Don’t Believe The Barca Hype

Muntari
Sweet spot. Sulley Muntari slots the ball into the Barcelona net helping AC Milan to a 0-2 win over the Catalans. Bookies have Barcelona as low as 6/5 to qualify despite being two goals down. We think they are wrong.

Barcelona’s reputation is blinding bookmakers and providing punters who favour facts over fame with an excellent chance to strike a value UEFA Champions League qualification bet.

At the halfway point in one of the UEFA Champions League’s blockbuster ties, bookmakers are quoting Barcelona at odds of between evens and 6-5 to qualify for this season’s last eight by knocking out 8-11 favourite Milan. The prices do not make any sense whatsoever, with Barca too short and the Rossoneri too big. One should back Milan at the odds.

Barcelona go into the Camp Nou second leg 0-2 down after it made nothing out of its 66 per cent possession at the San Siro last week and conceded two goals in the second half, former Portsmouth stars Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari getting on the scoresheet for Milan. Barca blanks are as rare as hen’s teeth – only two in 42 competitive matches this term – and this one may prove very costly.

Away goals are really important in European ties and it is a massive advantage to play the second leg on the road if one has kept a clean sheet in winning the first leg at home. If Milan scores at Camp Nou, Barcelona will need to score at least four goals in normal time to reach the next round.

According to data compiled from every European tie played over two legs, sides that crash to a 0-2 first-leg defeat away from home have an 18.6% chance of coming out on top. That is just one of many statistics that suggest that bookmakers have got their Barcelona versus Milan lines wrong. The Rossoneri deserve to be raging favourites.

Italian Serie A teams are 46-9 in terms of progress and elimination after winning the first leg of a European tie 2-0 at home. The last Italian side to falter from this very strong position was Milan in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals 17 years ago when a Zinedine Zidane-inspired Bordeaux team prevailed 3-0 in France to overturn its first-leg deficit.

And then there are this term’s goal-scoring statistics for Milan and goal-conceding statistics for Barcelona. The Rossoneri have scored in 15 of their 17 competitive road games this season, including in 10 of its last 11 away matches. Overall, Milan has scored in 28 of its 35 games, including in each of its last seven matches and in 13 of its last 14 games. Massimiliano Allegri’s side scores regularly.

Barcelona concedes goals just as regularly as Milan scores them. Barca have kept only five clean sheets in their 20 competitive home matches this term and they have let in a goal in 31 of their 42 games played anywhere. Those are numbers that will surprise the average football punter.

Given all the cited statistics, there is a high probability that Barcelona will have to score at least four goals in 90 minutes at Camp Nou to eliminate Milan from this season’s UEFA Champions League. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding himself or herself and ignoring the facts.

To put it even more bluntly than that, anyone who backs Barcelona to achieve anything positive in this term’s UEFA Champions League between now and the second leg between the Spanish La Liga frontrunner and Italian Serie A superpower is an idiot. Odds of around 6-5 that Barca get through to the last eight are an insult, as are bookmakers’s quotes of around 9-2 that they win the prestigious competition.

Barcelona is a terrific side to watch and Lionel Messi will go down as one of the sport’s all-time greats. But Barca’s 0-2 loss in Milan was a disaster with regards to their UEFA Champions League aspirations. Deep down, most bookmakers probably know it and they are hoping that most punters do not. Disappoint them and back Milan to make the next round.

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