Camp Nou, Barcelona
October 26, 2013; 17:00 BST
Barcelona host Real Madrid in the 225th official El Clasico match at Camp Nou tonight, in what promises to be the match of the season so far. Two old rivals, Two new managers, two of the best players on the planet and two big name signings – this has all the ingredients to be a timeless classic.
Barcelona have started the league in fine form under new manager Gerardo Martino and currently lead the points table. They are yet to be beaten this season and only dropped their first points in the league last weekend as they failed to score against Osasuna. But this is the first real test this season for the team and Gerardo Martino will know that this is the fixture which often decides the title in Spain.
Real Madrid on the other hand are third in the league table and are just three points behind Barcelona at the top. So this match provides them the perfect opportunity to close the gap with their long-term rivals. Carlo Ancelotti’s men got to a comfortable win over Malaga in their last game and are coming into this fixture on the back of an important victory over Juventus – although it wasn’t the most convincing performance.
Real Madrid have had the upper hand in the El Clasico in recent times, in fact Barcelona haven’t managed to win against them in their last five meetings. Their last win against Real Madrid came in Supercopa de Espana back in 2012, when they won 3-2 in a tight game. Barcelona’s last win the league also came in 2011 with Alexis Sanchez, Xavi and Fabregas getting on the score sheet after Karim Benzema gave the home side an early lead.
In the last encounter between these two sides Real Madrid took all three points as Sergio Ramos scored a later winner and Victor Valdes was sent off. So Los Blancos will go into the fixture with lot of confidence of maintaining this run of good results.
Barcelona – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Barcelona will be without Ibrahim Afellay, Isaac Cuenca and Jordi Alba with injuries for this game. Gerardo Martino is expected to make one change to the starting line-up that was fielded against AC Milan in the midweek Champions League clash. Carles Puyol is expected to resume his partnership with Gerard Pique after missing out the game against the Italian club.
Mascherano will drop back to the bench, while Adriano will retain his place at left-back in place of the injured Jordi Alba. Fabregas and Pedro will also continue to miss out as Messi, Sanchez and big summer signing Neymar lead the attack.
One concern that Gerardo Martino will have ahead of this game is the fact that his side have lacked a bit of their usual cutting edge and finishing ability in the final third in their last two games. Barcelona have had 76% and 72% possession in the matches against Osasuna and AC Milan respectively and yet managed only a total of nine shots on target. Martino has certainly looked to make Barcelona more direct in attack since his arrival and he will hope that his side can regain their sharpness in attack against Madrid.
Defensively Adriano can be a concern for the home side. Real Madrid will field either Gareth Bale or Angel Di Maria on their right flank and the 29 year old left back looks vulnerable defensively against quality wingers. This is where they might miss Jordi Alba dearly.
Both Neymar and Sanchez will have to track back to help out their full backs, but neither is good at doing that. Busquets as usual will have a lot of defensive duty and will have to keep an eye on Isco, who has been in brilliant shape this season. Barcelona will have to press high up the pitch to deny the likes of Modric or Illarramendi any time or space on the ball.
Possible Starting Line up [4-3-3]: Valdes (GK); Alves, Pique, Puyol, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi, Neymar
Real Madrid – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t have too many injuries to contain with at this moment, but will be without a key player as Xabi Alonso misses out. He is expected to make four changes to the side that was fielded against Juventus in the midweek.
Iker Casillas will again be dropped back to the bench as Ancelotti is expected to continue preferring Lopez for league matches, while Pepe will be replaced by Raphael Varane at the back. The 20-year-old has previously put in some memorable performances against Barcelona in recent times, specially against Lionel Messi and could once again be the key at the back. Carvajal will also replace Arbeloa at right back.
Khedira will drop back to the bench, which means Modric, who played in a more advanced role against Juventus, will drop back to the pivot alongside Illarramendi. Isco will replace Modric in the play making role against Barcelona and the youngster has had a fine start to his career at the Spanish capital. Di Maria has been in brilliant form of late, but is likely to start from the bench in this game as Gareth Bale is expected to start on the right.
It will be interesting to see the contrast in approach between Ancelotti’s Madrid and what saw from the club under Jose Mourinho. It is fair to say that Mourinho’s methods were very successful in fixtures against Barcelona. Madrid’s defence held a deep line, the midfield pressed hard, while they looked to hurt Barcelona on the break. Ancelott is unlikely to take a similar approach in this game, and this might provide the advantage back to the Catalan giants.
As pointed out earlier, Madrid will look to exploit the right flank with Bale or Di Maria in it. Both of these wingers like to drift infield on to their left foot. This will also provide space for Carvajal to exploit and provide the width.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Lopez (GK); Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Illarramendi, Modric; Bale, isco, Ronaldo; Benzema
- 21 goals have been scored by these two sides in their last encounters.
- Officially this 225th meeting between these two sides.
- Barcelona have grabbed just one point in their last three league matches againt Real Madrid.
Player To Watch Out For
Isco (Real Madrid)
This might be Isco’ first El Clasico, but he could prove to be a key player for the away side in this game. The 21-year-old has already produced some brilliant performances following his much talked about move from Malaga. The Spaniard has already scored four goals in nine league games so far, along with an assist. He averages 2.2 key passes this season and has already made 404 passes at a success rate of 86.7%.
Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
Barcelona will be desperate to improve their recent records against Real Madrid and will come out on the front foot. Real Madrid will fight back and have enough quality on the pitch of their own to cause problem to the Barcelona defence. But the Catalan giants might have the last laugh in this tight encounter.