El Clásico: Barcelona vs Real Madrid - Match preview and predicted line-ups
In what could be a decisive Clasico, Real Madrid are looking to extend their six point lead at the top of La Liga ahead of a Barcelona side in second place and struggling for form after back to back titles. Barcelona have lost three of the last five Clásicos at the Nou Camp and the last draw between the sides came in 2013, but Luis Enrique will be determined not to become the first ever Barcelona manager to lose consecutive Clasicos at home.
Form is a concern for Barcelona, who set out a weak team in a 1-1 draw with third division side Hercules in midweek. Their last two league games ended in draws against Malaga and Real Sociedad, being fortunate to avoid defeat in the latter. With narrow wins over Sevilla and Celtic of late, the last imperious Barcelona victory that we have become used to was against Manchester City in October.
Real Madrid are now 32 games unbeaten in all competitions as they come increasingly closer to the record of over 40 games which Barcelona managed last season and was ended by a Clásico defeat. They have won nine and drawn one of their last ten games, though they nearly drew up against Sporting Gijón at home last weekend only to be rescued by an appalling attempt from the penalty spot which would have produced a late equaliser.
Barcelona predicted starting XI Real Madrid predicted starting XI
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Barcelona are expected to recall Samuel Umtiti and Andres Iniesta after spells on the sidelines, with Luis Enrique also facing a decision over whether to choose Sergi Roberto or Javier Mascherano at right back, but expected to go for the Argentinean for his stronger defensive attributes.
Real Madrid will also welcome back Casemiro, with Zidane likely to sacrifice an attacking midfielder to add some steel in midfield to replicate the system which worked so well at the Camp Nou in March when they put an end to Barcelona’s magnificent unbeaten run. Dani Carvajal and Marcelo are also likely to replace Danilo and Nacho.
Suspensions and Injuries
Left-back Jordi Alba is a doubt for Luis Enrique after picking up knocks to both his ankle and his knee in San Sebastián last weekend. He is expected to be available alongside Andres Iniesta, who has recovered from a knee injury. Jeremy Mathieu is the only absentee as the defender is out with a calf injury.
Zinedine Zidane will be without three key players this weekend with Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Alvaro Morata all out with injuries. Bale was operated on in London this week and is not expected back until March or April, whilst influential midfielder Kroos has a broken toe which will see him unavailable until after the Christmas break. Morata is expected back in a week or two’s time after picking up a hamstring strain on international duty.
It’ll be close, but all the signs are that it’ll be a Real Madrid win. Barcelona have been in appalling form by their standards, and whilst they may be boosted by the return of Andres Iniesta, the confidence of Los Merengues may be too much for them to handle at the Nou Camp on Saturday afternoon.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Habergaraj.
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