La Liga Betting: Barcelona to cruise past Zaragoza



"Més que un club" reads the Barcelona motto, and few would disagree that they are indeed "more than a club". In recent times they have set unprecedented records both collectively and individually. Under Pep Guardiola they gathered an astonishing 14 out of a possible 19 trophies, and in Lionel Messi they have perhaps the greatest player of a generation.

But few of these amazing feats even compare with what happened against Real Mallorca last weekend. 361 days after a life-saving liver transplant, Erić Abidal miraculously made his return to top level football at the Camp Nou. It's an amazing story, and along with manager Tito Vilanova's own ongoing battle will illness, a reminder that some things are more important than football. The French defender indicated this week that he may continue to play past the summer, when his contract expires: "It is down to the club, but I have fought to return and I want to keep playing," he told reporters at a book launch.

Zaragoza striker Helder Postiga defended under-fire manager Manolo Jiménez this week. "He has been important in the past and will be in the future," remarked the Portuguese international. Jiménez has pulled off the Houdini act before, but has he got another trick up his sleeve?

Team news

Zaragoza left-back Abraham is suspended so Javier Paredés is expected to cover. Midfielder Apoño is a doubt, meaning Romaric is likely to continue alongside José Maria Movilla in the centre of the park.

Lionel Messi will be rested for the Blaugrana, as Cesc Fábregas occupies his 'false nine' role. Alexis Sánchez and Thiago should return for Pedro and Xavi, whilst Marc Bartra may be given the opportunity to start in central defence.

Form

Real Zaragoza still haven't won in the league in 2013. Defeat to fellow relegation strugglers Deportivo last week was blow of huge proportions, and could be the result that tears away the tiny slice of morale they had left.

This week saw the two sides of the 'Messidependencia' argument. Against Real Mallorca, Barça were without the Argentine and cruised to a 5-0 win with Fàbregas and Sánchez both playing well. Then in midweek, against stronger opposition, the little man's cameo provided the impetus for the equaliser, sending Barcelona through to their sixth straight Champions League semi-final.

Recent head-to-head

Barcelona have scored ten goals in their previous three trips to Zaragoza, twice netting four goals. Whilst Zaragoza failed to score in only one of those matches, over 3.5 goals can be had at 2.20.

Goalscorer betting

While all attention was on Mr Messi, his understudy had a fantastic week on a personal level. Cesc Fàbregas followed up his hat-trick last Saturday by becoming a dad for the first time during the PSG match; he dashed away at the final whistle to meet baby Lia for the first time. The former Arsenal midfielder is 6.00 to open the scoring.

Verdict

Odds of 7.75 for a Real Zaragoza victory are low considering they last won at the start of January in the Copa del Rey. It should be a straightforward victory for Blaugrana at 1.40.

Bonus bet

In Barcelona's last visit to La Romareda just over a year ago, there were eleven bookings. A tired Gerard Piqué is 3.30 to get a card, while Zaragoza players Movilla and Glen Loovens are at 2.70 and 3.00 respectively to be cautioned.

Score prediction: Real Zaragoza 1-3 Barcelona (12.00)