El Clasico is one such fixture in the global football calendar that stops the world for 90 minutes. Everyone literally is glued to their screens to watch this mighty clash between the two Spanish heavyweights. It’s match-day 29 in La Liga and Real Madrid takes on FC Barcelona at the iconic Santiago Bernabeu. Coming into this match both teams are coming with some much-needed winning momentum. FC Barcelona is on a roll defeating team after team in all competitions. While Real Madrid is the current league leader, they too come into this fixture after a hard-fought victory against the mighty PSG in UEFA Champions League. They also defeated Mallorca away in a hugely contested tie.
Some Interesting trivia
1) The First EL Classico took place on 13th May 1902. Since then, every year these 2 teams clash against each other in the Spanish Top Flight.
2) This is the 229th clash between these 2 teams, while the side from Madrid has won 92 Classico and Barcelona has won 89 of them. The remaining 47 of them have ended in a draw.
3) Lionel Messi has the most goals in this fixture (21 goals)
4) The retired Spanish player, Manuel Sanchís Hontiyuelo, has the highest number of appearances (43) in the history of this famous fixture.
Madrid won against Mallorca but the victory came at a huge cost. Madrid star man Karim Benzema went out with a calf injury and he is ruled out of this Clasico clash. Another injury concern for Real Madrid was their star left-back Ferland Mendy, who sustained an adductor injury and he too has been sidelined. Rodrygo is another player who had suffered injury though he is back training. But it is highly unlikely Carlo Ancelotti will start him in this fixture. With this set of injuries, let’s see what could be a possible lineup for Real Madrid.
In goal, there is no doubt that their star keeper, Courtois will start. With Mendy out injured on the left-hand side, either one of Nacho Fernandes or veteran Brazilian Marcelo will start. On the right side, the experienced Dani Carvajal is going to start. At the heart of Madrid’s defense, the solid duo of Militao and David Alaba will be playing. In midfield, Ancelotti will go with the preferred and experienced trio of Casemiro, Kroos, and Luke Modric.
Now coming into the attack things get interesting, with Benzema out injured. Carlo might be forced to switch to false 9 formations, wherein Isco can perfectly fit in. Another option is a straight swap (i.e. like for like replacement)Gareth Bale is more likely to start than anyone in the no.9 position. The presence of Luka Jovic/Mariano Diaz can’t be ruled out too. On the wings, Vinicius Junior is certainly going to start. Now for that remaining one spot on the wing, Ancelotti has 2 candidates Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio. It remains to be seen which one of them starts in the Clasico.
Barca under Xavi has looked completely different from what they were in the first half. They have been in terrific form of late. Their latest victory was against Galatasaray in Europa League. However, this victory came at a heavy cost. Two major players were injured in that game. Dest suffered a hamstring tear and has been ruled out for a few weeks. Pique too suffered a knock and he too is a doubt for Clasico. Other players missing out on the Barca front are Fati, Roberto, Umtiti, and Balde. Meanwhile, Barca young star Nico Gonzales is suspended for this all-important clash.
Now coming onto the Barca lineup. Xavi would definitely stick to the team that played against Galatasaray bearing the forced changes. In goal, the ever-reliant Marc Ter Stegen will start. In defense, the experienced and returning Dani Alves will feature alongside Jordi Alba as the two fullbacks. With Pique in doubt, Ronald Araujo will be partnering Eric Garcia, although Pique just might force himself to start this one. In midfield, Xavi wouldn’t want to tinker much, and the trio of Busquets, De Jong, and Pedri will retain their spots. In attack, Barcelona now has got many options to choose from. On the right-wing, either Dembele or Adma Traore can start. Ferran Torres will certainly start from the left along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a center forward.
They go for the classic 4-3-3 and they tend to make attacking plays on the wider side of the ground. Madrid is creative with their passes and tends their passes towards the player at a short distance. They pass 1-2s and make possessive plays. Most of the players involved in the attack also contribute in defense in such a way that they can move forward in attack with a grip on pace. Los Blancos are opportunistic with their goal-scoring as midfielders shoot the ball anytime they see the goal. But the things they lack are getting less manpower while handling counterattacks. Failed dribbles also can lead to loss of possession at the flanks. Madrid allowing their full-back does a free role has helped them.
Barca starts with a typical attacking 4-3-3 formation. Though it looks like 4-3-3, the formation tends to change continuously while in charge of the ball and while not having the ball. When they are defending, Barca changes to a typical 5-2-3 formation with Busquets sliding in between the defenders. Pedri and De Jong remain in front of the backline and act as ball snatchers as well as pressers. Adama Torres and Ferran trackback as well giving ease to the fullbacks.
In the case of building up play, Barca has adopted a unique strategy. Busquets now tend to play as the deep-lying playmaker. Frenkie and Pedri then act as a double pivot helping the team to create swift attacks. Dani Alves and Jordi Alba act as inverted fullbacks which help the team in numerical supremacy in the midfield. So, as it looks, the files change to a 3-2-4-1 formation when they are creating attacks.
The role of the fullbacks and wingers has become extremely essential in this lineup with them acting as the chance creators. Pedri though playing as a CM, is actually a ball-carrying progressive midfielder who slides in between the attackers during the attack. A combination of Adama-Alves and Alba-Torres on the wings helps them keep up their wing play pretty well. This type of play intensifies more big chances into the box which the players can utilize. Busquets and De Jong play an integral role in creating attacks deep from the backline with Pedri carrying this into the attacking third. And after all this, the finishing of the players has also contributed to their wins.
1. The Midfield Clash
This El Clasico will be decided on which team wins the midfield battle. Coming on to 2 midfield both look pretty much settled and similar in manner. Both have world-class CDM in the form of Busquets and Casemiro who can control the game, and dictate the pace and flow of the game. Both Kroos and Modric can get control of the game and provide that killer pass for Madrid. Meanwhile, for Barcelona, De Jong and Pedri can do the same plus they make those darting runs into the opposition box. All in all, a team that can control the midfield play will have higher chances of coming out victorious.
2. Dani Alves vs Vinicius Junior
With Dest out injured, Dani Alves will definitely start at RB for Barcelona. Dani Alaves, you will get experience but at age of 39, his speed drops. With Madrid having Vinicius Junior. It will be an interesting battle out on that right-hand side of Barcelona. Will Dani Alves’s experience come out on top or will Vinicius’ pace prove lethal for Barca? Let’s see how this pans out.
3. Dembele / Adma Traore vs Real Madrid left-back
Another interesting battle to watch out for will be on Real Madrid’s left-hand side. With Ferland Mendy out injured, either Nacho or Marcelo will be occupying that position. Nacho isn’t a natural left-back so he might struggle against a pacey winger. Marcelo too hasn’t been in great form and lost his place to Ferland Mendy ever since the Frenchman arrived in Madrid. For Barcelona that attacking position is either occupied by Dembele or Adma. With the pace of Adama and Dembele, Madrid’s second-choice LBs might struggle to keep up with them.
Player to Watch out for
Courtois has been in tremendous form for Los Blancos. He has single-handedly kept Madrid alive by pulling out insane saves in crucial matches. With Barcelona’s rejuvenated attacking force, Courtois will have to bring out his top performance.
The 19-year-old midfielder is making his mark on the game. Pedri has been sensational for Blaugrana. His dribbling, combined with his in-game intelligence and vision is going to be crucial for much of Barca’s attacking plays in the Clasico.
When and Where to Watch the Match
The match kicks off at 8 pm local time on Sunday (March 20) at Real Madrid’s home ground of Santiago Bernabeu. Due to the five-and-a-half-hour time difference, for the Indian audience, the match kicks off at 1.30 am on Monday (March 21). In India, Viacom18 Media has the right to broadcast La Liga. MTV, the flagship channel of Viacom18, will air the El Clasico. The match will also be available for streaming through Voot Select and JioTV.
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Ashutosh Welankar Law graduate by degree. Football lover and blogger by passion.