Will Madrid gamble on Benzema?
Real Madrid can take a step closer to winning the La Liga title if they can claim three points from El Clasico on Sunday.
At the start of this weekend, Carlo Ancelotti’s team have a ten point lead at the top of the table. With Sevilla playing earlier on in the evening, that gap could be reduced a little, but regardless, it would be a huge boost to Madrid’s title aspirations if they can claim victory in one of their toughest remaining fixtures.
Some eyebrows were raised when Real brought Ancelotti back to the Bernabeu in the summer, but the veteran manager is close to providing them with a memorable season. The potential for the title race to be tied up relatively early, could help Madrid’s Champions League aspirations, with the side having been drawn against the holders Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
The big question for Ancelotti going into this game is whether to risk Karim Benzema, who picked up a calf problem in the 3-0 win at Mallorca last weekend. It could be a risk to play him with so much on the line for the rest of the season, but on the other hand this is Madrid’s last game until early April.
Barca now have attacking options and pace
It’s come too late to challenge Real Madrid for the title, but Barcelona have found some consistency in the second-half of this season.
The 2-1 win against Galatasaray in the Europa League on Thursday, saw Barca progress to the quarter-finals and extended their unbeaten run to eleven games (W8 D3). That sequence started towards the end of the January transfer window, with the acquisitions of the pacy trio Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore, having transformed Xavi’s attacking options.
Xavi’s targets for the rest of the season are clear. With his team now third, he must keep them in the top four to qualify for next season’s Champions League. An alternative qualification route and a European trophy, comes in the form of the Europa League, which Barca are the 2.89/5 favourites to win.
Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti and Ansu Fati will not feature in the match, but Xavi has managed to establish a pretty settled side in recent weeks. Ousmane Dembele in back in favour and likely to start in a front three with Aubameyang and Torres.
Benzema key to Real value
Real Madrid are the 2.265/4 favourites to win this, with Barcelona at 3.3512/5 and the draw at 3.814/5.
That’s definitely a fair price for Madrid if Benzema plays. If he doesn’t then the value is questionable. Ancelotti experimented with the likes of Isco and Gareth Bale playing in the central striker role when Benzema was recently unavailable, with mixed results.
Benzema brings so much to Real these days, both in terms of his ability to bring others into the game and his goalscoring, with the Frenchman having hit 32 goals in 34 games this season. If he plays, snap up Real’s price to win. If he doesn’t, then it might be best to avoid the match result market.
Back Bet Builder double
Barcelona have scored in each of their last twelve league games. Since the start of February, they have scored 20 goals in six games, which averages at 2.5 goals-per-match. It’s no surprise then to see over 2.5 goals at a short price of 1.684/6.
Over 3.5 goals is another bet to consider at 2.77/4 and had landed in five of Barcelona’s last six league games.