2pts Barcelona to beat Real Madrid -1 on the Asian handicap, 21/20 VC or 41/40 Bet365 (Saturday 13th December 9pm ko)

The first “El Classico” of the season looks set to be the most one sided in a long time. Barcelona have the bookmakers running for cover and have been chalked up as short as 1/2, in an attempt to put people off backing them. They are the most in form team in Europe right now and are destroying everything in their path. A little over a month ago they beat Almeria 5-0 in the Nou camp, followed by a 4-1 win at Malaga and a 6-0 hammering of Vallodolid. Whilst impressive, these results were against inferior opposition and we had to wait for the run of fixtures against the big guns in La Liga to start, to see just how good Barca are. They answered this question in emphatic style with a 3-0 away win in Sevilla. This was followed up last week by a 4-0 hammering of Valencia, a team that had previously conceded just three times away from home, oh, and their leading scorer, Samuel Etoo, was suspended for this game too. Barcelona are the top scorers in Europe with 44 goals in 14 games, an average of 3.14 per game! They do not take their foot of the gas when they are a goal up, they keep going until the final whistle. They also have the best defensive record in La Liga, conceding just nine goals. Their twenty match unbeaten record in all competitions was ended by Shaktahr on Tuesday night, but it was a meaningless result with nearly the entire first team rested for this fixture.

Real Madrid have endured a torrid time of late. They were dumped out of the Copa Del Rey by an unheard of lower league side, then beaten home and away in the Champions league by Juventus, before scraping through to the knockout stages with a 1-0 win away at BATE Borisov. In the league they were beaten by Valladolid and Getafe and only scraped a 1-0 home win over bottom club Recreativo. Following last week’s home defeat to Sevilla, manager Bernd Schuster declared that it was “impossible” for Madrid to beat Barcelona tomorrow and that it would be “their season”. He might as well have said “sack me now”, as such defeatist rhetoric went down very badly with the supporters and the club. Schuster got his wish on Tuesday when his contract was terminated and he got his pay off. Unfortunately this was about the same time I was suggesting that Zenit might be worth a small interest if you wanted a bet on this week’s Champions league fixtures. The appointment of Ramos before this game obviously changed things somewhat. However, getting a result in a meaningless game against Zenit is one thing, getting something from the Nou camp is quite another. The removal of the unpopular Schuster will have given Madrid a lift but Ramos is not a magician. He will need weeks not days, to sort out Real’s defensive problems and although one or two reinforcements will arrive in January, Ramos will have to wait until the summer before the real rebuilding can take place. So the side he puts out against Barca will be the same one that has conceded 24 goals in La Liga already this season. He cannot change it, as there is nobody to bring in, such are Real Madrid’s injury problems. This week Ruben De La Red joined Diarra and Van Nistelrooy on the list of Madrid players ruled out for the rest of the season. Heinze, Pepe and Miguel Torres are also out of this fixture. They are joined by suspended duo Marcelo and Robben leaving Real literally down to the bare bones. Wesley Sneijder is also injured at the moment, but Real’s injury problems are so bad that he has been named in the squad anyway and will join Saviola on the bench as possibly the only two substitutes you will have heard of. The others will be players from the youth team. So Ramos has extremely limited options if he needs to make any changes. Crucially, left sided duo Marcelo and Robben being suspended has left a gaping hole in an already unbalanced side. With possibly the most dangerous right sided duo in the world about to fill that hole tomorrow night, in Messi and Alves, it couldn’t get much worse for Real. Reserve right back Salgado will have to fill in at left back and do his best to shackle Messi whilst Drenthe will play left midfield and try to stop Alves’s rampaging runs forward. Much criticised Metzelder will have to come in at centre back, whilst Sergio Ramos moves to right back. Between Metzelder, Salgado and the severely out of form Casillas in goal, I just cannot see how Real will prevent Barca from scoring, they are averaging over three goals per game remember. I know that this is a big derby game, and the cliche says that form is supposed to go out of the window, but I cannot see past a convincing Barcelona victory. They will be keen to open up a gap at the top and seek revenge for last season’s 4-1 defeat at the Bernabeau under Rijkaard. If Barcelona win by just one goal we will get our money back, but if they win by two or more, which I think is extremely likely, we will be collecting our winnings.

Minimum price to take – 4/5

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