El Clasico - Barcelona vs Real Madrid: Preview, live telecast, team news, prediction and betting odds
- Real Madrid take on Barcelona in the second El Clasico of the season. Here's everything you need to know about the clash.
Football’s greatest showdown returns to awake football fans from the slumber of the international break. Yes, El Clasico is back and ready to attract football fanatics from across every corner of the globe to their TV or Computer systems.
Though this Clasico is one of the more inconsequential ones in terms of the bearing it has on the league table – with Barcelona 10 points clear of their visitors and nine gameweeks remaining – it still promises to enthrall fans with the intensity, aggression and glut of goals and entertainment.
One team is on a Spanish unbeaten record, while the other has nothing to lose. One team is looking to extend that run to 40, while the other seek to erase the memories of a humilating defeat in the previous meeting.
As far as the fans are concerned, it’s bragging rights at stake. Who will come up trumps when the sides lock horns at the historic 1,00,000 seater Camp Nou on Saturday evening? Football waits with bated breath.
Kick-Off and Live Telecast
Channel: Sony SIX, Sony SIX HD
Kick-Off : Sunday, 3rd April – 00:00 IST (Saturday, 2nd April – 1830 GMT)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona
Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba suffered an ankle problem in Spain’s 0-0 stalemate against Romania, but should be fit in time to start. Jeremy Mathieu, Sandro Ramirez and Adriano are all ruled out for this crunch fixture.
Real Madrid have a full strength squad at their disposal, the only injury concern being teenage striker Borja Mayoral.
Barcelona are as they have been since October – ruthless, elegant and most importantly, unbeaten. A 39-game unbeaten run(a Spanish football record), a 10 point cushion at the summit, an upcoming Champions League quarterfinal, a Copa del Rey final – a Barcelona fan couldn’t wish for more at this stage.
They were, of course, stopped in their tracks by a 2-2 draw against Villarreal where they fluffed a 2-goal lead, but that doesn’t quash any suggestions that they may well be on their way to a repeat of last season. Yes, the treble looks on the cards for the Catalans.
Everything seems to be working just about perfectly. The menacing MSN trio are getting them the goal and their midfield has been functioning efficiently thanks to some slick passing and some purposeful tackling by the shielding midfielder.
If there is a concern, it could only be their difficulty in handling set-pieces, which undid them against Villarreal. If they can sort that out, there’s no reason why they cannot increase their unbeaten streak to 40 against their age-old enemy.
With such a large gap between the teams and only a handful of fixtures remaining, even a defeat will not dampen their spirits much, although it does of course snap that heralded unbeaten streak.
Last 5 games (All competitions) : D-W-W-W-W (Most Recent – Villarreal 2-2 Barcelona)
Real Madrid may have begun their surge to top gear just a little to late for their liking. A convincing aggregate victory over Roma in the Champions League followed by a 4-0 thumping of historic party-poopers Sevilla are indications of what Real Madrid are capable of bringing to the field when in A-Class form.
Their 4-0 thrashing by their rivals in November, coupled by a dis-spiriting 0-1 defet at the hands of Atletico in the Madrid Derby have already bust their title hopes. Even if they win at the Camp Nou, there is no way Luis Enrique’s side are dropping 8 points in their 7 subsequent games, which is the minimum requirement for Real to pip them to the trophy.
Atleast they can express themselves with nothing to lose. This game serves an opportunity for the likes of Casemiro to prove himself as a big game player, Raphael Varane and Ramos to redeem themselves from that nightmare in November, Bale to mark his return to full fitness with a breath-taking performance and for Cristiano Ronaldo to silence the Camp Nou with his all-round guile.
They did it in style against Sevilla, but do they have the desire and the quality to overcome the belligerent Catalans and avenge that humbling earlier in the season?
Last 5 games (All Competitions) : W-W-W-W-W (Most Recent – Real Madrid 4-0 Sevilla)
Predicted Starting XI
- This will be the 231st competitive meeting between Spain’s superpowers. Real Madrid lead 92-90 in terms of victories.
- The Catalans have won 4 out of the last 5 league Clasicos, losing the other.
- Real Madrid have not kept a clean sheet in La Liga at the Camp Nou since a 0-1 success in December 2007, when Julio Baptista scored the winner for Los Blancos.
- Their last victory at the Camp Nou was a 2-1 victory in April 2012, the season Jose Mourinho won Real their only league title in the past seven completed La Liga seasons.
- Barcelona are currently on a 39-game unbeaten run in all competitions, a Spanish football record. Their last defeat was a 2-1 La Liga defeat to Europa League holders Sevilla on 3 October, 2015.
- They are unbeaten at home this season. Their last reverse at the Camp Nou was a 0-1 loss to Malaga on 21 February, 2015.
- Their 0-0 draw against Espanyol in January was the last time they failed to score in any competitive game.
- Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have racked up 69 goals and 32 assists between them in La Liga this season.
- Since losing 0-1 at home to city rivals Atletico, Real Madrid have won each of their subsequent 5 encounters.
- They are unbeaten away from home in all competitions since a 1-0 league defeat to Villarreal on 13 December, 2015. This was also the last time Real failed to score away from home.
- Cristiano Ronaldo – who has featured in every minute of Real’s league campaign this season – has scored 28 and assisted a further 9 in his 30 appearances for Zinedine Zidane’s side.
Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic vs Casemiro
Over the past month, Casemiro has been the anchor of Real’s midfield, breaking up passing moves and retrieving the ball through crucial tackles. His presence has also brought a balance to Los Blancos’ midfield, something that was apparently lacking in Real’s stuttering campaign when Benitez was in charge.
He has to display the same desire to win the ball back from Ivan Rakitic and Iniesta to prevent an attack materialising in the proximity of the Real penalty area. The game could well be won or lost by Casemiro’s influence – positive or negative – in the heart of the Real midfield.
Real Madrid look like they have finally hit the right combination of players based on their performances over the past 30 days or so. Whether their system is good enough to overcome the treble-chasers is something fans will look forward to.
They have nothing to lose, so they might as well go hard at the opposition and restore some pride following their 4-0 embarrassment in front of their own fans back in November. Barcelona – as usual – are expected to let their elegant football do the talking at the Camp Nou.
Their sublime movement of the ball, capped by the finishing touches upfront are set to trouble the Real defence yet again. A high-scoring draw seems the most plausible choice of prediction, keeping in mind the recent form of both superpowers of Spanish football.
Predicted score: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid
Betting Odds (bet 365)
Barcelona – 1.57
Draw – 4.50
Real Madrid – 5.50