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El Clásico Returns

The biggest game in European football returns on Sunday as Real Madrid host Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga. 15 points separate the two teams in the Spanish league, one of the widest differences in the modern era, but there is still a lot at stake other than bragging rights.

 

 

Los Blancos come into the match in great form, having won five matches on the trot in all competitions. This run includes a 3-0 win against Mallorca last time out and a hugely impressive 3-1 win over PSG in the second leg of their Champions League tie last week. 

Madrid are currently 10 points clear at the top of the table and a win would all but ensure a record 35th league title.

Barcelona have also seen a superb reversal in form. They haven’t lost since January 20th and have played some scintillating football recently in wins over Galatasaray in the Europa League and Osasuna in La Liga. The Blaugrana are currently third in the table but Betis in fifth are just two points away and there is much work to be done in the race for Champions League football next season.

 

Team News

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has a nearly fully fit squad to choose from but there are question marks over the fitness of key man Karim Benzema. The Frenchman picked up a knock against Mallorca and is a doubt. The only other absentee is Ferland Mendy who is ruled out with an adductor injury.

Real Madrid Predicted Lineup: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos;  Rodrygo, Asensio, Vinicius Jr.

Barcelona have more injury issues that are only increasing with Sergino Dest picking up a hamstring problem on Thursday. He joins Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti on the sidelines. Alex Balde and Ez Abde might be available again after minor knocks keeping the pair out over the last few games.

 

 

Barcelona Predicted Lineup: Ter Stegen; Alves, Araujo, Pique, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Traore, Aubameyang, Torres

 

Game Changers

For Real Madrid, the key man is going to be Luka Modric who was in scintillating form in his last start, against PSG. The Croatian has ran the show for Madrid for years and is showing no signs of slowing down. Against PSG he was omnipresent and omniscient, the second goal highlighting all his best qualities.

 

 

On Sunday he will be up against a youthful and energetic midfield that consists of Pedri and de Jong, both of whom are in exceptional form. Modric and his partners-in-crime, Kroos and Casemiro, will have their task cut out.

Barcelona’s attack has been rejuvenated since January with the arrival of a completely new front-three of Adama Traore, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Ferran Torres. The former-Man City winger started slow but has shown some really bright signs in recent weeks. Torres’ finishing has not been the best but his ability to create chances and find himself at the end of chances is very valuable.

 

 

Against Madrid, Torres will be up against Dani Carvajal who has not been in the best form. The Spanish winger can use his pace and tactical nous to be the outlet Barcelona need to carve Madrid open.

 

Predictions

On paper, Madrid are somewhat the stronger side with a set plan that has worked well for them this season but Barcelona’s progress cannot be underestimated. The home side had almost a week to recover and prepare while Barcelona have a quick turn-around from their European adventures. It will be a close contest though and FootTheBall predicts Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona.

Ritwik Khanna
Economics student supporting FC Goa and Manchester United, in true masochistic way. Can be found reading Jonathan Wilson and Sid Lowe or planning a quirky trip in his free time.

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