Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Real Madrid | La Liga
On Sunday night, Barcelona and Real Madrid face off against each other at Spotify Camp Nou in a game that could have massive consequences. It will be the second meeting between the two rivals this month after their clash at the Santiago Bernabeu couple of weeks back.
Both sides are coming off narrow 1-0 wins, albeit in different competitions. The Catalans scraped past Athletic Club last weekend to retain their nine-point lead in La Liga while the Merengues‘ 1-0 win saw them defeat Liverpool by an aggregate scoreline of 6-2 in the UEFA Champions League.
There will be blood spilled on Sunday night given the weight riding on the result. There are only three points up for grabs, but the reward will be worth its value manifold for the eventual recipient.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Real Madrid.
1. Unfortunate injury relapses
Ousmane Dembele and Pedri were expected to be fit in time for Barcelona’s Clasico on March 19th. The players were progressing well on their return to fitness and appeared to be on track to make the deadline.
Last week, however, it was reported that the French winger would not receive the medical all-clear in time. A minor relapse, it appeared, delayed his return to the field.
The situation queerly repeated with Pedri. The midfielder was at the doorstep of complete fitness before the Catalans announced his unavailability for the Clasico.
For two players on the cusp of recovery to sustain last-minute aggravations is certainly not good news for Xavi’s camp. After all, they have been amongst the best-performing players in garnet-and-blue this season.
Xavi’s men have struggled without the two dynamic stars in recent games with a dire lack of creativity to break down defences. The effect is conspicuous, for the number of narrow 1-0 wins for Barcelona has steeply risen without them
Against Real Madrid, the onus to create chances once again falls on the likes of Gavi, Raphinha and Franck Kessie. The Brazilian winger will look to continue his impressive run of form on the right wing while Kessie will be motivated to recreate his Clasico performance from the first week of March.
2. Return of Ronald Araujo
When Ronald Araujo took one for the team against Valencia, a sudden fear rose in the minds of the Barcelona faithful. The Uruguayan’s professional foul and red card would win the team three points on the night but there was a chance he would miss El Clasico.
As the script has it, he was suspended for only one game and served it against Athletic Club last week. He will thus be back on Sunday night to test an opposition he has fared well against in recent times.
Araujo has been critical in Barcelona’s recent success in El Clasicos. Xavi’s tactical decision to deploy the youngster against Vinicius Jr at right-back has completely nullified the Brazilian’s threat on the wing, giving the Blaugranas a clear edge.
The Uruguayan’s return on the night is thus the key to success. With Araujo handling Vini Jr, Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen are expected to start in central defence against the relatively out-of-form Real Madrid attack.
3. Potential title decider?
The points table speaks volumes about the importance of Sunday night’s face-off at Spotify Camp Nou. League leaders Barcelona sit comfortably on 65 points on the table while their arch-rivals lurk behind on 56. The Blaugranas‘ nine-point lead is convincing but not concrete.
A win at home against Real Madrid would increase that lead to 12 points, taking Xavi’s men to a seemingly insurmountable lead. The race may mathematically be on, but it would be difficult to see Barcelona lose with such a commanding advantage.
Meanwhile, a defeat would throw the equation upside down. Three points to Carlo Ancelotti’s men would take them to 59 points, just six behind Barça. Moreover, the defeat would go a long way in halting the hosts’ momentum. The title race, in such a situation, would be wide open.
Given the weight, the result at Camp Nou bears, the hosts must come out all guns blazing. The last two Clasicos have gone Barcelona’s way, and favourable results in the next two could seal a special domestic double.
Incidentally, March 19th will see Xavi Hernandez coach his first Clasico at Spotify Camp Nou. The manager has overseen five clashes against Real Madrid so far, but all have been either in Madrid or overseas. Xavi’s special night could thus bear a special fruit if the Azulgranas turn up on Sunday.