Champions League Semis Leg 2: 2-0
All-Time Record: 226-199-57
That’s me strolling into El Clasico weekend after going 2-0 this week in Leg 2 of the Champions League.
This weekend provides us with several huge matches, the biggest being El Clasico. For those noobs that don’t know what El Clasico is (which means you’re probably reading the wrong blog anyway), it’s the match between Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona. It’s watched by over 700 million people worldwide and even with nothing on the line, it’s always the biggest league match in the world. Also never hurts when the two best players of our generation are playing against each other.
Let’s get into the Premier League matches first.
Crystal Palace @ Stoke City – Bottom line is Stoke need 3 points in order to have a shot at remaining in the Premier League. They play a palace team that could use points, but Stoke are at home for the final time this season and I don’t see them passing up this opportunity. Stoke City Pick (-105).
Newcastle United @ Watford – Newcastle have had a great season. They are slated to finish in the top 10 this season, somewhat unprecedented for a newly promoted team. Meanwhile Watford started off in the top 10, even pressing for the top 7, but have been on a horrible run since the start of the new year. In fact Watford are without a win in the last 2 months (7 matches w/ 2 points of a possible 21). Take the underdog Newcastle here. Newcastle (+0.5).
Tottenham @ West Brom – Spurs have a opportunity to jump to third if they win out and especially if Liverpool drop points. Meanwhile West Brom, the worst team in the league, have been on somewhat of a run towards the end of the campaign. In fact they haven’t lost in their last 4 matches and now sit 5 points behind 17th. Not to burst their bubble but unless everything falls into place, they will be going down this season. Spurs are only laying a point here and I can’t fade them. Tottenham (-1).
West Ham @ Leicester City – West Ham are somewhat in trouble with 3 matches to play. They sit in 15th, which is good, but are only 3 points above 18th place Southampton who also have 3 matches to play. They will needs points for sure if they want to stay up for next season. Bad news? West Ham is averaging a bad 0.67 points per match away from home this season compared to Leicester’s 1.41 ppm at home. Vegas is putting this between a Pick and favoring Leicester, depending on the book. With a pickem this one is easy. Leicester City (Pick -130).
Swansea City @ Bournemouth – A massive match here for Swansea as they sit in 17th, one point above the relegation zone and have a 6-point goal differential lead over 18th place Southampton. With a win (even more so with a Southampton loss or draw) they should be on their way to safety. Swansea’s next two matches are against relegation sides and if they can get 3 points here, it makes those matches not as do or die. Oh, and they’re underdogs. Swansea (+0.5).
Southampton @ Everton – This match is probably the hardest one for me to pick. Southampton NEED to win, since they are in 18th and one point back of Swansea City. But Everton is both home and the better team. To add to that, Southampton have won 2 of their 17 matches away from home. This is going against my strategy of picking desperate teams in must-win situations, but I can’t fade Everton here. With a 1.83 ppm at home (compared to Southampton’s 0.76 away from home) and 2 losses in their last 8 matches, I’m taking the home pickem. Everton (Pick +105).
Huddersfield @ Manchester City – Many think City aren’t playing for anything considering they already won the title by a billion points. But according to Pep and several of the players, they’re chasing the remaining Premier League records. They need 2 goals for the all-time goals record, 3 more points for the all-time points record and 1 win for the all-time wins record. They could achieve all of these in this match alone. But Huddersfield are in a spot where they can’t afford to lose points. They sit in 16th only 3 points above the drop zone, but face City, Chelsea and Arsenal to close out the season. Sadly, the points they need won’t come in this match and I fully expect City to keep rolling on their way to breaking the remaining records. Manchester City (-2.5).
Burnley @ Arsenal – After a crushing Europa League loss in the semifinal, Arsenal look to rebound and cement their place in 7th place over their opponents in this match; Burnley. I have picked Burnley to win almost every week this season, and they’ve been the best pick against the spread all year long. But with Arsenal playing in one of Wenger’s last home matches, I don’t expect them to fail. Ride the Gunners the rest of the season. Arsenal (-1).
Liverpool @ Chelsea – The two big guns come to play in this match in two completely different shapes. Liverpool have made history making the Champions League Final, but drew their last two league matches against relegation teams. Chelsea meanwhile have won 4 straight and need a win if they want the slightest of chances to give Spurs a run for their money for the top 4. Odds are fluctuating from a pickem to favoring Chelsea, but luckily I have it at a pickem. The odds are pricey for a pickem but I’m still going to ride with Chelsea. I would still recommend taking them with the (-0.5) mark as well. Chelsea (Pick -135).
Outside of the Champions League Final, El Clasico is the most important club football match in the world every year (maybe even a bigger deal than the Champions League Final). Nothing is on the line other than pride, but there will be a whole lot of that up for grabs on Sunday.
Real Madrid @ FC Barcelona – In the 237th Clasico, an undefeated Barcelona look to almost guarantee a perfect campaign with a win here, while Madrid are trying to show the title winners that they aren’t so perfect. This HAS to be the first time in a while that the spread is 1 in a Clasico, which makes picking Barcelona so hard. But after Madrid denied Barcelona their guard of honor (a ceremony welcoming the newly crowned league champions onto the field before the match), Barcelona has extra motivation to put Madrid into place. Especially considering in 2008, Barcelona granted Madrid their own guard of honor for winning the league. But that’s not a sustainable nor a reasonable reason to pick them so let’s get into the statistics.
Barca are 14-2-0 at home this season, averaging 2.75 ppm and a +66 goal differential. Those are sickening numbers. Real Madrid meanwhile post the 2nd best away record in the league, gaining 2.13 ppm and a +17 goal differential. But the pain point here for Madrid is that they have only scored 34 goals away from home, compared to Barcelona’s 87 at home. Clasicos tend to be high-scoring matches and if that’s the case on Sunday, Madrid may be in serious trouble.
Between Messi and Ronaldo, it’s been a tale of two different seasons. Messi is having another fantastic La Liga campaign leading the league in goals (32) and assists (12). Ronaldo meanwhile had a rough start to his season, but has since been on a goal-scoring tear. He has owned the Champions League all year, but has been a shell of himself in La Liga with 24 goals. Here is the breakdown between the two historically. Messi owns the series in wins, going 17-8-12 against Madrid in his career and has scored 25 goals in 37 matches. Ronaldo has gone 8-7-14 in his matches against Barca, and has scored 17 goals in those 29 matches.
Over the last 15 encounters in La Liga, there have been 8 victories for Barcelona, 4 victories for Madrid and 4 draws. With Madrid on short rest after a tiring Champions League stretch and Barcelona with a full week’s rest, I cant fade away from Barca even with the 1 point spread. They are rested, they are home, they are hungry for perfection and they will not take Madrid not giving them the guard of honor lightly. FC Barcelona (-1).
Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.