BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 25: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (L) shakes hands with Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid prior to the Copa del Rey quarter final second leg match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou on January 25, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will play today one of the most meaningful Clásicos since Mourinho arrived at Real Madrid. Guardiola's team is four points away from los blancos in la Liga and need to beat them if they want to keep fighting for the domestic title.
But it is also a very important match for Real Madrid given the bad streak of results they're currently in. A Barcelona win would mean that Madrid will still be leading la Liga, but the team would also need to beat Sevilla, Bilbao, Granada and Mallorca in order to win the title. While Barcelona desperately needs the win, Real Madrid fans should celebrate a draw considering the circumstances and la Liga's ranking.
Barcelona is going to have the possession. The key factor is how they are going to have it. Camp Nou has a very wide pitch and that's why Barcelona's system is so successful there. It's hard for the defense to keep a narrow space between the lines. Guardiola might as well introduce a pure winger (whether that means Alexis playing on either flank or Pedro/Cuenca) to prevent Madrid's wing backs from helping Ramos and Pepe that much. Coentrao didn't play bad against Bayern's Arjen Robben, so the Portuguese might start as well El Clásico to stop Barcelona's right winger more than what Marcelo would usually do. If Mourinho plays with a 4-3-3, then Marcelo and Coentrao could both start the game.
Spanish tabloid 'As' predicted Thursday that Kaka' and Özil would start el Clásico. This would mean Real Madrid will fight for the possession a little bit more than expected. With those two players starting, Benzema should be the ideal striker. But if Mourinho plans to either play a trivote or Di María instead of Kaka', Higuaín could be the chosen one. He is fastest and a little bit more goal-oriented.
Xabi Alonso's partner is pretty much a lock. Khedira has proven himself as the right man to play alongside the Spanish midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 system. Lass hasn't been playing in quite a long time and usually sees a yellow card too soon.
On Barcelona's side, Guardiola has also a lot of options to chose from. His team has been defending quite well lately even though they miss Eric Abidal. Guardiola might want to go for the win so he would play his 3-4-3 system, with Dani Alves in the midfield line. They always dominate with this formation, but their defensive transition isn't as good as when they are set in a 4-3-3.
Real Madrid should be able to create some dangerous plays. It will all depend on whether the strikers (and Valdés) have their day or not. Barcelona, on their part, will dominate the ball and surely enjoy three or four very good scoring opportunities. It will be very hard for Real Madrid to keep a clean sheet, so Mourinho's team probably depends on Cristiano Ronaldo and the strikers to take profit from their own chances to maintain the draw or even win the game.
The mentality will also play a big part in tonight's Clásico. Will Barcelona be able to be patient in case the 0-0 is still in the scoreboard? Will Real Madrid be able to fight back if Barcelona scores first? Barcelona is in a more dangerous situation than los blancos, but their players have more experience as well. Real Madrid needs to play through all the emotions within this game if they want to get a good result. And if Barcelona manages to win the game, it will be very important to make the players acknowledge la Liga still depends on whether Madrid can beat the remaining teams in the schedule.
And another Clásico might be played in less than a month if both teams advance to the Champions League Final.
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Who will win the game?
Barcelona (209 votes)
Draw (47 votes)
Real Madrid (254 votes)
510 total votes