Barcelona vs Real Madrid Preview
Expect fireworks in Spain this weekend because Real Madrid are bringing a four point advantage in La Liga to the Camp Nou and don't expect to leave there with anything less.
It is the sixth time that the Catalan giants have taken on the juggernauts from the capital this season but boredom is something that does not even come into consideration when talking about one of the biggest fixtures in world football.
There is always something, always drama and as one thing is for sure there are always goals in what is considered to be a title decider.
Both teams come off the back of disappointments in the Champions League and there are now rising doubts that the El Clasico Champions League final could be in doubt as Real lost in the last minute, 2-1 in Bayern Munich and Barcelona lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to a Didier Drogba goal. So where will the focus now be? Next weeks return legs or Saturday's title decider? The answer, both.
Barcelona are odds on favourite for such a big game at odds of 4/6 and Los Blancos at 4/1. The draw is 11/4 and as Real are likely to come and play a counter attacking game it would not be a surprise that a draw may well be on the cards.
Last time the two teams met in the Camp Nou was in the second leg of the Copa Del Rey quarter final. The game finished 2-2 but Real were very close to causing an upset in that game as they pushed for a winner in a second half after being two goals down at half time. For Barcelona to be leading at half time and a draw at full time is a very tempting 16/1.
Real Madrid equalled their league goal scoring record last weekend with three goals against Sporting Gijon and with one goal on Saturday night they can break that record and they would love to do that against the big rivals.
The way that Real can cause an upset against a magnificent Barcelona team is to play on the counter attack, to soak up the pressure and attack on the break, like Chelsea did on Wednesday night but they have much more talented players on the break. Ronaldo will look to add to his 41 goals for the season and he is likely to be joined in attack by Karim Benzema AND Gonzalo Higuain. It will be a risky move from Mourinho but all three can play together and work hard. Angel Di Maria may also be another one to start but three games in a week may be a bit too many for him after a few months on the sidelines and he may be rested for the return leg against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. Ronaldo is 5/1 to net first and Benzema is 8/1 but Higuain at 9/1 to score first is an interesting price for the goal poacher who is likely to be the point of reference for any counter attack, if he starts.
The other big decision that Mourinho will have to make will involve the centre of midfield. He is likely to go with three in the middle to win the ball away from Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. Coentrao could play alongside Xabi Alonso and Khedira but that would mean a start for Marcelo at left back. The Brazilian has been exposed by Barcelona in the past and Coentrao has usually been preferred in the big games to Marcelo. If this is the case again then Lassana Diarra could start which would also mean no place for the scorer of the potentially vital away goal in Munich, Mesut Ozil. He is likely to be on the bench alongside Kaka, Granero and Jose Callejon. He has been a huge impact player for Real this season and his last goal scorer price of 14/1 appeals.
Now to Barcelona. Messi is clearly the favourite to nick the first goal at 3/1 as he so often performs on the big stage in the biggest of games and the fact that this is a must win game for the Catalans it would not be a surprise to see the net bulge from a Messi strike once again. He is likely to start in attack with Alexis Sanchez, who hit the bar against Chelsea and Pedro, with Fabregas dropping out. He had a couple of opportunities to score against Chelsea on Wednesday but was unlucky and will be needed in the return leg, but two pacey, goal scoring wingers should be on the menu for Guardiola. Sanchez has proved to be a brilliant signing and is 5/1 to strike first blood. Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets should keep their places in the middle of the park and Valdes will be between the sticks. The one problem that Guardiola has is in defence. With an important game against Chelsea in midweek is he likely to risk Puyol or will Pique come in after missing out on the Chelsea game. Another option for Guardiola is to play Puyol at left back, replacing Adriano but that seems unlikely.
The only things guaranteed with the line-ups is the goalkeepers and Ronaldo and Messi, it is impossible to tell. Both players to score is 3/1 in a William Hill Match Winner. That is a brilliant price for two players who have notched over a century of goals this season. A safe bet, if you can call any bet that is for Ronaldo or Messi to score first at 7/5.
Another guarantee is that it may get a bit feisty under the Camp Nou lights on Saturday night. Pepe, Ramos, Busquets, Mascherano and Alves all have a tendency to get a bit boisterous. There are a couple of William Hill Match Winners that may take a fancy.
The first one is for Barcelona to win the match with Real having a player dismissed at 5/2. The opposite bet for Real to win and Barcelona to have a player sent off is 6/1.
Mourinho and Guardiola do not get along as it is and it is certain that they will not be best friends after this affair. If Barcelona win they are one point away from Real with four games to go with a tough looking fixture away at Rayo next week this really is must win. On the other hand it is must not lose for Real Madrid and it may finally be time for Mourinho to gain an advantage. Therefore the Double Chance for Draw or Real Madrid at 13/10 is value.
What a game we have in prospect and this may not be the final time that we look forward to a Clasico this season if things go Real and Barcelona's way next week, this road show could well be heading to Munich but first stop is Barcelona and the league title is at stake.