Real Madrid will face off against eternal rivals Barcelona in what could be a season-defining El Clasico in the 2020/21 La Liga this weekend.
Matchday 30 of the 2020/21 La Liga brings with it one of the biggest matches of the season as reigning champions Real Madrid get set to lock horns with arch-rivals Barcelona at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Saturday night, in a contest that could have major repercussions on the title race.
Real Madrid head into Saturday’s game high on confidence after making light work of Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League earlier in the week, following their comfortable win over Eibar in La Liga at the weekend. They are now 12 games unbeaten across all competitions, sitting third in La Liga, three points off of leaders Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona, meanwhile, may have been eliminated from Europe, but are the form team in La Liga. Following their 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Monday, the Catalans are now 19 games unbeaten in a row in La Liga and are just a couple of points below Atletico and one above their Saturday’s opponents.
With Atleti having dropped points against Sevilla last week and facing another extremely tricky fixture against Real Betis on Sunday, the winner of the El Clasico could end up gaining a major advantage in the race for the championship.
The reverse fixture saw Real Madrid win 3-1 with goals coming from Federico Valverde, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric while Ansu Fati netted the solitary goal for Barcelona. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) April 9, 2021
Real Madrid continue to plagued with roster issues across the board as key men Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Eden Hazard are all unavailable for Zinedine Zidane once again on Saturday. Given their exertions in midweek and the second leg tie coming up against Liverpool, the manager would have ideally liked to make changes but cannot afford to do so give the importance of the game.
Thibaut Courtois will once man the goal for Real Madrid, protected by the centre-back pairing of Nacho and Eder Militao, with the latter being quite impressive in the last couple of games. Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy should be the two full-backs who will have their task cut out on Saturday, dealing with the marauding Barcelona wing-backs.
Casemiro will sit the deepest in the middle of the park for Los Blancos and look to keep Lionel Messi quiet while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, who was in sublime form against Liverpool, will take up the remaining two slots in central midfield to provide the forward thrust and creativity for the home team.
Marco Asensio has hit form at the right moment for Real Madrid and should be a certain starter on the right-wing while Vinicius Junior’s display against Liverpool should guarantee him a starting berth on the left. Leading the line for Real Madrid against Barcelona will be ace goalscorer Karim Benzema.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
Barcelona have been handed a boost ahead of their trip to the Spanish capital as Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto have been passed fit and have been included in the squad by manager Ronald Koeman. Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati, however, remain unavailable for selection.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 9, 2021
The switch to the three-man defensive system has worked a treat for Koeman so far and he is likely to stick by that formation in Madrid with Marc-Andre ter Stegen lining up in goal, shielded by the backline of Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet and Ronald Araujo’s whose return should enable Frenkie de Jong to return to his natural position in midfield.
The Dutchman, who will be tasked with providing Barcelona with the attacking impetus, ought to have Sergio Busquets and Pedri for company in the centre of the park. Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba are the undisputed starters as the wing-backs, having looked dangerous in the past few games.
Moving de Jong from defence to midfield means Barcelona will have to cut one attacker from the lineup on Saturday. Captain Lionel Messi is a certain starter, whereas Ousmane Dembele deserves a starting berth on the back of his recent impressive form, meaning Antoine Griezmann is set to miss out against Real Madrid.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet; Dest, de Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Alba; Messi, Dembele
- Real Madrid have won 17 of their last 21 home matches in La Liga. The Merengues have netted at least two goals in eight of their last league games on home turf.
- Barcelona have won their last nine away matches in La Liga. The Catalans have scored at least two goals in each of their last seven league games on the road.
- Real Madrid have won their last two matches against Barcelona across all competitions. The last time they won three in a row against the Blaugrana was in 1978.
- Barcelona have won five of their last seven away games against Real Madrid in all competitions (L2), although they did lose their most recent such fixture in March last year.
- Real Madrid have lost just one of their last 19 La Liga games (W14 D4). Barcelona haven’t lost any of their last 19 league games (W16 D3).
Player to Watch
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 9, 2021
There will be many players on display who could play a pivotal role for their team be it Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Ousmane Dembele, Frenkie de Jong. However, for this section, Lionel Messi gets the nod, and for obvious reasons. Throughout the course of his illustrious career, Messi has had some unbelievable and memorable moments against Real Madrid. He is the leading goalscorer in El Clasico clashes with 26 goals in all competitions.
Each time the El Clasico comes around, the little magician steps up and delivers for Barcelona, although that may not have been the case in recent times as he has failed to score in his last six matches against Real Madrid. However, the fact that this could very well turn out to be his last ever Clasico, as he nears the expiry of his Barcelona contract, makes it a special occasion.
Throw in how important the game is in the context of the title race and one can expect Messi to be chomping at the bit to get out on the field at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano and help his team to a victory.
Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
Both teams are in good nick coming into Saturday’s game and will be pushing for all three points with the title on the line. While Barcelona would have had the advantage given the number of important players out for Real Madrid, Los Blancos showed against Liverpool that they remain a force to be reckoned with even without Ramos, Varane & co.
Fatigue might become a factor for Real Madrid but Zinedine Zidane’s side have shown great resilience in recent games. And with Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona also on solid footing currently, this could very well end up in a scored draw, which ultimately would end up helping Atletico Madrid in the La Liga title race.