It has many names, such as ‘El Clasico,’ ‘El Gran Clasico’ and the ‘derby of all derbies,’ and is arguably the biggest game in world football. Of course, I’m talking about Barcelona vs Real Madrid, and it’s live on Sky Sports 1 from 20:00 on Sunday.
With the current World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, previous World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi, world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale, Brazilian wonder-kid Neymar and Luis Suarez all on display this weekend, the second Spanish Clasico of 2014/15 is sure to attract worldwide TV audiences of over 500 million viewers and I can’t wait to watch it!
Coached by former player Luis Enrique, Barcelona started their 2014/15 season with a flurry of wins, before surprisingly drawing 0-0 away to Malaga. Star player Lionel Messi looked well beneath his lofty best in that game and when the Argentine isn’t playing well, Barca find it a lot harder to win.
Messi and coach Enrique had a falling-out and Barca continued to drop points in 1-0 losses to Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad, along with a 0-0 draw against Getafe. At this point in the season, Messi wasn’t scoring goals and Barca were twelve points behind Real Madrid in the title race, and you wondered how long it would be before Enrique was sacked. After all, if one of Messi or Enrique had to go, there was only going to be one winner – Messi.
But Enrique gave ground, changed his attitude a little and Messi and co turned things around, racking-up heavy wins while Real Madrid faltered. Two months later, Barca sit atop the La Liga standings and Messi has overtaken Ronaldo in the goalscoring stakes.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid had lost away to Real Sociedad and at home to neighbours Atletico Madrid in successive games at the start of their season, but then everything clicked and Ronaldo and co went on an amazing 22-game winning streak which culminated in being crowned World Club Champions after defeating Argentinean side San Lorenzo.
They’d been scoring goals for fun and producing breathtaking attacking football, but after that, however, the best team in the world produced a careless, lethargic performance away to Valencia in La Liga and lost 2-1 to bring their long winning streak to an end.
Real Madrid then lost to Atletico once more, this time in the first leg of a Copa del Rey cup match, before drawing the second leg at their own ground, the Bernabeu, to exit the Spanish cup.
By this stage it was quite apparent that star striker Ronaldo was out of form and carrying an injury, and it was suggested that the players had simply switched off mentally after a long, tiring series of games which concluded with that World Club Cup win.
Certainly the fact that Ancelotti used the same group of players without ever giving them much rest didn’t help matters, but the Madrid players had mentally finished their season early – they’d won it all, been crowned the best team in the world and thought they just had to turn up to win against lesser teams.
Despite a few more, largely unimpressive wins, confidence was beginning to fall and Real Madrid were again beaten by neighbours Atletico Madrid, this time 4-0.
A recent home draw with Villarreal, a 1-0 loss away to Athletic Bilbao, a shocking 4-3 defeat at home to Schalke that nearly saw them exit the Champions League and a meek, confidence-drained 2-0 home defeat of lowly Levante brings us up to date with Real Madrid. Once twelve points clear in Spain’s top-flight, they’re now second and Ronaldo looks anything but the best player in the world.
Barcelona v Real Madrid Head-to-Head
To date, Real Madrid hold the advantage over Barcelona in head-to-head meetings, recording 92 wins to the Catalans 88, with 48 finishing as draws.
In the Real Madrid v Barcelona game earlier this season, an in-form Real Madrid defeated an out-of-sorts Barcelona 3-1, with Lionel Messi – for once – failing to get on the scoresheet. That should change on Sunday.
Both Teams to Score
Amazingly, both teams have scored in the last seventeen clashes between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Now, looking at current form, Barcelona are top of the La Liga standings, having overcome a twelve point deficit, while former league leaders Real Madrid are second and in less than stellar form in front of goal, so both teams to score is a riskier bet than normal.
Real Madrid v Barcelona Betting
Hosts Barcelona are priced around 4/5, the draw is 16/5 and a Real Madrid victory is offered at 10/3. For goals bettors, the popular over 2.5 goals market is available at 1/2, with both teams to score set around 4/9.
Sure to be popular and likely to yield profit if past clashes are anything to go by are Barcelona’s Messi to score at anytime (10/11) and to score two goals or more (15/4), with Ronaldo priced up at 5/4 and 7/1 in the same markets.
The Barcelona v Real Madrid Betting Verdict
Although a win would allow Los Blancos to overtake Barcelona and reclaim top spot in the La Liga standings, the Real Madrid coach, Ancelotti, is in danger of losing his job and will set his confidence-drained team up to counter-attack and try to avoid defeat.
The gap between Real Madrid and Barcelona is just one point, so while we know that Ronaldo and co can beat Messi and Barca at Camp Nou from past history, it’s vitally important that the Catalans’ one-point lead doesn’t become four.
Of course, Barcelona know that a four-point lead puts the title race firmly in their hands, and they’re full of confidence, in great goalscoring form and well aware that, besides having to play Man City in the UEFA Champions League days before the visit Real Madrid, there couldn’t be a better time to host their most hated rivals.
In conclusion, it’s a clear-cut and simple decision from a betting standpoint. The home team are in great form and scoring goals for fun, while the away side are struggling to score goals and in bad form. Even if Madrid defend deep, try to stop Barca from playing through the middle of the pitch and force them out wide, I can still see the in-form trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez breaking them down and leading Barca to victory.
The only doubt can be that the Madrid players have fresher legs since they didn’t play in UEFA competition midweek, but then Barcelona deliberately rested a few players for the visit of Man City, and when you’re mentally at the top of your game and winning fixture after fixture with ease like Barca are, adrenalin can carry you through.
Put simply, there’s no magic wand for Real Madrid’s poor form and lack of confidence and, win or lose, I can’t see how you can come to a different conclusion in terms of choosing a winner.
However, since the price on a Barcelona win is falling and will be shorter than what I’ve got come Sunday, we’ll pay homage to the fact that both teams have scored in seventeen Clasico’s in a row and also have a small wager at a bigger price.
Recommendation: Barcelona to win @ 4/5
Worth a small punt: Both teams to score and Barcelona to win @ 9/5
Also worth a small punt: Messi to score two goals or more at 15/4
Photo credits – Flickr (Creative Commons – Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)), Flickr (Creative Commons – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)), Flickr (Creative Commons – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))