Real Madrid vs Barcelona
Bernabeu 17:00 25/10/2014
It’s that time again, its time for the biggest match in world footbal, the fiercest rivalry and most eagerly anticipated game of the year. Yes you guessed it, its El Clasico time! At 5pm UK time this Saturday the first El Clasico of the year takes place in the capital between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Bernabeu and the whole footballing world is licking its lips in excitement.
Real Madrid currently sit in third place, one point behind Sevilla and a significant four behind bitter rivals Barcelona. A victory for Barca would see them go four points clear of Real and give the Madrid side a mountain to climb with only nine games played.
Real are favourites to win this weekend’s El Clasico and to lift their first La Liga trophy in three years despite such a shaky start to the season, losing twice in their first three league matches, giving Barcelona a four point cushion going into the first El Clasico.
The form of Real Madrid has increased dramatically since those first three games, Los Merengues won their last six matches on the bounce in La Liga, scoring at least five goals in four of those matches. In midweek in the Champions League they disposed of Liverpool with relative ease, defeating them 3-0 with a dominant display that could have seen them score another three or four at least. With Cristiano Ronaldo in unplayable form at the moment, having already scored an incredible 15 goals in La Liga the Barca defence will be shaking in their boots. His partnership with Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema has been improving week after week and it will take an extraordinary display from a much talked about Barca defence to keep them at bay.
Bale Misses Out
Bale missed the midweek victory against Liverpool through injury and is expected to miss this Saturday’s big match, however I can’t help feel that Ancelotti may be playing mind games and that a last minute inclusion, at least on the bench is on the cards. Earlier this week the Italian reiterated how big a blow losing the Welshman is to his side:
‘Gareth Bale is very important for us because he has a fantastic quality in every sense,’ Ancelotti said.
‘We have to replace him. We have a fantastic squad so we have to replace him.
‘You lose things in both attack and defence with Gareth.‘
Even if the Welshman does miss the game as expected, Real have a number of options to fill the monkey faced winger’s boots, James Rodriguez could slot into a wide position or Isco could feature out on the right hand side.
Ancelotti will be well aware that his side cannot afford to lose such a big match and that defeat would leave his side seven points adrift of their rivals after only nine matches. Although not decisive, defeat would be a massive blow to Los Blancos to their title hopes. With Los Merengues having home advantage at the Bernabeu and with the form they are in at the moment, they will brimming with confidence that they can put one over their hated rivals and close the gap to a single point.
Possible Real Madrid Formation
Barcelona have been in terrific form so far in La Liga and despite a relatively new looking side it hasn’t taken Luis Enrique long to be able to get his team to gel. Barca have won seven out of their first eight La Liga matches and are yet to concede a goal. Lionel Messi seems to be enjoying his football once again after such an injury plagued season last year and his partnership with Neymar is improving week after week. The Brazilian who received a barrage of unfair criticism last season is beginning to prove his critics wrong with some terrific displays so far this season and has eight goals in five in La Liga. The Barca fans are really beginning to take to the former Santos man.
However, the biggest talk in the buildup to the first Clasico of the season hasn’t been Ronaldo, Messi, Bale or Neymar but has been the Uruguayan Luis Suarez. The buck toothed striker has been out for four months since that infamous bite on Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup and incredibly his ban ends just in time for him to face Real Madrid in Barca’s most important match of the season so far. Despite the hype I just can’t see Suarez starting this one and would be very surprised if he doesn’t start on the bench. With four months out of the game and having only played two friendly’s for Uruguay in that time (scoring twice) I just don’t believe his fitness levels will be up to scratch for such a massive game and I fully expect to see him come off the bench for the last 30 minutes. There have been some rumblings in the Madrid press regarding Suarez’s fitness with headlines like “El Gordo (fatty)”, even Luis Enrique stated his uncertainty of how fit Suarez actually is:
“I don’t know if he’s at 100 per cent, 80% or 90% fitness – but he is not fat.
“You will have seen that. He has been in form for the past few months.”
There has been a lot of skepticism about Barcelona this season and if they have improved from last season, at the back in particular, and rightfully so, after so many changes during the summer and the fact that they had such mediocre 2013/14 campaign, the Blaugrana have not really been tested so far under Enrique, apart from the Champions League match against PSG, a game they lost 3-2 in Paris. This may not being a must win game for the Barcelona but they will be looking to make a statement to their critics and their title rivals. Is there a better way to silence their critics than beating their bitter rivals at the Bernabau in the first Clasico of the season?
Possible Barcelona Formation
- Real Madrid have won 30 of their last 34 home matches in La Liga.
- Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in their last 8 matches in La Liga.
- Barcelona won both La Liga encounters between the sides last season, winning 4-3 at the Bernabeu and 2-1 at Camp Nou.
It’s almost impossible to predict the outcome of such a heated and passion fueled encounter between the worlds two biggest rivals. Even though Barcelona have yet to concede a goal in La Liga so far this season I still feel they are very suspect in defence. Having said that Jeremy Mathieu has added an air of much needed solidity and pace at the back but with Cristiano Ronaldo virtually unplayable at the moment and Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez beginning to hit top form I think the Barca defence will struggle to cope. I predict a high scoring victory for Los Blancos.