Real Madrid vs Barcelona Preview

Another El Clasico is upon as Barca look to blow the title race wide open when they face Real Madrid.
Another El Clasico is upon as Barca look to blow the title race wide open when they face Real Madrid.
Spanish La Liga | Sunday 23 April | Santiago Bernabeu | 20:45

The footballing world will come to a standstill as Real Madrid host Barcelona in another epic El Clasico. A game of this magnitude becomes more than just about bragging rights, this game could decide the La Liga title. The rivalry has stretched and become more than just about Real Madrid and Barcelona. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have also rivalled each other in more ways than one. And after Barca signed Neymar and Luis Suarez a couple of seasons ago, and Madrid signed Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, the rivalry stretches even further as to who boasts the best attacking trio. The brilliant trios of MSN and BBC will be broken this weekend as Neymar continues to serve his suspension, while Bale is a doubt through injury. Los Blancos have a three-point lead over Barca with a game in hand. A win here will all but guarantee white ribbons on the La Liga trophy. The last El Clasico ended in a stalemate, let’s hope we get a winner in this one!

To Win (90mins)
Real Madrid 11/10
Draw 28/10
Barcelona 2/1

Real Madrid

Real Madrid have been superb for the entire campaign. Off the back of knocking Bayern Munich out of the UEFA Champions League, Los Blancos will look to extend their brilliant run of form into the El Clasico. Zinedine Zidane has done a remarkable job since taking over the club. He may not have the CV of previous Madrid managers, but he is a Galactico through and through.

Los Blancos kept their three-point advantage over Barcelona courtesy of a late, late goal from Isco to hand Real Madrid a 3-2 victory at Sporting Gijon. Given the performances of Isco and Marco Asensio in recent weeks, choosing a replacement for Gareth Bale could be tough.

When Zidane was asked who could come into the starting line-up in place of the Welshman, he said: "I have decided who will play instead of Bale, but I am not going to tell you."

Isco surely deserves a start after his dynamic display against Gijon, but Zidane simply said: "He is ready and that is the most important thing for me."

Wise decision not to give out an early team selection, especially for a match of this magnitude. In terms of depth, Real Madrid undoubtedly have the better of the two squads. And it has shown big time this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be hoping to net his 20th goal in La Liga this season. The Portuguese superstar has scored 16 times in all competitions against Barcelona, and in all fairness, you cannot back against him finding the back of the net against Barca again. It may just be my opinion, but Ronaldo is currently the best player on the planet. His total of 31 goals in 38 appearances is considered modest by his standards.

Real Madrid are unbeaten at the Santiago Bernabeu this season and will go all out to ensure that their El Clasico rivals do not become the first to beat them there. A win here will all but guarantee a record 33rd title for Los Blancos.



Barcelona

El Clasico’s don’t get much bigger than this one for Barcelona. Luis Enrique’s side will hope to close the gap on Real Madrid, who have a game in hand plus a three-point advantage.

After being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Juventus, if Barca lose this tie, then that would rule the Catalans out of two major competitions in the space of a week. Even worse if they were to lose to Alaves, who they meet in the Copa del Rey final at the end of May.

Away from home, Barcelona have been poor in recent weeks, losing four times in six matches in all competitions away from the Nou Camp. Those games include a 4-0 defeat at the hands of PSG, and a 3-0 hammering by Juventus – both in the UEFA Champions League.

In terms of goalscoring, you don’t get much better than Lionel Messi this season. In 45 appearances, the Argentine maestro has scored 45 goals, racking up 14 assists to his name. Those assists have been put to good use by Luis Suarez, who has banged in 23 league goals this campaign.

The famous ‘MSN’ trio will be broken as Neymar serves up his suspension. On the Blaugrana bench, no names come to mind in terms of who will be the likely replacement. Paco Alcacer started in the Brazilian’s place last weekend, but he has nothing close to the talent that Neymar possesses.

This is Enrique’s last season at the Barca helm and more pressure could be put on the Spaniard after they failed to progress in the UEFA Champions League. Enrique will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s result at the Bernabeu, where they came out 4-0 victors. But Madrid were under different management and had a side lacking confidence. It will be much tougher for the Catalans this time around.

Probable line-ups:

Real Madrid: 4-3-3
Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Ronaldo, Benzema, Isco.

Barcelona: 4-3-3
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Gomes; Iniesta, Suarez, Messi.

Prediction: Ronaldo to Score 1st and Real Madrid win (5/1)
As much as I don’t see this Barcelona team keeping up with the pace of Real Madrid, there’s one battle that has me fearful of Barca being embarrassed. Cristiano Ronaldo should have a field day against Sergi Roberto, which has given me the reason to back Ronaldo to bag the first goal. After his hat-trick in midweek, the Portuguese superstar will certainly keep his scoring boots on. The title should be wrapped up this weekend. Back Los Blancos to win and Ronaldo to score first at 5/1. Another big game, another big performance.

Written by Jesse Nagel.