President Confident as Clasico Calls
Real Madrid v Barcelona| 23rd April 19:45
Ahead of Real Madrid’s most important week of the season so far, it was reported in Spain that Florentino Pérez was set to hand current coach Zinedine Zidane a contract extension, whatever happened in key games against Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Whether that is true or not we’ll have to wait to find out, but having overcome the Bavarian giants in the Champions League in midweek, the focus switches to matters closer to home, where defeat in El Clasico might just force the Los Blancos’ president to backtrack on his words.
Most of us would still bet on Zidane staying beyond this summer as Real Madrid coach, but if his side were to allow Barcelona back into the title race, then his position might not be as secure as we think.
The betting suggests this won’t happen, with Real 1/6 to claim what would be a first La Liga crown since 2012, and only their second in almost a decade. Does domestic domination matter as much as continental control for the capital club? It’s always a difficult one for outsiders to know.
Barcelona are 4/1 to win a third successive La Liga championship, but with three points to make up, having played a game more and only drawn the reverse fixture between the two 1-1 at the Camp Nou (remember it’s head-to-head record not goal difference that would determine placings should the teams tie for points), it looks a tall order – unless, of course, they win arguably the biggest one nation club game the world has to offer.
Real Fresh Enough to Foil Old Foes
El Clasico is always described as ‘more than a game’ and even after a stressful week for both Real Madrid and Barcelona – for very different reasons – you can bet that there will be no shortage of drama when two of the biggest clubs on the planet meet in the Spanish capital.
For the layers, this is a huge betting heat, with Grosvenor Casinos Sportsbook offering over 350 markets ahead of kick off, and enough to accommodate every punter after the whistle sounds with a stunning array of in-play opportunities.
Real, who needed extra time and the help of some dubious referring to make the last four of the Champions League, are 11/10 favourites. Barca trade at 21/10 with the draw 3/1. Zidane will know three points will practically sew up the title, but while he was rightly lauded as a player, it’s worth remembering he was only part of one championship winning team in Spain.
Still, Madrid have momentum while the Catalan club are stuttering. Their limp European exit at the hands of Juventus, against whom they managed only one shot on target in their midweek 0-0 draw (losing 3-0 on aggregate), suggests a serious overhaul is required at Camp Nou. With Luis Enrique having already announced that he is leaving the club at the end of the season, there is a listless nature about a side that has won only one of their last four matches in all competitions.
Real Madrid have lost only three times this season and have scored in 55 consecutive games – a Spanish record. They’ve won nine of their last 10 games and with Cristiano Ronaldo back to his indomitable best – five goals in his last two appearances – I’m taking the Portuguese to inspire success for the home team. Ronaldo have won only seven of the 26 El Clasicos he has played in, but can boast 16 goals in the fixture and needs just three more to pass Alfredo Di Stefano as the Real player who tops the scoring charts against their most deadly rivals. At 18/5 to net the opener, and 87/100 to score at any time, Ronaldo offers much more value than Lionel Messi (19/4 for the first goal and 7/6 to score), who have failed to register in any of his last six starts against Real.
With Neymar still suspended, Barca’s main threat could come from Luis Suarez, who can boast four goals in five starts against Real Madrid for his current club. The Uruguayan is 5/1 to get the first and 5/4 to score at any time.
The hosts have only enjoyed one clean sheet in their last 13 matches, which suggests backing Madrid to win with both teams scoring, at 43/20, could be a shrewd investment. Cover 2-1 (17/2) and 3-1 (13/1) as correct score options.
Adams Unable to Arrest Andalusian Descent
Sevilla v Granada | 21st April 20:00
Having seen his Granada side beaten 3-0 at home by an understrength Celta Vigo team, Tony Adams life as a La Liga coach got off to the worse possible start. There is no doubt they’ll be more fun poked at the former Arsenal captain should his side lose at Sevilla on Friday night. Chances are they will do just that, and they’ll be many punters making Jorge Sampaoli’s side the cornerstone of their accumulators at 1/5 in the Andalusian derby. The layers have chalked up ‘no offers’ about Granada going down, which means they view them as certainties for the drop. Having lost seven of their last eight games, and seven points from safety with just six games to go, you can see why.
Osasuna v Sporting Gijon | 22nd April 17:30
Conversely, there might be a tiny glimmer of hope for Osasuna, who at first glance appear to be in more trouble than Granada. In terms of position, they are bottom of the table, but two wins from their last three games have given the club a little optimism. They take on Sporting Gijon this weekend, who are also in the relegation zone (and 1/13 for the drop) but are worth a punt at 8/5 to claim victory. In each of the last five years (in La Liga), backing the home team when the bottom six clubs have met in fixtures staged in April and May have returned a profit.
Espanyol v Atletico Madrid| 22nd April 07:45
To complete the treble, take a chance on Espanyol on the handicap to beat Atletico Madrid. At 57/50 with a half a goal start, Quique Flores’ team, who have lost only once at home since September, could take advantage of any lethargy from Atleti players who still might be getting over their Champions League exertions from midweek.