to end 1-0 in their favour, but Real Madrid found a way to unlock their compact backline to get all three points.

Lucas Vazquez slotted the ball home after the hour mark, and then David Alaba put the finishing touches when he scored via a spot-kick after just 13 minutes off the bench.

Alvaro Morata boosts stock with impressive outing against Getafe

Atletico notched their first win in the 2022-23 season by beating Getafe with ease as Alvaro Morata found the back of the net twice, while Antoine Griezmann added one for good measure. However, we shouldn’t forget Joao Felix since he was the one who assisted in all of those goals.

It wasn’t too long ago when Morata was a frustrated figure since he wasn’t high in Diego Simeone’s pecking order. The Spaniard was loaned out and spent the last two seasons with Juventus, but that’s all history now.

Alvaro Morata helped Atletico Madrid snatch a convincing away win in their first La Liga game against Getafe
Atletico Madrid’s Alvaro Morata in action with Getafe’s Mauro Arambarri during their La Liga opener

Morata has something to prove at Atleti and he’ll look to sustain his fine form, but he has been linked with a return to Juventus or possibly another Premier League stint, this time with Manchester United.

Manchester United are desperate to bolster their striker depth before the summer transfer window closes. With Cristiano Ronaldo facing an uncertain future and Anthony Martial not fit, adding Morata for around £30-M is certainly not the worst idea despite not being a top target by Erik ten Hag.

Juanmi picks up where he left off for Real Betis

Real Betis also got off to a winning start as they cruised past 10-man Elche, 3-0, at the Benito Villamarin Stadium last night.

Los Verdiblancos took full advantage when John Nwankwo was red carded after 16 minutes as Borja Iglesias slotted home the first goal to put his team ahead for good before the half-hour.

Juanmi, who was Real Betis’ top scorer last season and is a sleeper candidate for this year’s Golden Boot, took centre-stage as he converted two more goals to seal all three points.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side will look to keep their momentum going against Mallorca and Osasuna before visiting Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on September 3.

Xavi wants more new Barcelona signings

Following their disappointing draw against Rayo Vallecano, Xavi said that Barcelona need to further strengthen their squad in order to boost their La Liga 2022 odds.

The Blaugrana handed debuts to four of their five summer signings as Raphinha, Andreas Christensen, and Robert Lewandowski all got to start, while Franck Kessie came off the bench in the second half.

Jules Kounde, meanwhile, was unable to play since he’s still unregistered until Barcelona create more salary space.

Barca are reportedly eyeing further signings before the transfer window closes, with Marcos Alonso, Bernardo Silva, and another right-back on top of their list – namely Juan Foyth, Thomas Meunier, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Diogo Dalot, and Jeremie Frimpong.


 

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 16-Aug-2022 at 7:20 PM





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