La Liga Clasico: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid Preview with Managing Madrid

David Ramos

I spoke with Lucas Navarrete, editor of ManagingMadrid.com, about the upcoming Barcelona-Real Madrid match-up. Stay tuned - you will see my thoughts on the same points later on. Here are his answers.

1. Who will win?
Match will be a draw. The game will be played carefully as a loss could mean a huge boost on the opposition's morale. Barcelona started the season a lot better but Real Madrid has gained some momentum after the win against Málaga -the performance was quite good- while Barcelona is not playing as well as they were before.

2. Who is Real Madrid's key player... aside from Cristiano?
It depends on what kind of game is being played, but to me Luka Modric is the one midfielder that holds the key for Real Madrid. It's obvious that Bale should step it up soon but we haven't seen him yet because of the injuries he's had. Therefore, I expect Modric to start the match at the Camp Nou in Isco's place and contribute big. He doesn't have a big body but his defensive positioning is good and his skills as a playmakerare obviously there. I wasn't too convinced on him as a signing last season but his 2013 has been remarkable. He's a great player.

3. What will be Barcelona's weakest point Madrid will attempt to exploit?
Real Madrid will obviously try to harm Barcelona's transition defense. And Ancelotti has the right players to do that. Yes, this Real Madrid is not as good as Mourinho's one when it comes to counterattack, but Di María/Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo should be something Barcelona fans should be afraid of considering Martino's defensive line. I expect a big counterattacking lineup by Ancelotti (no Isco, as I said before).

4. What will be Real's strongest point they must capitalize on?
Pace on the offensive line and through balls. While Özil was a big player to perform that way, Modric is also a good passer. If Ronaldo, Di María or Bale find the open space behind Busquets' back, the defensive line will be in a lot of danger. And of course, the team need to wear Xavi & Iniesta down with intensity by Illarramendi, Modric and Khedira.

5. Who will shine more, Gareth Bale or Neymar?
Neymar should. I mean, if Bale shines more than Neymar after not starting a match since the 2-2 draw against Villarreal in the 4th week of La Liga, that would be a huge disappointment. Believe or not, I think Neymar is a great player. He's not living up to expectations just yet (same happens with Bale) as I expected him to be a much more efficient scorer. Still, it's not easy to play alongside Messi. Neymar was used to get a lot of touches with Santos and he's not receiving the ball as much now. Neymar will surely start the match, and I don't expect Bale to do that considering how well and fit Di María is right now.

6. What are the key matchups?
Three big matchups come to mind. 1-Arbeloa-Neymar: Arbeloa has always played well against Barcelona but he struggled against Brazil during the Confe Cup. I expect Di María to help him a lot. 2-Illarramendi-Messi: Xabi Alonso was a great defensive asset against Messi, but he will not be available. It will be hard for Illarra to play that well. 3-Di María/Bale-Adriano: With no Jordi Alba, Barcelona will have a hard time trying to stop Real's right wing. Yes, Adriano is a good player (better than some give him credit for), but he will surely struggle against those two players if Real Madrid manage to find them. You would also have the Cristiano Ronaldo-Alves+Piqué, of course, but that's not a new matchup that I wanted to highlight.

Thank you to Lucas Navarrete for taking the time to preview the game with us. Visit ManagingMadrid.com for Real Madrid news and analysis. Check back later for what I think on these same topics. And follow Lucas on Twitter for more expert insight: @LucasNavarreteM

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