The biggest rivalry in world soccer will be revisited again on Saturday when Real Madrid travel to Nou Camp in Barcelona to face the Catalans. It's very much a must-win for the home team, as Barcelona will try to make up some valuable ground in the dwindling La Liga season.
What: El Clasico (La Liga)
When: Saturday, April 21, 2012
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Time: 7:00 p.m. BT/2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT
Television: ESPN Deportes, GolTV, ESPN3.com
LVH SuperBook (3-way): Barcelona -155, Real Madrid +400; Draw +285
LVH Alternate Line: Barcelona -1 +115, Real Madrid +1, -135
LVH SuperBook Total: Over 3 Even, Under 3 -120
Real Madrid (27-4-2) currently sit four points (85-81) above Barcelona (25-6-2) on top of the Spanish Primera League heading into this heated match. With a win, Real Madrid can almost ice the league title by going seven points up on their rivals with just four games remaining.
The game sits in a precarious spot on the calendar for both teams, sandwiched between first and second legs of the two clubs’ UEFA Champions League semifinal matches against Bayern Munich (Real Madrid) and Chelsea (Barcelona).
Los Blancos fell to Bayern Munich, 2-1, in Germany on a 90th-minute goal by Mario Gomez on Tuesday, while Barcelona lost to Chelsea, 1-0, in their first-leg tie at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Saturday’s match between the two clubs, who I presently have ranked No. 1 and No. 2 both in Europe along with the entire Milky Way galaxy, should be a high-scoring affair. Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid have scored more goals (107 goals for, 29 against) than anyone anywhere, while Lionel Messi and Barcelona (96 goals for, 24 against) have been known to put a ball or two in the back of the net from time to time.
The Catalans have a couple of things going for them in this battle. Barcelona are undefeated (15-1-0) at Camp Nou, outscoring their foes an incredible 64-8 in the process. On the road, Real Madrid are an impressive 13-2-1 (44 goals for, 11 against) in La Liga, but beating Barca is a different beast.
A motivational factor for the Blaugrana is the reality that they are just four points behind Real Madrid in the league table and, with a victory on their home turf, can cut that lead to a slim one point (85-84) with only four games remaining.
With players like Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes, the defending UEFA CL champs Barcelona can beat anyone almost anywhere and are certainly one of the best teams in soccer (futbol) history.
As if all that wasn’t enough to side with the home team in this game on Saturday, consider Barcelona’s 5-2-1 record against Real Madrid in the last eight meetings. In those meetings, Barca have outscored Los Blancos by a healthy 19-9 total in La Liga, Copa del Rey and Spanish Supercup play. Real haven't scored more than two goals in any of those games.
So while the three-time defending Spanish Supercup champions Barcelona can still win the Copa del Rey title (vs. Athletic Bilbao May 25 in Madrid) and the UEFA CL crown (May 19 in Munich), they need to win this match to close the league gap to one for a shot at winning La Liga.
Although Los Blancos, under Jose Mourinho, are as good as they have been in some time, "The Special One" hasn’t been so special against the Catalans. Until Real Madrid can knock off Barca, manager Pep Guardiola will retain all bragging rights.
Both Gonzalo Higuain and Kaka weren’t in Real Madrid’s starting XI versus Bayern Munich on Tuesday, so they should be rested and possibly start in this edition of El Clasico. Barcelona won this season’s first matchup, 3-1 at Santiago Bernabeu.
In the end, Barcelona are that gnat Real Madrid can’t kill. Until Mourinho’s crew proves they can beat their Spanish rivals, I will have to side with Barcelona.
Prediction: Barcelona 3, Real Madrid 2
Bets: Barcelona -160 (LVH SuperBook); Over 3 -101 (Sky Bet)
> For an Odds preview of this Tuesday’s Chelsea-Barcelona UEFA Champions League Leg 2 Semifinal match simply click on this link.
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