Five draws last term suggests share of spoils for Barca and Atletico
Atletico Madrid went unbeaten against Barcelona last season en route to winning La Liga against all odds and reaching the Champions League final. Five of their six meetings across all competitions were draws, so 3/1 odds with Coral on the spoils being shared again are splendid value.
Maybe it’s media sensationalism to call them a club in crisis, but all is not well at Catalan giants Barca. Presidential elections were moved forward this week, and there have been high-profile departures behind the scenes, as well as pesky rumours of a rift between star player Lionel Messi and manager Luis Enrique.
All of these off-field matters, true or otherwise, showed no sign of affecting Barcelona in their midweek Copa del Rey assignment. They dispatched lowly Elche 5-0 in the last 16 first leg, but suffered a sobering defeat prior to that at the hands of David Moyes’ Real Sociedad.
Couched in those terms, an odds-on 4/7 price for a Barca victory seems short. Atletico, who won the Spanish top-flight title at the Nou Camp with a 1-1 draw last May, come into this encounter off the back of three straight wins in all competitions, yet are rank 5/1 outsiders to beat their hosts.
Fernando Torres’ return to Atleti is an equally intriguing sub-plot to this contest as the Messi rumours. Both men have fantastic scoring records in this fixture for their respective clubs.
Argentina captain Messi, who returned to Barcelona’s XI for the win over Elche, is an odds-on 8/11 anytime scorer chance here, while Torres, who is likely to be benched behind Mario Mandzukic, is tasty at 10/3 in the same market.
As there’s such scant value in taking short prices on Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez (the latter pair both evens) finding the net here, punters must nail their colours to the mast and look at one or these South American superstars grabbing the opener.
Messi is a 3/1 shot in that market, while Brazil skipper Neymar and Uruguay’s record scorer Suarez are 4/1 apiece. On song, this attacking trio remain deadly, but do take on the joint second best La Liga defence here.
Atletico’s rearguard is marshalled superbly by Suarez’s compatriot and set-piece threat Diego Godin. He netted the goal that gave Diego Simeone the title on this ground last term, so why not back him to score again anytime at 15/2?
Mandzukic, meanwhile, is an 11/4 chance in that market, but it is the form of France international forward Antoine Griezmann that looks to be Barca’s biggest worry. In his last two league outings, he’s netted five times, and is a sensational 7/2 just to be on target once here.
With these two teams locked together on 38 points, four behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid, a draw does seem the smart bet. A 1-1 result between Barcelona and Atleti comes in at a fabulous 13/2, and looks appealing, so based on last term’s results, go with that.