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Barcelona vs Real Madrid: Match Preview

Hariharan Balaji

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Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The first El Clasico of the season is already here, albeit a little earlier than usual, with both teams coming to the weekend on the back of the Champions League opening matchday. Here is the preview for the game between Barcelona and Real Madrid.


Date and kick-off time: Saturday 24 October 2020, 16:00 CET

Stadium: Camp Nou

Competition: La Liga, matchday 7

Referee: Juan Martínez Munuera


Overview

La Liga has been a rollercoaster this season so far. Aside from Atletico Madrid, none of the remaining teams is unbeaten in the league, already losing within the first few matchdays. While Barcelona started their season strong, the last two games saw a significant dip in performance and thereby points. However, the Catalans have played two games less, and catching up to the top is very likely. But, first El Clásico.

Barcelona welcome Real Madrid at the Camp Nou for the first matchup between the two this season. Both the teams come into this game on the back of a defeat in La Liga. While the Catalans struggled away from home at Getafe, Los Merengues lost at home to newly-promoted Cadiz. The midweek fixture was fruitful for hosts as they breezed past Ferencváros, but Madrid fell short to Shakhtar Donetsk in a 3-2 loss. 

The incredible characteristic of the fixtures between the big dogs in Spain is, fans can never predict how the game might go. The teams come into the match with a winning mentality irrespective of their form.

“Clásico games are games that are decided by small details, it will be strange to play without an audience.”

Ronald Koeman

Incredibly, both the teams are not at their very best recently, struggling with the transition phase, trying hard to replace their veterans with youth and promise. A win here at the biggest matchup of the league will go a long way for deciding who will be crowned La Liga champions

What to expect from Barcelona?

Ronald Koeman’s men came back to winning ways in the mid-week game against Ferencváros. Aside from a few shaky decisions in defence and an unnecessary red card from Gerard Piqué, Barça were quite comfortable. The use of two proper wingers on each side significantly benefited the attack without the players straying too much centrally. With a more dynamic double pivot, the Catalans had attacking players in all five zones. 

The dilemma still exists on the team selection as it is unsure whether Koeman will go for experience or youth. It would be understandable if the Dutchman prefers the former for a game of this stature. While Fransico Trincao and Ousmane Dembele brought the right to light, Antoine Griezmann could likely start there again citing his defensive abilities and expertise.

While the selection of the attack brings headaches due to quality, there are plenty of issues at the back. The lack of pace at centre back is concerning as Ferencváros almost punished the Blaugranas in the opening ten minutes. Jordi Alba received medical greenlight and might start the game, partnering Sergi Roberto who could start at right-back over Sergiño Dest. Sergio Busquets will start alongside Frenkie de Jong in the middle considering the magnitude of the game. 

Barcelona have an incredible pool of talent in the attacking areas and should make proper use of them tomorrow. The Madrid defence showed its vulnerability without Sergio Ramos, and if he is still absent, Barcelona should take advantage of it and be clinical as they can get. As Barça push four attackers and both the full-backs high up the pitch, they should make sure to press effectively to win back possession. Else with rapid players like Vinicius, Madrid could have a field day in creating 1v1s with the centre-halves. 

What to expect from Real Madrid?

The La Liga Champions have not enjoyed the best of starts for the title defence. Their last two games have resulted in two defeats against teams they should have won with ease, injuries or otherwise. Their defensive solidity earmarked their previous campaign but this season due to injuries they have struggled in that aspect as well. Dani Carvajal is out for a few months, and the replacements have not been sufficient.

Sergio Ramos has started training with the group and knowing their situation he’s likely to come back straight into the eleven. The players who came on as a sub in the midweek might get the start here at the Camp Nou: Karim Benzema through the centre with Vinicius Jr. running at the Barça defence could work well against the Barça defence. Zinedine Zidane might go for a midfield four to have more defensive solidity and control in the midfield. With Thibaut Courtois between the posts, the Frenchman has a cheat code up his sleeve. 

“Between both teams there’s always a lot of pressure, that Madrid have lost two games doesn’t mean that they are not a great team.”

Ronald Koeman

Toni Kroos is undoubtedly the most crucial cog in the midfield, who combined last time with Vinicius to get the winner against Barça. Real Madrid have a deficient goal threat up front when compared to the hosts. Attacking on the counter and transitions are the most likely way to hurt Barcelona. Pressing high up the pitch with the energy of Federico Valverde and Vinicius will have a significant impact on the game. 

Both Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are prone to miss goal opportunities, even if the latter has improved lately. In a game of this magnitude, being clinical has to be the number one priority as the game could go south within seconds. 


Form

FC Barcelona

Previous games: WLDWWW

Barcelona 5–1 Ferencváros | UEFA Champions League
Getafe 1–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–1 Sevilla | La Liga
Celta Vigo 0–3 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 4–0 Villarreal | La Liga

Position in La Liga

9th
7 points in 4 games
2 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss
8 Goals Scored, 2 Goals Conceded
+6 Goal Difference

Real Madrid CF

Previous games: LLWWW

Real Madrid 2–3 Shakhtar Donetsk | UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid 0–1 Cadiz| La Liga
Levante 0–2 Real Madrid | La Liga
Real Madrid 1–0 Real Valladolid | La Liga
Real Betis 2–3 Real Madrid | La Liga

Position in La Liga

3rd
10 points in 5 games
3 win, 1 draw and 1 loss
6 Goals Scored, 3 Goal Conceded
+3 Goal Difference

Head-to-head record

Last 5 meetings

Real Madrid 2–0 Barcelona | La Liga, 19/20
Barcelona 0–0 Real Madrid | La Liga, 19/20
Real Madrid 0–1 Barcelona | La Liga, 18/19
Real Madrid 0–3 Barcelona | Copa del Rey, 18/19
Barcelona 1–1 Real Madrid | Copa del Rey, 18/19


Match facts

• Barcelona are undefeated in 32 of their last 33 home matches (LaLiga).

• Real Madrid are undefeated in their last 8 away matches (LaLiga).

•  Ronald Koeman’s men have scored 10 goals across three matches at Camp Nou in all competitions.


Team news and possible line-ups

FC Barcelona

Absences

Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Marc-André ter Stegen (Tendon)
Suspended: N/A

Possible line-up

4–2–3–1:

Neto
Roberto · Piqué · Lenglet · Alba
Busquets · de Jong 
Griezmann · Coutinho · Fati
Messi

Coach: Ronald Koeman

“Sergio Ramos is our captain. We are not going to risk him. Sergio is recovered and he will be with us. He is one hundred percent and he will play the Clásico.”

Zinedine Zidane

Real Madrid CF

Absences

Injured: Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal, Martin Ødegaard, Álvaro Odriozola, Mariano Diaz
Suspended: N/A

Possible line-up

4–4–2:

Courtois
Nacho · Varane · Ramos · Mendy
Valverde · Casemeiro · Kroos · Modric
Benzema · Vinicius

Coach: Zinedine Zidane


Predictions

Predicting El Clásico is tricky; both the teams give their all irrespective of their forms. And the result of the game will have some consequence on their campaign. On paper, Barcelona look considerably strong and have more options in attack. Madrid, on the other hand, have a better defence with Sergio Ramos back in the XI. It’s about which team that turns up on the day that matters. 

Barça Universal Prediction: 2-1 for the Catalans. 

I got into watching football for the emotions of it. A goal followed by a crazy celebration from the player gave me goosebumps. But, watching the beautiful game over the years, I realised it was much more than just goals. The passing, the movements, the positioning and the effort involved behind the scenes opened my eyes to what football was. I keep trying to learn more about this incredible game and pass on what I learnt with a tinge of passion attached to it.

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Match Previews

Copa del Rey final preview: Predicted Barcelona lineup against Athletic Bilbao

Adithya Eshwarla

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Photo via FC Barcelona Twitter

Barcelona continued their newfound pattern of turning off in the big games. Once again, the Catalans failed to turn up on a Clasico night, failing to pick up even a single point.

The worst way to head into a cup final is with a defeat in one of the biggest games of the season. Coming off a loss that potentially loses the title is not the way Koeman would have wanted to enter this week. However, Barcelona,s inability to turn up when it matters is now getting serious. It is far beyond the stages of misfortunes and well into the path of being a fact.

This is the managers only guaranteed shot at silverware. Yet, heading into this game, the atmosphere in the Catalan capital is nothing short of chaos. Sources close to the club are whining about the referee once again, days before the game. Jordi Alba’s weak mentality has once again come to the forefront with his latest leaked conversation with Gerard Pique that shows him giving up even before stepping on the field.

Barcelona needs to step out of this shadow of excuses. Being one of the biggest clubs in Europe mandates winning even in the most adverse conditions. It necessitates believing in oneself and the team more than anything else. Barcelona have choked in the final of the Supercup, in the game against Juventus, the first leg against PSG and both El Clasicos. It is high time they put those losses behind them and show the world they have not forgotten how to win trophies. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Atheltic Bilbao.

Defence

Starting with the gloves on the night will once again be Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German has once again come under scrutiny in recent weeks. If there is ever a chance for the goalkeeper to prove that he is invaluable on such big nights, Saturday night is that opportunity.

Gerard Pique’s participation continues to be under a heavy cloud of doubt. The Spaniard has still not recuperated completely, and rushing him would not be wise. Additionally, Sergino Dests rather meek showing against Real Madrid has Ronald Koeman contemplating a return to the 4-3-3 system for the upcoming clash. The 3-5-2 was never built to last in the first place, anyway. That said, Ronald Araujo and Clement Lenglet will be the starters in central defence.

While the Uruguayan has recently returned from injury, he still showed glimpses of his extraordinary pre-injury form once again. Lenglet, on the other hand, is finally coming into a confident frame of mind. The Frenchman never looked the same since the humiliating defeat to Bayern Munich. Now finally, he is once again defending with a much better mindset.

Meanwhile, Oscar Mingueza is coming off a textbook performance against a difficult real Madrid side. While a case can be made for Sergi Roberto, not rewarding the Spanish youngster after such a tremendous performance would be unfair. Moreover, Roberto is just returning from injury. A direct start in a cup final may not be the route Koeman wants to go down. That said, Mingueza could well start at right-back on the night.

The best chance for Mingueza and Araujo to win silverware in their first full season. (Photo via Imago)

Jordi Alba has been one of the best left-backs of the season, yet there is a massive sentiment that he shouldn’t start on the night. Watching a senior member of the dressing room talk so pessimistically ahead of a massive game is terrible news, both for the team and the fans. Yet, one knows that the Spaniard will start, mainly owing to the back of any able backups. He will be crucial, no doubt, however, the weak mentality is a matter of serious concern.

Midfield

Sergio Busquets will start as the defensive midfielder at Estadio de la Cartuja. Up against the likes of Dani and Raul Garcia in midfield, and Inaki Williams constantly looking to break, Busquets will have to be inch-perfect with every step.

Frenkie de Jong will start in front of the veteran midfielder. Once again back in midfield duties, the 23-year-old will be crucial for the Catalans penetration into opposition territory. His guile and vision will be key on the night.

FdJ will have a lot on his plate. (Photo via Imago)

Pedri struggled in the first period of the Clasico yet came back stronger after a rough patch. The 18-year-old is one of the most promising prospects in world football. Once again, his consistency will be put to the test on Saturday. It could well be Pedri’s vision that is the difference between the two sides on Saturday.

Forward

Antoine Griezmann made the difference when these two sides met last, and everything signals that he may get his start again. The Frenchman did not get the chance to start the game against Madrid and will be eager to return in style.

Ousmane Dembele has had a renewed, though not very successful, stint as a target man this season. His pace has been the fatal spearhead for so many oppositions. Yet, a rather low conversion ratio is the thorn in the heel. If Barcelona is to walk away with a trophy, Dembele cannot be wasteful in front of the goal.

Lionel Messi will undoubtedly start in the forward line, aiming to win his first silverware in two seasons. The Argentine had a rather quiet outing is yet another Clasico and will be keen to shut critics once again with a game-defining performance. One of Lionel Messi’s greatest ever goals came against Athletic Bilbao in a cup final. Will Saturday bring more of the same?

Will Messi get his hands on a trophy after two years? (Photo via Imago)

Griezmann · Messi · Dembele
Pedri · Busquets · de Jong
Alba · Lenglet · Araujo · Dest
ter Stegen

Substitutions

Ilaix Moriba has become to go-to man for Ronald Koeman in any midfield crisis. His never say die spirit and no-nonsense attitude have earned him a special place in the side. Moreover, he is a gifted young talent that deserves every minute he plays.

Riqui Puig would be another option to up the tempo of the game in the second half. The youngster could come on for Pedri and provide an immediate impact as he often has.

Fransisco Trincao and Martin Braithwaite could also be able weapons for the managers towards the latter part of the game.

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