It’s not been smooth sailing for Barcelona in Europe as they look destined to drop into the Europa League for the second successive season. One win from four, coming against Viktoria Plzen is not what Xavi would have been expecting, though on the domestic front they’re faring far better.
Indeed, they sit top of the league having only conceded a single strike all season long, though rivals Real Madrid are level on points in second and will be champing at the bit for the opportunity to leapfrog them this weekend.
Los Blancos have been in imperious form this season and remain unbeaten in 17 matches now going back to May across all competitions. They won their opening nine matches of the season, though now have drawn two of their last four, with Antonio Rudiger putting his head on the line to snatch a late draw against Shakhtar Donetsk.
While Carlo Ancelotti’s men were emphatic at the beginning of the campaign, winning six of their first eight matches by at least two clear goals, they’ve not managed that feat for five matches now and Barca will be sensing some frailties.
The Madrid side have won four of the last five league head-to-heads, though lost the most recent in a 4-0 humbling to Xavi’s side with that the only La Liga meeting between these two managers to date.
Over 1.5 First Half Goals
There’s often little to separate these sides, and their respective domestic exploits highlight precisely that. You’d have thought the home advantage would prove invaluable, though the Catalans have won four of their last six away matches in this fixture across all competitions.
While Barca have been defensively sound, they are missing a number of their backline with Andreas Christensen, Jules Kounde, Hector Bellerin and Ronald Araujo all absent here, while aside from former Chelsea duo Thibaut Courtois and potentially Antonio Rudiger are the only absentees for the hosts.
Robert Lewandowski has been a phenomenon in the Bundesliga, and he’s currently living up to the hype in La Liga too as he currently sits as the top goalscorer. He’s netted 14 times in 12 outings for Barca across all competitions now and without Memphis Depay available, the Pole is their main source of goals with it difficult to fathom him not finding the net here.
Both sides will be looking to get off to a flyer and stamp their authority on this game from the get go, while neither side has been shy of scoring early goals. Five of Real’s last seven first halves have seen at least two strikes, while the same is true of four of Barca’s last seven. That’s also been the case in three of the last four head-to-heads so we’re happy to gun for early goals here.
OVER 1.5 FIRST HALF GOALS
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