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La Liga betting: Leganes to pull off miraculous escape by beating the new champions

July 17, 2020

THE title race is dead, long live the quest for European football and the battle for relegation. Worlds collide this week as newly crowned champions Real Madrid take their celebration party to presumably doomed but remarkably resurgent Leganes. A staggering run of form has put the basement dwellers on the brink of survival – with one final, almost insurmountable obstacle, can they pull off the great escape? Not for me to say, but YES, YES THEY CAN! 

Alaves vs Barcelona | Sunday July 19, 16:00 GMT


Barcelona are a "weak team who can be beaten with enough intensity and enthusiasm". Not my words, but the honest assessment of Lionel Messi who highlighted "the need to be self-critical […] across the entire club" in the wake of Barca's 2-1 home defeat to Osasuna, and their losing grip on the La Liga title this week. Don't be surprised to see Quique Setien name a look-to-the-future XI for this match – he may be only 22 matches into his Nou Camp reign, but he's already under serious pressure.

Six straight defeats had threatened Alaves' top flight status, particularly in light of Leganes' remarkable upturn in form, but a handy draw with Getafe followed by a good win at Betis has them safe with one game to spare. After a tough season, don't expect Alaves to be particularly inspired by the challenge of shutting down a clearly irate Leo Messi. Barcelona have won 11 of their last 12 matches with Alaves. Finishing this whimpering La Liga season with a routine win when the pressure is off seems like a fitting end.

Match Odds: Alaves (17/4) Draw (10/3) Barcelona (4/7)
Tip: Lionel Messi to score any time (5/6)
Correct score: Alaves 0-2 Barcelona (7/1)

Atletico Madrid vs Real Sociedad | Sunday July 19, 20:00 GMT


Atletico had started to turn the corner of their poor season a few weeks before La Liga was suspended, and they've carried that on since the restart. In fact, they've been magnificent. Diego Simeone's side have gone 17 matches unbeaten – 15 in La Liga, and then of course the victories home and away against Liverpool in the Champions League. There was a time when Atletico fretted for their top four spot, but that's simply not been an issue post-lockdown. They can still lose third spot to Sevilla, so one final push is required this Sunday.

The same is true of Real Sociedad who themselves flirted with the top four this season. After unravelling at just the wrong time, La Real have rallied well, beating fifth-placed Villarreal away and drawing with fourth-placed Sevilla at home. Getafe, Valencia, and Granada can still overtake Sociedad in sixth which would see them miss out on Europa League football which would be tough after a genuinely impressive season, but that seems likely at this point. Their last six trips to the Metropolitano/ Vincente Calderon have all ended in defeat with one goal scored, and 14 conceded. It'll be more of the same on Sunday.

Match Odds: Atletico Madrid (Evens) Draw (11/5) Real Sociedad (3/1)
Tip: Atletico Madrid to win (Evens)
Correct score: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Real Sociedad (15/2)


Villarreal vs Eibar | Sunday July 19, 20:00 GMT


Villarreal have had a brilliant season, but three defeats in their last four have left them in need of at least a point to secure European football. That said, those defeats have come against – three of the top six – 1-4 vs Barcelona, 1-2 vs Real Sociedad, 2-1 vs Real Madrid – so they are unlikely to suffer an immediate loss of confidence. Only the top two have outscored Villarreal this season, there are fewer teams who offer a better guarantee of goals.

Eibar are on a decent run themselves with two wins and a draw from their last three as Los Armeros have made the most of a run of bottom half opponents. They also beat Villarreal 2-1 at home in October, but their opponents have come a long way since then. Will Eibar be motivated and ready to chase La Liga's best passing side around in the sun for a final, futile outing before a hard-earned break? No chance! Nobody would. Villarreal's superior quality and need for a victory should make the difference in this match-up.

Match Odds: Villarreal (4/9) Draw (7/2) Eibar (11/2)
Tip: Both teams to score (4/5)
Correct score: Villarreal 3-1 Eibar (10/1)


Sevilla vs Valencia | Sunday July 19, 20:00 GMT


If Julen Lopetegui wants to turn up to the Sanchez Pizjuan in beach attire on Sunday, and sit there drinking pina coladas and smoking cigars all game rather than paying any attention to his team's final fixture of the season, fair enough. The former Spain and Real Madrid boss has rebuilt his reputation in style this season – whatever happens on Sunday, Sevilla will return to the Champions League next season.

Valencia's late season rally for a Europa League spot is more of a post-sacking bounce given the constricting effect Alberto Celades had on this squad. Two wins in their last three puts them in contention again, but there's a difference between overcoming Valladolid and Espanyol at home, and getting a result at Sevilla. 

Match Odds: Sevilla (10/11) Draw (11/4) Valencia (14/5)
Tip: HT Sevilla FT Sevilla (37/20)
Correct score: Sevilla 2-0 Valencia (15/2)


Leganes vs Real Madrid | Sunday July 19, 20:00 GMT


Across all European leagues, no side deserves to avoid relegation more than Leganes this season. After La Liga allowed Barcelona to poach top scorer Martin Braithwaite outside of the transfer window and refused Los Pepineros the chance to replace him, Leganes were left with a monumental task to surive, a task that hopeless as recently as June 5. Since then, Javier Aguirre's side have been incredible! Four matches, three wins, one draw, four clean sheets. That is not form anyone would usually associate with a relegation outfit.

And now, the final obstacle: one final chance for three points against the newly crowned champions of La Liga, Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane's side have been fantastic since the restart, perfect in fact – 10 matches have returned 10 wins to snuff out Barcelona's challenge with relative ease. However, if Liverpool's post-title performances have anything to tell us about the lockdown era champions, it's that levels can drop, motivation can dwindle, and there is value to be found in backing the underdog.

Leganes have claimed 28% of their total league points (10/35) in their last four matches, and their last outing – a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames courtesy of two late goals – was one of their best results of the campaign. Los Pepineros have also avoided defeat the last two times Real visited the Estadio Municipal de Butarque, drawing 1-1 in La Liga and winning 1-0 in the Copa del Rey last season. If Real take the Liverpool approach to title celebrations, and post-achievement football, Leganes have a great chance for an upset.

Match Odds: Leganes (9/5) Draw (5/2) Real Madrid (7/5)
Tip: HT Draw FT Leganes (11/2)
Correct score: Leganes 1-0 Real Madrid (9/1)