In the first El Clasico of the season, Jose Mourinho’s first as manager of Real Madrid, Barcelona romped to a 5-0 victory but in the two meetings between the sides since, it has been much tighter and a close affair is what can be expected at the Bernabeu in the pair’s Champions League semi-final first leg clash.
In the league game recently at the same venue, neither team could find the net from open play as a penalty at each end ensured it finished 1-1 while the Copa del Rey final last week was goalless after 90 minutes, with Real Madrid grabbing a winner deep into extra-time.
What both games demonstrated is that Mourinho has clearly decided, following the 5-0 reverse at the Camp Nou, that containment is the best policy against Barca and indeed he has deployed Pepe in midfield instead of his normal defensive position with the intention of preventing Pep Guardiola’s charges getting into a passing rhythm and disrupting the supply line to Lionel Messi.
This has worked on home soil and neutral territory and the former Chelsea boss will see no reason to deviate as they host the tournament favourites in this one. Subsequently, it’s hard to separate the teams, even if you’re a bookmaker, pricing both at 7/4 and it’s hard to overlook Stan James’ 12/5 marked against the draw as it’s a result the Catalans side would settle for and neither team appeals enough to warrant an interest.
Meanwhile, with goals proving hard to come by for both teams in their two recent showdowns, a tally of fewer than 2.5 looks a banker at 4/5 with Totesport and it’s therefore a brave punter that backs either Ronaldo or Messi at 6/5 apiece with Coral, to get on the scoresheet, despite the duo having racked up almost a hundred club goals between them this season.