El Clasico: Barcelona v Real Madrid - Betting Preview
El Derby, the derby of derbies - it has many names and is of big significance within Spanish society. Finally, what we've all been waiting for, it's here, it's....
For anyone new to Spanish football, rather than give you a lengthy history lesson, let's just say that Real means Royal and Royal meant Francisco Franco. Franco was dictator of Spain between 1939 and 1975 and a staunch Real Madrid fan. Amongst many other things, the fascist leader banned the Catalan language used by the people of Barcelona.
Nowadays things are different, but the history will never go away and the tension will always be present. Just ask Luis Figo or former Real manager Bernd Schuster, both of whom crossed the divide during their playing days. I'm sure that Long term followers of La Liga will never forget the image of the pig's head that somehow made its way into the Nou Camp to be thrown at Luis Figo, who just a year or two earlier was the darling of the Barca fans.
There are no former heroes returning to Camp Nou today, but Cristiano Ronaldo (4/1 to score first, EVS anytime) will garner as much attention as anyone would and is likely to be on the end of some choice words from the Barca fans and players within the stadium.
Of course, in the days leading up to the latest Clasico - to begin at the unusual hour of 18:00 local time - both Gerardo 'Tata' Martinez' Barcelona and Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid played in the UEFA Champions League.
In a decent but less than inspiring offensive performance against a team that usually does well against them, Barcelona drew 1-1 against AC in Milan on Tuesday night. Lionel Messi (11/4 to score first, 8/13 anytime), the 2010, 11 and 12 Ballon d'Or winner, scored the Catalans goal after former Real Madrid forward Robinho had given the Italians the lead.
Real Madrid, who like Barca faced another Italian side, defeated Juventus 2-1 at the Bernabeu a day later. Ronaldo scored both goals and, once 'The Old Lady' of Italian football had been reduced to ten men, Los Blancos coasted to victory.
So what difference will these midweek games make towards this weekend's Clasico? Well, those who played will naturally be more tired that they would have been had they not - and each club could hide the full extent of a players injury in fear that their opponent will look to exploit it - but the only players currently listed as absent through injury are two we already knew about in Barcelona's Jordi Alba and Real Madrid's key midfielder Xavi Alonso.
Adrianio, though not as good, is an able replacement for Alba and has shown this in recent games. Alonso, however, is not easily replaced, though the player who was bought in to eventually fill his boots long term, Asier Illarramendi, has looked more competent in recent weeks.
Now, in terms of league form and results we can sum this up quite quickly: Barca are very strong at home and have won every game played in 2013/14, but they've yet to be tested by anyone better than Sevilla - who were beaten 3-2 with an injury time goal.
Indeed, despite their 100% league record on home soil, Barcelona (5/6) have conceded in all three of their league games at Camp Nou, and we know that Real Madrid - who've scored on their last six visits to the capital of Catalonia - are capable of winning there.
Real Madrid (3/1) have, however, failed to impress in their 2013/14 La Liga road games, despite winning three and drawing one, but they keep finding a way to win - as evidenced by their injury time comebacks against Elche and Levante.
Besides their 1-0 win at Granada (who are strangely good at losing 1-0), Ancelotti's Los Blancos have scored and conceded in all of their away games - making the popular both teams to score bet a virtual must in this weekend's Clasico.
Indeed, quite staggeringly, BTTS (both teams to score) has been a winning bet in the last thirteen contests between Barcelona and Real Madrid. So, if you want the strongest bet on paper and can accept an understandably short price, both teams to score can currently be backed at 4/9.
As for a more backable punt for us to take, I've opted for over 3.5 match goals - a winning bet in five of the last six Clasico's at Camp Nou, all four of Barca's league home games and two out of Real Madrid's last three league away fixtures.
But I'm not finished, there's one more to consider - Real Madrid + 1 goal. Now, from what I've heard, the Barca fans and players have been nervous about Saturday's Clasico for some time. But while only 'Tata's' tactics and not his job will be called into question should the Catalans lose, the knives have been out for Ancelotti in the Madrid press and he's under serious pressure to at least avoid defeat at Camp Nou or president Perez will be speaking to potential new coaches by Monday morning!
Needs must, eh - and since Real won 3-1 here in the Copa del Rey last season and drew 2-2 in the 2012/13 La Liga fixture at Camp Nou, I'm very prepared to take a chance on this handicap bet.
Recommendations: Over 3.5 match goals (13/10) and Real Madrid + 1 goal (19/20)