Real Madrid will be out for revenge against arch rivals Barcelona, when the two sides meet for the second time in three days at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Matchweek 26 of the 2018-19 La Liga will throw up some interesting match-ups, but all the attention will be at the Santiago Bernabeu, as another El Clasico comes our way on Saturday night.
Real Madrid and Barcelona clashed against each other this past Wednesday night in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal at the Bernabeu, with the visitors emerging triumphant 0-3, despite a shoddy start to the game. And Saturday’s fixture offers Santiago Solari and his team a chance to exact quick revenge on their arch-rivals.
Barcelona are seated comfortably at the top of the La Liga table, having collected 57 points from 25 matches. Ernesto Valverde’s side hadn’t been in the best of form coming into this week, but will be in buoyant mood after dumping out their rivals from the cup competition and will hope to do the double on them in the league as well, having beaten them 5-1 in the reverse fixture.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, are third on the league table, nine points behind Barcelona and two adrift of second-placed Atletico Madrid. Prior to their defeat to the Catalans, Los Blancos had lost just once in their last ten fixtures and had managed to beat Sevilla and Atletico, while holding Barcelona to a draw. They will be aiming to bounce back strongly and reduce the gap at the top.
Team News & Tactics
Real Madrid have been boosted by the return to full fitness of Spanish playmaker Isco, who has been named in the 21-man squad by the manager. Defensive midfielder Marcos Llorente remains sidelined for the home team, but Raphael Varane is fit and available, after seeming to have picked up a knee injury in the last game.
With a crucial European encounter against Ajax coming up next, it will be interesting to see how Solari goes about his team selection. The goalkeeping position will be changed, with Thibaut Courtois set to return in place of cup keeper Keylor Navas. No changes are expected at the back with Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Sergio Reguilon all starting once again.
Casemiro conceded a penalty against Barcelona in the cup tie and will be hoping to redeem himself with a solid performance in the holding midfield position. On either side of him, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are also expected to hold on to their spots, with Dani Ceballos and Isco providing options from the bench.
Karim Benzema did not have the best of games last time out and will be itching to set that straight at the weekend. Vinicius Junior is expected to continue out on the left flank, while Lucas Vazquez’s work-rate is likely to earn him a starting berth again, ahead of Gareth Bale and Marco Asension.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Reguilon; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Vazquez, Benzema, Vinicius
There are no fresh injury concerns for Barcelona ahead of the second Clasico in three days. Thomas Vermaelen and Rafinha remain sidelined for the Catalans, while January signings Kevin-Prince Boateng and Jean-Clair Todibo have been left out of the 19-man squad named by Ernesto Valverde.
There is no looking past Marc-Andre ter Stegen for the goalkeeping position for the reigning La Liga champions, while Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba are set to be retained as the full-backs. The former was given a tough time by Vinicius and will be aiming to put in a more solid display.
Gerard Pique is a guaranteed starter at the heart of the defence, but is likely to be paired up with Samuel Umtiti for this game, with compatriot Clement Lenglet making way. Sergio Busquets will continue to anchor the midfield for the Blaugrana and will be complemented by Ivan Rakitic and Sergi Roberto. The latter will be key in helping Semedo in the battle against Vinicius.
No changes are expected in attack by Valverde, with Luis Suarez set to spearhead the attack having recovered his form on Wednesday. The Uruguayan will be flanked by the extremely dangerous Ousmane Dembele and club captain Lionel Messi, who was rather subdued in the previous game.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Roberto, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Dembele
- Real Madrid are winless in their last five La Liga encounters against Barcelona (D2 L3) – their worst winless streak in El Clasico clashes since December 2011 (seven games).
- Barcelona have won 10 of their last 12 league games, while Real Madrid have come up trumps in six of their previous seven La Liga clashes.
- A defeat in this game would see Real Madrid lose consecutive home games in La Liga for the first time since January 2018 – they have already lost as many home games in the competition this season as they did in the whole of 2017-18 (3).
- Barcelona have won 5 of their last 6 away matches against Real Madrid in all competitions. They have scored at least 3 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches against the Merengues at the Bernabeu.
- Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has failed to scored in his last five La Liga appearances against Barcelona – his worst streak in El Clasico in the Spanish top-flight.
Player to Watch
The 18-year-old attacker, in his debut campaign for Real Madrid, has shown plenty of times why he is considered as one of the most exciting young talents in the game. Vinicius was key for Santiago Solari’s side in their 1-1 draw against Barcelona in the first-leg of the semifinal and he was once again Madrid’s most promising outlet on Wednesday.
However, the game on Wednesday also showed that the teenager is still some way away from being the finished article, as his finishing let him down big time. Vinicius ended up missing as many as four chances, that came to haunt Real Madrid in the end.
His tally of 3 goals and 12 assists this season has been rewarded with the first-ever call up to the Brazil national team for their upcoming fixtures against Panama and Czech Republic. And Vinicius will be hoping to celebrate that news with a strong, match-winning performance against Barcelona.
Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
While Real Madrid ended up getting beat 0-3 on Wednesday, they were the better team for large parts of the game and had looked the most likely to end up on the winning side, until the defensive capitulation in the second half. The scoreline could have looked a lot different had they been more clinical in front of goal.
Barcelona, on the other hand, made the most of the opportunities that came their way, but did show signs of vulnerability at the back, with Vinicius Junior especially posing a serious threat from the left hand side.
The atmosphere will be electric at the Santiago Bernabeu and we are in for another exciting, tightly-contested clash between the arch rivals on Saturday, with a 1-1 draw seeming the most likely outcome.