They don’t call it El Clasico for nothing. Real Madrid and Barcelona are undoubtedly the world’s two best teams and between them hog a large proportion of the planet’s finest footballing talents.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka are officially the two most expensive players in history and unofficially, Lionel Messi is being discussed as the best player ever.
Collectively, the players on show tonight account for over thirty Champions League medals, 13 World Cup winners’ medals and incredibly, 14 out of the last 15 Ballon d’Or top threes – including the recipients of the last five awards.
Add Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho to the mix and broadcast it to an audience of hundreds of millions across 200 countries and you’ve got something worth talking about.
Fortunately though, these two tend to produce games that match the hyperbole. Tonight’s Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg will be the ninth time they’ve played each other since the beginning of last season, with the previous eight clashes throwing up 25 goals.
Real and Barca have already met four times this year and shared 13 goals, and in this competition these two have been involved in 32 goals in eight ties.
Overall, Real and Barca have scored a preposterous 203 times between them so far this season and we’re only in the second week of January. So, with goals aplenty on the menu, you’ll need a little digest of where they’re likely to come from.
You don’t need to have memorised your Rothman’s football yearbook to work out that the dynamic duo of Messi and Ronaldo are the men most likely.
The rival assassins have been good for a goal a game for the past couple of years and again this term Messi has hit 31 in just 28 games, with Ronnie rocketing to 25 in 24.
Unsurprisingly then, these two lead just about every section of bwin’s goalscorers markets,with Messi the evens favourite to score at any time and Ronaldo just behind at 11/10. Those figures are reciprocated for first scorer, with little Leo at 7/2 and quicksilver Cris at 4/1.
The parity of those odds are largely based on the scoring prowess of each overall, but if you look at their respective records in these games, the divide should be much further.
While Messi has gone about his business with 13 goals in 15 Clasicos, Ronaldo has done little to shed the perception that he’s a bit of a flat-track bully. Just three goals in nine outings against Barca suggest there are better bets than him for los Blancos.
Such is the embarrassment of riches available to Mourinho, he has the luxury of rotating Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema. The Frenchman started the weekend La Liga win over Mallorca but it was Higuain who came on to score a late equaliser and it may well be he, and not Benzema, who gets the nod tonight.
The former River Plate man is scoring at almost a goal a game himself and 6/1 to get things going is well worth a shout. Indeed, Real have taken the lead in two of the last three meetings with Barca and given home advantage here, this move could pay off handsomely if the Argentine makes the starting XI.
If you do fancy Real to score first, the other options include Benzema at 6/1 and Jose Callejon and Kaka further back at 9s.
However, history suggests that a more studious bet would be on a Barcelona player to grab the final goal of the game.
Of the 12 ties since Guardiola has been in charge, Barca have won eight and lost just the once. They may be five points adrift of Real in the league but when they turn it on, few can deny they’re still the stronger side.
Given their recent supremacy over their great rivals, they’ve invariably scored the decisive goals, so the last goalscorer market is dominated with Barca names.
Messi is of course shortest at 7/2 but past him, Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro are temptingly long to strike on the counter at 7/1.
Indeed, Pedro is a decent shout all round. The Spanish winger doesn’t seem to be getting much airtime these days, yet he still retains that priceless ability to score regularly important goals.
He’s notched four times against Madrid and given David Villa’s absence, he may occupy one of the wide slots. Wait for the confirmation of the teams but If he does start, 2/1 for him to score at any time will be well worth a sniff.
Given the amount of potential goalscorers there is plenty of value to be had in bwin’s goalscorers markets, but then again, given the sheer amount of quality on both sides it’s almost impossible to predict where and when the cash-collecting strikes will come from.
However, I’ve found a cheeky little punt that’s definitely worth raising a glass of San Miguel to. Bwin have a substitute to come on and score a goal at 33/10 and given the illustrious names on the Dame Judy, that’s where I’m going to go.
Punters who register for a bwin account are entitled to a free £25 bet and using it to back any sub to come on and score will win you £107.50 if the prediction proves correct.
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