Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: El Clasico Team News, Preview, Live Stream, TV Info

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IApril 2, 2016

Gareth Bale is Real Madrid's danger man.
Gareth Bale is Real Madrid's danger man.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Barcelona against Real Madrid. El Clasico. The one game that sees planet football stop and drink in every last second of the action.

When Spain's big two collide, there simply isn't a club fixture like it anywhere in the world.

As with most editions of this great matchup, an extensive narrative underpins the action on the pitch.

Will Zinedine Zidane be given his marching orders now or at season's end should he lose? After all, a loss to their biggest rivals on Saturday would place Los Blancos a cavernous 13 points behind the table-toppers and reigning champions.

With just seven games left to play after this one, defeat would rule Real out of the title race unless Barca and Atletico Madrid suffer the mother of all collapses during the remaining weeks of the season.

The Frenchman hasn't really had the impact expected since taking the reins in January, but that's no real surprise given Zidane had no prior managerial experience at this level.

Will Luis Suarez add to MSN's 107 goals in all competitions against Real Madrid?
Will Luis Suarez add to MSN's 107 goals in all competitions against Real Madrid?Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real have looked back to their swashbuckling best at times, but Zidane can't compare to former incumbent Rafael Benitez tactically.

His task is to dismantle a Barca side that is 39 games unbeaten this season. One that has won four of the last five Primera Division Clasicos, per Wettpoint Soccer Database.

With club president Florentino Perez's popularity at an all-time low, it's not beyond the realms of possibility to imagine he will be reminding the playing staff of their responsibilities.

But that appears to be part of Real's problems.

Benitez hinted at the same in a recent interview with BT Sport (via Mark Dobson of the Guardian), when he said:

My assistant, Fabio Pecchia, said there is a permanent presence of the chairman. He’s around, he’s talking with players, he’s talking with the press. He’s always around, it’s not easy for a manager, especially coming from England, to see the chairman talking with players or talking with the press every single day. 

[...]

He did a great job in terms of business. Real Madrid needed to improve the business part of the club and he did really well. In football the problem is that Barcelona is still winning and winning so he’s changing because he’s trying to find solutions but still Barcelona is winning more every year. That is the big problem for Real Madrid now.

Like counterpart Zidane, Luis Enrique knows the magnitude of this particular encounter, and during his pre-match press conference, he said:

We’re going into the game in great form. The game needs everyone to be at 100 per cent, and apart from Jeremy [Mathieu], all the other players have come back from international duty in perfect condition and thinking about tomorrow’s game.

Games like these generate so much energy in the players that I have absolutely no concern about the number of miles they might have travelled this week.

From what we can tell from Real Madrid’s last few games, they have different options. They might try to put pressure on us in our half, we’ll find out tomorrow. But we won’t change our way of playing. We’ll try to control the ball. There is only one ball and we’ll try to make it ours. And try to stop them from showing their qualities, because they have no shortage of those.

This is simply a game the visitors have to win if they want to retain the little interest they have in this season's league competition, but the hosts will be doing their utmost to inflict more pain on the team from the capital.

It promises to be, as always, a must-watch encounter.

 

Date: Saturday, April 2

Time: 7.30 p.m. BST/2.30 p.m. ET

Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

TV Info: Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 2 HD (UK only)/beIN Sports 1 (U.S. only)

Live Stream: Sky Go app (UK Only)/beIN Sports Connect (U.S. only)

 

Form Lines

Last 6 Results
BarcelonaReal Madrid
D 2-2 vs. Villarreal
W 4-0 vs. Sevilla
W 3-1 vs. ArsenalW 2-1 vs. Las Palmas
W 6-0 vs. Getafe
W 2-0 vs. AS Roma
W 4-0 vs. EibarW 7-1 vs. Celta Vigo
W 5-1 vs. Rayo VallecanoW 3-1 vs. Levante
W 3-1 vs. SevillaL 0-1 vs. Atletico Madrid

WhoScored.com

 

Predicted Formations

Predicted Barcelona and Real Madrid lineups and formations.
Predicted Barcelona and Real Madrid lineups and formations.sharemytactics.com

Two identical 4-3-3 lineups are expected for this clash, with both managers playing their strongest available XIs.

Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and his back line of Jordi Alba, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves will have their work cut out against the fit and firing BBC of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Andres Iniesta will captain the Blaugrana and aim to impose his natural game upon Toni Kroos, thus limiting the German's influence down Barca's left side.

Casemiro is crucial to Real's aspirations in this fixture because the Blancos are invariably successful when he's allowed to dictate from midfield.

You have to wonder why Perez and his playing staff ensured Casemiro didn't play the last fixture between the sides when clearly he was the preferred choice of Benitez.

Ben Hayward of Goal recalled:

Benitez has earned a reputation as a defensive coach during his time at Madrid and his players are not particularly fond of the team's style of play. Prior to the game against Barca, he was told by key figures in his squad that they needed to be more positive and, although he claimed that information was false, the former Liverpool boss picked a much more attacking lineup on Saturday.

Casemiro dropped to the bench after playing eight games in a row, while James Rodriguez started and so too did Karim Benzema. It was the team the fans wanted and the team the players wanted, but it wasn't the one Rafa wanted. And when coaches betray their ideas, things rarely end well.

With James well out of favour at the Santiago Bernabeu, Luka Modric will complete the Real midfield trio.

Sergio Busquets has had another fine season for Barca and will sit in his usual defensive-midfield slot. Ivan Rakitic's bursts from the right side of the Catalans' midfield will see to a fantastic one-on-one battle with compatriot Modric.

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez will be looking to add to their 107 goals for 2015/16, just 15 away from the all-time record for a front three in Spain, set by the trio last season.

Keylor Navas continues to impress between the posts, but Sergio Ramos' absence could be an issue. The Pepe-Raphael Varane partnership has been shown not to work in the past, and with Suarez in such a rich vein of personal form—two goals and two assists in his last three games at club level—another 4-0 scoreline in favour of the hosts can't be ruled out.

Marcelo and Dani Carvajal complete the visitors' XI.

 

Player to Watch  

Bale appears to finally be over his recent injury problems and is playing his way back into something approaching his best form.

The Welshman is a key component of Real's attacking trio, and his influence is beginning to be felt more often than that of team-mate Ronaldo.

His blistering pace, particularly from a standing start, continues to cause opposition defences all sorts of problems and cutting inside from a right-hand berth gives him the opportunity to penetrate the heart of Barca's sometimes brittle central defence.

Gareth Bale could cause problems for Barca if he is allowed to cut inside.
Gareth Bale could cause problems for Barca if he is allowed to cut inside.Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

If he has a willing overlapper in Kroos, Bale could open up the space behind Alba by drawing the Barca left-back infield. A high level of accuracy in the pass would ensure the German will have time to deliver from the wide areas.

Free-kicks and other dead-ball situations are as much Bale's forte as Ronaldo's, so don't be surprised to see him take responsibility in this regard.

The Portuguese has struggled to impose himself on the bigger games this campaign. Should he fail to do so again here, Madrid need someone to take the fight to the league leaders.

It won't be for the want of trying if Bale ends up on the losing side.

 

Key Battle

Dani Carvajal is a much better option for Real Madrid at right-back when facing Neymar.
Dani Carvajal is a much better option for Real Madrid at right-back when facing Neymar.Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Dani Carvajal has flitted in and out of the Real Madrid side since the signing of Danilo last summer.

However, the former is most certainly more able to deal with the pressure of this fixture. You only have to look back to the last Clasico to see how poorly the latter performed against Neymar, a game in which the Brazilian was rightly lauded as man of the match.

It has largely been forgotten Lionel Messi only played the final half hour of that game, such was Barca's dominance.

Carvajal will be living on the edge in a game of expected high intensity, which could work against him. But without doubt, Real need a player of his physicality to let Neymar know who's boss in that particular match up.

We've often seen the Brazilian's immaturity when he doesn't get his own way in games, even though this is largely disappearing from his make-up.

Expect some showboating that Carvajal will deal with in the appropriate manner.

If Neymar is able to have as much influence as in the reverse fixture, Barca are odds-on to win another of these epic encounters.

But if Carvajal can reduce Barca's No. 11 to a bit-part role, we could Real spring a major surprise.

 

Odds

Barcelona: 4-6

Real Madrid: 9-2

Draw: 37-10

Odds via Odds Shark.