The La Liga battle may be over with FC Barcelona entering this weekend’s showdown 10 points clear of third-place Real Madrid, but Zinedine Zidane’s men will nevertheless seek revenge and momentum heading towards the final stretch of the season. Los Blancos will no doubt require a flawless display in order to take home all three points against a Barcelona team that is currently enjoying a 39-game unbeaten run.
Just one goal away from a breathtaking 500, Lionel Messi will be confident that he can lead his side to a righteous victory over Real Madrid in the wake of Barcelona-legend and three-time Ballon d'Or winner Johan Cruyff’s tragic passing. With 21 Clásico goals to his name, it will no doubt take an immaculate defensive display by Madrid to stop the Argentine from adding more to his tally. Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s own superstar, has scored 15 goals against the mighty Blaugrana. Nine of those goals have arrived in front of Barcelona’s clamorous fans, who seemingly inspire the Portuguese powerhouse to silence his ever-present critics.
Real Madrid’s superiority in the air might just give them the necessary edge to claim a victory. The Whites have scored 18 out of their 87 goals in the league from set pieces, compared to Barcelona’s meagre eight. In fact, only Athletic Bilbao have scored more set piece goals than Real Madrid (19). With the likes of Sergio Ramos, Pepe, CR7 and Gareth Bale, Los Blancos must attempt to make the most out of dead ball situations.
Throughout the past couple of years, El Clásico has been renowned for its (often controversial) penalties – in the last five matches, four spot kicks have been awarded. Barcelona, who have scored the most penalty goals (10) in La Liga, are an especially dangerous threat in this regard, with the MSN incredibly adept at dribbling inside the box. Real Madrid, however, are only committing 11.8 fouls per game this season (third lowest in the league) and are one of the division’s most disciplined teams. As such, Zidane’s men must not allow the overly hostile environment at the Camp Nou to get the better of them in tomorrow night’s heated display.
Back in November, Real Madrid were torn apart by the Catalan giants in front of their own fans in what was a humiliating 0-4 defeat. Since then, Madrid have allowed the La Liga title to slip away, and now for the fourth year in a row, Los Blancos will witness one of their fierce rivals lifts Spain’s most coveted title. That being said, it can be argued that Madrid have done relatively well since the introduction of club legend Zinedine Zidane as manager. Likely to use the sometimes-rash Casemiro as a holding midfielder, Zidane will be hopeful that his side can close down the influential Barcelona midfield consisting of the often underrated, yet brilliant, Busquets.
Zidane has propelled his side to some emphatic victories at home. Yet, it is not at home where the trouble lies, but rather away. Surely to adopt a pragmatic approach with a balanced midfield seeking possession, Zidane must be wary that his fierce counterparts do not run his side ragged. If they are to contend for the elusive Champions League title, Real Madrid must evidence that Barcelona's dominance can be put to a halt.
Although much of the praise has been (deservedly) given to Barcelona’s deadly attacking trident of Suárez, Messi and Neymar, it is in fact a team effort that has allowed the Catalan giants to challenge for another treble. Luis Enrique’s men have scored 86 goals in the league, second only to Madrid’s 87, and have conceded a mere 24 goals, boasting the second best defense as well. With the division’s best goal difference ratio (62), Barcelona will no doubt need to face a ruthless and efficient BBC if they are to drop points.
With Mathieu and Varane the only noteworthy absences, both sides will feature their strongest XI. Fatigue and long trips may however affect Barcelona’s MSN, who travel back from South America after the international break. Having emphatically edged Sevilla in their last outing, Real Madrid have shown signs of great form in the past few weeks, and may just surprise the mighty Blaugrana.
La Liga may be over, but El Clásico is never meaningless. The world’s largest and most intense battle is always worth watching, and with the passing of Cruyff and Madrid eager to prove all skeptics wrong, expect this weekend’s showdown to be a passionate one.
FC Barcelona possible lineup: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitić, Iniesta; Neymar, Suárez, Messi
Real Madrid possible lineup: Navas; Danilo, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Modrić, Kroos; Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale
Managing Madrid staff predictions:
- Om – FC Barcelona 3 – 1 Real Madrid
- Andrejs – FC Barcelona 2 – 3 Real Madrid
- Kiyan – FC Barcelona 2 – 2 Real Madrid
- Lucas – FC Barcelona 2 – 0 Real Madrid
- Timm – FC Barcelona 2 – 1 Real Madrid
- Mike – FC Barcelona 1 – 2 Real Madrid
- Nate – FC Barcelona 1 – 1 Real Madrid
- Gabe – FC Barcelona 1 - 1 Real Madrid