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Barcelona Sack Valverde, Appoint Setien, Lose Suarez to Injury; Still -185 Favorites to Win La Liga

Quinn Allen

by Quinn Allen in Soccer News

Updated Mar 30, 2021 · 9:16 AM PDT

Lionel Messi celebrating after scoring a goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Alaves at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
  • Barcelona have sacked Ernesto Valverde, despite sitting at the top of the La Liga table tied with Real Madrid
  • Former Real Betis boss Quique Setien will take over at Camp Nou
  • Can Barca still top Real Madrid for a Spanish title this season?

Just days after losing to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana Semifinal, Barcelona has decided to fire Ernesto Valverde, who has guided them to a spot in the Champions League round of 16 and first place in Spain’s top flight with 40 points. Valverde had been in charge of Barca for almost three years, having taken over in May of 2017. He previously spent four seasons as the bench boss for Atletic Bilbao.

Under Valverde, Barcelona won two straight La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey, and a Supercopa de Espana title. However, the Catalans struggled under Valverde on the European stage, suffering humiliating defeats to Roma and Liverpool in back to back years where they blew convincing leads heading into the second legs.

2019-20 La Liga Odds

Team Odds
Barcelona -185
Real Madrid +165
Atletico Madrid +2000
Sevilla +5000
Real Sociedad +25000
Valencia +25000
Athletic Bilbao +50000
Granada +50000
Villareal +75000
Getafe +75000

Odds taken Jan 13. 

Even after the dismissal of Valverde from Camp Nou and a serious knee injury to marksman Luis Suarez, the latest La Liga odds still favor Barca to win the title this year.

Barca Need Griezmann to Step Up

Suarez is set to miss four months, which is a huge blow to the Catalan side. The Uruguayan has bagged 11 goals this year, which is third in La Liga and just two behind teammate Lionel Messi, who’s netted a league-best 13 times. Antoine Griezmann, who joined Barca from Atletico last summer, has scored just seven goals this season. But with Suarez now out for a lengthy amount of time, the Frenchman will need to step up heavily. Between Messi, Griezmann, and Suarez, they have accounted for 31 of Barcelona’s 49 goals this season.

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Frankly, this is the exact reason Griezmann was brought in. Injuries are going to happen, but they needed more than just Suarez and Messi to be scoring goals. Greizmann will now have the opportunity to find his best form from his Atletico days. There’s no doubt the absence of Suarez will hurt Barca’s clinical abilities in the final third, but if the Frenchman can start being more ruthless in front of goal alongside Messi, it’s going to immensely help their title hopes.

Quique Setien Takes Over

Although Valverde did quite well during his time with Barca, there were constant complaints about the style of football they were playing under the Spaniard. Quique Setien, who managed Real Betis from 2017-19, brings a fresh face to Camp Nou and a style of play that President Josep Bartomeu reportedly likes. The 61-year old has signed a deal with Barca that runs until June of 2022.

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Setien has had a quiet managerial career to date, spending two seasons with Betis then previously coaching Las Palmas, Logrones, and Lugo. This is the first time since 2002-2003 that Barcelona has sacked a coach mid-season. Former Barca legend Xavi Hernandez was also a possible candidate for the job, but he didn’t feel the timing was right for him as he’s currently the gaffer for Qatar side Al Sadd. Other coaches who had been considered were Ronald Koeman, Mauricio Pochettino and Garcia Pimienta.

Real Madrid is Best Bet for Title

Although I believe that it’s going to be an entertaining fight for the La Liga title this season, Real Madrid is showing they have what it takes to beat Barca in the title race. They just beat Atletico in the Supercopa Final without leading scorer Karim Benzema and have been in solid form lately.

Although Barca has scored 13 more goals than Zinedine Zidane’s side in league fixtures, the absence of Suarez is definitely going to hurt. The chances of Griezmann stepping up and scoring at the rate that the Uruguayan does is unlikely, even with Messi creating magic on a weekly basis.

The one difference between these two sides is the consistency in their backlines. Madrid has conceded only 12 goals in 19 matches this season, while Barca has let in 23. Real’s defense has been a lot more dependable, with the likes of  Marcelo and Sergio Ramos anchoring the backline. With that in mind, Los Blancos should be able to win their first La Liga title since the 2016-17 season.

Pick: Real Madrid +165

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