What a strange little competition the World Club Cup is. No sooner have you flown thousands of miles in the middle of the season to take part, you’re coming home again having played two games that to all but those taking part seem like nothing more than glorified friendlies.
Yes, there is a trophy to be won at the end of it but for most football fans it remains an odd vanity venture (from FIFA? Get away!) that serves little real purpose – it was only dreamt up in 2000 and shelved until 2005 due to lack of investment.
Well let’s put it this way – if the injury David Villa picked up in Barcelona’s 4-0 win against Al Sadd in Thursday’s semi-final costs the Catalonians the La Liga title and the Champions League, I don’t think people will be looking favourably on a season that yielded just the World Club Cup.
One of the many issues with the tournament is the stark contrast in quality between the teams from Europe and South America compared with the other confederations.
Only once in six years have the Champions League winners not met the Copa Libertadores holders and that was last year, when even Rafael Benitez’s ill-fated six-month stint in charge of Inter Milan culminated with winning the World Club Cup.
It is Europe v South America again in this year’s final as Brazilian side Santos attempt to stop Barcelona’s complete and utter dominance on Sunday morning (10.30am kick off UK time).
Barcelona are strong favourites to win the match inside 90 minutes at 2/5 with bwin – the draw is at 18/5 and a Santos win is priced up at 25/4 – and even without Villa, the truth is Barcelona are too good for nearly every team on the planet and that sadly includes Santos.
Look at the evens that Barcelona win by more than one goal, as they have done in nine of their 11 league wins and four of their five Champions League victories – imagine if you had the chance to double your money every time Barca won by more than one.
There really is little else to be said about Barcelona that hasn’t been stated already, but when you consider they have won 12 of the 15 available trophies since Pep Guardiola took charge in 2008, you realise that for all their breathtaking, once-in-a-generation football this is a team that just wins, pure and simple.
Their form is certainly good enough as well. Since a surprise defeat to Getafe in La Liga, Barca have won the next five in all competitions (including last weekend’s 3-1 success against Real Madrid), scoring 20 goals and conceding just one.
As much as their attacking flair is obviously highlighted, they have actually conceded only five goals in their last 18 games – fantastic by anyone’s standards.
I suppose if you don’t have the ball you find it pretty hard to score, as Santos will no doubt find out. A 3-1 win over Kashiwa Reysol put the Brazilians in the final, but even with the highly-coveted Neymar (who scored the opening goal in that victory) in their ranks, there is little to suggest they can defy the odds.
Santos retained the Campeonato Paulista in May and won the Libertadores in June with victory over Penarol from Uruguay, but their form recently has been poor. Their triumph against Kashiwa was their first in six matches as they finished a disappointing tenth in Brazil’s Serie A and they will certainly hold no fear for Barcelona.
But instead of taking the 2/5, look at the evens that Barcelona win by more than one goal. They have done that in nine of their 11 league wins this season and in four of their five Champions League victories – imagine if you had the chance to double your money every time Barca won by more than one.
Eleven of their wins this season have been by three goals or more, so the 5/2 on Barcelona giving Santos a two-goal start also has to be of interest as quite often when Barcelona play it is not a case of if they will win, but by how many.
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