No Radamel Falcao, no problem has been Atletico Madrid’s emphatic message this month, scoring eight goals in their first two La Liga fixtures and outshining Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa.
Neymar cancelled out David Villa’s early effort shortly after his second-half introduction last week though, to earn the champions a 1-1 draw and it is assumed that they will easily finish the job with a home win at 7/20. The draw is 17/4, with Atletico 6/1.
Barcelona’s favouritism is easily rationalised. They have won their last eight home games against Spanish opposition.
Additionally, they have won their last seven against Atletico at the Camp Nou and are undisputed kings of the Supercopa.
Prior to last summer’s unfortunate away goals loss to Real Madrid, the classy Catalans had won five straight participations, whereas Atletico were beaten in their prior three entries, each time by the Blaugrana.
So why might it be different this time? Significantly, Atletico are over their big-team phobia having broken a far more damaging sequence of ten straight defeats to Real Madrid to claim the Copa del Rey in May.
Whereas the capital club have two strikers in form, with Villa lighting up the first leg and recent Liverpool target Diego Costa scoring three in the first two La Liga matches, Barcelona might not even have a striker.
Lionel Messi missed the underwhelming 1-0 victory away to Malaga on Sunday with an injury that forced him off at half-time at the Vicente Calderon last week.
The Ballon d’Or hog is back in the squad but Gerardo Martino has shown un-Barca-like caution since arriving.
The Argentine tactician has only using expensive newbie Neymar as a sub, so might restrain his two biggest stars until the second period.
Backing Atletico to take the trophy at 15/4 is preferable to trusting them to triumph at the slightly snazzier price of 6/1.
This option buys you any draw of 2-2 or higher, and the prospect of another 1-1 draw and a shootout win.