This weekend’s El Clasico contest is going be one of the biggest matches of the season as Barcelona will be looking to put pressure on Real Madrid in the title race. Playing at the Santiago Bernabeu is not going to be easy but a victory isn’t impossible.
Real Madrid are in their best form of the season putting tons of goals past opponents in 2014 while conceding only seven times in the past three months.
Barcelona find themselves four points back of their eternal rivals making this meeting huge. A victory would bring the Catalans to within a single point of Real Madrid but a loss could arguably end their title chances.
Manager Tata Martino is going to have to put his very best lineup on the field on Sunday for Barcelona to challenge for the result they need. With that being said, let’s take a look at how the Catalans will likely line up in El Clasico.
As is normally the case, Victor Valdes will be starting in goal. The Catalan keeper has been in fine form all season and will definitely play a big role on Sunday as he will need to fend off a ruthless Real Madrid attack.
After sitting out the last match, Gerard Pique will return to the lineup. The center-back has been a favorite of Martino and will definitely be including in the starting lineup.
Deciding who will start alongside Pique is difficult. In Barcelona’s last match, both Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra played at a high level and either one could get the nod on Sunday.
Bartra definitely deserves more playing time and needs to try his hand in bigger games like these. However, Martino is a big fan of Mascherano, who will likely be Pique’s partner yet again.
On the right side of the defense will be Dani Alves. The Brazilian has looked very good over the last few weeks and is always a dangerous player when going forward. Partnering Alves will be Jordi Alba who can be just as deadly but will have to keep himself under control.
Real Madrid’s quick wingers will force Barcelona to play their fastest full-backs. Alves and Alba could match the pace of their attackers, but they must also be sure not to get caught too far forward.
Without a doubt, Sergio Busquets will start for Barcelona and play a very important role from start to finish. If he has a good game, Barcelona can win. Yet, if the Catalan under-performs, it will be a long night for La Blaugrana.
The other two midfield spots are very hard to judge. Cesc Fabregas, Xavi and Andres Iniesta all have a case for starting, which makes selection difficult.
Martino has seemed to favor Iniesta on the left-wing in bigger matches this season, but he can’t afford to play with only two true forwards against Real Madrid.
Iniesta will still start, though it will be in the midfield. The 29-year-old is the glue that links the forwards with the midfield and will likely be a problem for Los Blancos all night.
Partnering Iniesta should be Fabregas. Xavi could see his name in the lineup, but after playing the last match and lacking the speed needed in this game, Fabregas makes the most sense.
At the same time, Fabregas has been one of Barcelona’s most consistent players this year and his direct style of play will be needed against Real Madrid.
Lionel Messi and Neymar will once again pair up in hopes of giving Real Madrid a headache for 90 minutes. The South American duo is starting to link up better in recent matches and this is just the game they need to really cement their partnership.
Neymar scored a big goal in the first meeting with Real Madrid this season and doing so again would be great for the Brazilian’s confidence.
On the right-wing Martino could opt for either Pedro or Alexis Sanchez. Both wingers have been scoring goals for fun this season and have their own cases for why they should start.
Due to his work-rate, and a stunning goal the last time these two met, Sanchez will start. The Chilean has been deadly in front of goal and consistent this season and will also be willing to track back to help out with defending Cristiano Ronaldo.
Barcelona must start their three best forwards if they want to score goals. Real Madrid will be on the offensive every chance they get and La Blaugrana must be ready to match that.
Trying to predict the outcome of this match is nearly impossible. Real Madrid are definitely in the better form as of late but anything can happen in El Clasico.
A win for either side could drastically change the title race meaning this rivalry meeting will be as big as ever. Ronaldo will likely be able to bag a goal while it is hard to imagine that Los Blancos will score just a single goal.
On the other end of the pitch, Messi and company know how to break down the Madrid back line. They will find goals of their own and Sanchez could be a scorer yet again.
Final Prediction: Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona
*All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com