El Clasico: Real Madrid vs Barcelona Preview

first_imgThe night of Saturday, 21 November 2015 will be one when the footballing world comes to a standstill as Real Madrid take on Barcelona.Around 500 million pairs of eyes will be glued to their TV screens to witness the biggest of club rivalries.Yes, football fanatics – the season’s first El Clasico has finally arrived, promising us a bucket full of extreme emotions, on-field spats, player-referee bust-ups and, more importantly, a showpiece encounter for the fans and neutrals to gossip about for hours on end.As far as Real Madrid and Barcelona fans are concerned, this game provides the usual battle for the La Liga summit.A victory for Barcelona would see them go six points clear of their bitter rivals, whereas a victory for Rafa Benitez’s side would see them leapfrog Barcelona to the top of the table on the basis of a better head-to-head record.It is definitely not a title decider as it is still early days in the league, but with top spot up for grabs and El Clasico bragging rights at stake, which team has the grit to hold their nerve and churn out a positive result for their fans on Saturday? Team NewsReal Madrid:The news of the return of several players from injury would have been music to the ears of Rafa Benitez, as he now has the luxury of selecting from a wider group of squad memebers. James Rodriguez proved his fitness by playing 180 minutes for his national side during the international break and should start while Dani Carvajal is expected to replace Danilo at right-back. Defender Sergio Ramos is also expected to recover from a shoulder injury in time to partner Raphael Varane at centre-back.Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who missed the last two league games with a muscle problem, should also return in goal in place of Kiko Casilla for Saturday’s clash. Left-back Marcelo, who suffered a hamstring injury during his side’s Champions League victory against PSG, is not 100% match-fit but should be ready in time to replace Nacho at left-back. Striker Karim Benzema is expected to play a role after returning from a knee injury he sustained while on international duty with France in October. However, it has been a long layoff, and Benitez may not risk starting him in the fear of aggravating his injury. Gareth Bale will most probably lead the line, with James Rodriguez behind him and Ronaldo and Isco supporting him from the left and right wings respectively.Barcelona:Fans could not have been treated to news better than their superstar Lionel Messi’s return from a knee injury suffered during a La Liga game against newly promoted Las Palmas in September. He has trained throughout this week and will most likely make a substitute appearance in the second half if his services are required.However, Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic is most likely going to be missing from Luis Enrique’s plans on Saturday as he continues to recover from a calf injury he picked up during Barca’s clash with BATE Borisov in the Champions League. Rafinha (knee) remains a long term absentee from the squad. Predicted Starting LineupsReal Madrid (4-2-3-1): Keylor Navas ; Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Casemiro, Isco, James Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth BaleBarcelona (4-3-3): Claudio Bravo, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Jeremy Mathieu, Jordi Alba, Mascherano, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Sergi Roberto, Luis Suarez, NeymarTeam Form Real Madrid come into this game on the back of a dispiriting 3-2 defeat at the hands of Sevilla. Rafa Benitez may have the lengthy injury list as an excuse, but that does not hide Cristiano Ronaldo’s ineffectiveness in front of goal, with just a single shot on target.Gareth Bale has also been in the media’s firing line over the past few months owing to his misfiring displays in high-scale fixtures like this. The duo will have to find their A-level game against a Barcelona defence that has thrived over the past month or so, conceding just once in the last 6 games.Barcelona are a team on top of their game after an indifferent start to the season. Neymar and Luis Suarez do not know when to stop scoring and have taken up the mantle in attack in Messi’s absence. The compact midfield trio has been functioning efficaciously while Gerard Pique and Jeremy Mathieu have proved to be a couple of rocks in central defence for Luis Enrique’s side.Cristiano Ronaldo vs Dani Alves Cristiano Ronaldo has been in disappointing form lately, but it would be half-witted of any right-back to take the Portuguese’s ability lightly. On his day, the 30-year-old can tame the opposition on his own terms with his all-round threat – be it aerial, dribbling or pace. Dani Alves will be wary of that and will have to be on his toes to track the 3-time Ballon d’Or winner’s movements on the left-flank and inside the box through the course of the game.Raphael Varane vs Luis SuarezReal Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane has been fantastic for Real Madrid this season thanks to some key clearances and his strength to hold off attackers aiming to get a good foot around the ball to get a realistic shot at goal. Saturday will be the Frenchman’s first real test when he goes head-to-head with one of the most lethal strikers in world football today, Luis Suarez.The Uruguayan’s dynamism and sky-high confidence in the opposition’s box has been a nightmare for most defences this season. Varane has the responsibility to get right at Suarez and prevent him from finding even the slightest of spaces to exploit and challenge Keylor Navas with a go at goal. Disrupting the co-ordination between him and Neymar will also be among the defender’s top priorities.  –Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @Joy997FM. Our hashtag is #JoySportslast_img

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