Barcelona hit the half-way point of the La Liga season with a visit to Malaga with their frighteningly good record looking ever better.
Just two points dropped in their first 18 matches of the Spanish league season has put Barca on course to smash Real Madrid’s record end-of-season points tally of 100 from last campaign.
Odds of 21/50 on another Barcelona win look surprisingly generous given their amazing run.
It is true that Malaga are a talented bunch and boast the league’s meanest defence with just 13 goals conceded this season. It is also true that Barcelona are far from invincible, as Celtic memorably showed in the Champions League.
Nevertheless, Malaga’s shaky start to 2013 and the fact the Catalans routinely make a mockery of their fellow Spanish sides’ strengths suggest a 13/2 outside bet on a Malaga win or a 333/100 gamble on a draw would be very wishful.
Malaga lost 0-1 at relegation favourites Deportivo La Coruna in the first match since the winter break. Manuel Pellegrini’s men were also behind at home to third-tier side Eibar in the Copa del Rey this midweek until a 74th minute equalizer began a comeback that saw Malaga emerge 4-1 winners.
Tito Vilanova’s side have been less sensational on the road than at the Nou Camp this season, so speculating on a narrow two-goal win at 16/5 via handicap betting might appeal.
All the omens point to a high-scoring Barca win, however. Odds of 9/5 on Barcelona to win a match with four goal or more look very good when you consider that only two of the Catalans’ last 15 league matches have resulted in fewer than four strikes.
After rival Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a midweek Copa del Rey hat-trick, perhaps Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi will be in the mood for another masterful showing of his flawless finishing. Messi is 13/2 to score a hat-trick.