Real Madrid clash With Barcelona In title-deciding El Clasico.
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
Los Blancos will hope to wrap up the La Liga title with all three points..
The much-awaited El Clasico is set to be an exciting affair when league leaders Real Madrid play host to Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday night. The Los Blancos are enjoying quite a hefty lead at the top, as they are three points clear off Barcelona with one game in hand. It will be a decisive game for The Catalans as well, who need a win to keep their title dreams alive and anything else could crush their dreams of lifting the La Liga trophy this season.
Both teams have had a topsy-turvy ride in Europe in midweek, with Real Madrid controversially going through to the semi-finals after beating Bayern Munich 4-2, while Barcelona were unable to turn around the 3-goal deficit at home against Juventus. Luis Enrique's men might be low on confidence, but the prospect of a derby match against Real Madrid is enough to rejuvenate them to get back to their best and pose a threat to Madrid's juggernaut towards the title.
What's At Stake?
Barcelona need a win to keep their title bid alive.
Real Madrid have everything to lose in this match, as they might be in a comfortable position right now but can lose all that if they are defeated by their Spanish rivals. They host the likes of Valencia and Sevilla in the upcoming weeks, but their amazing home form makes them heavy favourites for those games as Zinedine Zidane's men will likely reap up maximum points if they manage to go through the Catalans.
Barcelona, on the other hand, are under a lot of pressure, as their season is at stake in this match. They need a win to compete for the La Liga title again and comparing their next fixtures with Madrid's congested ones, they might be favourites to pip them to the league. Barca barely have any more remaining away matches and face minnows at home for their remaining games. If they get a confidence booster from a win at the Bernabeu, they will become favourites for the La Liga title because of their lack of European duty and are unlikely tio drop points for the rest of the season.
Real Madrid are going to be without central defenders Pepe and Raphael Varane, who are still out with injuries. Los Blancos will only have two central defenders in Sergio Ramos and Nacho, who played 120 minutes in their midweek clash against Bayern Munich. On the other hand, Gareth Bale trained with the Madrid team before the derby and could make the starting XI, which is especially good considering Bale's form against Barca. Zidane will not take his rivals lightly and will look to play the strongest team possible and we might see Alvaro Morata or Sergio Asensio get a surprise start as well.
Barcelona will play the El Clasico without their majestic winger Neymar, whose red card against Malaga earlier this month means he'll be missing out on the derby. They will also be without the services of Aleix Vidal, while Javier Mascherano is doubtful as well. Barca might still be rattled at being unable to do anything against Juventus, but they'll go for all in this matchand Arda Turan is expected to start in Neymar's absence. Messi and Co will have to step up their game in order to halt the Madrid juggernaut at the Bernabeu and we all know how Barcelona perform when they are under pressure.
Head To Head
Real Madrid and Barcelona have produced some great El Clasicos over the years, as it's been quite equal between them in recent seasons. Both clubs have shared two wins a piece in their last 5 meetings, while their last game this season resulted in a draw when Sergio Ramos salvaged a point at Camp Nou. In their last meeting at the Bernabeu, Barcelona humbled Los Blancos when they won 4-0.
Man To Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo-Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo has been the go-to man for Real Madrid this season as he's seemingly getting better with every season and is currently in red-hot form. Ronaldo scored 5 goals in the two legs against Bayern Munich and powered Los Blancos to their third consecutive Champions League semi-finals. The Balon d'Or holder loves to score against Barcelona as he has scored 16 goals in all the derby matches. Ronaldo also scored the winner in Madrid's win at the Camp Nou last season and will look to continue his amazing form by piling on the misery on Barcelona.
Luis Suarez-Barcelona: With Barcelona missing Neymar for the El Clasico and Lionel Messi's questionable form, the Blaugrana need their hitman Luis Suarez up against Real Madrid. Suarez has scored 4 goals in the last four El Clasico's. He scored the opening goal for Barcelona in the previous El Clasico with a terrific header but was cancelled out by Sergio Ramos' late equaliser. Suarez is someone who loves to play against Los Blancos as has been Barcelona's go-to man in the previous derbies and will need to be at his goal-scoring best for Barcelona to oust the league leaders.
Real Madrid: Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo, Casemiero, Kroos, Modric, Asensio, Benzema, Ronaldo.
FC Barcelona: ter Stegen, Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Initesta, Turan, Suarez, Messi.
The Match will be telecasted on Sony Six & Sony Six HD.
Published: Sat Apr 22, 2017 11:53 PM IST