IF I was to ask what lies in the heart of Madrid, plays home to one of Spain's greatest sides and has been a graveyard for close to a decade for Barcelona … what would your answer be?

The Santiago Bernabeu and Real Madrid would seem they obvious answer.

However, it might come as a surprise to learn that the Vicente Calderon Stadium and Atletico Madrid can proudly claim a far better – perfect, in fact – record since 2006.

The bogey team for the Catalan giants have somehow produced magical display after magical display, defying form and reputation, on their home patch. So much so, that the Rojiblancos faithful all but expect a win today.

Barcelona were pitch perfect in midweek against Panathaniakos, rattling in five as Lionel Messi burned another seering display into his golden collection turning in a wonderful 90 minutes against the Greeks. It was almost enough to make them forget all about last week's humbling by Hercules at the Nou Camp.

Atletico have enjoyed a remarkable few months, winning the Europa League, Super Cup and reaching the Copa del Rey final last season. They've also started this season with two wins from two to sit top of the table going into tonight's clash.

The last seven games between the pair have produce 39 goals with some massive wins for Barca – including 6-0, 6-1 and 5-2 drubbings.

However, it's in Madrid where Atleti have the advantage – Barca have won just once there in the top flight over the last 10 years.

In February, Colchoneros triumphed 2-1in a wonderful game that saw both sides at the peak of their powers. The year before Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero helped the hosts roar back from 2-0 down in a famous 4-3 win. In 2007-08 Atletico won again, this time in a six-goal thriller.

So apart from lining up another absolute corker for the neutral it also provides a wonderful opportunity for punters to stake big money on a lot of goals and pick out their weapon of choice when it comes to the mouth-watering frontlines.

Sergio Aguero (11-4, William Hill for any time) is struggling with a knock and he's likely, at this point, to start on the bench. Atleti could gamble but they may fear losing him for a far greater period of time if he does aggravate his knock.

Instead, the focus will shift entirely to Diego Forlan and he's surely a must-buy at
11-4 with William Hill to score at any time. He may even be worth a shot at 14-1 (Skybet) to score two or more.

Other anytimers worth a look are Portuguese ace Simao, Fran Merida and Jose Antonio Reyes.

For Barcelona, it's the usual suspects. Messi is thriving in the centre-forward position and he's already burning hot in front of goal, scoring five in six games so far.

He's evens with Stan James to score at anytime but is also 5-1 with totesport to score two or more. David Villa could be the difference maker and is also even with Stan James. For two or more go with totesport who offer another 5-1.

In other markets, betfred offer an easy 8-15 on both sides scoring. Paddy Power go
6-5 on total goals being between two and three while the more likely chance of their being over four is best priced at 13-10 with totesport's. Barca are 13-8 to score in both halves, Atleti 4-1.

So, to a winner … it's a particularly difficult one to call and I'd never be forgiven by my friends from Catalonia for siding against the Blaugrana in a game they're desperate to win even though history isn't on their side.

On their day Barcelona can beat any team on the planet, so backing them to win seems fairly obvious and you have to think they'll bring an end to the jinx at some point.

If you fancy that being today then go with the 8-11 being offered by betfred and Ladbrokes.

For Atleti's stunning run to continue then go with 4-1, Ladbrokes and various others.

Me? I'll avoid any conflicts and go straight down the middle with a 10-3 at bet365.


  • Roberto Soldado to score against Hercules for Valencia pays 15-8 at Paddy Power


  • Sampdoria, Udinese and Borussia Dortmund pays £182.86 on a tenner.

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