Can Madrid put a stop to Barcelona’s Phenomenal Season?

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 16 - Lionel Andres Messi (c) of FC Barcelona is tackled by Toni Kroos (l) of Real Madrid during their Supercopa de Espana Final 2nd Leg match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on 16 August 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images)

Amidst all the football action in England recently, Spain will reclaim its hold on international club football for at least one day with the return of ‘El Clasico’. Real Madrid and Barcelona both seem to be going into the match in good form and with a healthy team, making this match yet another one for the ages.

Can Madrid put a stop to Barcelona’s Phenomenal Season?

Form:

Real Madrid– WWWWD

Los Blancos go into the derby with four wins from their last five matches and a Club World Cup title under their belts. Real Madrid’s Club World Cup title was won in a dull match against Gremio. The match finished 1-0 with a free-kick from Cristiano Ronaldo being the difference maker and with that win Madrid will go into ‘El Clasico’ with all the momentum needed to perhaps get a result.

Barcelona– WWWDW

Barcelona are heading into the game with four wins from their last five matches as well. The ‘Blaugrana’ have been on fire recently since switching to the 4-4-2 formation and they have only conceded twice in their last five outings in a 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo in La Liga. Their most recent game was resulted in a 4-0 thrashing over Deportivo and the Catalan train seems to be nearly unstoppable at the moment with Messi and Suarez leading the charge.

Team news:

Real Madrid– For once, in what seems like an eternity, Zidane’s ‘Galacticos’ will be going into a match with everybody healthy. Their back line has been plagued with injuries this season, namely Carvajal and Varane, but both defenders are fit. Furthermore, Sergio Ramos, La Liga’s red card record holder, is not suspended for the match and hopefully, for Madrid, the captain does not get another red in the match. Ramos is currently on 5 yellows and 2 reds this season in La Liga. However, the biggest news for Madrid might be the fact that Bale is cleared to play in the derby match. Madrid are at full strength and raring to go at the Bernabeu against Barcelona.

Predicted lineup- 4-3-3

Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo

Barcelona– Sadly, Valverde’s side will not be at full strength for ‘El Clasico’. Their injured list at the moment consists of Umtiti, Deulofeu, Paco Alcacer, Rafinha, and Dembele. Umtiti and Alcacer will be the biggest woes for the Catalan side; however, Mascherano will be fit for the match.

Predicted lineup: 4-4-2

Ter Stegen; Roberto, Vermaelen, Pique, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Paulinho, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez

Talking Points:

This ‘El Clasico’ is will not be as crucial to either team in terms of the impact it will have on La Liga standings. Reason being that Barcelona are 6 points clear of second-place Atletico and 11 points clear of fourth-place Real Madrid. Barcelona will obviously be looking for a win, but a loss will not harm them tremendously. A win for Madrid might give the ‘Merengues’ a final opportunity to turn around their horrible season, but league standings are the least of both teams worries in this clash of giants. This is ‘El Clasico’ and no matter how important a result is in terms of league standing, a good result is crucial for both teams in terms of bragging rights and pride. The previous ‘El Clasico’, way back in April, was won by Barcelona in the final moments of the match and Madrid will be seeking revenge.

A loss for Madrid will most likely see them turn their full focus towards securing their third Champions League trophy in a row and will almost certainly secure La Liga for Barcelona.

Battles to Watch:

Bale vs Alba– Spanish veteran, Jordi Alba, will be tasked with keeping the Welshman in check throughout the match, as Bale’s blistering pace and thunderous left-footed strike will certainly be a danger to Ter Stegen’s goal in this encounter. Alba will have to be wary of Madrid’s counter-attacks and high-press. Bale will be coming back to the starting lineup and his presence could add another dimension to Madrid’s attack, but at the same time his lack of time on the pitch could prove detrimental to Madrid’s struggling attack.

Messi vs Varane– Madrid’s defenders will have to deal with Barcelona’s Argentinian talisman. Ramos is experienced in this, but he must not be rash in his challenges. Varane is quick, smart, and agile, but will it be enough to halt Messi? Ramos and Varane must be careful and they must stay on their feet, but at the same they must outsmart and outplay Messi all 90 minutes. An option for Madrid would be to have Casemiro drop back and man-mark Messi in order to take a bit of the pressure off Madrid’s centre-backs.

ETTs’ Prediction

Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona

Barcelona will be heading into the match in stellar form against a lacklustre Galacticos side. Madrid struggled to beat Gremio in the Club World Cup final and their defence has been porous as of late as shown in both the Dortmund and Al Jazira matches. The Madrid based side have certainly struggled in La Liga this season, as reflected in the standings, and will certainly put forth their best effort into winning the match, but the Blaugrana’s in-form attacking duo of Messi and Suarez will outclass Madrid’s spiritless attack consisting of an ageing Ronaldo, insipid Benzema, and out-of-form Bale.

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