A Pivotal La Liga Clash: El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid
- Date: Sunday, 2 March 2020
- Time: 3pm ET / 8pm GMT
- Venue: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid (Real Madrid)
- Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
Based on stats, Barcelona and Real Madrid haven’t been at their best form sine both teams have failed to win in their recent Champions League clashes, but there is no doubt that it is going to be a tough derby.
Barcelona visit Bernabeu to lock horn with Real Madrid while only two points separate the Spanish giants on La Liga table.
Real Madrid head into Sunday's El Clasico having failed to win any of their last three matches in all competitions, including a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League.
In spite of the fact that Real Madrid were at the top of the standings several weeks ago, Zinedine Zidane was heavily criticized for his squad’s performance that according to analysts was less than convincing even in some of their victories.
On the other hand, even though a win over their great rivals will change the mood at the Bernabeu, another loss in La Liga will leave Barcelona five points clear with just 12 matches remaining.
Considering their setback against Man City, Zidane and his men have the opportunity to prove their abilities at the perfect time.
Although Karim Benzema has scored 18 goals during this season, the experienced Frenchman has now gone five games without finding the back of the net.
The fact that Real have struggled since the 32-year-old's drop-off in the final third highlights their reliance on the frontman, putting the onus on one of his teammates to step up with Eden Hazard seemingly out until the summer through injury.
While Gareth Bale has found himself in and out of the team in recent months, you have to go back to October 5 for the last time that the Wales international contributed a goal or assist for the Spanish giants.
Having only featured as a substitute against Man City, it may take a big occasion such as the one on Sunday to act as the catalyst for the 30-year-old to rediscover his touch in Los Blancos jersey.
Like his counterpart in the dugouts, Quique Setien felt the weight of responsibility on his shoulders when replacing Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona manager in the middle of January.
However, after an indifferent start at Camp Nou, Setien has witnessed Barca record three successive wins in La Liga, a winning run that has taken the club back into first place.
Their unbeaten run was extended on Tuesday night with a 1-1 draw away at Napoli in the Champions League last 16, putting the Catalan giants in a position to take advantage in next month's reverse fixture.
There will be those who still have reservations about the former Real Betis man, but the 61-year-old deserves plenty of credit for improving results when having to contend with numerous selection issues.
The pair have chipped in with six of Barcelona's last eight goals, strengthening the argument that the club could miss out of silverware this season should either man join Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez in the treatment room.
Despite concerns over a defense that has kept just three clean sheets in 10 matches since Setien's appointment, there is a feeling that Barcelona will always have a chance of victory with their star attacking duo on the pitch.
Griezmann's best work this season has come from the left flank, rather than down the center in the role he is expected to occupy on Sunday night.
Given the magnitude of the fixture, Arturo Vidal should get the nod over Ansu Fati, providing Setien with the flexibility to use the Chile international on the left flank or behind a front two.
Zidane may take a similar approach with his Real front three, including Isco in the team on the right while having the option to switch the playmaker to a central role.
Beaten into honoring the classic 4-3-3 formation following the mentioned toppling at the Mestalla in January, Setien gambled with a 4-4-2 on Saturday against Eibar which saw Messi bag four and Arthur the other in a 5-0 rout.
At the Bernabeu, it remains to be seen which approach the 61-year-old favors to work best.
Ansu Fati vs Arturo Vidal
The 17-year-old has been rested for the Catalans’ last two fixtures and will be fresh to face Real Madrid.
Either in a four-man midfield or the disputed left spot up top, however, Vidal has fought his way to recognition and could still get the nod despite his hot-headed red card in Italy.
Fati possessing game-changing talent that if imposed on the match could elevate him further to stardom, Vidal boasts an intensity and aggressiveness, mixed with grand stage experience that is not found elsewhere in the first-team squad.
Pressing high up the pitch vs sitting back in the own half
The Napoli draw wasn’t Barça’s best performance and saw their chances of going all the way to Istanbul on May 30 written off by the local media, but one positive to take from it was how well they pressed and barely let down in intensity.
As Lionel Messi noted in December however, Real Madrid are charged by their fans to entertain and attack at home.
“When we play at the Bernabeu, many more spaces are generated. They attack us more because they have the obligation as the host team and people push them for that,” Messi said to reporters.
Considering this, will Setien’s squad build upon their pressing success or sit back, wait for the gaps to open up and capitalize on them?
Head to head result:
Barcelona head into the next staging of El Clasico having gained a seven-match unbeaten run against their traditional rivals in La Liga.
Although Real Madrid have had a few victories against Barca in recent matches in the Supercopa de Espana, it represents their only victories in recent games.
Madrid have failed to defeat Barcelona in a home La Liga match since a 3-1 win back in October 2014!
The two teams go into the game battling at the top of the 2019/20 La Liga Santander table while they have locked together with 72 wins each in El Clasicos; therefore, winning this match at the Santiago Bernabeu can be highly important for both teams and fans.
Last five meetings: Real Madrid vs Barcelona
18 Dec 2019: Barcelona 0-0 Real Madrid (La Liga)
02 Mar 2019: Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona (La Liga)
28 Oct 2018: Barcelona 5-1 Real Madrid (La Liga)
06 May 2018: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid (La Liga)
23 Dec 2017: Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona (La Liga)
Aggregate Score: Real Madrid (DLLDL) 3-11 Barcelona (DWWDW)
Possible starting lineups:
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Valverde; Isco, Benzema, Bale
The big injury miss for Real Madrid is Eden Hazard (leg) who has suffered an injury nightmare since his summer move from Chelsea.
Marco Asensio (knee) remains sidelined and is still a month away from a return.
Mariano Diaz (knock) could return but could be in need of some fitness before returning for a big clash.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Firpo; Arthur, Busquets, De Jong; Vidal, Messi, Griezmann
Barca have had a load of injury troubles, forcing them to make the emergency, and controversial, signing of Leganes forward Martin Braithwaite.
The new arrival could start in attack or out on the left, with Ansu Fati an alternative, or even Arturo Vidal, who has lined up out wide or as an attacking midfielder in recent weeks.
Luis Suarez (knee), Ousmane Dembele (hamstring), Sergi Roberto (abductor), and Jordi Alba (hamstring) are all on the sidelines, leaving manager Quique Setien with the bare bones.
Live stream Real Madrid vs Barçelona
The match will be streamed live on La Liga TV and will be available as a standalone service via Premier Sports.
Although Real Madrid are yet to suffer a home league defeat this season, Barcelona have a real chance to collect all three points. But, everybody knows that anything can happen in a derby!