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> > Barca vs. Madrid – who is performing better this season

Barca vs. Madrid – who is performing better this season

Barca vs. Madrid – who is performing better this season - 4.5 out of 5 based on 20 votes

It’s the first El Clasico of the season on Saturday – but who will come out on top? With two new managers, the Catalan’s are home favourites, but are both sides overrated this season, and how does this affect the handicap?

Problems with setting the handicap for El Clasico

The main issue with setting a handicap for El Clasico is due to the difficulty in judging the relative strength of both teams before the first meeting of the season.

Both Real and Barcelona are vastly superior to the majority of La Liga, so judging how they will match up before they meet is difficult to comprehend based on their other results. Barcelona are 1.800* to win the match, but underdogs of 2.010* at a -0.5 and -1 handicap. Real Madrid are 4.530* to win, with their handicap set at +0.5 and +1.

Add to this the fact that both Barcelona and Real Madrid have new managers – and new philosophies – it could be difficult to accurately predict how both will approach the first El Clasico of the season.

How will Martino & Ancelotti approach El Clasico?

Both Gerardo Martino and Carlo Ancelotti have enforced new tactics on Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively since their employment.

There was little transfer movement in or out of Barcelona in the summer – Neymar arrived, while David Villa, Thiago Alcantara and Eric Abidal (none of whom started more than 17 league games last season) have departed – so the changes this season have reflected Martino’s philosophy.

Martino has instructed his players to play more direct. This was perhaps most notable in the 4-0 win against Rayo Vallecano – for the first time in 317 competitive games Barcelona finished the game having had less possession than their opponents.

Ever since their 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid in 2008, Barca’s tiki-taka style has starved their opposition of the ball.

Despite some critics questioning Martino’s approach, it now gives the team a more versatile approach, while club legends Xavi and Iniesta are not guaranteed a start as Martino approaches each game differently.

The evidence thus far suggests Martino is trying to find a compromise between Barcelona’s standard style of football and a more varied approach.  Have Barcelona found their perfect match – a manager who appreciates the qualities in their traditional style of play, but also wants variations to become less predictable and more tactically flexible?

Since Ancelotti’s arrival at Real he has looked to slow the tempo of the Galacticos. While under Mourinho, Real had quick transitions from defense to offense, the Italian wants to control the game more effectively by retaining possession. However, Ancelotti has been branded defensive, much like his counterpart Fabio Capello, during his time at the Bernabeu.

Interestingly, under Mourinho Real completely changed their approach when playing in El Clasico. The Portuguese manager tried several approaches – from matching Barca, bullying them with aggression and finally setting on a mix of the two styles.

Ancelotti is not Mourinho however, but he is wise enough to not ignore how Jose turned around Madrid’s fortunes in El Clasico last season – won four, drew two lost one.

One thing is for certain; the first El Clasico will be both Martino’s and Ancelotti’s first true tests.

How have Barcelona performed this season?

Barcelona sit top of La Liga after an excellent start to the season following eight wins, and one draw.

The Catalan’s had the chance to equal Madrid’s 1968/69-season record of nine consecutive wins at the start of La Liga, but drew 0-0 away at Osasuna – the first time they haven’t scored in 65 La Liga games.

Bettors expect Barcelona to dominate other teams in La Liga, but how much value do they offer the bettor on the handicap?

The Spanish giants have covered the spread just 44.4% of the time this season. Nevertheless at home, they have covered an impressive 75% of games at the Nou Camp.

Why are Real Madrid struggling against the handicap?

Madrid are currently third in La Liga, three points adrift of leaders Barcelona having won seven, drawn one and lost one.

Despite being just three points off the pace, Real have been terrible against the spread this season.  In their nine La Liga games they have covered the handicap a meager 11.1% of the time.

Breaking this down further highlights the fact that they have failed to beat the handicap even once on the road this season. Is this a sign of a more cautious approach from Real compared to last season?

By comparing Real’s performance last season against seven of their opponents – Villarreal and Elche were promoted this season – they conceded the same amount of goals but scored seven more. Does this highlight a more cautious approach under Ancelotti, and is this the reason they are failing to cover the handicap?

Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: Head-to-Head

DateCovering TeamHandicapResult
12/13/2008 Barcelona -1 2-0
05/02/2009 Barcelona 0 2-6
11/29/2009 Barcelona -0.5 1-0
04/10/2010 Barcelona 0 0-2
11/29/2010 Barcelona -0.5 5-0
04/16/2011 Real Madrid 0.25 1-1
12/10/2011 Barcelona 0 1-3
04/21/2012 Real Madrid -1 1-2
10-07-2012 Real Madrid -0.5 2-2
03/02/2013 Real Madrid 0.25 2-1

The ten most recent La Liga El Clasico encounters shows Barcelona have dominated the ties, winning six, losing two and drawing two.

Against the handicap, it is noticeable that Barca have also covered the spread 60% of the time. With this said if you look at the last two seasons, Real have covered the last twice at the Nou Camp and three of the four games in La Liga.

These stats are all very interesting but judging the strength of both Real and Barcelona is difficult, given the opposition they are compared against – minus Real’s defeat to Atletico Madrid.

Bettors like traders need to consider a number of factors – new managers, new tactics, new players – before betting on the first El Classico of the season, and given the difficulty in judging their relative ability, this makes the margin for error greater and ultimately the chance for a bettor to make a profit.

Click here for the latest El Clasico odds.

Click here for the latest El Clasico match props.

Barca vs. Madrid – who is performing better than expected this season

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