It may only be the Copa del Rey, but the competition is irrelevant when Real Madrid and Barcelona lock horns in El Clasico.
The Catalans travel to the Bernabeu on Wednesday night for the first leg of the semi-final clash in what is the first of three meetings between the pair over the next 30 days.
With Barca ploughing well ahead in La Liga, this cup meeting gives the Madridistas an opportunity to salvage some domestic pride over their fierce rivals by reclaiming the trophy they last won in 2011.
However, Real are struggling with injuries and suspension ahead of the game and the loss of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe and Angel Di Maria shifts the balance of power affirmatively Barca’s way, with the return leg still to come at the Camp Nou.
Those absences are undoubtedly a factor in bwin’s 3Way football betting market installing Real Madrid at 21/10, while you’re unlikely to find a price as short as 21/20 for Barca to win at the Bernabeu again any time soon (the draw is 14/5).
Certainly, I’m backing Barca to do the business over two legs and on the basis of a depleted Los Blancos side, it’s well worth jumping on Tito Vilanova’s team to win the competition outright at 17/20 now, as that price will only get smaller.
There are also whispers surfacing that Cristiano Ronaldo will miss out due to an ankle knock and if that proves to be true, the gulf in class could be brutally exposed by the league leaders.
Barring a blip against Real Sociedad a couple of weeks ago, Barcelona have been imperious on the road this season in winning ten of 11 away league games and scoring 37 times in the process.
The sides have already clashed three times this season, with one draw and a win apiece, and last time out at the Bernabeu the hosts secured the Spanish Super Cup with a 2-1 victory.
But that was only Madrid’s first win in eight at home against their old foes and over that time, the visitors have emerged victorious on five occasions.
Now with Jose Mourinho’s men severely lacking key players, you have to be looking at Los Blaugranas to extend that impressive sequence.
The major question revolves around how the ‘Special One’ will set his side up, which may have a big bearing on the game.
With Di Maria and possibly Ronaldo out, Mourinho may pack the centre of midfield and try to suffocate the game, looking to spring counter-attacks with balls over the top to get Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique turning, and also into the spaces vacated by Dani Alves (or Adriano) and Jordi Alba when they go forward.
I think he will adopt this strategy and as a result, I reckon the first leg might be tighter than many expect. If Real are going to progress, they could do without getting drummed at home, but I still believe Barca will prevail overall.
With that in mind, the half-time draw followed by an away win is astonishing value at 5/1 and Vilanova’s side with under 3.5 goals is 29/10 – and that bet is the one floating my boat.
Punters registering with bwin today can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Barca to snatch a lead to take back to the Nou Camp in a game of less than four goals would return £78 if successful.
Yet if you believe Barcelona will blitz their eternal rivals, then feast your eyes on the Primera Division leaders to win both halves at 19/4 or the multiple correct score of 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 at 15/4.
Well, I hope I’ve pointed you in the right direction here, but if you think I’m barking mad or I’ve missed a punt you were thinking of, then bwin has an incredible 280 bets open on this game.
You can place a wager on anything from the result to how many throw-ins there will be in each half, so check out all our Real Madrid v Barcelona markets right here.
Top bet: Barcelona to win a game of under 3.5 goals @ 29/10