It’s been suggested in some quarters of the Spanish media that Barcelona are like vampires, relatively timid in daylight but never fail to get their teeth stuck into opponents when it’s dark. The evidence is selective and mainly anecdotal but it’s a myth the champions can do plenty to perpetuate by coming from behind to salvage a result in this mid-evening Clasico.
Coming off the back of an international break, the conditions certainly favour Madrid. Tiring though 23 matches in 82 days must have been for Barca, there has been a steady rhythm to their schedule in 2016 - a game every 3.5 days, just one blank midweek. They haven’t always been at their best but 20 wins and three draws suggests they were never dragged out of their comfort zone.
That momentum has now been disrupted and yet, if anything, levels of fatigue will have risen. Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano and Claudio Bravo have all been involved in World Cup qualifying action across the Atlantic, amassing a combined total of almost 14 hours competitive playing time, whereas only Keylor Navas, James Rodriguez and Danilo ventured outside of Europe from the visiting camp.
Moreover, with Karim Benzema on international exile, Gareth Bale abstaining from a couple of friendlies with Wales and Cristiano Ronaldo going no further away than Lisbon, Los Blancos ought to be in tip-top condition and ready to take the game to their arch-rivals as they attempt to reduce a ten-point gap. So let’s start by taking the 15/4 available on Madrid to win the first half.
Given the state of play in La Liga and the humiliating experience of a 4-0 defeat in the reverse fixture last November, there’s simply no leverage in Zinedine Zidane being anything other than bullish in his approach and there were certainly promising signs in the 4-0 win over Sevilla a fortnight ago that the Frenchman is beginning to find the right chemistry.
However, taking the lead at the Camp Nou is one thing, withstanding the onslaught that invariably follows is quite another, and you’d expect Barca’s all-round superiority to shine through more and more as the game wears on. With that in mind, split a point between the Madrd/Draw and Madrid/Barca half-time/full-time options at 18/1 and 20/1 respectively.
A comparative analysis of Barca’s first and second-half records at home this season paints a pretty clear picture. In 22 matches, Luis Enrique’s men have outscored the opposition 'only' 14 times before the interval compared with 19 times after. Put another way, they are, on average, 1.09 goals better than the opposition in the first half and 1.91 goals superior in the second.
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