A confident Barcelona enter the fray once again in El Clasico. It has been a hectic week for the home side with important fixtures and injury to Lionel Messi, but the Blaugranes have coped well. El Clasico is obviously one of the greatest footballing rivalries in the world and easily the most popular fixture of the season. Such a classic rivalry with an interesting league stat: No team has defeated Real Madrid more than Barcelona (70) and the converse holds true as well (72). A win can secure top spot for Barcelona - so let’s have a look at some talking points ahead of the big match.
Barcelona can’t take Real lightly despite their dip in form
After Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and Real’s decision not to sign a marquee attacker, they haven’t been able to score as many goals (a paltry 13 in nine games). But it’s no indication that Real should be taken lightly. With the likes of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema teaming up, a spark can turn into fire in no time. Also, Marcelo has been electric and has scored vital goals to keep Madrid’s hopes of revival alive which puts pressure on the Barca right-back to perform well. Barca have also found it difficult to stop opponents from creating chances and Madrid boast a midfield with the likes of Modric, Isco and Kroos who are exceptional playmakers. With Los Blancos desperately looking to change their fortunes, their hunger to prove their supremacy may prove key. Expect plenty of individual brilliance from the men in white.
Statistics offer clues
The league stats say that Real Madrid have become much more solid during the second half of games and when they gain their solidity, they begin scoring. The majority of their 13 goals have come in the latter stages of the first half and also in the second. On the other hand, Barcelona have conceded the majority of their goals in the second half. So Barcelona must maintain their focus, particularly in the second half if they want to win this fixture. Stats also show that Real Madrid have conceded the majority of their nine goals within the first 40 minutes of matches which indicates that if Barcelona start fast they may be rewarded.
In terms of playing style, Real have lost their penchant for counter-attacks and instead find it difficult to defend against the same tactic. They haven’t scored a goal from a set-piece yet this season in the league which speaks volumes. Barcelona on the other hand, have scored four from set-pieces but their chances have been reduced with Messi out injured. Real attackers are also prone to being caught offside, but the team averages a tally of 18 to 19 shots per game this season (via (whoscored.com) which calls for Pique and Lenglet to give their A game.
Time to move on from Messi against Ronaldo
If you thought the main Clasico attraction was the epic rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo, you weren’t completely wrong. However, for the first time in over a decade the world will witness a Clasico without these stars and maybe many football fans are not ready to accept that. Football has moved on and fans should, too. The important thing to be considered is that CR7 has left the club, Real are trying to march forward and they have missed the injured Carvajal, Marcelo and Isco as well as Ronaldo. El Clasico will not be the same without Messi and Ronaldo but nonetheless, it is the Clasico and will be of the highest quality like it has always been before.