Over the years, El Clasico has seen a serious fluctuation in its importance and brand value. Once considered the biggest game in world football featuring the two best players in the world going head to head, it lost its charm towards the end of the last decade.
Now, the rivalry seems set to begin again as both Barcelona and Real Madrid phase into their next generation. Both teams have some of the brightest young talents alongside a solid veteran core, and the clash on Sunday night will be nothing less than a feast for the eyes.
Both teams are coming off draws in the Champions League, yet their situation is far from the same. Barcelona’s draw came with serious implications, while that of the hosts was a result bearing no weight.
Both teams will be gunning for a three-point lead over their arch-rivals at the Bernabeu. Yet, it is Real Madrid who will have the slight edge, given the game is at their den.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of El Clasico.
1. A vulnerable prey
It is commonly said that the form of a team is never a decisive factor in El Clasico. History has seen numerous occasions when a struggling side has stepped out on the night and produced fireworks, and Barcelona’s 4-0 win at the Bernabeu last season is an example of the same.
Yet, one cannot help but notice the poor form, awful run of results and desolate mentality that Barcelona are in. Having lost back-to-back Champions League fixtures against Inter Milan in the last two weeks, the Catalans are virtually eliminated from the competition they aimed to win.
Further, their last two league games have also been far from convincing. In their last outing against Celta Vigo, Xavi’s side were lucky to get away with a win, for it was the Galician side that dominated and created more chances in a one-sided second half.
The Clasico will undoubtedly be evenly balanced, as has always been the case. However, if Los Blancos can push and score the opening goal quickly, one can expect the Blaugrana side to collapse completely, given their fragile mental state.
2. Crucial night for the defence
Carlo Ancelotti has a squad close to full strength for the game against Barcelona but is missing one key player in Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian has always stepped up on the big nights and has come particularly good in every recent Clasico he has played.
With the former Chelsea man unavailable on the night, there will be pressure on Real Madrid’s defence to step up and cover the void.
The forward line of Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha will quite clearly be the toughest opposition Los Blancos have faced this season.
If one considers that Xavi has the likes of Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati on the bench in addition to his gala forward line, it becomes clear as to why the Clasico is the biggest test so far for Real Madrid’s defence.
Ancelotti hinted in his press conference that Eder Militao, David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger would all play on the night. The spotlight will be on the trio to see if they can contain the ruthless Barcelona forwards.
3. A chance worth its weight in gold
The domestic league has always been a waiting game between the two or three main contenders. As every week passes, all a team can do is win their match and hope for their rivals to drop points.
It is only twice in the season that Real Madrid have it in their hands to take points away from Barcelona and assure a three-point advantage. Tomorrow is the first such night of the season.
Barcelona currently sit in first place on the league standings, only above Real Madrid on goal difference. Both teams are unbeaten domestically and have won seven of their eight games.
At the Santiago Bernabeu, Carlo Ancelotti’s side can take a solid three-point lead over their arch-rivals with a solid and clinical performance. However, any other result would see them stuck in second place.
Given the strong squads both teams possess, it would be unrealistic is expect either to drop points. Thus, the result of the two Clasico’s this season could be decisive in crowning La Liga’s champions for 2022-23.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Granada | La Liga
Napoli fought tooth and nail for all three points against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this week. They took the early lead in the first half, then fought back to find an equaliser after Real Madrid put two past them.
In the end, however, they were outdone by the hosts’ resilience and never-say-die attitude. The result thus registered Real Madrid’s fourth win on the trot and twelfth game without a defeat.
The men in white must now look ahead to their next La Liga game scheduled to kick off in just over 24 hours. Faced against Granada in a critical matchday, the aim will be to take all three points and thus maintain a healthy position in the standings.
Ancelotti announced some key recoveries in his pre-match press conference and also confirmed that Jude Bellingham would be fit to participate on the evening. Yet, he is concurrently in a difficult moment in terms of squad fitness.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Granada vs Real Madrid.
A clash of two poles
While Ancelotti’s Real Madrid sit lavishly on the top of La Liga’s standings, their opponents for Saturday afternoon have quite a contrasting fate. Granada sit on the other end of the league table and find themselves in a desolate situation 14 match days into the season.
Granada are currently 19th in La Liga with just one win in 14 games, and have changed managers, with Alexander Medina replacing Paco Lopez. They have lost a staggering nine games and walked away with one point on four occasions.
Granada have only scored 19 goals all season while conceding on 33 occasions. Comparing the numbers to Real Madrid’s 31 goals scored and nine goals conceded speaks volumes about the form of both teams heading into tomorrow’s clash.
The visitors’ last win in La Liga came back in August, and it is safe to say that a victory vs Real Madrid will do them a world of good. They will be the underdogs at the Bernabeu, but nothing is impossible considering that they drew with Barcelona not so long ago.
Saturday’s clash will thus be interesting, to say the least. With the injury-inflicted league leaders taking on a relegation-threatened side, the script cannot be predicted.
The rising phenomenon
Real Madrid’s injury crisis has not been easy on the manager. Ancelotti has been forced to rework his dynamics time and time again with a new player falling prey to the endless pit in every game.
The Italian is now in a situation where he has only four players left in the middle of the park. Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Jude Bellingham, and Dani Ceballos all started Real Madrid’s last game but it was young Nico Paz who stole the headlines.
The youngster has risen to prominence in Los Blancos’ latest injury emergency and his prominence has only increased over the past weeks. In the team’s latest outing against Napoli, he was on the field for close to half an hour and scored a crucial goal in the 84th minute.
With a tight schedule ahead and limited resources at his disposal, Ancelotti must look to rotate his men in midfield. Paz, on that front, is the Italian gaffer’s best choice and must look to make the most of his minutes tomorrow.
The golden chance
The biggest talking point from La Liga so far has been Girona’s stunning run at the beginning of the season. The Catalan side surprised everyone with win after win and stole the headlines by retaining the sole lead in the league until match day 13.
After six straight wins, Athletic Club broke Girona’s streak last weekend with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Estadi Montilivi. Having dropped two points, they are now level with Real Madrid in the standings with 35 points in 14 games.
It will thus be Ancelotti’s objective to take all three points against Granada and make a strong push towards taking the lead over Girona. After all, the co-leaders face a difficult opponent in Valencia and could well drop points.
Moreover, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are set to face off later this weekend. One, or both of the Spanish giants will drop points on the night, thus giving Real Madrid further impetus to gun for all three points tomorrow.
Considering the team’s good run of form in recent games, the dressing room will be confident about securing the much-needed result.