To the naked eye it looks as though things are progressing in typically slick and elegant fashion for Barcelona. The Catalan giants are top of the Primera Division some eight points ahead of Real Madrid and are cruising through their Champions League group after winning the first three games.
They’ve already clocked up a couple of five’s, a four and three three’s over the opening quarter of the season and Lionel Messi has scored fifteen without breaking sweat. In the league it’s seven wins from eight at three goals per game but despite all the usual overwhelming statistics in their favour something just doesn’t seem right. Barca don’t seem to be Barca.
Of course they’ve had to contend with the seismic managerial shift with Pep Guardiola leaving a record breaking shaped hole in the dugout with his assistant Tito Villanova coming in to plug the gap, and to be fair to Villanova nobody can really complain about the results.
However, the way in which some of those results have been accrued is either a testament to Barca’s enduring brilliance, or more to do with injuries, sloppiness, a drop in standards or a culmination of all of those facets and more. Let me explain.
For a start, would the all conquering Barcelona of the last four years have huffed and puffed as much in getting past a limited Celtic side with an appalling away European record? Probably not. Even if you ignore that game in isolation, the previous Saturday they shipped in four only to score five against newly promoted Deportivo La Coruna.
Again, you could palm the Depor result off as one of those footballing freaks of nature but what about them needing to come from two down to win at Sevilla, or needing a pair of late Messi goals to overturn a deficit away in Osasuna? And then there was going 2-1 behind to Spartak Moscow at home before ‘he’ saved them again.
All in all it’s been an eclectic couple of months for the deposed La Liga champions which aside from anything else adds a different flavour to writing about them when it’s not a cut and dry three points every weekend.
On Saturday they travel to Rayo Vallecano who are mid-lower table material in every sense of the word. Last year Guardiola’s side came and went with a 7-0 thrashing to add to the customary 4-0 home win but there’s nothing to suggest things will be as clinical and comprehensive this time around.
Bwin’s 3Way football betting market still have Barca big odds on favourites at 11/50 with the draw 5/1 and Vallecano a massive 21/2. Even the draw-Vallecano win is 29/10 and that may, just may, be worth a little flutter given what’s come to pass for Los Blaugrana so far this season.
But despite me casting querying aspersions towards the Camp Nou I still fully expect the Barca boys to get the job done here but how, and in what manner, is a different matter.
Defensively Barca are weak at the moment. In thirteen games this term they’ve only kept two clean sheets and it took them eighteen league matches last year to concede what they have already this term.
A Vallecano goal doesn’t do much apart from open up the Barca to win with goals market but before that it’s 29/10 for the hosts to score the first.
Back to business I still think Villanova’s side should win but like in most Barca games you’ve got to have a good rummage about to find a bit of value. Barca with over 2.5 is still 57/100 but over 3.5 goals is odds against at 5/4 and that’s about the best you’re going to get unless you pick the result – which is what I’m going to do.
Given Vallecano’s thorny home record (two wins and a draw from four) I reckon they’ve got a goal in them against Barca’s rickety backline made up almost entirely of midfielders but you can never back against a side who average three goals a game and I’m tipping them to keep up that record by posting a 3-1 win at the Estadio Teresa Rivero.
Bwin have that score at a healthy 35/4 and if you stake your free £20 bet courtesy of bwin on that outcome you could end up £195 richer by close of play.
Elsewhere if you’re looking for a couple of punts to beef up your accumulator then both teams to score is 4/5 and barca to notch in both halves is 13/20.