Barcelona look to shake off a rare dip in domestic form when they take on Almeria on Saturday. Join us as we preview this highly anticipated week 11 La Liga clash and serve up our soccer free picks.
Barcelona Look To Bounce Back
After charging to seven wins and a draw in their first eight La Liga matches to assume command of top spot in La Liga, Blaugrana's fortunes hit a snag. Two consecutive defeats to Real Madrid and Celta de Vigo in week 9 and 10, respectively, of La Liga betting saw Barcelona topple down to fourth spot in the table. Not even the belated debut of Luis Suarez, denied action at the start of the season on account of a four-month ban issued after taking a nibble of Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder in Uruguay's World Cup clash against Italy, prevented this sudden fall from grace.
Going into week 9 La Liga betting, in which the season's first instalment of El Clásico was eagerly awaited, Barcelona were 7-1-0 on the season, remarkably without conceding a league goal in those eight fixtures. They were in good shape at the top of the table, four points clear of Real Madrid and five clear of defending champions Atletico Madrid. Barcelona even got off on the right foot in the opening Clásico behind Neymar's strike in the fourth minute. Then, all of a sudden, everything went wrong. Cristiano Ronaldo, on a penalty kick, levelled the score - marking the first goal against Barcelona of the season (somewhat fittingly by the 2013 FIFA player of the year) - and 15 minutes later Pepe nudged Real ahead. Karim Benzema, who's enjoying a stellar season across all competitions, put the final nail in Barcelona's coffin with his 61st minute strike. Tale told, Real Madrid won 3-1 at the Bernabeu and, in turn, handed Barcelona their first defeat on the season.
That Barcelona lost to Real Madrid in the nation's capital wasn't perhaps as shocking as their subsequent home defeat to Celta de Vigo. Sports betting exchanges were left reeling after Celta pulled off the 1-0 victory at the Camp Nou, courtesy of Joaquin Larvey's 55th minute goal (his seventh La Liga goal to equal Messi's contribution this season). To say few soccer bettors saw that one coming is the understatement of the season.
The impact of Barcelona's recent run of form was immediately felt, nowhere more so than in La Liga futures betting, where they fell slightly out of favour. Once the top trade across betting exchanges, they're now down to +200 future soccer odds, behind Real Madrid at -225 to win the La Liga title.
It's not all bad news though. Barcelona backers can take some encouragement from midweek Champions League. Despite domestic woes (sounds premature to say so, but by Barca's lofty standards a two-game losing streak is cause for bedlam), Barca won a pivotal clash with Ajax (2-0) in Amsterdam to move within one-point of PSG, leaders in Group F. That reassurance of a European campaign back on track, almost certainly headed towards the knockouts, takes some of the pressure off Barcelona. Now, they can focus on sorting out their domestics.
Next up for Barcelona on the schedule is a clash with Almeria, a side that doesn't loom threatening on paper. On 14th spot in the table behind a 2-3-5 mark on the season, which includes a three-game losing streak to Villarreal, Athletic Club and Levante - sides that are ranked well below Barca - Almeria would have to punch seriously above their weight class to mastermind the upset at the weekend. As it stands, they are a hallucinatory +1600 soccer bet to Barca at -700 Soccer Odds. Not even home advantage and/or Barca's wobbles in the last two laps of La Liga is enough to mollify odds makers here. The way this soccer betting market is cast, only one outcome is expected: Barca to win.
Soccer Betting Verdict
It's a lopsided soccer betting market, to say the least. More importantly, Barcelona as the prohibitive favourites at -700 to win straight up offers very little return on investment. So to pad pockets, we're turning to some additional side bets for your Soccer Picks. First up, we have Barcelona to win both halves (double result betting) at -188 soccer odds; already a much better price tag towards essentially the same result: Barcelona to win straight up.
Total betting provides additional inroads to profit. Over/ Under 2.5 is trading at -300 and +240, respectively at Bet365, which is a safe bet. However, Barcelona have scored 23 goals through ten games, which yields an average of 2.3 goals per game. What's more a look at the head-to-head between this pair reveals five of the last six meetings going three goals or more. Indeed, their last meeting went 4-1 to Barcelona. And the highest tally recorded over this span was an 8-0 win by Barcelona on November 20, 2010. If these trends hold true, it's more likely this fixture will yield more than 2.5 goals. Towards that end we found some attractive soccer odds with William Hill for your soccer picks - Over 3.5 is on offers of -110 while Over 4.5 is going for +450.
Soccer Free Picks: Barcelona to win; Over 3.5 at -110