El Clásico is always a pivotal match in every season, but it feels particularly weighty this time. With Madrid emerging from one of its worst goal scoring droughts in club history and Lopetegui’s job hanging in the balance, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the result of this game will go a long way toward determining the course of the rest of our season.
On the eve of this politically and athletically charged match-up, there are a number of things I would like to see. The first of these is obviously total domination, but short of that dream result, I would settle for the following:
Attacking football - from our opponent
We may not have a squad approaching the talent level of either of the Galácticos teams, but we have more than enough quality to force smaller market teams to recognize that a defensive stance is their best option. This leads to the inevitable low block and, of late, the grinding of gears that our lack of clinical finishing has produced. That shouldn’t be an issue against Barcelona, who have more than enough talent of their own, even without Messi, to play us straight up and not sit back looking to stifle our attack. Weirdly enough, their superior quality might be the thing that gives us our chance to eke out a victory against our rivals from Catalonia. If we can draw them out and find a way to sneak in behind their defense, which has looked distinctly fallible this season, we have a good chance of at least making it interesting.
A breakout game from someone – ANYONE
At this point, I don’t care if it’s Bale or Asensio or friggin Nacho showing up and blowing the game open. I just want to see SOMEONE have the kind of performance that restores our faith in the team and helps chart a path forward. I feel like Benzema might be on the verge of an uptick in form, and getting him going would be huge in getting us out of the skid we currently find ourselves in. Marcelo is clearly the most important piece in the offensive puzzle, and, if he is healthy, he will be vital to our chances tomorrow. If he can link up well with any of the front line, it will put pressure on Barça’s shaky back line and put the pressure on them to play flawless defense to keep us at bay. Based on their performance so far this season, I’m not sure they can do that.
No bungles at the back
Despite the poor results, our defense hasn’t been particularly bad overall. We have, however, been susceptible to lethal counterattacks and lapses of judgment from our normally stalwart central defenders. The high amount of possession has been largely responsible for our good defensive numbers, so it will be interesting to see how we perform against a side that will almost certainly maintain possession at least as well as us.
Make no mistake – getting a result at the Camp Nou will be a tall task, especially given our form in La Liga of late, but our recent history there proves we are more than capable of taking points off Barça in their stadium. The elephant in the room is the lack of Lionel Messi, who will miss at least the next 3 weeks with a broken arm, and given the team’s heavy reliance on him, they will be forced to come up with an alternate plan for getting past us. Their win against Inter this week shows they are more than capable of playing well without him, but it definitely throws a wrench into the works.
With the many disappointments of the season so far, I think everyone is looking to this game as a bellwether for the rest of the campaign. Playing trends leading up to the game pretty much go out the window as this match-up is a world unto itself, and with passions high, hopefully we can put in a good performance and close some of the gap between ourselves and our rivals at the top of the table. As always, I will be watching attentively and looking for signs that we are ready to challenge for the top spot. Good luck to our boys and ¡Hala Madrid!