An uncharacteristically poor showing from Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday might just be the precursor to a monumental display at the Camp Nou three days later. And if Diego Simeone’s men are to pull off a shock result, stopping the Barcelona juggernaut in its tracks, you’d expect it to be the result of zero-compromise defending, so take the 11/2 available on Atletico Madrid to keep a clean sheet.
The bet probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who witnessed their sloppy defending against Celta Vigo in midweek. The Colchoneros were woefully out of sorts, switching off at crucial moments and failing to deal with routine balls into the box as they slipped to a 3-2 home defeat. Evidently, it was a concentration issue, leading to the suspicion that the players already had one eye on this fixture.
Atleti have kept a staggering 14 clean sheets in the league this term, conceding just eight goals in 21 matches, and there’s no doubt that, privately, they consider themselves genuine contenders to wrestle back the title from the Catalan giants. But in order to do so, they would require a performance similar to the one that clinched the trophy at this venue 16 months ago.
If Barca win this game, they go three points clear with a game in hand and a superior head-to-head record, meaning Atleti would essentially need to pounce on at least three slip-ups without losing any ground themselves, so don’t be surprised if Simeone has his players super-charged as though their season depends on it, because domestically it does.
In the last 13 matches, the Blaugrana have taken 33 points from possible 39, scoring 40 goals in the process. And it’s the manner of those victories that appear to be driving this market, rather than the actual likelihood of different outcomes. Luis Enrique’s men might be irresistible once they get their noses in front but the fact remains they have failed to win 11 out of 16 matches when they haven’t cleared the -1 handicap.
As ever with Atletico, they will pose a significant threat from set pieces and one such moment could be enough to land Bet Victor’s 19/1 standout quote on the visitors to win 1-0. My 16-match ratings have the total goals expectancy at 2.16 and, by standard conversions, this correct score wager should really be no bigger than 12/1. Just because Barcelona have the capacity to win this game in numerous different ways, it doesn't change the probability of Atleti prevailing the way they know best.
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