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Real Madrid vs Barcelona Preview

Both Barcelona and Real Madrid need to close the gap on log-leaders Atletico Madrid

The thrilling three-horse race for league honours between log leaders Atletico Madrid, defending La Liga champions Real Madrid, and their perennial rivals Barcelona has brought about a much-needed injection into the anticipation surrounding the 279th edition of the El Clasico.

After playing 29 games each:
1. Atletico Madrid – 66 points
2. Barcelona – 65 points
3. Real Madrid – 63 points

Recent meetings in the showpiece have been rather underwhelming and suggested that the fixture has lost its spark in the absence of fans or previously the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus and lately, decorated striker Luis Suarez signing for title-rivals Atletico.

However, with the stakes this high, we’re set for an intriguing contest between Spain’s biggest clubs that have their eyes set on glory after both clubs closed the deficit on Atleti who succumbed to a 1-0 defeat away to Sevilla last Sunday.

Recent form (La Liga)
Real Madrid – WWWDDWWWWL
Barcelona – WWWWWDWWWW

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Spanish La Liga: El Clasico
Saturday 10 April
Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano
21:00

To Win
Real Madrid 39/20
Draw 26/10
Barcelona 5/4

Real Madrid

Real Madrid will come into this clash on the back foot largely due to their midweek UEFA Champions League first-leg quarter-final encounter with Liverpool to contend with, prior the visit of the Catalans, whilst Barcelona will have the entire week to prepare after being dumped out of the elite competition by Paris Saint-Germain.

Talismanic figure and captain Sergio Ramos will be the biggest blow for Los Blancos, with Eden Hazard also suffering from a muscle injury and Dani Carvajal a major doubt as well.

Zinedine Zidane could revert to a back-three with Ferland Mendy and Marcelo both tasked to nullify attacks down Barca’s right flank and provide stability in numbers to accommodate for the loss of Ramos and Carvajal who are integral pieces to Zizou’s jigsaw puzzle.

Casemiro will provide the anchor in midfield for Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and young Uruguayan prospect Federico Valverde to pull the strings with Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio offering hard-work and pace on the counter on along the right flank.

Karim Benzema has been playing some of the best football of his career at the age of 33, tallying six assists and 18 goals from 25 league games. The Frenchman has the experience of playing 38 games against Barca which equates to an entire season, he knows what it takes to come out trumps over the Blaugrana and could prove to be the difference.

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Barcelona

Barcelona drew themselves within a point off the top in dramatic fashion thanks to Ousmane Dembele’s stoppage time winner against Real Valladolid last Monday and leapfrogged the hosts Real Madrid in the process.

Barca are the form team in the league with 13 wins from 14 games, but there’s something missing that could’ve seen them lead the race. Oh yes! Suarez and his 19 league goals scored in the red and white stripes of Atletico.

Youth were given their chance under Ronald Koeman and a few talents have certainly raised their hands, 18-year-old Spanish attacking-midfielder, Pedri, in particular looks like one for the future and has put in a few world class performances alongside Frenkie De Jong and Lionel Messi.

These displays haven’t gone unnoticed with a number of players sidelined such as Ansu Fati, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and Phillipe Coutinho surely appreciating the efforts of the kid keeping the Catalans in the hunt.

Messi will want to break the duck of back-to-back defeats against Real Madrid in recent meetings and is still the man to stop from Los Blancos’ perspective, registering 23 goals and eight assists in 27 La Liga appearances this campaign.

Probable line-ups:

Real Madrid: 3-4-2-1
Courtois; Eder Militao, Nacho, Marcelo; Vazquez, Casemiro, Modric, Mendy; Kroos, Isco; Benzema.

Barcelona: 4-3-3
Ter Stegen; Dest, Umtiti, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, De Jong, Pedri; Messi, Dembele, Griezmann.

Prediction: Barcelona (5/4)
Barcelona will come into this game physically and mentally fresher with the belief that Real Madrid are there for the taking without the likes of Ramos and Carvajal in defence. This game can serve as a catalyst with the looming opportunity of snatching the league title back from their arch-rivals within touching distance during one of the most challenging seasons in Barcelona’s history.

Written by Bryan Naicker