La Liga, Camp Nou
It’s arrived, the second Clásico of the season and one that will be decisive in the race for the title as Real Madrid make the trip to Catalonia one point behind their great rivals.
The match between Spain’s two footballing giants is always a special occassion, an occasion in which the world stops to watch two squads packed with the biggest players on the planet do battle. It’s huge on a one-of footballing level, for the bragging rights, it’s huge politcially, and this season, as with most, it will be key in who can lift La Liga come the end of the season.
Barcelona go into the game as the form side having overturned a four-point gap to reach the league’s summit and lead by a point, all in the space of a month, but form can be thrown largely out of the window in Clásico contests and Madrid known a win at the Camp Nou, in their enemy’s back yard, can completely change a campaign.
It’s Barcelona against Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti against Luis Enrique and Lionel Messi against Ronaldo in the greatest club game on the planet. Vamos!
Madrid team news:
Ancelotti is expected to stick with his favoured 4-3-3 formation and not opt for the 4-4-2 line-up that enabled his side to beat Barcelona 3-1 on home soil earlier this season.
The key for that to work will be Gareth Bale’s work defensively, as well as in attack. The Welshman is the man to drop back and form a midfield four without the ball and he will have to rigidly stick to that this weekend if Madrid are to get anything from the game. The former Tottenham Hotspur man, under-fire recently but who eased pressure with both goals in the victory over Levante last weekend, has managed to do that in previous big matches.
Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos are both expected to start after featuring from the off against Levante last Sunday. Both players have only just returned from injury and are not expected to be 100 per cent match fit but both showed how crucial they are to Madrid with good performances on their respective returns last weekend.
Ancelotti has already confirmed Iker Casillas will start in goal and that the ‘BBC’ of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano will always start when available, as will Isco, Madrid’s form player.
Fabio Coentrao and Sami Khedira, the latter who has missed a lot of training this week owing to a stomach bug, have not made the squad, nor has James Rodriguez, who continues, his recovery from injury.
Barcelona team news:
Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has included Sergio Busquets in his matchday squad. There was a big doubt over the midfield general as he continued his recovery from an ankle injury sustained against Villarreal but he is set to play some part in the match.
If Busquets does not get the green light to play from the start, Javier Mascherano will likely step into midfield in his place, with Jeremy Mathieu stepping in alongside Gerarf Pique at the heart of the Barca defence.
As with Madrid’s ‘BBC’, there should be little doubt that the ‘MSN’ of Messi, Suarez and Neymar will lead the home attack.
Jordi Alba and Dani Alves also return from suspension at a key time for Luis Enrique, although both also played in the midweek Champions League victory over Manchester City.
“Barcelona are on a better run than us, it’s a complicated and difficult match for both teams. We’re very confident going into this game because it’s an opportunity to return to the top of La Liga if we win”.
“Each team has their style of play and each team will look to impose that style on their opponents. Our aim is this: to play our game. To play the best possible match in every aspect: in defence and attack. To show personality, character and impose our style of play”.
Luis Enrique says…
“It’s not any old game because we are facing our eternal rivals and the team who are nearest to us in the table. If we beat them, we collect points and they lose the chance to collect points. Then there is the goal average factor. There are a lot of incentives and it’s a game with special connotations for culés. Havind said that, it won’t be decisive; there will still be 10 games left to play after tomorrow”.
Predicted Madrid XI:
Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Isco, Modric; Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale.
- Barcelona go into the game top of La Liga by a point after turning around a four-point deficit in the space of just a month.
- Luis Enrique’s side have lost just once in their last 18 competitive matches and are the form side going into the game.
- In contrast, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have won just twice in their last five matches in all competitions, with last weekend’s win against Levante ending a three-game streak without success.
- The clubs will meet for their 170th league meeting, with 71 wins for Madrid, 66 for Barcelona and 32 being draws.
- Barcelona have the edge on home soil, with 48 victories, 17 draws and 19 defeats at the Camp Nou.
- Madrid have scored 98 goals in 84 games at the Camp Nou, leaving Los Blancos just two shy of a century of goals on enemy territory.