CAN Barcelona turn around their 4-0 deficit in the Spanish Super Cup second leg against Athletic? @MarkOHaire investigates.
Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao | Monday 21.00 | Sky Sports 4
Three days on from the crime and I’m still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Barcelona had their pants pulled down, were splattered with eggs and humiliated in public. The 4-0-demolition job by Bilbao was their joint-heaviest defeat in over a decade and has left Barca’s hopes of claiming a record-equalling six trophies in 2015 in tatters.
A hat-trick from Aritz Aduritz and a breathtaking goal from inside the centre circle by Mikel San Jose means Athletic are in driving seat, the throttle turned up and are cruising in the fast lane to a first Spanish Super Cup triumph since 1984. It’s left Barcelona needing little short of a miracle to keep alive their chances of matching the record-breaking “sextuple” won by Pep Guardiola’s side in 2009.
The Catalans, perhaps concerned about fatigue having endured 120 minutes against Sevilla in Tbilisi for the UEFA Super Cup just three days earlier, made five changes for Friday’s San Mames showdown but the manner of the defeat has certainly shaken Luis Enrique’s team. For the second successive match, his side has conceded four goals.
Enrique says he remains “completely convinced” his star-studded squad has enough firepower to overturn the defeat at the Nou Camp on Monday night. But Barca have won just twice during pre-season and lacked their usual fluency. Can we trust them? Can we trust Enrique? At odds as short as 3/1 (Betfair) and as big as 4/1 (Stan James), they’re of no interest.
I questioned their defence last season and the same flaws remain. If I can’t trust them to keep a clean sheet and chasing a four goals deficit, how can we be bullish about backing the 4/1 chance? I can’t.
Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde insists the tie is not over yet. And of course he’s right not to breed complacency. Les Leones are going to be in for a helluva fistfight tonight and whilst Barcelona might be the best team on the planet, well capable of winning 5-0 or better, there’s better bets elsewhere.
I’m going to keep it very simple and just back Barcelona to win and Both Teams To Score at 15/8 with Ladbrokes. They’ve netted at least twice in 15 of their past 17, we know what they’re proficient enough to do the business but I’m certainly not confident they can keep Athletic out.
Barcelona v Athletic Bilabo – Barcelona to win and Both Teams To Score (15/8 Ladbrokes)
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