The final international break of the season is behind us, and club football returns this Saturday with the biggest fixture in the sport, as Real Madrid face league-leaders Barcelona. I was happy to call November's El Clasico pretty much spot on landing winners at EVS, 11/10 and 8/5, as the Madrid side faltered against their archrivals.
FC Barcelona (4/7) v Real Madrid (5/1) – Saturday 7.30pm
With just eight games remaining in the 2015/16 La Liga season, Barcelona look set to win back-to-back league titles and also have a great chance of retaining the Champions League trophy. Their home form is excellent, winning 23 of their 25 fixtures in all competitions at the Camp Nou. Barca have lost just one of their last seven league games at home to Real Madrid, with that 2-1 defeat coming in April 2012.
As a player for Barcelona, Luis Enrique lost just twice in 16 games against Saturday’s opponents, scoring five times. Now the manager, that impressive record looks set to continue this weekend and a victory for the home side will see Real slip 13 points adrift of the defending champions.
Barcelona have not tasted defeat in 39 matches but one advantage for Real Madrid is that two of their key players, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, are fully fit as the pair were not on international duty last week. By contrast, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez all took part in World Cup qualifiers in South America, so jet lag could be an issue there. Interestingly, in the three occasions Los Blancos have started Benzema, Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo up top against Barcelona, they have lost every time.
On the road in 2016, Real have drawn with Malaga, Betis and Valencia, whilst shipping goals at Las Palmas, Levante and Granada. The worry for the visitors will be their poor away performances, where they have won just half of the 14 games in the league this term. It is a big ask for them to travel to Catalonia and put an end to Barcelona’s fantastic run, especially considering Madrid have triumphed in just three of the last 15 meetings between the two sides.
*BEST BET* Barcelona win & both teams to score – 29/20 (2.45) with William Hill
The likes of Ronaldo and Benzema should earn Real a goal, but Zidane’s men do not defend as a team and ultimately Luis Enrique’s team will prove too strong. Earlier this week Andres Iniesta stated the death of Johan Cruyff has given the Barca players extra motivation for the Clasico. With the words ‘Gràcies Johan’ on their jerseys, expect Barcelona to honour the legendary godfather of the Catalan club with an impressive victory to all but seal the league title.
Interestingly, the last three matches between these sides at the Camp Nou have been won by a single goal, so the 3/1 available on the home side to win by a one-goal margin is appealing. However the 2-1 correct score looks worth backing instead at much longer odds. At home this season, Barca beat both Atletico Madrid and Sevilla by this scoreline and it was also 2-1 in this fixture 12 months ago.
Barcelona to win 2-1 – 17/2 (9.5) with SkyBet
Alejandro José Hernández Hernández is the man with the whistle this weekend. On average the referee hands out 5.67 cards per game, but Saturday’s tally is likely to be higher than that figure. Over 2.5 goals and over 6 cards is priced at 11/10, and has landed in this fixture for the last two seasons. There is bound to be goals and seeing as there is little value in most of the card markets, this card and goals combination looks a decent odds-against selection.
The Clasico is always a feiry affair. From the last 36 meetings, a whopping 19 red cards have been handed out. Another potential wager is for Real Madrid to have a man sent off, which is 14/5 with 888sport. Each of the last four reds in matches between these two teams were awarded to Madrid players. Pepe is a hefty 18/1 to be dismissed.
Over 2.5 Goals and Over 6 Cards – 11/10 (2.1) with William Hill
Finally, of the numerous special markets for Saturday’s clash, Skybet’s offer of 8/1 for Ronaldo to score a header could be worth a punt. The 31-year-old scored a headed goal in Portugal’s 2-1 win over Belgium on Tuesday night and has a fantastic ability in the air. The stats support this bet too, with Los Blancos scoring six goals from crosses in their last three outings, so a repeat of that approach could give Ronaldo chances in what may well prove to be his last ever Clasico.
Anytime Goalscorer selections
Favourite: NEYMAR – 6/5 (2.2) at Coral
Underdog: Gareth BALE – 10/3 (4.33) at Coral
Longshot: Andres INIESTA – 11/2 (6.5) at Paddy Power
Prices correct at time of writing
Nick Munday - @NM_sport
You must be logged in to post a comment.