Forget about the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A or anything else for that matter, this weekend there is one match that eclipses all in European football: Real Madrid vs Barcelona.
World Cup winners, Champions League-winning managers and the best two players on the planet all take centre stage in one of the highlights of the European football calendar.
It goes without saying that the first El Clasico of the La Liga season at Santiago Bernabeu is of vital importance in the title race but it really is a game Barcelona cannot afford to lose given they are three points behind Real having played a game more.
The gap is already significant, as Madrid just look like they won’t be dropping many points this year. Jose Mourinho has a wonderful team at his disposal, full of incredible attacking talent that is matched with his trademark steel and retaining the league title will be the biggest challenge of Pep Guardiola’s incredibly successful reign.
There is no love lost between the opposing managers, but on the evidence so far Mourinho looks like he can get the better of Guardiola come Saturday.
Of course, to criticise Barcelona for slipping ever so slightly below their impeccable standards might be churlish in the extreme, but they haven’t hit the dizzying heights of the last few years on a regular basis so far this season and their away form (2-3-1) makes you worry for them ahead of their trip to a Madrid side that has scored 28 goals in six home games.
At 7/2 to score first (and evens at any time) Ronaldo can be backed to out-do his great rival and fire Madrid to victory. Seventeen league goals, six of which were first, tell their own story and the former Manchester United man is on free-kick and penalty duty as well.
For this reason, I fancy Madrid to beat Barca on Saturday and I reckon Cristiano Ronaldo will be the man who does the damage.
At almost any other period in modern history the £80 million man would be widely considered to be the best player in the world – a record of 107 goals in 109 games is so phenomenal you can barely comprehend it – but even that is overshadowed by the inconceivable brilliance of Lionel Messi.
At 7/2 to score first (and evens at any time) Ronaldo can be backed to out-do his great rival and fire Madrid to victory.
Seventeen league goals, six of which were first, tell their own story and the former Manchester United man is on free-kick and penalty duty as well.
An alternative to Ronaldo is Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine is 5/1 to score first and 7/5 to bag a goal at any time and with 12 league goals (four of which were openers) those are very reasonable odds.
Barca will look at their recent record against Real for confidence – they have won five out of the last six – and they will certainly take encouragement from the fact that Madrid have kept just one clean sheet in six home games (although many were consolations in thumping wins).
With Barca’s attacking talent you expect them to score anyway and Messi is the obvious call. The little genius is joint-favourite with Ronaldo at 7/2 to score first and evens to notch at any time and you don’t need me to tell you how good he is – he has scored 17 league goals in 14 games and should be backed to add to his tally.
With bwin.com offering almost 200 markets for this match, football betting fans can also put their money on who they think will score more goals – Ronaldo or Messi.
There’s no separating them at the time of writing, with both priced at 21/10 to eclipse the other, while odds of 23/20 say they will both score an equal amount of goals at the Bernabeu.
An outside bet to get on the scoresheet could be Xavi. The Spanish pass master is not renowned for his goalscoring, but he has chipped in with four league goals already this season (plus one in the Champions League) and at 15/1 to score first and 17/4 to hit the back of the net at any time, he could be worth a small play.
(Read a full Real Madrid v Barcelona betting preview here)
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