Barcelona are barely four games into their new season, yet have generated enough talking points to ensure the cutting down of many a tropical rainforest. From losing the Supercopa – largely thanks to a Victor Valdes howler in the home leg – to just about squeezing past Osasuna, the Blaugrana have certainly looked more frail than usual in the early stages of Tito Vilanova’s tenure.
The Catalan side’s manager will, for his part, be forced to watch this weekend’s home game against Valencia from the stands as he serves a suspension which can be traced back to the rather animated arguments which followed Lionel Messi’s controversial goal against Osasuna and Francisco Punal’s subsequent sending off.
With this in mind, it would perhaps be wrong to express a routine victory for Barca at Camp Nou this evening, though an away win seems rather a long shot at 10/1. The last time this happened, Ricardo Oliveira was still a hot prospect, and won the tie thanks to a tremendous half-volley from outside the box.
It would certainly not be a surprise to see Valencia emulate Osasuna and keep the game level at least until half-time, before eventually succumbing before the end, an outcome priced at an interesting 7/2.
Los Che are still rebuilding after last season ended with Unai Emery being replaced, with his football being judged to be too conservative. A more ambitious brand of football will take time to be put in place, and Barcelona are odds-on at 11/50 to exploit Valencia’s transitory nature.
In times of need, the Catalans have always been able to call up on Leo Messi, who netted a brace against Osasuna but whose odds of scoring even a hat-trick are frankly uninteresting. Rather than focussing on that, it may be a good idea to simply back him to net last, which fetches a good price at 7/4. Barcelona are quite Messi-dependant at the moment, and he is unlikely to disappoint.
A last point needs to be made about Barcelona’s rickety defence: it has always conceded (at least once) in official matches this season, and Los Che are more than capable of making that happen again. Trouble is that their odds of scoring simply aren’t worth a flutter, whilst backing Valencia to score twice would – oddly enough – only really be wise if Barcelona were so dominant as to let a couple of goals slip by, almost without noticing.
Both Granada and Betis managed this last season in La Liga, both times coming back from 2-0 before losing by unflattering scorelines. More to the point, it may be more appropriate to back Valencia to score more in the first half than they do in the second (at 31/10), thus remaining consistent with a good first half/eventual Barcelona win scenario.
Recommended bet: Draw/Barca win at half time/full time @ 7/2
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