Real Madrid are La Liga favourites, but Barcelona still set the European pace
The bookies are struggling to gauge the impact that Pep Guardiola’s departure will have on Barcelona’s tiki-taka-touting efforts to outshine Real Madrid in Spain and Europe.
Having displaced Barca as La Liga’s putos amos, to borrow a phrase from the Guardiola vernacular, Real Madrid are slight favourites to sustain their domestic control at 4/5 to the Catalan club’s 11/10.
It is a different story in the Champions League though, with Barcelona rated 7/2 favourites to reclaim the big-eared trophy that Barcelona have spent two of the last four seasons obsessively polishing, and Real Madrid slight outsiders at 4/1.
Real Madrid appear poised to enter the new campaign in a healthier state. It isn’t in Jose Mourinho’s nature to loosen his grip having finally grabbed Barcelona by the neck in the Clasico power struggle.
Additionally, their failure to land either of the top two prizes last term hints at a very gradual decline, and the man who inspired their rise has been replaced by inexperienced assistant Tito Vilanova. Then again, the Frank Rijkaard for Guardiola substitution proved rather inspired.
There was no halting Mourinho’s Porto or Inter sides once they seized control, however the manner in which Sir Alex Ferguson crushed his Chelsea uprising suggests that a classy team can rebel against the Special One.
Barcelona have already strengthened this summer by signing brilliant Spain left back Jordi Alba from Valencia from a fairly skimpy £11 million, whereas Real Madrid are yet to do anything drastic.
The first opportunity to track the pair’s progress arrives late in August, as they collide in the two-legged Supercopa de Espana.
Both coaches were supposed to be banned from the dugout following bans their skirmish in last year’s ill-tempered affair, in which Mourinho poked Vilanova in the eye, but both sanctions have been rather generously overturned.