16:00 GMT, 25th October
This Saturday, Real Madrid take on a resurgent Barcelona in what is clearly the most eagerly anticipated match so far this season in Europe. The El Clasico was much anticipated ever since Barcelona and Real Madrid flouted their muscle in the transfer market this summer. Yet another Premier League superstar made his way to Spain as Luis Suarez completed his dream move to the Catalans while the Galacticos showed their might by roping in World Cup heroes Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.
The Galacticos started this season at the back of their famous ‘La Decima’ Champions League victory but two crucial losses against Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid left Carlo Ancelotti and his men playing catch-up to league leaders Barcelona. Though Real lost two of their most important players in Xabi Alonso and Di Maria this summer, the Real goal-machine doesn’t show any signs of stopping. Led by Cristiano Ronaldo who is clearly at the peak of his powers, Madrid have scored a total of 30 goals in just 8 league outings and enter the Clasico after thrashing Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield.
However Ancelotti will be missing the services of Gareth Bale who famously scored a miraculous late-goal to win Real Madrid the Copa del Rey against Barcelona last season. The Welshman is out for the tie and is most likely to be replaced with Isco who is in fine form at the moment. The young Spaniard in many ways might prove to be the key to winning the El Clasico. His partnership with Modric and Ronaldo will be integral for Real if they are to dominate the game and his ability to fall back deep and defend tirelessly will bode well for Ancelotti. Also given Barcelona’s star studded midfield line-up, Isco will be able to cover Modric and Kroos, both of whom are not the best defensive mid-fielders.
Real’s strength will lie in Crisitano Ronaldo who will be looking to torment Dani Alves on the left flank. Coupled with Marcelo who was electrifying against Liverpool earlier this week, Ronaldo, Benzema and Rodriguez will be looking to exploit a slow Barcelona defence.
Real will welcome the return of Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal and the back-four will have to be at their best if they are to contain a three pronged attack from Messi, Neymar and Suarez. Kroos will have to play a very important role tomorrow and will be burdened with the responsibility to keep Messi at bay and not allow the Argentine any breathing space.
Expected Starting Eleven: Casillas; Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Isco, Cristiano, James; Benzema
A resurgent Barcelona are soon shaping up to be the most threatening side in Europe. While Barcelona’s attack has been emboldened by the return of an in-form Messi, the addition of Suarez to Luis Enrique’s side was definitely the strongest headline this summer. Having been guaranteed his debut on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how Neymar, Messi and Suarez team-up together and if they can actually torment Real’s shaky back-line.
Luis Enrique will stick with his 4-3-3/4-3-1-2 formation this season and Suarez is expected to partner Neymar upfront. Barcelona’s main strength lies in its midfield but one can expect the Catalans to attack from the wings given Davi Carvajal and Marcelo’s tendency to be found constantly out of position. Neymar’s partnership with Messi has been the source for Barcelona’s goals while a Rakitic-Iniesta-Busquets partnership in the midfield has ensured stability to the side.
Barcelona have been defensively strong this season and are yet to concede a single goal this season. Jeremy Mathieu is a sure start at the heart of the defence and will most likely be partnered with Gerard Pique. Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will start on the wings and the Brazilian will be severely tested against Ronaldo and Marcelo.
Expected Starting Eleven: Bravo; Dani Alves, Mathieu, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Suarez, Neymar; Messi
Player To Watch Out For:
Which player to watch out in this star studded fixture? With Ronaldo playing the best football of his life, Suarez making his debut and the Messi-Neymar partnership finally coming good, there is no way of singling out one player in this El Clasico. But if there is one person who is likely to rise amongst them all, it is Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona
Expect plenty of goals in the El Clasico as two of the best attacking units come head to head in a no-holds barred fixture.
Blast From The Past