Two of the greatest sports teams in the world, Real Madrid and Barcelona, will face off today in the Spanish capital that will be viewed by an estimated 400 million people across the world.
El Clasico, or the classic, is named after the game which is arguably the greatest football game. As football is the most loved sport in the world, this game can be considered as the biggest global sporting event.
When Barcelona and Real Madrid face each other, there are more world class players compared to any other football match. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the pick of the bunch, but there are many stars who can steal the limelight and win the game for their team.
This time in El Clasico, the competition is La Liga, in which Real Madrid is currently leading Barcelona by three points, with a game in hand. So, in theory, Real Madrid has the luxury to not win the game and still have an upper hand in the title race.
While on the other hand, Barcelona is obliged to win the game at any cost because a loss against their great rivals will see them six points behind, which can increase to nine points if Real would win their extra game in hand. This mean “au revoir” to La Liga title for Barcelona.
So in a sense, this game is decisive for this season’s league title. However, Real Madrid manger Zinedine Zidane insists the game will not seal the La Liga title, as per Marca.
“[Beating Barcelona] wouldn’t at all mean that LaLiga is wrapped up. It’s one more match, but then there are six more.
“It is always a special match and is like the derby, but a little different. Yet what is up for grabs remains the same, which is three points.
“You never know what will happen in a match, as was the case last Tuesday when we were taken to extra-time after winning the first leg.”
Luis Enrique, on the other hand, said that a win is imperative for Barcelona if they are to remain in the title race.
“Any result but a win would do us no good whatsoever.
“It’s a Clasico which could decide the league, but it could also open it up again.
“It’s like a final for us and we have to go out and look for the win. After the result, we’ll see what it means. Until it’s mathematically over, no team gives up — we certainly don’t — but with the end of the season so close, it could be decisive.”
But the problem for Lionel Messi and co. is that his pal and a key component of this Barcelona machine, Neymar will not be available for this game due to suspension on disciplinary grounds. Barca will surely miss the absence of the flamboyant star, but his absence can be made less felt if Messi and Suarez can step their game up.
In the absence of Neymar, Paco Alcacer will play in attack. The talented youngster is yet to bloom fully in this Barcelona team, but a goal against Real can really kickstart his Barcelona career.
Messi is having an extraordinary season in terms of goal scoring, but his recent dry patches meant Barcelona lost ground in La Liga and was dumped out of the champions league this week. If Barcelona is to win all three points today, they need Messi at his very best.
It will interesting to see whether Enrique starts with 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 formation against Los Blancos. Similarly, for Real Madrid, the question is whom Zidane plays in attack, Bale-Benzema-Ronaldo or Isco-Benzema-Ronaldo. Fans are crying for Isco to start in this game and he is likely to play from the start as Bale has just returned from an injury.
Madrid are likely to be fielded in 4-3-3 formation with a midfield consisting Modric, Casimiro, and Kroos, the midfield Zidane has preferred in big games this season.
Form wise, Real Madrid is stronger at the moment. As Barcelona was dumped out of the Champions League by Italian giants Juventus, they could not score a single goal in both legs.
On the other hand, Real Madrid beat Bayern in both legs, 2-1 and 4-2. Although, they were aided by controversial referee decisions in the return leg in Madrid.
Home advantage should count in the favor of Real Madrid a little bit, but it should be kept in mind that in the El Clasico game in Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona thrashed Real 4-0, while Real held Barca at the Camp Now in their last meeting.
It is always difficult to make a prediction in a Barcelona-Real Madrid game. If forced to pick one, I would pick Barcelona, purely because they need this win more than Real do.
[Featued Image by Alex Caparros/Getty Images]