Real Madrid go into Sunday’s match against Espanyol nursing bruised pride once again.
A midweek Copa del Rey first-leg defeat at La Liga strugglers Celta Vigo has turned Jose Mourinho’s notorious wrath back on to his own players.
The reverse was Real’s sixth loss of the season – one more than they suffered in the whole of the previous campaign.
Still, a visit from Espanyol should be an effective pick-me-up for the troubled souls at the Bernabeu.
Real have won all but two of their home fixtures this season – draws against Valencia in the league and Dortmund in Europe – which explains why they are as short as 9/100 to pick up all three points.
Los Blancos have won their last seven meetings with Espanyol in a row, granting little hope of an away win at huge odds of 22/1 or a draw at 33/4.
Barcelona’s less glamorous club are having a rotten season of their own – second from bottom in the table and without a win in six matches.
Madrid have turned on the style at home this season as their opponents’ efforts to frustrate them have brought little reward, in stark contrast to their struggles on the road.
A more modest win than many expect could be on the cards, then, making bets such as Real to win by a two-goal margin at 13/4 (via handicap betting) appealing.
Espanyol clearly know how to shut up shop, as anyone who witnessed their not-so-thrilling goalless draw at relegation rivals Granada a fortnight ago can attest.
In fact, Javier Aguirre’s side have conceded just nine goals away from home this season, the same figure as Real.
Madrid front man Karim Benzema is a doubt for Sunday’s fixture.
Should he be absent, Real’s tally will depend even more on Cristiano Ronaldo, who has eased off a little from his sensational scoring rate at the start of the season.
Ronaldo’s vital late goal at Celta Vigo was his fourth in 11 games in all competitions – nothing to worry about but not quite his prolific best.
Real’s last home win – in the Madrid derby – was a 2-0 success, a scoreline with odds as long as 27/4 on Sunday.
Decent odds of 31/20 are also available on Espanyol keeping the combined scoreline down to three goals or less, with Madrid winning, and that’s where my money will be going.