Ansu Fati, Ronald Koeman, Carlo Ancelotti, Karim Benzema

MATCH PREVIEW: BARCELONA VS REAL MADRID, EL CLASICO PROMISES TO BE A HUMDINGER AS BOTH TEAMS LOOK TO CLIMB UP THE TABLE

The first El Clasico of the new campaign is set for Sunday with the two teams having very different starts to the season.

have been mired in all sorts of problems, on and off the pitch. The exit of Lionel Messi grabbed all the headlines in the summer but equally astounding was the amount of losses they have accumulated in recent times.

 

Four wins and three draws from eight games sounds like a good return but quality of football has been atrocious at times. has been coming under intense pressure of late, though a first victory in their Champions League campaign brought a little peace. The return of has been a major boost, but the dwindling form of Luuk de Jong remains a work in progress.

 

The defence has been slow at best and terrible at worst which is something that Koeman will definitely put a special emphasis on given the form of their opponents’ in front of goal.

Los Blancos have been the trailblazers in La Liga, scoring 22 goals already led by the duo of Karim Benema and Vinicius Jr. The Frenchman in particular has been in scintillating form, with 16 goal contributions (nine goals, seven assists) but their defence has been a bit patchy.

 

The departures of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane have not been adequately filled by David Alaba alone. ’s side come into this fixture on the back of a thumping 5-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk with positives all across the team. Last year’s runners-up are gearing up for a title run this time, and winning over their arch rivals away from home will be a statement in itself.

 

Real Madrid will go top with a win and even though the Catalans are a weakened beast, they know that this encounter will not be easy under any circumstances.

 

TEAM NEWS

Pedri and Ronald Araujo, two of their key players in the respective positions, have picked up injuries in recent times to join Martin Braithwaite on the sidelines. Alba suffered an ankle sprain against Dynamo Kyiv and is also a major doubt.

 

PROBABLE LINE-UP: Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Lenglet, Dest; De Jong, Busquets, Gavira; Coutinho, Fati, Depay

 

Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard have resumed training with the team but are unlikely to feature right from the off. Benzema took a slight blow to his right foot but should be raring to go in this crucial tie.

 

PROBABLE LINE-UP: Courtois; Vasquez; Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Vinicius, Benzema, Rodrygo

 

GAMECHANGERS

The new no.10 of the Blaugrana has been carrying the weight of the jersey quite easily so far. Fati has scored twice in three league games but it has been the fearless nature with which he plays that helps the team as a whole.

 

The 18-year-old recently signed a new long-term contract and has every chance to add to his goal tally against Los Meringues. Fati is a faster and more mobile upgrade on Luuk de Jong, while his ability to strike at goal from far out is also a major asset. Vasquez on the right is a mismatch against Depay who will look to set up the teenager at every opportunity.

 

Furthermore, Fati will outrun Alaba all day long and that could be another worry if he gets in behind the backline. Though he will not likely be winning headers in the air, that can be covered by his teammates.

Though Benzema has been in a league of his own and has been getting shouts for the Ballon D’Or, it is his younger cohort who can grab the headlines. Vinicius has seven goals and three assists in all competitions, which includes his brace and assist against Shakhtar.

 

The Brazilian attacker has seemingly come into his own this season, making dazzling runs down the left and providing emphatic finishing at the end of it. Vinicius will be up against one of Mingueza or Dest, and it looks to be the former which he will be relishing to get by using his trickery and quick feet.

 

Next up will be Gerard Pique who has no hope of catching up if Vinicius gets on the wrong side of his marker. Ter Stegen could be in for a busy night and it will likely take more than one covering player to stop his linkup play with Benzema as well.

 

PREDICTIONS

Madrid are the favourites on paper and it is clear to see why, evidenced by the two teams’ recent form. Ancelotti’s side will go top with a win and while Barcelona will move up the table from its 7th-placed standing. FootTheBall predicts a 2-1 win for Los Blancos.

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