Battle of the Bernabeu
Three Clásicos in almost as many weeks is bound to have us reminiscing of Spring 2011 when the two Spanish giants met four times in 18 days. The pair are poised for two consecutive ties in Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu - Wednesday night in the cup and Saturday night in the league.
Let’s take a look at the midweek cup match and who will be drawing first blood.
What happened at the weekend
Both sides seemed to have one eye on midweek. Both conceded away from home, both made a bit of a meal of it, but both showed resilience to come through with a valuable three points in the end.
Real had VAR to thank for keeping their title aspirations just about alive. The referee awarded two penalties that were to be the difference in a 1-2 victory over Levante.
It's advantage Real
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde will be casting a careful eye over his defence after seeing it torn to shreds by Sevilla in the first half. The Catalans trailed at the weekend only to come back to storm the game 4-2. Leaking goals but scoring more.
Defensive mainstays Sergio Ramos and Samuel Umtiti are both back for their respective clubs. Ramos returns and is likely to go straight back into the side, although manager Solari has a decision whether to play more experienced but out of form Marcelo or go with Reguillon as his choice left back.
Whether Umtiti will start after three months out remains to be seen and could be a serious gamble in the centre of defence.
Come and get us if you think you're hard enough
Barcelona have shown the most defensive solidity this season, but it’s advantage Real. Not only are they playing in front a home crowd, their solitary goal at the Nou Camp in the first leg ago gives them an away goal advantage that could see the job done.
Barcelona will have to come out of the blocks to get the job done
As things stand Real go through if it ends 0-0 so Barcelona will have to come out of the blocks to get the job done. Doubts around the effectiveness of forward men Coutinho and Suarez have been raging as of late, but there’s always trump card Lionel Messi who again saved their skin at the weekend with a hat trick he made look effortless.
Barcelona will push forward but they’ll have to watch their step. Real showed sharp tactical nouse in the first leg at the Camp Nou and nearly won it. Their attacking line of rapid Vinicius Junior, Benzema, Bale and Lucas Vazquez is bound to do damage.
The problem with big game grudge matches like this is there’s very often little value in the odds across the board. Aside from the match winner, the odds for this are tight and I’m not willing to stake on who will win it. Anything can happen in games like this. It’s El Clásico and it’s a cup match. ‘Nuff said.
Odds are fairly solid on over 2.5 goals at around 1/2 (1.50), but then given the nature of the away goals rule it’s hard to say if it will be an outright goalfest.
Both teams to score is a safer bet just in case it is a cagey affair, but the fact that Barça will have to push forward to win it will draw both teams out. I’ve found odds with bet365 at 1/2 (1.50) that give them same return as over 2.5 goals but take into account the attacking power of both sides.