Can Real Madrid see off Barcelona’s La Liga challenge in El Clasico?
Real Madrid will play Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey next month and there’s a reasonable chance they will meet again in the Champions League Final in Lisbon in May. But first there is the little matter of a La Liga El Clasico clash on Sunday, a match that might go a long way to determining who will be crowned domestic champions.
As they enter the crucial last phase of a campaign on all fronts, Real Madrid are strong 1/4 favourites with Coral to regain the La Liga title they surrendered to Barcelona (4/1) last season.
Atletico Madrid (8/1) can’t be written off either. Diego Simeone’s side will probably have beaten bottom club Real Betis and drawn level with their Madrid neighbours by the time El Clasico kicks off, so the big two don’t just have each other to worry about.
But it’s Real who have the real momentum, unbeaten in 31 games since losing to Barca at the Nou Camp and they will see this as a great opportunity to all but see off their main rivals – a victory would put them seven points clear.
Inevitably Cristiano Ronaldo has played a massive role in Real’s fabulous run of form and it’s not just the goals he has scored, important though they have been (he’s 4/5 to net again on Sunday, 3/1 first or last).
CR7 was a great talent for Man United, but he’s even better now and that’s because he’s more of a team player. He will always crave the limelight, but seems happier to let top class teammates like Karim Benzema and now Gareth Bale share in the glory.
Barcelona have it all to do, but you know they will come out all guns blazing with Neymar and Cesc Fabregas likely to return after missing the 7-0 dismantling of Osasuna last weekend.
The neutral will be cheering for a Barca win to keep the title race wide open, but though Andres Iniesta has been talking a good game in the build-up, the Catalans just aren’t the world-beaters they were a couple of years ago and the victory they so badly need might be beyond them.
My gut feeling is a draw (9/4) and with so many skilful forwards on view, including, of course, Lionel Messi, there will probably be a few goals in it. 2-2 (10/1) looks a decent shout.