- Real Madrid/Real Betis Double – 12/1 with MansionBet
With 90 minutes left to play in the Copa del Rey semi-finals, both ties remain in the balance.
Two scoring draws in the first legs mean that the advantage, at this stage, is with the teams who will be at home now: Valencia and Real Madrid.
Los Che can’t seem to buy a win in the league at the moment, so their 2-2 at Real Betis’ Benito Villamarin stadium, coincidentally the venue for the final, was hugely meritorious.
For the first hour of that game Valencia had been on the ropes and the two-goal lead which Betis stormed into, courtesy of Loren Moron and the evergreen Joaquin, was well deserved.
However, it’s to Marcelino’s great credit that he was able to galvanise his side and see them claw themselves back into the match.
Denis Cheryshev’s crucial away goal silenced the Betistas, with Kevin Gameiro’s 92nd-minute leveller really putting his team in the box seat.
In the other semi, Real Madrid travelled to the Camp Nou and were 1-0 up within six minutes.
As so often this season Barcelona went to sleep at the back, and Lucas Vazquez was on hand to steer the ball past a shell-shocked Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Thereafter, it was the Catalans that did all the running and, on balance of play, Malcom’s 57th minute equaliser was scant reward for their dominance.
A mixture of poor finishing and bad luck on the night contributed in ensuring Barca have it all to do on Wednesday evening, particularly as they return to the Santiago Bernabeu just 72 hours later for a league encounter.
It’ll be the first time ever that Barcelona have played back-to-back Clasicos in Madrid too.
So, what can we expect from the second legs? Let’s take a look…
Back Real Madrid to win at 7/4 with Unibet
Los Blancos have already started their offensive against the Spanish federation, suggesting that the day less they’ve had to recover will leave them at a disadvantage against Barca.
That may be the case, but Santiago Solari should be more concerned with how leggy his team looked at times against Levante on Sunday evening.
Winning only by two VAR-assisted penalties says much, not to mention Levante goal scorer Roger Marti also hitting the woodwork twice.
The coach will have been happy to get that performance out of the system before receiving the Catalans for whom Lionel Messi will be making his 40th appearance in a Clasico.
He remains the obvious threat, but aside from the Sevilla match, he hasn’t been as influential as usual.
Arthur’s return from injury is crucial for the visitors because it’s the control of midfield that will ultimately win the game.
Sergio Ramos will return to partner Raphael Varane limiting chances for an out of sorts Luis Suarez, and with Casemiro giving the centre backs an extra layer of security, it will allow Kroos and Modric to take the game to the visitors.
Roared on by a boisterous Bernabeu, Real have enough going forward both in midfield and attack to unsettle a Barca defence which lacks pace centrally.
Vinicius Junior has been a standout over the past few weeks and he’ll have to work on his final ball if he wants any joy, whilst Vazquez will pin Jordi Alba back, stopping the connection with Messi that’s been so successful this season.
Man for man the sides are relative equals, but home advantage can tip the balance here.
In the Copa del Rey, Barca have only won once this century at the Bernabeu and that came in the 2011/12 quarter final. You then have to go all the way back to the 1967/68 final, played at Madrid’s home, for the next Barcelona victory.
A scoring draw of 2-2 or more would send the visitors through, but over the same time frame, that’s never happened in the cup.
The weight of history is against Barcelona so a 7/4 bet with Unibet for Real to win makes sense.
Back Real Betis to win at 19/5 with Betfred
As we saw with a strong Atletico Madrid win over Juventus in the Champions League, the carrot of playing a final on your home ground is one that Betis will strain every sinew to achieve.
For fans of Spanish football, seeing Joaquin in the final at the Benito Villamarin in particular would be poetic.
Valencia will have a huge say in that of course, and it’s hard to see that Marcelino will change his side too much from the one that played in the first leg.
Geoffrey Kondogbia could come in for Francis Coquelin, with Gameiro taking Santi Mina’s place, and those two changes would give Los Che a virtually full strength XI against a Verdiblancos side that will attack from the off.
Quique Setien is one of a small handful of coaches that has won at both the Bernabeu and Camp Nou, and though Betis’ record at Mestalla isn’t the best, one only needs to recall just how well Betis played to defeat Barcelona earlier in the campaign to understand that they’re more than capable of springing another surprise.
He won’t change his style of play but may tweak his formation. Expect to see a strong performance from William Carvalho, and an incessant press up front from Giovani Lo Celso and Loren Moron.
With Valencia having only won once at home since January, the pressure is all on the hosts, and being expected to win has often seen them come a cropper in the past.
The match will be as exciting as the first encounter with Betis slightly edging it. Betfred have them at 19/5 to triumph here.