What on earth is going on at Real Madrid?
The Spanish champions were immaculate last season as they deservedly took the title from Barcelona, but the new campaign has started in the most unexpectedly poor fashion and as Madrid prepare to welcome their old foes to the Bernabeu for the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup, all eyes are on Jose Mourinho’s men.
Three games into the new season, Los Blancos are yet to register a victory. Their first La Liga game ended in a 1-1 draw at home to Valencia, while their second was a poor 2-1 defeat away to Getafe on Sunday. Real are already trailing Barcelona by five points – a very significant gap, even at this early stage, given the relentless nature in which both teams win points in Spain’s top division.
In between those disappointing results, Madrid lost the first leg of the Super Cup to Barca at the Camp Nou in a match that exploded into life in the second half, but the 3-2 scoreline flattered Mourinho’s men and in truth Barcelona could and should have won more comfortably.
Barca were far better than the 3-2 scoreline suggested and the form of Lionel Messi is their big plus in the early stages of the season. The Argentine genius struggled for form at the tail end of last term, but after a summer of rest, he is already firing on all cylinders.
A pretty dull and goalless first half gave way to some scintillating stuff after the break and Barca, under new boss Tito Vilanova, were at their sumptuous best. But one pivotal moment has given Madrid hope of still winning the Super Cup: just seconds after Barca had missed a great chance to go 4-1 up, a gift from goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who dwelt on the ball for too long, allowing Angel Di Maria to steal it and tap into an empty net, made it 3-2 and put the tie back in the balance.
It could yet be the most important moment in the tie, but the Catalans still hold all the aces and can emerge with the trophy. Madrid are 8/5 to win the second leg, with the draw at 13/5 and Barca at 29/20 and it is the latter option that is tempting me in.
Some of Barcelona’s football last week was sensational (how many times have we said that?) and after two wins from two in La Liga, they already look to be getting into the groove.
A good start was vital for Vilanova in order to partially escape the shadow of his predecessor Pep Guardiola and it looks as though that is exactly what the former assistant manager will achieve. Now he can lay down a marker for the season by winning in Madrid.
Of course, there is little love lost between Vilanova and Mourinho after last season’s eye-gouging of the former by the latter (although if Vilanova’s sending off on Sunday is anything to go by, he may have learnt a trick or two from his opposite number) and a win for the new Barca boss in the cauldron of the Bernabeu would set up the season nicely. And at a price of 29/20, I fancy his chances.
Barca were far better than the 3-2 scoreline suggested and the form of Lionel Messi is their big plus in the early stages of the season. The Argentine genius struggled for form at the tail end of last term, looking exhausted as Barcelona’s campaign fell flat, but with a summer of rest behind him, Messi is already firing on all cylinders and he can once again be the difference.
The Catalans are unbeaten in seven fixtures in Madrid and can make that eight by claiming the win that secures the Super Cup at 29/20.
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