It’s been seven months since the two giants of Spanish football met for the last time. The encounters between Barcelona and Real Madrid have been so frequent the past few seasons that seven months seems like a long time. The wait is nearly over. They will meet this Saturday at the Nou Camp.
Only three points separates the two teams (25 points for Barcelona and 22 points for Real Madrid). A win for Barca would send them six points ahead of their enemies while a loss could see them dropping to third position if Atletico Madrid (second with 24 points) win against Real Betis on Sunday. A draw would be beneficial to Atletico who would be top of the table in case of a win.
Barcelona is going into the ”clasico” having won eight of their first nine league games of the season. Osasuna was the only team able to hold Barca to a 0-0 draw last week. The ”Blaugranas” now coached by Gerardo ”Tata” Martino have won all their home league games so far. The good news for Martino is that Lionel Messi is fit and will start. Knowing his importance and the confidence he gives to his teammates, this is a massive confidence booster for Barca.
One of the biggest questions ahead of this clasico is whether or not Neymar, the Brazilian star will be handed the start. With Messi back from injury, Cesc Fabregas, who’s been in terrific form this season but was left on the bench on Tuesday against AC Milan in the Champion’s League (1-1 draw), will go back to midfield and leave the ”false nine” role to the Argentinian which could push Andres Iniesta to the left wing (Neymar’s position). The rest of the team should be unchanged with Pedro as a right winger, Busquets,Xavi and Fabregas in midfield. The back four should be the same as in Milan with Adriano (left back) covering for Jordi Alba‘s absence, Daniel Alves (right back), Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano in central defense.
Real Madrid has prepared the clasico very well with a victory over Juventus 2-1 on Wednesday with two goals by Cristiano Ronaldo. ”Los Merengues” will more than likely start this ”clasico” in their now usual 4-2-3-1. Iker Casillas should be on the bench again as he has been for every league game this season. Carlo Ancelotti has made it clear that Diego Lopez will be playing in the league. Ancelotti’s team on Saturday will be very similar to the team that beat Juventus on Wednesday but there are still a few uncertainties. Isco, who had started every game since the beginning of the season, was left on the bench on Wednesday and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Italian manager keeping Luka Modric as a playmaker. The Croatian midfielder’s work rate will be very much needed against Barcelona’s midfield.
Karim Benzema, booed on Wednesday by his own fans and under performing since the start of the season should get the start unless Ancelotti decides to start Gareth Bale, which would push Ronaldo into an unusual striker role but that option seems unlikely, the Welshman not being match fit yet. The back four should be unchanged from Wednesday with Marcelo (left back), Alvaro Arbeloa (right back), Pepe and Sergio Ramos center backs. Asier Illaramendi and Sami Khedira are likely to start in central midfield. Angel Di Maria after his recent good performances should be starting on the right wing, Ronaldo will be on the left and Modric behind Benzema.
Prediction: Barcelona 1- 1 Real Madrid
Both teams are coming into this game in good form and with no major injuries. Barcelona, as usual, will have possession and Real Madrid will defend deep and try to hit on the counter attack with Ronaldo, Di Maria and Benzema. Lionel Messi’s duel with Cristiano Ronaldo will be scrutinized as usual by fans all over the world who won’t miss a chance to compare the two superstars’ performances.