With the title race in La Liga looking as open as it has at any point this season, both Real Madrid and Barcelona will be hoping to keep their upward momentum going by taking all three points from their meeting at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano (8pm Saturday).
Atlético Madrid were by far the fastest side out of the gates, and at the midway point of the campaign they held a 10-point lead at the top, in addition to a game in hand over both Barcelona and Real Madrid. At that stage, it very much looked like their title to lose.
Ten matchdays later, the panorama looks very different indeed. Atlético have taken 19 points from their subsequent 11 fixtures, while Barcelona and Madrid have taken 28 and 23 respectively to close the gap significantly at the top. Barcelona are now a solitary point behind Atlético, with Madrid just a couple further back.
In fact, Barcelona’s fate is now in their own hands. If they win all of their remaining fixtures, including their direct encounter at home to Atlético in early May, four matchdays from the end of the campaign, they will be crowned champions of La Liga and they are now odds-on with the bookmakers to come out on top.
That was a very unlikely prospect not all that long ago. After a stuttering start to the season, a switch in formation, a more aggressive defensive setup and the return to form of Lionel Messi have produced a team who come into the Clasico on the back of 13 wins in their last 14 in the league. Their last league defeat came back in early December, 20 matches ago.
Barca’s European campaign came to an abrupt end in a 2-5 aggregate defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League, but Ronald Koeman has helped them find their way domestically. Not only is the league title now a possibility but also the final of the Copa del Rey against Athletic Club is to come next weekend.
Koeman’s side warmed up for the Clasico with a tight 1-0 win at home to Real Valladolid on Monday. They dominated the shot count and created some good chances but had to wait until Ousmane Dembele’s 90th-minute strike to claim all three points.
Madrid had a more testing lead into the fixture, recording an impressive 3-1 win at home to Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final on Tuesday. They were by far the better team during the first half and went in two goals up thanks to Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio. The second half was more even, but after Liverpool had pulled one back, a further strike from Vinicius Junior gave Madrid a good lead to defend in the return.
Zinedine Zidane’s side haven’t put together quite such an impressive run as Barca over the last few months. They have a few more draws and an additional defeat sprinkled into the mix, but they are very much in the title picture and come into Saturday’s match on the back of three straight victories in the league and five in all competitions.
Karim Benzema has been in excellent form in recent weeks, producing six goals and one assist across their last four league matches, scoring in each and every one of them.
Madrid were 3-1 winners when the sides met at the Camp Nou earlier this season and also triumphed 2-0 in last season’s equivalent fixture at the Bernabeu, following an earlier 0-0 draw in Barcelona. Three matches is their longest unbeaten run in this fixture since 2013, and if they could extend it to four on Saturday, it would be their longest such run since 2008.
It is, however, a mark they may not reach. Barcelona are in a much better place than they were in October and are clearly the league’s form side. With the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final to come in midweek, Madrid may be minded to rest a couple of key performers (maybe Luka Modric or Toni Kroos in midfield), and that might just be enough to tip things Barcelona’s way.
So our Real Madrid vs Barcelona betting tips verdict for this preview is:
- Bet on Barcelona to win @ 13/10 with Betfair. See all bookies’ odds in the table below.
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