Barcelona kick-off their 2011/12 La Liga Campaign against Villarreal, fresh from their UEFA Super Cup success in Monaco.
Barcelona’s fans have had to be patient to see their beloved side begin their defence of the La Liga title, but with the wage disputes now solved in Spain, it’s business as usual for the Catalan giants when they host Villarreal at the Nou Camp.
Bitter rivals Real Madrid began their bid to end Barca’s three-year stranglehold on the La Liga title by spanking Real Zaragoza 6-0, which would have sent a clear message to Pep Guardiola’s side and will give them an added incentive to beat last season’s fourth-placed side.
The omens look good for Barcelona. In this match last season they ran out 3-1 winners. After Nilmar had cancelled out David Villa’s early strike, pint-sized Lionel Messi’s brace in the second half proved too much for the hosts.
Statistics suggest there will be plenty of goals during this live televised match, as in the last 24 fixtures between these two sides there have been more than three goals scored on 13 occasions, although the majority of these goals went to the home side.
Barcelona are clear 2/9 favourites to win this game, with Villarreal priced at 11/1 to cause a major surprise. However, Guardiola does face the prospect of beginning the season without first-choice defenders Gerard Pique and club captain Carles Puyol, giving the visitors just a glimmer of hope.
Nevertheless, there seems to be plenty of value to be had at 9/1 for a 3-1 home win.
Meanwhile, it is 45/1 for the same scoreline, but with Cesc Fabregas netting first on his league debut. The former Arsenal midfielder bagged a goal on his debut for his new club in the Super Cup final against Porto, so you wouldn’t bet against him scoring again here.
Villarreal’s biggest threat comes from Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi, who looks set to remain at the club after a summer of speculation linking the 24-year-old elsewhere.
The former Manchester United forward is 8/1 to score first, which represents good value considering he scored 18 goals for the Yellow Submarines last season.