Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: El Clásico Preview

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03: Lionel Messi of Barcelona shows his dejection after Real Madrid's equaliser during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03: Lionel Messi of Barcelona shows his dejection after Real Madrid's equaliser during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images) /

Barcelona play against their major rivals in the most crucial game of the league season.

Staff Predictions

Ben: 1-2

Brandon 1-2

Sean: 3-1

Laieke: 1-1


Barcelona aren’t in great form going in to this game with only one win in their last four matches. However, in the league they have won four of the last five matches with a sole loss against Málaga.

Real Madrid come into this game on the back of a great run of form. They have won nine out of their last ten games. This includes their two wins over Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals with the second leg going in to extra-time. The only game they didn’t win in this period was the Madrid derby.


More from Analysis

Neymar is suspended, which is the major news in the pre-match buildup due to Barcelona’s attempts to appeal against it. He will be a huge loss, but it doesn’t make the task impossible. In terms of injuries, Jérémy Mathieu is out due to not fully recovering from a problem with his Achilles, so he joins long-term absentees Aleix Vidal and Rafinha. Vidal has decided to travel with the team which is a nice boost. There is some good news on the injury front because Arda Turan has been passed fit to play.

Zinedine Zidane stated in one of his pre-match conferences that Gareth Bale is fit to play, but whether he starts is a mystery due to the strength in-depth that Real have. Los Blancos are without Pepe and Raphaël Varane which weakens their defence significantly because Nacho has to step in.

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images.
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images. /


In recent history, Real have a slight advantage because in the last five games the two teams have two wins apiece, but in the last ten games Los Blancos have five wins compared to Barça’s four wins. This is the first El Clásico for a long time that Real Madrid have been clear favourites, so it will be interesting to see how they deal with the pressure.

There has been a total of 16 goals in the last five matches, and 36 in the last ten matches. Both of these average over three goals per game, so it certainly shouldn’t lack goals even if it is a cagey affair. Home advantage doesn’t seem to have a huge effect in this fixture because the away team has won five and the home team has won four out of the last ten games between the two.

Next: Luis Enrique's thoughts on El Clásico

Playing Style

Zidane’s tactical ingenuity is questionable but under him Real have definitely changed mentally. This season they have found a way to win even if they have been playing poorly, and seem to have a never-say-die attitude which has brought them back from the brink in games.

They are similar to Barça in that they rely a lot on individual creativity, and the sheer depth they have allows them to bring on match-winners to change the game. However, unlike the Blaugrana, they also carry a significant threat from set-pieces which Sergio Ramos has come to embody due to the amount of last-minute goals he has scored.

One of the key areas will be Barcelona’s left-wing due to Neymar’s absence. The performance of his replacement will be key due to how well they interact with Messi and Suárez. Sergi Roberto would be an excellent choice for this role due to how well he played in the 4-0 victory last season at the Santiago Bernabéu. In that match he stepped in for the Argentinian playmaker due to him being injured. He linked up well with the remainder of the trio, and his off the ball movement was excellent.

Another key performer in that match was Andrés Iniesta who orchestrated Barcelona’s play. He will be vital in this match as well because the Catalans need him and Sergio Busquets to control proceedings. Having control of midfield isn’t key for Real due to the other threats they possess, but it is majorly important if Barça are to be successful.

They can play on the counter as shown by games against Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao. However, this would be a risky option due how capable Real are at breaking down teams. Also, there is the weakness Barça have at defending set-pieces and crosses which is an area that Real thrive in.

Los Blancos’ defence is surprisingly leaky, though, with only one clean sheet in the last ten games. Therefore, if Messi can reach near his peak ability, he could pull the team through this match. He wasn’t at his best in the second leg against Juventus, but he has carried the Catalans through plenty of games this season. It could easily end up being a battle between him and Cristiano Ronaldo for who has the biggest imprint on the match. Either way, it should be a fascinating game to watch.

Predicted Lineup

Luis Enrique could opt to play Sergi Roberto at right-back, which would probably mean that Denis Suárez would play on the left-wing.