Barcelona are ready to take on Real Madrid for the 4th time in this season, with a potential title decider awaiting the eternal rivals on Sunday night. After a period filled with upsets and tribulations, when they had to miss several key players, Xavi’s team is back at Camp Nou with the hope restored to come out victorious worthily to the Blaugrana’s badge.
Barca News Network brings you 3 talking points ahead of the second episode of the spring El Clasico trilogy.
1. Late blows
After the difficulties of the last weeks, all the culés had their hopes in seeing their stars back in action, and despite the heavy injury wave among the crucial protagonists, positive sensations arose about their return. Lewandowski was already back in the starting XI last weekend against Athletic Bilbao, while Pedri and Dembélé were also expected to recover until the Clasico.
However, as recently reported by Spanish media outlet Mundo Deportivo, Ousmane Dembélé’s participation in Sunday’s clash is completely ruled out as his recovery is taking longer than expected initially. Pedri, on the other hand, had some bad feelings during today’s training session and can also be out for Clasico, as per Javi Miguel.
Since they are unavailable for selection, their absence has exerted a significant effect on the Blaugrana’s play, and indeed they managed to replace them with the likes of Kessié and Raphinha so as to minimize casualties, but still, they are far from what could they do with Pedri and Dembélé instead and their absence will be a sensible loss for Xavi.
2. Tactical approach
With Pedri and Dembélé virtually out, begs the question: what game approach will Xavi choose against Real Madrid? Keeping in mind the approach in recent games – one can expect to see something similar to what the Catalans displayed at the Bernabéu two weeks ago, which, in the end, proved to be the right call.
Moreover, looking at the state of the match, it would be justified to opt for such an approach, given that Barcelona are in the leading position right now, and if Los Blancos want to catch up to the Catalans in the league title race, they have to try hard and push for the victory, while Xavi’s men can be satisfied with a potential uneventful draw.
That would be, though, the total betrayal of the club’s traditions and typical playstyle, but we could see that Xavi embraced a rather unaesthetic, yet effective way to get the result. As we could see it in the Copa del Rey tie, it works, and it would be the logical choice from Xavi. However, football often defies logic, doesn’t it?
3. A title decider?
As mentioned before, it’s important to take into account the two teams’ positions in the league when talking about approaches. What is certain that Barcelona currently leads La Liga with 65 points claimed after 25 games, with a 9-point gap over second-placed Real Madrid, thus, it’s Real who are in desperate need of a result here.
A potential victory of the Blaugranas would mean that the title is virtually sealed as Barcelona would lift their first league trophy since Messi’s departure, whereas in case of a Madrid triumph, the Royal Whites would reduce their deficit to just 6 points, making the title race even more entertaining and competitive for the remaining 10 games to be played.
So, what could we expect? To be fair, it’s hard to guess what is in the heads of these masterminds – Xavi and Ancelotti – as the picture of the game could be affected by numerous factors, like the aforementioned injuries, the supportive faithful of Camp Nou, loyalty to what one usually does or switch to something else in hope of a better outcome.
Thus, there are plenty of questions to assess for both parties, and it will be, without a doubt, a crucial match, not only for its prestige and history but for its importance in terms of the title race as well. A victory against Real Madrid is always hard to earn but feels even better if achieved. Can Barcelona do it again?