CARD king Gavin Murphy (@GamePlanGavin) is back to attack the Clasico on Sunday night in Spain.
Real Madrid v Barcelona | Sunday 19:45 | Sky Sports
Fresh from contrasting midweek Champions League results the heavyweights of Real Madrid and Barcelona clash at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday evening.
This truly should be a ‘Clasico' with superstars all over the pitch and tempers lingering in the background.
To set the scene, Real hold a three-point advantage at the top of La Liga and also have a game in hand on their Catalan rivals. In truth, this looks to be a must-win match for Barcelona fresh off the back of their Juventus disappointment.
Madrid have won three out of the last six meetings between these two teams in all competitions despite only two of those being played in the Spanish capital.
In those matches a total of 39 yellow and two red cards have been shown at an average of 7.10 per-game.
Thirty-four year-old Alejandro Jose Hernandez gets the whistle for this showdown. The Lanzarote native is sure to be busy especially as the game concludes and tempers flare.
The referee comes into this fixture in card-happy mode. His last three appointments in Spain's top-flight have seen him produce total cards of 9-9-8. That is an average of 8.67 per-match.
Notably, he has sent a player off in each of his last two appearances.
Hernandez did this fixture in April 2016 and issued eight cards that day, including sending off the village idiot Sergio Ramos. Of relevance, the other names into his notebook that day included Javier Mascherano, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Dani Carvajal, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Bjorn Kuipers somehow only managed to book Neymar and Andres Iniesta on Wednesday night against Juventus despite several Barca players moaning like little bitches.
Keep an eye out for the harassment of Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Suarez et al. They are like a pack of wolves at times. I'm not saying that Real Madrid wouldn't act similarly in the same circumstances but the only way to stamp this behaviour out is for referees to be strong and card these guys.
The Catalans' petulance and sense of entitlement is such that their wheels will surely come off if Madrid win this and effectively leave the Copa Del Rey as the only trophy Luis Enrique can win.
Toys out the pram
This could well be one disappointment too many. I expect Barcelona to throw their toys out of the pram and so I'm very happy to back Over 3.5 Cards for Barcelona at 4/5 with 888 as my core bet. For a bit more value I'm also considering the players to be carded market.
There were six cards issued at the meeting at Camp Nou in December with Clos Gomez taking the names of Isco, Neymar, Suarez, Carvajal, Sergi Busquets and Mascherano.
You might have noticed, as I did, that some names are regularly taken by referees when these two bitter rivals collide. This intrigued me so I've investigated this further; unsurprisingly there are serial offenders.
Top of the list is Real right back Carvajal. This guy has been carded in 5/6 meetings with Barcelona. Madrid midfielder Isco and Barcelona hatchetman Mascherano have seen a card in 4/6 recent head-to-head meetings.
Next up with 3/6 are Neymar, Suarez, Sergio Ramos and Ronaldo. Everyone else has been booked twice or less so are largely discarded from consideration. What does this history tell us? Well, Carvajal at 5/6 with William Hill looks a shoo-in to collect another card.
As well as the ‘best' record of any player in this fixture he also has more cards this season (10) than any other player. However, with direct opponent Neymar likely to be missing due to a ban for sarcastically applauding a referee (petulance again), I’ll look elsewhere.
Ramos and Casemiro have obvious chances but at around even-money they don't set the pulse racing. The recent record perhaps points us in the direction of bigger-priced players with solid track records, especially the forwards.
Suarez will be in a battle with Ramos all night, has picked up eight cards in the league so far this season and looks great value at 6/4 with William Hill. He should be backed. Neymar is suspended for this game otherwise I'd have recommended him too.
Isco saw red for wildly lashing at the Brazilian a year ago, has been carded 4/6 times he's played Barca and can be relied upon to be carded again if he plays. The 7/2 offered by William Hill is simply overpriced and worthy of interest.
With these bets always check the team news and shop around for prices.
Real Madrid v Barcelona – Barcelona to receive Over 3.5 Cards (4/5 888)
Real Madrid v Barcelona – Luis Suarez to receive a card (6/4 William Hill)
Real Madrid v Barcelona – Isco to receive a card (7/2 William Hill)