La Liga: This El Clasico is Now a Title ‘Six-Pointer’
Real Madrid vs Barcelona
The final El Clasico of the season is upon us and with it, a scenario few would have predicted as recently as a month ago.
Quite frankly, it’s absurd to imagine neither of Spain’s big two being involved in a title hunt but that is exactly the position both reigning champions Real Madrid and Barcelona found themselves in.
That is until a wobble from Atletico Madrid left both giants dreaming of La Liga glory.
So here we are, Saturday night at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano and a match-up which could end up being another pivotal fixture in this blockbuster rivalry.
For Real Madrid, who trail leaders Atletico by three points and Barca by two, much talk this week has focused on two players at the opposite end of the age spectrum.
Toni Kroos maybe 35 but his masterclass helped Real win well in Europe in midweek with the intelligence of the German maestro very much to the fore in a 3-1 Champions League victory over Liverpool.
That was also a game in which young Vinicius Junior hit back at his doubters with a two goal-brace: a perfect riposte on the big stage to criticism he has faced many times during the last two years.
While Real retain hopes of retaining the title, it’s arguably Barcelona who are in the box seat.
They have hauled back 12 points to Atletico in the last two months, dropping just two points in their last 10 games, compared to the 14 dropped by Diego Simeone’s side in the same period.
If their title credentials were in doubt then Ousmane Dembele’s dramatic late winner to earn victory over Real Valladolid on Monday, just when it looked like the opportunity had been missed, showed they are firmly back in the race with a home meeting against Atletico to come next month.
Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele celebrates with Lionel Messi and Riqui Puig after scoring against Real Valladolid
First, though, they have El Clasico to overcome.
A draw will play into Atletico’s hands, a Real win will make it even closer at the summit and a Barca success will all but end the hopes of their arch-rivals.
Team news wise, home boss Zinedine Zidane’s defensive concerns show no sign of easing.
Raphael Varane’s positive Covid-19 test again means he misses out this weekend, while Los Blancos are already without skipper Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal, while Eden Hazard is unlikely to be any more than a substitute after his recent absence.
Ramos’ long-time partner in the heart of the Spanish national team, Gerard Pique, actually trained with the rest of his Barca teammates on Thursday.
The 34-year-old centre-back also worked out at Barcelona’s training ground on Wednesday, despite the fact that boss Ronald Koeman had given his players a day off.
Yet it would be a surprise if Pique is deemed fit to start the match.
Antoine Griezmann did not participate in Thursday’s session as his third child was born – curiously, all his three children have been born on April 8(!) – yet he will almost certainly start.
This fixture almost always offers La Liga highlights. In fact, for a time it was THE fixture in European football.
The respective classes of 2021 may lack some of the overall quality of more recent sides but they are still two of the best around.
With an unexpected title now for up grabs, that should only enhance the drama.
Real won this fixture last season and went onto take the league crown off their arch-rivals as Vinícius and Mariano Díaz netted the goals in a 2-0 win.
They also won the clash in the Nou Camp earlier in the season when Fede Valverde, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric were on target in a 3-1 win.
You have to go back to the 2007-8 campaign for the last time Real secured a league double over the Catalans.
In La Liga, Real Madrid have won 72 clashes, one more than Barcelona, with a further 34 encounters ending all square.
Overall, in all competitions, both sides have 96 wins apiece and 52 draws.
Real are not at full strength and this is sandwiched between a Champions League quarter-final so Barcelona, arguably, have the advantage.
The SBOTOP La Liga betting odds see it that way too.
Barca are slight favourites, priced 1X2 @ 2.24 and Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 2.25.
As you would expect, Real are not far away and can be backed 1X2 @ 2.95 and Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 2.28.
Another 3-1 Real success will payout @ 26.00 with the correct score options.
I expect a tight game and I was leaning towards total goal 2-3 @ 2.01. However, my *** prediction is 1X2 draw @ 3.50.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH: |
| = €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT) || = €10 (CONFIDENT) || = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT) |
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 13-Apr-2021 at 4:18 PM