Shawn Young is a footy junkie and a former European oddsmaker. He gives us his Champions League plays and analysis each week.
BARCELONA (-1 +115) vs. REAL MADRID (3 goals under -120)
Barcelona won the first leg 2-0 in Madrid. Both teams' scrubs lost in meaningless weekend games.
Bet Barcelona or nothing: This tie has been fixed for Barcelona to win.
The first leg was rigged outright for Barcelona and this game needs to be a convincing win for them to put the first leg out of people's minds. With Pepe and Sergio Ramos suspended here for Real by a crooked referee and the manager banished, it shouldn't be too tough for Barcelona to pile on a few goals.
“Come, come now,” you say. “Fixed? Surely Barcelona was just the better team?”
I assure you my tinfoil hat is not on too tight. It's on just tight enough.
Barcelona did have more of the ball in the first hour, but everyone knew it would be so. Real was playing only to counterattack in the first 75 minutes, then bring their offence on late. By sending off Pepe after an hour for never even touching his diving opponent, German ref Wolfgang Stark played his part and Real was doomed.
Somebody has been pulling strings for Barcelona in recent years. This is only the latest piece of fraud.
The 2009 semi leg at Chelsea was a draw stolen by ref Tom Henning Ovrebo for Barcelona. Ovrebo then shafted Fiorentina in the next year's competition. He was thus dropped from consideration for the World Cup.
Ref Frank de Bleeckere couldn't quite steal last year's semi against Inter Milan, but Inter played down a man for an hour. Inter was given five cards to Barcelona's one in the second leg.
And looky-looky, who is Tuesday's ref? Frank de Bleeckere. What a surprise.
We've seen other examples of fraud in this competition: Roma bought referee Michel Vautrot for 50,000 pounds in the 1984 semi win over Dundee United. Olympique Marseille paid off anyone and everyone to win the title in 1993. Only the domestic bribery charges with Valenciennes stuck, but Marseille was banned from Europe and relegated in France regardless. Chairman Bernard Tapie went to prison on related matters.
It's not just Barcelona matches either: German and Swiss police arrested 17 people in 2009 for Champions' League and Europa League fixing. Debrecen players Vukasin Poleksic and Norbert Meszaros were banned two years and 18 months respectively for fixing in 2008.
Finally, Real and Barcelona have their own murky histories. Barcelona allegedly bought the refs in the 1960-61 European Cup tie, but Barcelona diehards claim it was payback for a 1943 cup game that Generalissimo Franco's security police forced Barcelona to lose: Given no choice in 1943, up 3-0 after the first leg, Barcelona over-enthusiastically lost 11-1, with the goalkeeper quickly banned for life.
This current series has been fixed for Barcelona over Real's objections. It was plain for all to see on Wednesday. If you want to keep your money in your pockets to bet Monday Night Raw next week because it's more honest, go ahead. I'm betting on another disgusting chapter in Barcelona's recent rise.
Pick: Barcelona 3, Real 0