The 2017/18 La Liga season may only be six matches old, but already Barcelona have stolen a march over their old foes Real Madrid, with the Catalans opening up a 7 point gap over Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid team.
So far this season Madrid have failed to win any of their three home La Liga fixtures, drawing two (1-1 with Levante and 2-2 with Valencia), and losing one (Real Betis 1-0). Madrid’s away form has been fine, with three wins from three.
Barcelona have really cashed in on this sloppy start by the defending champions, by accumulating 18 points by winning all of their six matches, and this has led to some pundits claiming the title race is already over.
This isn’t a theory totally backed up by punters and bookmakers alike though, as given their 7 points lead, Barcelona are still available to back at a value looking 4/7, with Madrid still looking at touch short to me, at odds of 13/8.
A few years back with Pep Guardiola in charge, the prospect of getting 4/7 on Barcelona to win La Liga with a 7 point lead at this stage, would have been non existent.
Coming up this weekend, Barcelona are at home to Las Palmas on Sunday afternoon. Barca are heavy odds on favourites at 1/12 with bet365. The draw is 10/1, and an unlikely Las Palmas victory can be backed at between 25/1 and 50/1, depending on which bookmaker you use.
Madrid have a trickier looking fixture at home to Espanyol. Zidane’s team are 1/10 to win, with the draw at 9/1, and an away win for Espanyol at a tasty looking 28/1.
Both these matches are included on the latest bet365 live streaming list of matches, which includes all of the top leagues from around Europe, as well as numerous other sports, such as Tennis, Snooker, Badminton, Horse Racing, etc, etc.
Back to the La Liga outright betting, and although odds of 4/7 might not seem that great to some, but this is a two horse race, and one of those horses is already a long way in front. What it does show though, is that there is a slight lack of confidence in Barcelona claiming the league.
I believe there are a couple of reasons for this, with the first being the two head to head matches. The two El Clasico matches give Madrid the chance to claw back 6 of the points they have already dropped, and given the two results against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup back in mid August, it’s not hard to see why this is a fairly reasonable possibility.
The Super Cup seen Madrid hand out a footballing lesson the Barca, winning the 1st leg at the Camp Nou 3-1, before finishing off the job 2-0 at the Bernabeu, three days later. An aggregate score of 5-1, meant Madrid went into the new season firmly on the front foot.
The first of the El Clasico matches takes place at the Bernabeu on Saturday 23rd December, with the second one at the Nou Camp, at the back end of the season on Sunday May 6th.
The second reason why Madrid are still in the hunt to win La Liga is because they have been without Cristiano Ronaldo for their stuttering start to the season, and they now have him back available after his 5 match ban.
The Portuguese is essential to Madrid, and seeing how the champions struggled against defensive minded teams in the opening three home league matches, shows just how important Ronaldo still is. His presence would surely have had an impact in one or two of those matches (if not all three), and he would have ensured that the current 7 point gap would have been smaller.
Madrid can’t afford any more slip ups now though, at the very worst, a draw and a win is required from the two El Clasico matches, any defeat would surely spell the end of their league defence.
Despite Barcelona’s impressive start to the season, they are still smarting over the departure of Neymar, and there is still general unhappiness about the way the club is being run, so there is the prospect of unrest ahead. All this backs up the theory that the league is far from over, and why you can still get 4/7 on Barcelona.