The world stops for El Clasico
The world will come to a standstill come 8pm on Sunday night when Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid lock horns at the Camp Nou in the second Clasico clash of the season in La Liga.
Madrid bagged the bragging rights with a 3-1 victory at the Bernabeu earlier this season but the Catalans go into Sunday’s game as favourites after taking advantage of the capital club’s poor run of form to take over at the league’s summit in recent weeks.
Luis Enrique’s men are firing on all cylinders, buoyed further by their Champions League progression against Manchester City in midweek, and are 5/8 to bag three points that would not only give Barca fans the high ground but also edge their side four points clear at the top and closer to winning the title.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has been under pressure in recent weeks with president Florentino Perez coming out to deny a report that the Italian would be sacked if he lost at the Camp Nou.
The former Chelsea boss has seen his side let slip a four-point lead at the top and now trail Barca by a point going into the match.
Ancelotti’s future may be safe until the end of the campaign but a defeat in Catalonia may have implications come the summer.
Ancelotti’s men are 7/2 to claim victory, lengthy odds given how tight it is at the top and the quality within the Madrid squad.
Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are set to play together in midfield for the first time in four months and Sergio Ramos also returned to the Madrid line-up last weekend in a solid 2-0 win against Levante.
There is also the school of thought that form goes out of the window in such games, and although Barcelona are the team with the momentum, Madrid will see this match as an opportunity to make amends for recent poor performances that have seen their own fans whistle them at the Bernabeu.
The sub-plot of Lionel Messi against Cristiano Ronaldo is a big pull and both players will be going all out to score goals that will not only ensure their side the points, but that will go a long way in the race to become the league’s top scorer.
Messi leads the way with 32 and is the man in form but relatively long odds of 7/2 to open the scoring should be tempting.
Former Manchester United man Ronaldo, who has scored in six of his last seven visits to the Camp Nou, is even longer at 11/2 to add to his 30 Liga strikes this season.
Former Tottenham Hotspur forward Gareth Bale is 10/1 to add to his brace against Levante last week and silence more critics while on-song Luis Suarez is 9/2 to break the deadlock.
Both teams emphatically lead the way in goals in Spain but Madrid have enjoyed scoring the most in the first half, with 38, while Barca have scored most after the break, with a thumping 53.
Taking that into account, a tempting bet may be on the visitors to lead at half-time and the hosts to hit back and win the game at 33/2.
A humdinger of a match awaits at the Camp Nou on Sunday night – it’s not a bad way to bring the weekend to a close.
The rest of La Liga
Whisper it quietly, but the rest of La Liga continues as usual this weekend and relegation-threatened Elche host high-flying Valencia to kick things off on Friday night.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men are on the crest of a wave after moving up to third, above champions Atletico Madrid, last weekend and should be able to stretch their unbeaten run to seven matches with victory at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero that brings odds of 5/6.
Rodrigo will miss out for Los Che through suspension, with Sofiane Feghouli likely to start on the right, while Paco Alcacer could come in to replace Manchester City loan man Alvaro Negredo, who looks set to miss out with a knee injury.
Alcacer came off the bench to score in the 2-0 win against Deportivo La Coruna last weekend, his sixth of the season, and is 7/5 to score anytime.
There is a Madrid derby on Saturday afternoon as Atletico Madrid look to get back to winning ways after three straight draws when they welcome near neighbours Getafe to the Vicente Calderon.
Atleti’s winless run has allowed Valencia to move into third but Diego Simeone’s side should be boosted by their midweek Champions League progression against Bayer Leverkusen.
Atleti are 3/10 to bag all three points and the reigning champions should have few problems in seeing off an opponent who has won just once in their last eight competitive matches away from home.
Getafe have also failed to find the back of the net in a staggering last eight matches against their Madrid rivals, meaning odds of 4/9 for only one side to score and 18/5 on a comfortable 2-0 win for the hosts should not be sniffed at.
Doubts surround Mario Mandzukic’s role this weekend but Antoine Griezmann is set to start and is 14/5 to score first and add to the impressive 14 league goals the Frenchman has scored so far this term.
A closely contested match awaits at Vallecas on Saturday afternoon as Rayo Vallecano look to make it four home wins on the spin when Malaga visit the Spanish capital.
Paco Jemez’s side have been in good form on home soil recently, ensuring they move clear of relegation danger, but they welcome a side who have won three of their last four matches and are pushing for a European place this season.
The draw looks the most likely outcome at 23/10 but a high-scoring one given the nature of both teams. A 2-2 outcome, at 41/4, looks a decent shout.
Rayo’s Alberto Bueno has scored seven goals in three games and is the leading Spanish scorer in the league with 15 this season.
That form has caught the interest of teams around Europe, according to reports, and the former Derby County man is 6/4 to score anytime.
Juanmi leads the way for the Costa del Sol club with seven and he is 21/10 to score anytime for the visitors this weekend.
On paper, Celta Vigo look a good bet to beat Levante this weekend at odds of 23/20 but the Valencia club’s home form has been impressive recently and has helped keep them above the relegation trapdoor.
Lucas Alcaraz’s side have lost just once in eleven matches on home soil and that should make the draw an enticing option at 11/5.
The Galicians have also won just twice out of their last eleven competitive fixtures away from home.
Levante have won their last three home matches and are 49/20 to make it four on the spin and give their top-flight survival hopes a real shot in the arm.
Something will have to give in Andalusia on Saturday night when two of the league’s struggling teams in Granada and Eibar go head to head in a desperate search of much-needed points.
Granada have won just twice in 23 Liga matches while Basque side Eibar go into the match on the back of an eight-game losing streak that risks seeing their fairytale rise to the top-flight ending on a sour note.
Home advantage may be key and Granada won last time out on home soil when they beat Malaga 1-0. Abel Resino’s men are 10/11 to win and give their survival hopes a boost, while worsening Eibar’s problems down at the bottom.
The writing looks to be on the wall at San Mames on Saturday night as Athletic Bilbao look to make it five wins on the spin in La Liga against goal-shy Almeria.
Ernesto Valverde’s side are enjoying their best form of the season so far thanks to an unbeaten run that stretches five matches in the league and includes four wins, while this weekend’s visitors have failed to find the back of the net in their last four matches and sit on the brink of the bottom three.
Athletic Club will be without in-form forward Aritz Aduriz through injury and the suspended Mikel San Jose but should comfortably see off Almeria at odds of 1/2.
Inaki Williams has burst on to the scene for the Basque club this season but he has yet to find the back of the net in La Liga.
In the absence of Aduriz he could set up to the plate and is 17/10 to open his account with a goal anytime.
Deportivo La Coruna have dropped back into the relegation places owing to a run of just one point from a possible 15.
The Galicians will hope to bounce back when they host mid-table Espanyol on Sunday.
Depor have also failed to score in four of those last five matches and that should make the Catalan club an attractive option to sneak all three points at 15/8. The winning margin should not be that great, with a one-goal cushion looking the best bet at 16/5.
Sergio Garcia, with nine goals to his name in the league so far this season, is a good shout to open the scoring for the visitors at 6/1.
Villarreal will have the chance to inflict some instant revenge on Sevilla following their midweek Europa League exit to the Andalusians when they welcome Unai Emery’s side to El Madrigal on Sunday.
Sevilla went through to the quarter-finals with a 5-2 aggregate scoreline at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Thursday night but Marcelino will still fancy his side’s chances of finishing above Sevilla in the league. They currently sit in fifth, three points behind the Seville club.
The Yellow Submarines are 21/20 to sink Seville and star man Luciano Vietto is 5/1 to score first.
Sevilla will be in confident mood following that success in Europe, however, and for a repeat of the 3-1 scoreline you can get long and attractive odds of 25/1.
David Moyes and his Real Sociedad side should be able to chalk up their third win on the spin on Sunday when they welcome basement dwellers Cordoba to Anoeta.
The former Manchester United and Everton boss finally ended his away hoodoo when La Real edged to victory at Getafe last time out and they should have few problems in seeing off a Cordoba side that look destined for the Segunda Division and arrive on the back of eight straight defeats.
Moyes’s men are 5/8 for the three points but odds of 13/10 for the hosts to be winning at half-time and full-time may be more attractive.
Cordoba sacked coach Miroslav Djukic this week and replaced him with Jose Antonio Romero. The Andalusians at least have a chance and they will hope a change in coach works wonders this weekend. They are 19/4 to end their losing streak with a surprise win.