La Liga’s first Clasico of the season is almost here and the game at the Bernabeu pits leaders Barcelona against newly crowned world champions Real Madrid. A Barcelona win would see them extend their lead over Madrid to 14 points before Christmas and a win for defending champion Madrid would see them cut the point difference down to 8 points.
Real Madrid simply need to win. A glance at the La Liga table is enough to see that Los Blancos have no margin for error. Los Blancos have not hit the heights in La Liga this season, but in their last game did beat Sevilla 5-0 and just won the Club World Cup. Barcelona are undefeated so far this season and their attacking threat is clear.
Despite the fact Real Madrid are Spanish, European and world champions, they come into this El Clasico under real pressure. Real Madrid come into this El Clasico a whopping 11 points behind Barcelona. Los Blancos do have a game in hand. Whilst Barcelona have dropped just six points all La Liga season, Real Madrid have drawn four and lost two already.
Real Madrid: Real Madrid have one player missing for El Clasico: Luca Zidane, son of Zinedine, the third choice goalkeeper. Cristiano Ronaldo has not trained due to a calf injury over recent days, but the Portuguese superstar is expected to play El Clasico. Gareth Bale, who scored in the Club World Cup final against Gremio, is expected to start on the bench. Isco will almost certainly be given the nod to make things happen behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
Barcelona: Barcelona are without two massive players. Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele are long term absentees, with both youngsters likely to have started if they were fit and available. Rafinha and Arda Turan are also long term absentees for Barcelona. Mascherano may be featuring but because of lack of matches he has played this season, Vermaelen would get the first nod.
What to expect:
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has played his cards right in La Liga so far. Whilst Real Madrid appear to have taken their eye off the ball domestically. As a result, Real Madrid can strike a psychological and points blow to Barcelona if they were to win against Barcelona on Saturday. Leo Messi produced yet another extraordinary performance in this fixture last season and his personal duel with Cristiano Ronaldo will once again be fascinating. And coming into the most important game of the season, Madrid’s coach is in full pressure to deliver, with how Madrid has started the season.
Stats from the season:
- Lionel Messi has directly contributed to 19 goals this season, which is eight more than anybody else.
- Barcelona has the best away defensive records in Europe’s top five league.
- Madrid’s BBC has scored 9 goals less than they had at this stage last season.
Lineup: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Casemiro; Isco; Ronaldo, Benzema.
Lineup: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba; Busquests, Paulinho, Rakitic; Iniesta, Suarez, Messi.
Barcelona has won the last two El Clasico in Santiago Bernabau, 4-0 and 3-2.