Hold your horses and adjust your saddles. The El Clasico is upon us this Saturday. We all remember what happened in the last El Clasico’s when both teams met in Supercopa De Espana earlier this season. Real Madrid mopped the floor with Barcelona and raced to an aggregate 5-1 victory which almost sent whole of Barcelona and Catalonia into a meltdown and VONC (vote of no confidence) was initiated against the current Barca board. This is the power a single encounter holds, a single match can affect two of the biggest clubs in the world and an entire nation . For previous few years, this has been the biggest match in world regarding club football. Not only it pits two of the greatest players in football history in Messi and Cristiano, it also pits two teams brimming with World Class talents and legendary footballers who have dominated Europe and world football for last 10 years in a manner never seen before in football history. Let’s take a look at present status, current form and general scenerio of both sides and try to pick a favourite, though it should be kept in mind, that in El clasicos, form goes out of the window, emotions run high and it’s almost impossible to gauge the winners before hand.
Real Madrid : Under Zidane, Madrid have won whatever they have laid their sight on. They annihilated Barcelona in every way in the Supercopa. However their start to the la liga campaign has been shaky and they currently trail barca by 11 points with a game in hand. They absolutely need to win this match at bernabeau to retain their hopes for la liga. However they are in a good run of form having demolished Sevilla 5-0 in their last la liga match and then taking the crown of club world cup champions with a victory against Gremio in the finals. Zidane has his full squad fit and healthy for the clasico and he has started his preparation. Madrid is training behind closed doors and we can expect tactical surprises from them in the coming match. They are healthy, confident and focused to win it. Will they employ a high line with high press, will they cede possession and attack barca on counters, will they control possession and try to hurt barca on turnovers and aerial route via wings, your guess is as good as mine since they have the players, tactical flexibility and ability do it all.
Barcelona : After succumbing to a humiliation in supercopa and averting an early season crisis, barca steadied their ship and went on track. They are still unbeaten in La liga and Europe this season, though it can very well change this Saturday. Ernesto Valverde have a few headaches to address this Saturday. Dembele, barca’s record signing, is still out and in addition barca lost paco alcacer to injuries last week against deportivo. Samuel umtiti is also out injured. His stale 4-4-2 and pragmatism have started drawing criticism from fans and media and many credit barca’s run upto now to the superhuman efforts of Leo Messi and Marc Andre Ter Stegan. Barca’s new purchase Nelson Semedo is still not settled, iniesta has been in and out with injury, rakitic has been below par, Andre gomes is still struggling and Valverde has not also incorporated any youth player like alena, arnuiz and others in the squad. Suarez has been hit and miss and still looks jaded despite his two goals against deportivo. Only bright spot in midfield has been buesqets, world class as usual, and Paulinho has been very effective in whatever games he has played until now. This upcoming El clasico will gauge Barcelona’s development and they also have a lot riding on it. If Valverde goes for a draw, like he went for against Juve in Turin, it will further increase the criticism already brewing in catalunya since it is unthinkable for barca to play for a draw in their cruyffian philosophy.
Whatever might be the outcome, an El Clasico rarely disappoints and we are in for a high octane match full of emotions and efforts. Present state might give the slight advantage to Madrid, but as we have seen earlier, such stats or assumptions go out of the window in El Clasicos.