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29-Apr 2022 Friday 2:16 PM (66 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 (66 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 (62 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 (62 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 (60 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.

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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 (58 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 (58 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 (55 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 (53 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 (52 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 (51 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 (44 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 (44 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 (41 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 (40 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 (40 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 (39 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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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 (34 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 (34 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 (33 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 (30 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 (23 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 (19 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 (18 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 (11 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 (10 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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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 23-Jun-2022 at 7:17 PM

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24-Jun 2022 Friday 1:21 PM (10 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 (5 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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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 29-Jun-2022 at 12:54 PM





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29-Jun 2022 Wednesday 12:55 PM (5 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
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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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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 29-Jun-2022 at 12:55 PM





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29-Jun 2022 Wednesday 1:09 PM (5 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.

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Under 2.25 @ 2.09
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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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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 29-Jun-2022 at 1:09 PM





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30-Jun 2022 Thursday 1:28 PM (4 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
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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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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 30-Jun-2022 at 1:28 PM





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