Barca head to the Alfredo do Stefanie stadium on Saturday for one of the most important El Clasico games in years.
Let’s be clear. El Clasico is always important, but a win in this one could really hand the advantage to the Catalans in the race for the league title.
Zinedine Zidane’s side, despite missing key players including Sergio Ramos, will still represent a formidable test for the Blaugranes, who haven’t beaten Los Blancos since March 2019. With La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid without both Luis Suarez and Marcos Llorente for their visit to Real Betis, this could be the weekend that they’re replaced at the top.
Here are three things to look for in Saturday’s match:
Leo Messi is due a goal
He is the all-time top scorer in El Clásico fixtures, but hasn’t found the net against Real Madrid since May 2018.
Messi is in red-hot individual form at present, however, and leads the Pichichi race again this season.
It’s about time he extended his record against Barca’s eternal rivals and there’ll be no better time to do it.
Benzema the key for Real
It’s wonderful to see how much Karim Benzema has flourished since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid. The issue for Zidane is just how important the Frenchman has become for his side.
Without his goals over the past few weeks, Los Blancos would be well out of the title picture already.
A mixture of power, pace and trickery has often left Barca’s defenders floundering, and he’ll absolutely be up for handing them another lesson on Saturday night. Vinicius Junior’s pace will also be a factor down Barca’s right hand side.
The Catalans will need Ronald Araujo to start in order to cover the gaps on that side of the pitch if Vinicius, as expected, consistently gets the better of Sergino Dest.
Zidane to win the tactical battle?
He’s never really be known as the greatest tactician, but when Real Madrid have their backs against the wall, and the importance of the game is referred to by Zidane as being a ‘final,’ invariably he comes up with the goods.
The Frenchman appears to have the knack in getting the best out of his team at just the right time and, in a compact but mobile 4-4-2, he just might outfox Koeman again on the day.
The Dutchman has at least shown that he will change things up in games if needed, so he shouldn’t be underestimated either.
It’s sure to be another fascinating encounter between the two biggest teams in Spain, and if there’s a winner at the end of the 90 minutes, they’ll have put themselves in the box seat for an assault on the title in the final few weeks.