After a Messi masterclass at the Camp Nou against English Champions Manchester City, the odds tilt towards the Catalan side as we are to witness yet another El Clasico this Sunday. Here’s a preview for the much awaited clash between the two footballing giants.
Lionel Messi was at his merciful best as he swirled, turned and nutmegged the City players as they looked with awe and embarrassment, and a repeat of that is surely on the cards this weekend. With the front three more or less set, it is the midfield that might cause a bit of trouble for Barcelona this weekend. Sergio Busquets being ruled out for this clash, an ageing Javier Mascherano must occupy the role as a defensive midfielder-something that Busquets has become synonymous for and that isn’t a good proposition considering Los Blancos’ strength going front. Dani Alves doesn’t look assured while defending and although new signing Jeremy Mathieu looks fine, his partner Gerrard Pique is a real susceptibility in the air.
Real Madrid are coming out of a disastrous run which culminated with a 3-4 loss to Schalke at the Santiago Bernabeu. The changes Ancelotti is making are certainly not working any wonders. Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo’s relationship isn’t helping either with the latter showing his disappointment towards the former on more than one occasion. Their defence looks pale and with the form of both their goalkeepers not looking great, it’d be interesting as to who Ancelotti would choose between the two. Their defence too looks in all sorts of trouble as Marcelo and Dani Carvajal haven’t been at their best off late.
Note: I have left out the biggies I.e. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi as they are key players in every match.
1. Toni Kroos
The central midfield area is one place where Madrid shouldn’t allow Barcelona to take control of. Even though Sergio Busquets wouldn’t be present, the likes of Andreas Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Ivan Rakitic and Pedro amongst others have enough firepower to dismantle any team on their day. Therefore, it is important that Kroos- a World Cup winner with Germany- distributes the ball in an effective manner and not give away easy possession to Barcelona.
2. Jeremy Mathieu
With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez amongst your opposition, you must be frightened and more so cause you’re a defender. Jeremy Mathieu has the enviable task of taking on the best the world has to offer this weekend and his role at the centre of Barcelona’s defence would be very important considering the inconsistent performances of Gerard Pique.
1. Jordi Alba vs Isco
Jordi Alba, at present, is the best full back among both the sides and it’ll be vital when he faces off against Isco, who, has been in prime form. Isco’s nimble footedness can catch many a defender napping but Alba isn’t one to be trifled with. Alba is one full back who isn’t afraid of running and his galloping runs forward is one to take care of by Isco. This battle will ensure which front three gets the ball more.
2. Karim Benzema vs Barcelona defenders
I’m generalising this battle as no one in particular takes on Benzema for he is often overlooked when compared to the other starlets present in the Madrid team. Even though he doesn’t get the credit he receives, Benzema has an excellent goals per game ratio and takes advantage of the quality of the feeding he receives. His presence is often the difference in matches as defenders tend to mark either Bale or Ronaldo in most cases and the Barcelona defenders must be wary of him.
Keylor Navas, Dani Carvajal, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Isco, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo
Claudio Bravo, Jordi Alba, Jeremy Mathieu, Gerrard Pique, Dani Alves, Andreas Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Ivan Rakitic, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez
Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid