Written by Chad Nagel for Soccer Betting News. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Barcelona v Real Madrid | Saturday 2 April | Camp Nou | 20:30
Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid will do battle at the Camp Nou on Saturday for the second El Clasico fixture of the season. Having won the reverse tie 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barca will be looking to pile further misery on their bitter rivals. Although a win for Real Madrid will change nothing in terms of the title race, they will be out for revenge and Zinedine Zidane will be desperate for a win in his first Clasico as the Real Madrid manager.
To Win Match
Barcelona 6/10 | Draw 7/2 | Real Madrid 36/10
The last five Clasicos are fairly evenly mixed with Barcelona winning three and Real Madrid prevailing in two, however, none was more emphatic than the most recent as Barca humiliated Real with a 4-0 score where Neymar netted, Andres Iniesta scored and Luis Suarez returned a brace. The La Liga champions will be hoping to repeat that feat and do the double over their bitter rivals.
Despite Barcelona achieving a historical Treble last season, Luis Enrique's side have become even more dominant in his second year in charge. Physically stronger, more mature and with an improved understanding of the manager's formation, Barca, unbeaten in 39 matches, are an unstoppable winning machine. The La Liga champions have a sizable nine point advantage over second-place Atletico Madrid, and 10 points over Real Madrid, but won’t be resting on their laurels.
Barca have eight league matches, and know that another 15 points will seal the league title. The El Clasico will have an emotional edge to it for Barcelona as it will be the first game they have played following the passing of legendary former player and coach Johan Cruyff through lung cancer on March 24th. Cruyff is widely credited as the man who changed Barcelona’s mentality and style, bringing in the total football which has seen the club dominate both Spain and Europe in recent years through his protegees such as Pep Guardiola and Enrique. The club has already opened up an area for fans to pay tribute and there are even calls for the name of the Camp Nou to be changed to the “Johan Cruyff Stadium”, but for Barca’s fans and players there is probably a better way to remember the great man: by beating Real Madrid on Saturday with the whole world watching.
Shortly after the highly-anticipated derby comes the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. With the 39-match unbeaten record still intact, Barca will be aiming to keep it alive through a challenging week. The Catalans are yet to lose a match at the Camp Nou this season with 14 wins from 15 games, including seven on the spin. Barcelona have the greatest front-three in world football right now in Neymar, Lionel Messi and Suarez and the trio will look to wreak havoc on the Madrid defence.
Real Madrid put together one of their strongest displays of the season against Sevilla prior to the break, winning 4-0 with the combination of 'BBC' (Bale, Cristiano and Benzema) all on the scoresheet. That was Madrid’s fifth successive victory in all competitions and they will look to extend that winning run against their arch-rivals. Los Blancos were thrashed 4-0 by Barcelona in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in their first meeting earlier this season, a result which began to see the criticism rain down on former coach Rafael Benitez, who was sacked and replaced by Zidane at the start of January.
Real Madrid are a different side compared to the one who lost so decisively in that game. For starters, Zidane is gradually finding his side and players like Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are amongst the top performers throughout the season. Furthermore, Real have shown a great expertise when it comes to counter attacks, utilising width and creating – and scoring – chances from a variety of positions. The Madrid squad look a lot happier with Zidane in charge and although they have improved in their attacking department under his leadership, their defensive weaknesses are a cause for concern against Barcelona.
The Catalans have the best attack in world football and will punish an error prone Real Madrid defence. The backline of Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Danilo and Marcelo will need to be more organised and solid. Ramos hasn't been able to impose himself on matches, the forceful edge to his game has been missing this season. Often, he's looked uncharacteristically passive, and there's been an absence of clarity, composure, to his defensive work. If Madrid are going to see silverware this season, no Madrid player needs a form reversal more than Ramos.
Los Blancos will rely on the 'BBC' strike force to fire them to victory, but they’ve lost to Barca on each of the three occasions that the 'BBC' have featured in. In fact since Gareth Bale's time at the club, Madrid have only managed two wins against Barça: the 2014 Copa del Rey final in Valencia and a league win last season at the Bernabeu. Ronaldo was absent through injury for the cup win whilst the Welsh international missed the La Liga win due to injury last season. On Saturday, Bale, Benzema and Cristiano will be afforded with a new chance to break this Barca hoodoo. A trip to the Camp Nou will give us the chance to see just where Real Madrid really are ahead of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Wolfsburg and show whether or not they have a realistic chance of winning an 11th European title.
Verdict: Barcelona Win + Both Teams To Score (14/10)
The last six Clasico’s have produced a total of 24 goals. Real Madrid have scored 10 of those. Barcelona have won their last 12 matches in La Liga and remain unbeaten at home this season. Enrique's side are in supreme form right now and should be able to find a way past Real Madrid’s fragile defence. Take Barcelona to Win + Both Teams To Score at 14/10.
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