This Saturday should see business as usual
at Camp Nou when Barcelona take on Sporting de Gijón, and expect to take all
three points from a team in the Spanish relegation zone and to keep some pressure
on Real Madrid.
It's an 8 PM kick-off on Saturday, March
3rd when Barcelona host Sporting de Gijónin for match day 26 of the 2011 – 12
La Liga season.
It's no secret that Barcelona are playing
catch up with Real Madrid (Real play Espanyol this weekend) this season. The Catalan side are 10 points behind the
Madrid side, yet still 14 points ahead of 3rd place Valencia, so they are
pretty much guaranteed to finish second in the league this season. Sporting de
Gijón by comparison are also in a second place spot, however they are second
bottom. After 24 games they have amassed only 21 points and sit six points away
from safety. Being penultimate in the league is never good but the fact of the
matter is, the difference between Real Madrid and Barcelona is the same as
between Sporting de Gijón and and 11th place Rayo Vallecano. While Barcelona are
9/1 to win La Liga Sporting de Gijón are just 5/11 to be relegated.
If a gulf of 33 points separating two sides
doesn't tell you enough about the likely winner of this march you should know
that the bookies have a home win at 1/9 an away win at 25/1 and a draw at 10/1.
Poor form vs. Great Form
Sporting are winless in their last five
games with three draws and two defeats while Barcelona have won four of their
last five games, and their sole defeats in that spell was the (still puzzling)
3-2 away defeat to Osasuna. Barcelona are also in a free scoring mood having
clocked up 14 goals in their last five games while Sporting de Gijón haven't
scored more than a single goal in any of their last five. You might want to
throw those numbers in a blender and see what comes out, it’s probably
something along the lines of Barcelona winning 3-1 which is available with the
soccer odds makers at 11/1, while the lowest odds on a Sporting de Gijón win are 50/1
That all points to a comfortable victory
Head-to-head is an even more convincing way
of stating the case for Barcelona, in the last five league meetings between
these two sides Barcelona have been on the winning side four times with a
single draw spoiling that run. What's more Sporting de Gijónc have only managed
to find the back of the net once against Barcelona and that game ended 1-1. A
repeat of that score is available at 20/1, but even at those odds I'd say it's
not worth anything more than a loose change bet.
Barcelona have won their last two games
back to back and have scored seven goals, beating Atlético Madrid 2-1 and
Valencia 5-1. Victories like that against opponents like that should sound the
death knell for Sporting although there is the thin glimmer of hope being that
Lionel Messi, who scored 5 of those seven goals for Barcelona won’t be playing
Bad news for Barcelona good news for
Sporting de Gijón
The biggest story of the day is centred on
somebody who actually won’t be there as Messi saw his fifth yellow card of the
season last weekend and will be suspended for this weekend's match. While it's
true that no individual (even Messi) is bigger than a team, Barcelona have
called on him every single match so far this season and the fact is he has only
missed 60 minutes of game time with his team this term.
As well as missing Messi, Barcelona have
announced that Eric Abidal is out for 10
days with a hip problem after playing the whole 90 minutes of France's 2-1
friendly victory against Germany on Wednesday, and Thiago Alcantara is also in
doubt for this weekend’s game, with a niggling tibia problem.
There is one more thing that might play to
Sporting's favour and that is that three days after this game, Barcelona host
Bayer Leverkusen in the second leg of the first knockout round of the Champions
League and, although the tie is currently poised 1-3 in Barcelona's favour I
expect, Pep Guardiola to rest some of his key players (as he did ahead of the
first leg) this weekend.
With or without their first-team Barcelona
have just too much class to go down to the team so far behind in the league.
What's more Barcelona are undefeated this
season at Camp Nou, when I feel that the only reason to
back an away win would be out of sheer perversity. It makes more sense to back
a Barcelona victory but slightly subdued scoreline.
Prediction: 2-0 to Barca, available at 6/1