EL Clasico: Real Madrid vs Barcelona Preview

Saturday's El Clasico will have serious repercussions on Real Madrid’s title hopes.
Real Madrid host their bitter rivals, Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium this Saturday
Spanish La Liga | Saturday 23 December | Santiago Bernabeu Stadium | 14:00

Real Madrid host their bitter rivals, Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in a crucial La Liga encounter this Saturday. Other than giving your fans a Christmas present by beating your enemy, this match will have serious repercussions on Los Blancos’ title hopes. A win for Zinedine Zidane’s men would somewhat keep them in contention and a defeat would pretty much mean kissing their title hopes goodbye. The Catalans will be content with a draw away to the defending champions as it would keep them 11 points clear off them. 

To Win
Real Madrid 21/20
Draw 29/10
Barcelona 43/20

Real Madrid

The defending champions have started their La Liga season poorly which sees them occupying an unfamiliar fourth place, 11 points off the pace with a game in hand. A win would keep their title hopes alive while a defeat could extinguish them. Their talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo has been phenomenal in the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup but his La Liga campaign which was marred by a five-game ban at the start of the season hasn’t been quite convincing. He’s only got four league goals to his name so far.

Los Blancos will be buoyed by heading into this one off the back of a triumphant Club World Cup campaign which sealed a club record of five trophies in a calendar year for the club. The hosts are also oozing with confidence as they convincingly beat their opponents in a two-legged Spanish Super Cup final, smashing them 3-1 at Camp Nou and beating them 2-0 in the return leg. That prompted defender, Gerrard Pique to say he’s feeling inferior to Madrid for the first time ever and the Catalans responded by signing Paulinho and Ousmane Dembele who have made a huge difference.

Madrid might be unbeaten in their last five games but they have played two goalless draws in that period after failing to find the back of the net against both Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao. They responded by thumping Sevilla 5-0 in the league and grinding out results against both Al-Jazira and Gremio in the Club World Cup. It should be interesting to see how far that momentum carries them against a rampant Barcelona side.



Barcelona

Barcelona are riding the crest of the La Liga wave with zero defeats since the season started. Lionel Messi is unplayable this season, having found the back of the net on 14 occasions and assisted a further five strikes. It’s also interesting to note that the visitors have kept clean sheets in all their recent three league matches. Last week they were ruthless against Deportivo de La Coruna whom they thumped 4-0. In that match, Messi just couldn’t score, rattling the frame of the goal three times and having a penalty saved.

The table toppers are expected to once again target La Liga’s all-time most sent off player, Sergio Ramos who has earned five red cards against them. Ramos, who can sometimes be erratic must be very careful against the likes of Luis Suarez and Messi who can take advantage of that with their diving and provocative antics.

I think Barca will approach this match as a must-not-lose one as it will keep them eight points ahead of their opponents and a win would be a bonus as it would stretch the gap to 14 points. Last season they took four points off Real Madrid with a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou and a 3-2 victory away. This will be a tightly-contested encounter.

Probable line-ups:

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

Barcelona: 4-4-2
Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba; Denis Suarez, Rakitic, Busquets, Paulinho; Messi, Luis Suarez

Prediction: Barca Win & Both Teams to Score (32/10)
Real Madrid have the homeground advantage and they head into this one off the back of a fifth trophy this year which is absolutely amazing. On the other hand, Barcelona have been terrific in both the league and the UEFA Champions League. Their ability to keep clean sheets, score many goals and avoid defeats will be the difference. A win will see them have one hand on the trophy and I think that will happen. I’m backing Barcelona to Win & Both Teams to Score.

Written by Benedict Ngwenya