Real Madrid 1.75/7 v Athletic Bilbao 5.24/1; The Draw 4.1
Sunday 16 January, 18:30
Live on BT Sport 1
Real prevail in competitive El Clasico semi
Real Madrid came through a competitive El Clasico to book their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup.
Many, included this writer, expected Madrid to make light work of their rivals Barcelona. Instead, beleaguered Barca put up a fight, twice coming from behind to take the game into extra time, before a winner from Federico Valverde sealed a 3-2 win.
In-form forwards Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema scored Real’s first two goals. Benzema in particular was a constant menace and his goal was something that I did correctly predict for Wednesday’s match. Not that there’s was anything unpredictable about the French striker finding the net. Benzema now has 23 goals in 26 games across all competitions this season.
Mariano Diaz and Gareth Bale were the only injured players unavailable to Carlo Ancelotti for the match against Barcelona. They will be joined on the sidelines by Dani Carvajal, who has tested positive for Covid.
Cup specialists make another final
The Super Cup holders Athletic Bilbao have a chance to hold onto their crown, having beaten Atletico Madrid in the second semi-final.
With appearances in the last two Copa del Rey finals and now two successive Super Cup finals, Bilbao are earning a reputation as specialists in knockout competitions. Due to their unique recruitment restrictions, success in La Liga is always going to be difficult, but Bilbao’s defensive prowess makes them a difficult team to beat in cups.
Despite being position in ninth place in La Liga, Bilbao have the third best defensive record in Spain, conceding only 17 goals in 21 games. They’ve only scored 20, yet were able to mount a comeback after going 1-0 down against Atletico, with Yeray Alvarez equalising before the substitute Nico Williams scored the winner in the 81st minute.
Unai Nunez and Unai Vencedor were not named in Marcelino’s 24-man squad, as they both have injuries.
Bilbao not watertight over recent weeks
Real Madrid are the favourites at 1.75/7, with the draw at 4.1 and Athletic Bilbao at 5.24/1.
There’s not much value in backing Real to win in 90 minutes at that price. Bilbao have proved how difficult they are to beat in one-off games and come into this match in good form.
Athletic have only lost one of their last six games (W4 D1) and that was a narrow 2-1 defeat against Real Madrid just before Christmas. Though one would expect Bilbao to try and keep it tight, the goals have actually been flowing at both ends during those last six games.
In the match against Madrid, all three goals were scored within ten minutes and with 17 goals being scored in total over Bilbao’s last six games, that’s an average of 2.83 goals per match. If backing a Madrid win, adding a caveat of there also being over 1.5 goals boosts the price to 2.05, while a Real Madrid win and over 2.5 goals sends the odds to 2.68/5.
Benzema available at generous odds
Benzema scored both goals in the 2-1 win for Real Madrid against Athletic in December. He also scored the winner against Bilbao at the Bernabeu earlier this season.
In total, he’s scored 17 goals in 26 games against Athletic. Benzema always seems available at much bigger prices than other elite strikers and in his current form, odds of 2.26/5 for him to find the net look generous.