SPAIN’S big two collide for the first time this season on Saturday night and it promises to be an unmissable Clasico.
The world’s greatest player is set for a return in football’s biggest club game as Leo Messi is pencilled in for a Barcelona comeback although looks likely to start on the bench.
The pressure is on Real boss Rafa Benitez ahead of his first Clasico. He finds himself under fire from the fans with Los Blancos trailing Barca by three points at the top of La Liga and there are murmurs of unrest among the Galacticos.
Real – who lost 3-2 at Sevilla in their last outing – could have their BBC attacking trio back for the first time since September.
Karim Benzema has returned to training after more than a month out and may join Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in the starting line-up. Keeper Real keeper Keylor Navas returns from a two-week injury lay-off to make his Clasico debut.
Barca haven’t done too shabbily in Messi’s absence with Neymar netting eight goals in four La Liga games and Luis Suarez scoring six.
It looks a close match to call but I’m swaying towards Real whose need is greater. They remain unbeaten at home in all competitions this season – the only blip a 0-0 draw with Malaga – while Barca crashed 4-0 away to Athletic Bilbao in the Super Cup, 4-1 at Celta Viga and 2-1 at Sevilla in La Liga.
One thing that’s been guaranteed whenever these teams meet in recent years is goals. Since the start of season 2011-12, there have been 17 El Clasicos in all competitions and all but one have seen both teams score and over 2.5 goals.
In the past eight La Liga meetings, btts/over 2.5 goals has landed and same again in this clash pays 8-11 at bet365.
Real Madrid have scored over 1.5 goals in their last three home clashes with Barca and are 10-11 at Betfair to net two or more.
Neymar is 7-5 at betfair for a goal any time and Benzema – who has scored in the last four Clasicos at the Bernabeu – is 9-5 at Paddy Power.
Scott’s Clasico bets
Both teams to score/over 2.5 goals
Real Madrid draw no bet
Ronaldo to score first
Neymar to score
Bonkers Bet – Real 2, Barca 1