The battle for the top spot. The collision between Spain’s grandest. For better or for worse, it’s time for El Clasico. And both sides have their relevant points to prove.
Date: Sunday, 16th October
Competition: La Liga
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu
Time: 16:15 CEST (Barcelona)
Referee: José María Sánchez Martínez
VAR: Alejandro Hernández Hernández
Away from the grueling realities of the UEFA Champions League, Fc Barcelona now possesses a massive opportunity to plant a positive outlook on their rather disgruntled week.
A match against arch-rivals Real Madrid has come around at a time when Barcelona are not looking at their best, but yet it also comes around at a time where a win would signify something much more crucial to La Blaugrana’s season. This game is so much more than the 3 points it could offer should the Catalans come out as victors, as it also offers self assurity and confidence, key attributes that can revitalize any team going through a tough patch.
One of the most in-form teams in Europe as it stands, Real Madrid will be looking to impose themselves on Barcelona within their own home ground, the Santiago Bernabeu. As Ancelloti recently stated, “Barcelona are dead right now, and the only way for them to revive themselves is to beat us on Sunday”.
The mentality they possess coming into this game is of a team looking to dig their rivals into an even deeper grave than they are currently buried within. And under no cost can Barcelona give up without a fight, as La Liga remains their best shot at a major title this season, and the only possible route for them to save their campaign.
Both Los Blancos and La Blaugrana have amassed the exact same amount of points in this La Liga campaign so far, 22 points each. Barcelona currently sit at the top of the table, however, due to a better goal difference. The Catalans have thus far managed to score 20 goals and have conceded only once, whereas Los Merengues have scored just one less, having 19 goals scored and having conceded 7 goals so far into the league season.
In terms of player availability when it comes to El Clasico, the major absences for Barcelona are to be found within the defensive ranks, as Ronald Araujo is still set to be sidelined for a few months, alongside Hector Bellerin and Andreas Christensen. However, a major boost has been provided to Xavi in the form of a returning Jules Kounde, who is expected to slot right away into the starting lineup come Sunday.
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen
Regardless of the results in games this season, Ter Stegen has been consistently performing nonetheless. Even in the last game against Inter, the German kept the Catalans in the game with some crucial saves.
Right-back: Jukes Kounde
A massive reintroduction for Xavi, Kounde provides some much-needed solidity within Barca’s defense as well as a crucial ability to progress the ball out of difficult situations into dangerous attacks.
Left-back: Alejandro Balde
Given fewer chances than most would hope for, now seems the probable opportunity for Balde to be given as many minutes as possible to prove his capabilities to both manager and fans alike.
Center-back: Eric Garcia
Just like Pique, Eric Garcia had a horrible performance against Inter, particularly in the case of that Martinez goal. However, unlike Pique, Garcia can be faulted to a lesser degree due to not possessing an abundance of experience. He will be hoping to leave this game with a much better impression.
Center-back: Marcos Alonso
Has failed to impress too much as an LB, so may just be entrusted to start as a CB alongside Eric Garcia given Pique’s atrocious performance against Inter Milan in the previous game.
CDM: Frenkie De Jong
Revitalizing the team against Inter Milan, De Jong’s addition to the starting lineup can be monumental in improving Barcelona’s chances to come out as victors in El Clasico.
Pedri’s quality is always consistently on display, yet even he may need to step his level up to make a massive impact come Sunday, something he is very capable of doing.
With his never-ending tenacity and rather dynamic presence, Gavi’s work rate and technical ability combined make him a hugely useful X-factor in this Barcelona team.
Crucial for Barcelona in their opening goal against Inter, Raphinha’s quality and defensive work- rate will be crucial as he plays on the same flank where he may need to track back to help against Vinicius Jr.
In terms of attacking prowess, Dembele was amongst the few that showcased just how potent Barcelona’s attack can truly be when he is on song. He starts on one wing indefinitely.
Centre Farword: Robert Lewandowski
Provided Barcelona the hope it was craving for within the dying minutes of the game against Inter, Lewandowski’s clinicality and predatory instincts will be needed very much so against a very solid Real Madrid defense.
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen
Defenders: Balde, Alonso, Eric, Kounde
Midfielders: Pedri, De Jong, Gavi
Forwards: Dembele, Lewandowski, Raphinha