Ronaldo-less Real still best bet to beat battered Barca in Copa del Rey
El Clasico rivals Real Madrid (evens to win the trophy) and Barcelona (4/5 odds-on favourites) have played each other twice this season already, with the latter being victors on both occasions, but now it is time for Carlo Ancelotti’s men to get revenge.
The big news for this Copa del Rey final, held at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium, between Real (9/5 for victory after 90 minutes) and Barca (29/20), is that Ballon d’Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo will miss out due to a hamstring injury.
Manager Ancelotti confirmed: “Cristiano is not available because we don’t want to take risks and we have other very important games to come this season.
“We are going to lose a player with an incredible quality, but his absence has provided motivation for the team to run more and play more as a team,” the Italian added.
That news will hit Madrid fans hard, who were hoping their 45-goal this season (from 41 games) star would fire them to cup glory. Instead, world record transfer Gareth Bale can step up.
The Welshman, who cost a reported £85m in the summer, has certainly impressed since his move from Tottenham, and now has the chance to win his first piece of major silverware.
Bale has netted 19 times and made 18 assists in 38 games in all competitions so far this season and, with four in his last three La Liga matches, back him at 15/8 to score anytime, or 10/1 to bag a brace or more.
Goals are guaranteed, going on recent history in this fixture. Both sides have netted in the last 15 head-to-heads (7/2 for that to happen again and Madrid win in 90 minutes), with all but two of those containing a score total of three or more. An odds-on price of 1/2 says the match will contain over 2.5 goals again.
Lionel Messi is the record scorer in Clasicos, with 21 from 27 games, and can be backed at 10/11 to net anytime, or 4/1 to get two or more. He is 18/1 to repeat his hat-trick heroics in the last meeting, where they were 4-3 victors in the league. The Argentine, however, has never scored against Real in the Copa del Rey from five attempts.
Despite Real’s loss of Ronaldo, Barca have injury troubles of their own. Tata Martino is likely to have a depleted defence, with Gerard Pique, Carlos Puyol and Marc Bartra all serious doubts.
That could mean a centre back pairing of usual midfielders Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquests, who played there in the recent La Liga loss to lowly Granada.
While Barca are “mentally screwed up”, according to defender Martin Montoya, following that league defeat, as well as their Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of fellow Spaniards Atletico Madrid, Real have been in impressive form.
Ancelotti’s men have won their last three in La Liga without conceding – 5-0, 4-0 and 4-0. They have also been equally dominant in defence in the Copa del Rey this season, gaining cleansheets in all eight of their games. Odds of 21/5 say Real can shut Barca out in normal time as well.
The last time the two played in the cup final (in 2011), Madrid came out 1-0 victors after extra time, but you can back them at 14/1 for the same scoreline after 90 minutes.