Trying to make money out of Barcelona and their all-conquering artisans is not always an easy task.
Bookies never fall over themselves to offer long odds on Pep Guardiola’s men winning any match, let alone this evening’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Bayer Leverkusen.
The holders are installed as 3/20 favourites in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, while the draw is priced at 7/1 and the Germans are at a lengthy 12/1 to win inside 90 minutes.
In truth, after being comprehensively beaten 3-1 on home soil three weeks ago, damage limitation is probably the name of the game for Leverkusen at fortress Camp Nou.
Their recent away record in the Champions League does little to instil confidence about their prospects as they are without a win in 11 matches, losing eight of them – a run stretching back to a 2-0 success over Maccabi Haifa in October 2002.
Leverkusen have also failed to beat a host of Spanish opposition – namely Villarreal, Atletico Madrid and Valencia – in European clashes on the road in the past two seasons.
A 3-1 defeat at the Mestalla in this year’s group stages does not bode particularly well for their chances against Barca, who recently beat the same Los Che side 5-1.
When you also consider that the Catalans have won their last nine games against German opposition, the size of the task for Robin Dutt‘s men becomes clear.
Barca have conceded at least one goal in each of their last four La Liga matches at Camp Nou, while also shipping two in their only real test on home soil in the group stages against Milan (minnows BATE and Viktoria Plzen failed to notch).
Admittedly, they did beat Bayern Munich 2-0 on Saturday, but a trip to Camp Nou is an altogether different test and my main aim here is to extract some value from a Barca win.
Perhaps the best way to do this is by assuming Leverkusen will at least score – they are 87/100 to do so, for what it’s worth – and there are plenty of reasons to believe this is a very real possibility.
The Blaugrana are set to be missing inspirational skipper Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal through injury, while Gerard Pique – who was dropped recently by Guardiola after a few poor displays – may not have his mind fully on the job at hand.
Pique created a major storm in the Spanish press by describing his red card in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Sporting as “pre-meditated” and he has often looked shaky without Puyol alongside him.
Consider as well that Barca have conceded at least one goal in each of their last four La Liga matches at Camp Nou, while also shipping two in their only real test on home soil in the group stages against Milan (minnows BATE and Viktoria Plzen failed to notch).
Leverkusen showed in spells of the first leg that they have the firepower to trouble the Barca rearguard and they head into tonight’s game on the back of three straight league wins.
With that in mind, I really like the look of Barca to win 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 in the correct score market, which is priced at very tempting odds of 29/10.
New customers joining bwin.com can claim a free £25 bet and placing it on this tip will bring returns of £97.50 if the holders win by one of these three scorelines.
While Leverkusen will be relieved that Alexis Sanchez, scorer of two goals in the first leg, is sidelined for the return through injury, it would remiss not to mention a certain Lionel Messi.
The little Argentine wizard has 28 goals in his last 29 Champions League matches – including the other goal in that 3-1 win – and must surely be backed to prosper again here.
Messi is priced at 2/1 to open the scoring, 7/20 to score at any time and 17/10 to score at least two goals on the night.
As a final thought, backing Barca to score more goals than Leverkusen between the 30th minute and half-time at 5/4 appears to makes sense for anyone seeking a shorter-priced punt on this clash.
The Germans have managed to notch just once all season in this period of their Bundesliga matches, compared to 13 strikes for Guardiola’s men, who have also shipped only one goal in this 15-minute window in La Liga.
Recommended bet: Barcelona to win 2-1 3-1 or 4-1 @ 29/10
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