Much has been made of Real Madrid’s brutal 3-1 sweeping aside of Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg in midweek.
With Real and Barcelona meeting again in the league on Saturday ahead of massive Champions League clashes – and the destiny of the Primera Division title to the Nou Camp a foregone conclusion – there are reports that both sides will rest key players.
Not being party to Jose Mourinho’s team selection thoughts myself, it is difficult to know exactly what calls he will make.
However, there have been reports in the Spanish press about likely changes to the teamsheet that chime with the choices Mourinho has made recently in similar scenarios.
Kaka for Ozil is a likely change in midfield if Mourinho seeks to protect the diminutive German playmaker for Tuesday’s all-important Champions League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The Brazilian has found himself a little more in favour at the Bernabeu of late and scored his first goal of the season in a 2-1 win at Deportivo last weekend, making him a decent 10/1 long shot for the opener against Barca.
Winger Angel de Maria is suspended, with Jose Callejon set to deputise, while Barcelona’s arch-nemesis Pepe could also be unleashed on the wounded Catalans in place of gifted young defender Raphael Varane.
Why Barcelona would also want to drop players on Saturday with their clash against Milan ten days after this weekend’s Clasico is more of a mystery, but reports indicate they will.
With both teams reliant on superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for goals, it would be surprising if this weekend’s clash was denied their talents.
After Ronaldo’s two goals in midweek and Messi’s dip in form by his own astonishing standards (one goal in three appearances), I feel the Portuguese flier is better value at 13/4 to score first.
Likewise, assuming that – despite a likely end-of-season departure – Mourinho would love to chalk up a second win over Barcelona in five days, the impressive manner of Real’s midweek cup win makes them excellent value for another triumph on Saturday at 9/5.
Talk of a crisis at the Camp Nou may be overblown, but there is no doubting they have been off colour of late and will need a sharp reversal of form to beat Real at odds of 13/10.
If Barca are not able to tighten up at the back then Real could prove a menace on the break, whatever team is fielded.
A bet on Mourinho’s men to win both halves of the match (as they did on Wednesday) at 31/4 is my top tip for what promises to be another dramatic encounter between these two bitter rivals.