22nd March, 2015; 20:00 GMT
Probably the biggest fixture in Europe, the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid is as intense as it is old. And therefore quite understandably, when these two giants from the Spanish La Liga come head to head, there is more than just three points at stake. However, with just one point separating the two teams and 11 games left in the season, this match could go a long way in deciding the fate of the league.
Team News and tactics
Engulfed in a series of controversies, Barcelona seemed to be imploding half way into the season. A confirmed spat between star player Lionel Messi and manager Luis Enrique definitely added to the tense atmosphere as rumours suggested that the Argentine was looking for a move away from the club. But it seems now that all that is in the past as Barcelona and their leading man Messi seem to have found their golden touch once again.
Subdued last season, Messi is a man on a mission and having lost out on the Ballon Da Or for the last two years, the El Clasico is probably the perfect platform for him to showcase his talent. Luis Enrique is not going to take any chances and is likely to start with Neymar and Messi on the wings, with Suarez playing in the middle. The trio is fast shaping into the most lethal unit in Europe and their ability to run a quick counter-attack coupled with their innate passing skills is likely to subdue any defence in the world. Supported by Rakitic, Iniesta and Busquets in the midfield, this Barcelona side has the ability to dominate possession while running a Blitzkrieg against the opposition. Pique and Mascherano are likely to start in the defence alongside Alves and Alba who will provide Luis Enrique with a lot of width.
However the two full-backs will have a tough task on their hand as they come up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. If found out of position or lacking in the defence, Real Madrid are likely to run away with the ball given the pace of their attack. Meanwhile Pique and Mascherano are likely to expect a tough game as they come up against a Karim Benzema and Isco who have the ability to run circles around the Catalan defence.
Probable Starting Eleven (4-3-3): Bravo (GK); Pique, Mascherano, Alves, Alba; Rakitic, Iniesta, Busquets; Neymar, Messi, Suarez
While Barcelona seem to be coming out of a crisis, Real Madrid is entering one of its own making. Having lost their lead in the La Liga after dropping points in two consecutive fixtures, Madrid suffered a humiliating defeat in the Champions League against Schalke, a fact that didnt go unnoticed by the hostile Santiago Bernabeu crowd. Reports suggested that Carlo Ancelotti was on the brink of losing his job with the fans clearly articulating their frustration against the likes of Ronaldo and Bale.
However, Real Madrid seem to have returned to a temporary state of normalcy after the return of Luka Modric. The Croatian has been missing from action due to an injury and his return will be greeted with a sigh of relief from the manager and the fans alike. Coupled with Toni Kroos in the midfield, Real Madrid have the ability to dictate the game with this dynamic duo in charge of the proceedings. Meanwhile Isco is expected to accompany them in the midfield with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale taking their position on the wings and Karim Benezema leading the attack. Real Madrid will also welcome back the commanding presence of Sergio Ramos in the defence alongside Pepe who will be accompanied with Marcelo and Carvajal. Iker Casillas, despite the questions regarding his form, is expected to start between the posts.
Already out of the Copa del Rey, Real Madrid have a point to prove as they look to resurrect a flagging season that saw them win the Club World Cup and go on a 22 game winning streak. Star players Crisitiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale will also be looking to put forward a strong performance as they have been off the mark in recent weeks. Coming up against a relatively shaky defence, Real Madrid will be looking to pile on the pressure at Camp Nou.
Probable Starting Eleven (4-5-1): Casillas (GK); Marcelo, Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos; Modric, Kroos, Isco, Ronaldo, Bale; Benzema
Player To Watch Out For
Lionel Messi is definitely the player to watch out for. The little maestro has been in sublime form since the start of the year and has racked up an impressive number in terms of goals and assists. His performance against Manchester City once again showed that he is not one to hide on big occasions. However, if Lionel Messi is mentioned, can Cristiano Ronaldo be far behind? The Portuguese international has endured a torrid start to the year but will be desperate to not lose ground against Lionel Messi as the two take centre stage on one of the biggest nights in European football.
Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid