Real Madrid v Barcelona Preview

Spanish La Liga | Saturday 25 October | Santiago Bernabeu Stadium | 18:00




The historic rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona needs little introduction. El Clasico, as games between the two clubs have come to be known, is always one of the biggest occasions on the football calendar—a game eagerly anticipated for weeks beforehand before being endlessly dissected in the days and even weeks afterwards. 

On Saturday, the two clubs will go head-to-head in an epic encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time this season. Glitz, glamour and prestige are always a part of this mouth-watering fixture, and this year fans will be hoping they get more of the same. 

To Win (90mins)
Real Madrid 27/20
Draw 24/10
Barcelona 19/10

REAL MADRID


Cristiano Ronaldo scored a double as Real Madrid thrashed Levante 5-0 at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia last weekend to move into third place in the La Liga standings. Javier Hernandez scored his third Real goal in his first league start for Los Blancos, as the visitors went two goals ahead in the first half. James Rodriguez and Isco also found the back of the net as Carlo Ancelotti's side registered a convincing win without ever really having to perform at their best. Los Blancos will now turn their attention to this weekend’s clash as they come up against their fiercest rivals who are top of the table with four points more than them. 

Ancelotti’s side made a stuttering start to the season losing to Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad and now have six victories from their eight matches. They’ve scored a remarkable thirty goals with eight more than Barcelona’s 22 but in spite of their offensive firepower and midfield talent, Los Blancos have been lacking quality in defence, and plagued by Iker Casillas’ out-of-form performances and conceding goals has perhaps been the biggest glitch in the European champions start to the campaign. Nevertheless, with the ambitious aim of adding a little more resilience to their fragile defence, Real may switch to a 4-4-2 formation to withstand Barcelona’s attacking juggernaut. 

Gareth Bale, who's notched five goals and registered four assists in all competitions for Los Blancos this season, is struggling to overcome a gluteal injury suffered during Wales' 2-1 victory over Cyprus during the international break. 

Karim Benzema has scored in at least one Clasico match in each of the last three seasons—all of them coming at the Bernabeu. Barcelona's defenders might be giving Benzema some special attention this weekend. 

Chasing his second La Liga title, Ronaldo knows he will have to continue netting the goals to keep Madrid's charge alive. The Portuguese international has scored an impressive 15 goals in just eight league matches and will be the driving force in Madrid’s attack.


BARCELONA

Barcelona scored three times after the break to see off Eibar last Saturday and have now not conceded a goal in an astonishing eight La Liga matches. The Catalans have been flawless under Luis Enrique with seven wins and one draw coming at Malaga. Enrique will face his biggest match as Barcelona coach and a win against their arch-rivals will hold him in high regard with the fans as a manager. 

Ivan Rakitic has been a perfect fit for Barca from day one and is getting better with each passing game. He is at home in the Barcelona system but has also added some new capabilities to a team that has been very predictable over the last few years. 

After a low-key first year, Neymar seems to have cranked things up a gear this season and is now fulfilling initial expectations of his potential. The Brazilian looks to be at the top of his game right now scoring eight goals in five starts and the Barca fans are rubbing their hands together with glee at the prospect of the forthcoming game against Real Madrid. 

Luis Suarez will make his debut for the Catalans after serving his FIFA-imposed suspension for biting Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup and will add ferocity to what already is a lethal attack. In Suarez, they now have proven goalscorer who can lessen the burden on Lionel Messi and also lead the team from the front. He also brings a new dimension to the Barca attack which sometimes lacks the directness of a centre-forward with Messi’s tendency to drop deep to receive the ball. Many people have accused Barcelona of ditching their tiki-taka philosophy by signing Suarez and having a frontline of individuals with Messi, Neymar and Suarez all playing their best as the focal point of their team’s attack. Looking at it the other way, this can be seen as a marriage of the tiki-taka with the Jogo Bonito. A frontline of three free-flowing attackers all capable of the sublime and reminiscent of the Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho partnership of Brazil might just work. 

Messi is just two goals away from becoming La Liga’s all-time leading goalscorer. He got his 250th last weekend against Eibar and will come into this weekend’s Clasico hoping to set the record in Madrid. 

Betting Verdict: BARCELONA 19/10
The impact of the goal-hungry Suarez will give Barcelona the edge. They are also the superior team defensively and they have a keeper in Claudio Bravo who looks like a superhero between the sticks having not conceded in 720 minutes. Back the Catalan giants at a valuable 19/10. I feel the worst Barcelona could do is come away with the draw, so if you looking for a safer bet go for Barca to WIN/DRAW available at 11/20.

Written by Chadley Nagel for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now! 

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