The Primera Division season draws to a climax on Saturday evening with the destiny of the league title still unknown, although it would take something remarkable from Granada to stop Barcelona getting their hands on the trophy for the 24th time. Luis Enrique’s men are just 1/9 to close the deal at Los Carmenes and, given the prize at stake, you’d be hard-pushed to make a case for those odds being wrong.
However, those who expect a comfortable away win on the grounds that Granada have nothing to play for should be wary. In Spain, it’s perfectly normal for clubs to offer financial incentives to teams elsewhere who can do them a favour. These deals are kept private, of course, but it would be naive to think Real Madrid aren’t prepared to line the pockets of the Andalusian club should they pave the way for them to pip their great rivals at the post.
So while the Catalans are expected to prevail in any case, the manner in which they do so might not be quite so straightforward. Recent thumpings of Deportivo (8-0), Sporting Gijon (6-0) and Espanyol (5-0) were all founded on fast starts, the first goal in each instance occurring within 12 minutes of the kick-off. But 14 of those 19 goals came after the interval.
Indeed, those are the only occasions in nine outings since the last international break that Barca have managed to find the net before the interval with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid (twice), Real Sociedad, Valencia and Real Betis all holding out until the second period. For whatever reason, be it fatigue or complacency, the Catalans are struggling to hit top gear straight away.
So if we work to the assumption that Granada have been roused to put up a show of resistence, the 0-0 half-time correct score at 5/1 might not be quite as unrealistic as it sounds. And once you start going down that road, it would be rude not to nibble at some of the 25/1 about the home side to be 1-0 ahead at the break.
Los Carmenes has been a particularly tricky venue for the Blaugrana in recent years, their cumulative goal difference just +3 over four visits since Granada were last promoted in 2011. Two years ago, they were beaten 1-0 by a Yacine Brahimi goal on 16 minutes and the season before they were also 1-0 down at the break, only for Lionel Messi to come up trumps with a second-half brace.
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