Clasico result could set tone for title race, but don’t count on it

Never under-estimate the influence the first Clasico of the season can have on the narrative. Last season, a 5-1 defeat to Barcelona at the Camp Nou ultimately cost Julen Lopetegui his job as Real Madrid manager. Of course, the writing had been on the Santiago Bernabeu wall for a while, but it was with this result that the point of no return was passed.

This season the two rivals meet for the first time this season having suffered many of the same problems. On the face of things, Barcelona and Real Madrid are still Spanish football’s dominant duo with the two sides joint-top of the Spanish Liga table on 35 points apiece. But that doesn’t quite tell the full story.

Both Barca and Real Madrid have suffered great inconsistencies over the first half of the season. Ernesto Valverde and Zinedine Zidane have both come under intense scrutiny, with poor performances and results leaving them on the brink of the sack at various points of the campaign.

In ordinary circumstances the result of Wednesday night’s match at the Camp Nou would set the tone for the rest of the season. But these aren’t ordinary circumstances and this isn’t an ordinary title race. There will be more twists and turns over the course of the season no matter what happens in Wednesday’s Clasico.

Barca have shown signs of improvement of late, particularly in the performances of Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman has struggled to find his role in Valverde’s side since making the move to the Camp Nou from Atletico Madrid in the summer, but he has more recently been used to give the Catalans vertical thrust rather than being deployed out on the left wing as was the case earlier in the season.

And yet just as Barcelona seemed to be hitting their stride they dropped points away to Real Sociedad on Saturday. It was a similar story for Real Madrid who had gone 10 games unbeaten before dropping two points away to Valencia on Sunday. It would have been three points dropped were it not for a 95th minute equaliser from Karim Benzema.

Previously, this was a match defined by the strength of the two teams. After all, Barcelona and Real Madrid have enjoyed great spells of success in recent years. But this particular fixture will instead be defined by the fragility both teams have experienced this season. Don’t count on this being a game to set the tone for the title race.

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