Close Call In El ClasicoStats
Real Madrid v Barcelona
It’s the first El Clasico of the season and it has the potential to be a genuine blockbuster…
All El Clasico’s are eagerly anticipated, but this one feels like it has an extra bit of spice with a plethora of the most devastating attacking talent in world football on display. We could potentially see Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez line up and one end of the pitch and have Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema at the other.
Real Madrid come into the game on the back of eight straight wins and three consecutive clean sheets, topped off by the dominant midweek 3-0 win at Anfield. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have scored 35 goals in those eight games and conceded only five – two of which were penalties.
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored in 11 successive games for club and country and has 21 goals in 14 games this season, including three hat-tricks. Karim Benzema marked his return to the starting XI with a midweek brace and now has five in his last three games.
Barcelona also come into the game in good form and having comfortably beaten Ajax 3-1 in their midweek Champions League fixture. Lionel Messi scored his ninth goal of the season and has now scored at least one in each of his last five, while Neymar has also scored in his last five appearances and has 10 for the season.
Amazingly, Barcelona are yet to concede a goal in eight La Liga games this season with Claudio Bravo enjoying a dream start to life at the Nou Camp following his big money move from Sociedad. Youngster Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been preferred in the Champions League games so far, which means that Bravo has yet to pick the ball out of the back of the net in a Barca shirt.
Gareth Bale has been ruled out of the game with a buttock injury that has kept the Welshman sidelined for the past couple of weeks. Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema both recovered from bouts of illness to play in midweek, while Sergio Ramos could return from a calf injury.
Thomas Vermaelen is still yet to make his Barcelona debut after arriving at the club with a hamstring injury, while Sergio Busuets is doubtful after missing the midweek game against Ajax due to illness. The main story, however, will of course be the return of Luis Suarez and manager Luis Enrique has a big decision to make about whether to start the Uruguayan.
Barcelona won both league meetings between the clubs last season, but Madrid did exact some revenge with a 2-1 Copa Del Rey triumph. Messi scored a hat-trick in the game at the Santiago Bernabeu when three penalties were awarded and Sergio Ramos was shown a red card.
Home advantage ensures that Madrid are made favourites, and at odds of 13/10 they may just be worth a play. Barcelona are a very good side, but Real Madrid have looked close to unstoppable in recent weeks.
My best bet of the game, however, is taking a chance on the Under 2.5 goals selection at odds of 31/20. Historically El Clasico produces plenty of goals, and with the abundance of world class attacking players on show it’s obvious to see why punters get giddy about this one being no exception. But we cannot ignore the brilliant recent record of both teams’ defences.
As mentioned above, Barca have an immaculate defensive record in La Liga this season, while Madrid have kept four clean sheets in their last five in all competitions.
I could well be left looking a little foolish when the game ends as a 4-4 thriller, but at the odds I think there is value in that Under 2.5 goals bet.