If you were, even momentarily under the impression that all of this year’s exciting and power pact games of football are over, you haven’t been more wrong! Yes! The second leg of the El Clasico has not yet commenced. And this time, it could, in addition to all its glamor, aggression, history and mood, determine Real Madrid’s chances of being crowned the Spanish champions.
Real Madrid are currently 3 points clear of Barcelona at the top of the table, with a game in hand. Barcelona, go into this El Clasico after a disappointing Champions League 0-0 draw against Juventus at Camp Nou. Having lost to the Italian side on aggregate in the quarter finals, Barcelona have crashed out of the Champions League, while they depend entirely on Madrid’s form to be able to grab the La Liga title.
Barcelona’s draw against Juventus and a previous 3-0 loss have not been a one night, one game stand. The Catalans have been particularly bad by their own standards, having lost 4 out of their last 6 away games, and having won only 7 out of their last 12 games (home and away) in all competitions. For the strength in depth in that team, alongside the most lethal attacking trio in Suarez, Messi and Neymar, this is undoubtedly poor and below expectations.
Compare that to Real Madrid, who have won every single away fixture this season, and have not lost any in their last 12 games (home and away). Even if Madrid were to pick up a draw in this fixture and win all of their remaining games, they would go on to lift the La Liga title after five years, having last won it in the 2011-12 season.
Needless to say, Barcelona will go to the Santiago Bernabeu with one thing on their mind: A win, at any cost. History suggests that in such circumstances the Catalans usually try and deploy a heavily offensive strategy, one built by constantly moving the ball forward and dominating possession. Barcelona could potentially pull off this plan since Real Madrid would be extra cautious not to concede, and therefore more likely to let their visitors enjoy greater possession.
For Real Madrid the biggest blow might turn out to be the absence of Gareth Bale in the starting 11. While he has been named in the Real Madrid squad for this El Clasico, the Welshman has still not fully recovered from his injuries.
Other than him, Real Madrid are also without Varane and Pepe, two very experienced and extremely hard lining central defenders. It is usually one of Varane or Pepe who is partnered alongside Sergio Ramos. This means that fourth choice central defender Nacho comes in to the starting 11. Everyone else from Real Madrid’s squad is likely to be available for this game.
Barcelona too have a star man set to miss this exciting clash. Having seen red against Malaga that saw the Catalans lose 2-0, Brazilian superstar Neymar misses this game with suspension. Spanish striker Paco Alcacer who was bought from Valencia last summer is likely to replace Neymar up front on the left side. Arda Turan, Rafinha and Aleix Vidal are definitely out for this game as well.
While players such as Pepe and Neymar sit on the sidelines, depriving this fixture of the quality, excitement and craft that players of their calibre can bring to it, there is no doubt that this game will be as exciting as previous El Clasico encounters. After all, a classic is a classic, and regardless of who plays and who doesn’t, this, is not just a game. This is, simply put, all-out war, and no one will be more excited to watch this than football fans, not just of the two clubs but of the game!
Date and Time: Monday, 24th April at 12:15 am (IST) 8:45 pm (GMT +2)