Live on Sky Sports 1. Monday 8.00pm
As football games go they don’t come much bigger than this. The fact that it’s been shunted to a Monday night slot (don’t they have Coronation Street in Spain?) makes no odds. As ever it’s one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of the season and represents Jose Mourinho’s first domestic clash against his former employers and I’m expecting some fireworks.
Barcelona have held the bragging rights in recent times over their fiercest rivals but with Murinho on board, Real have adopted a more ruthless, some may say cynical edge. For all of Barca’s flair and fluidity they’ll need to outmanoeuvre a street-wise and organised Madrid side that bears the typical traits of the pragmatic ‘Special One’.
The form guide offers little in the way of pointers ahead of this match. Barcelona’s last 10 league games? WWWDWWWWWW. Impressive. What about Madrid’s? WWDWWWWWWW. Just as good. In fact just one point separates the sides at the top of La Liga, with Real leading the way. Trying to pick a Winner looks impossible.
Barcelona are the bookies favourites, no doubt largely influenced by the home advantage at odds of 23/20 (Titan Bet). Real are 5/2 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, SkyBet) but (a small portion of) my money will be on the draw, a result that would arguably suit both sides at 13/5 (Titan Bet).
Interestingly Lionel Messi has scored 7 in 8 games against Madrid but Mourinho has proven able to find a way to nullify the little Argentinian genius who has failed to score in 7 attempts against a Mourinho XI. If Messi can be snuffed out again, and if Real go to the Nou Camp with the intention of still being one point ahead when they leave then it could be we’re in for a low-scoring affair. That’s tough for me to say considering the amount of attacking flair on the field but I’ve seen Mourinho strangle one game too many to rule out the prospect of it finishing with Under 2.5 goals at odds of 6/5 (Bet365, Boylesports, Paddy Power).
Finally keep an eye on the red card odds with William Hill going 23/20 that we’ll see at least one. Madrid have found themselves in hot water after seemingly conniving to get two players sent off in the Champions League last week. Will they get their comeuppance this week with an ‘underserved’ one?