📝The Pre-Christmas Treat: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid Preview & Lineups
Competition: La Liga, El Clasico
Date: Wednesday, 18 December
Time: 7 p.m. GMT/2 p.m. ET
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for the crucial El Clasico clash in their rearranged La Liga clash postponed because of social disturbances across Barcelona and Catalunya.
Barcelona vs. Real Madrid’s meeting is the greatest match in the history of organized football Nicknamed "El Clasico," a battle that encompasses all the skill, enmity, sporting, and social significance that can possibly be incorporated into a 90-minute soccer fixture.
Barcelona take on Real Madrid after a tough 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad on Saturday, while Real Madrid visit Camp Nou after scoring a last-gasp equalizer against Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday.
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid will attempt to obtain three priceless points from the club football's biggest duel between the two Spanish giants at Camp Nou.
Barcelona will once again be without the services of midfielder Arthur Melo and forward Ousmane Dembele, who is a long-term absentee. There are no other injury/suspension worries for the manager Valverde ahead of the big game on Wednesday.
There is no looking past the excellent Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal for the reigning La Liga champions, while the four-man backline of Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, and Jordi Alba is unlikely to be tinkered with, despite the latter not performing well upon returning from injury against Sociedad.
No changes have been anticipated in the middle of the park either with Sergio Busquets lining up at the base of the three-man midfield, while Frenkie de Jong is expected to play his first-ever El Clasico. Ivan Rakitic has found a new lease on life after spending the early part of the season on the periphery of the first-team and should hold on to his place against Real Madrid.
Antoine Griezmann has finally started to live up to expectations after a slow start to his debut season with Barcelona. The Frenchman has scored in each of his last two league appearances and should proceed on the left flank, with captain and talisman Lionel Messi on the right and Luis Suarez through the center.
Real Madrid’s Belgian striker, Eden Hazard is ruled out for the El Clasico as he continues to battle his injury issues. Moreover, Los Blancos will be without the services of Lucas Vazquez, James Rodriguez, Marcelo, and Marco Asensio. Ferland Mendy is back in the squad after missing the previous game against Valencia because of suspension.
Thibaut Courtois was excellent in Real Madrid’s draw against Valencia and is expected to continue between the sticks in this match, while three of the four defenders who started on Sunday – Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, and Sergio Ramos are all expected to feature again. Mendy should return to the left-back instead of Nacho.
There will be a probable change in the Real Madrid midfield, as Casemiro is set to return to the starting XI after sitting out at the weekend. The Brazilian should replace Luka Modric in the side, with both Toni Kroos and Federico Valverde expected to hold on to their roles.
Karim Benzema is a certainty to feature as the center-forward for Real Madrid. Gareth Bale, Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo, and Isco will compete for the two roles. Zidane might want to go for experience over youth meaning Bale and Isco could get the nod at Camp Nou.
El Clasico, Lionel Messi's signature match
Much of the attention will be on Barca talisman Lionel Messi, who has 18 goals and nine assists in 29 career El Clasico matches in La Liga.
If Barcelona are to win the first of this season, the explosive little genius who just won the FIFA Best award, claimed his sixth Ballon D'Or and has been La Liga's dominant footballer since he shook off early-season injuries will unquestionably play a major role.
Although Messi's Liga impact has been high, his form has looked increasingly disenchanted. He started just three and scored only once during the previous five Clasicos. The Blaugrana won 5-1 against Julen Lopetegui's Madrid last year with Messi sitting in the VIP players’ area of the Camp Nou Tribuna!
Head to head result:
Real Madrid have failed to beat their bitter rivals Barcelona in each of their last six meetings.
La Blaugrana have the psychological edge going into the match, and last season's 4-0 aggregate victory will be fresh in the minds of Zidane's squad. Valverde's side also delivered a devastating 5-1 victory over Madrid in 2018, when Suarez bagged a stunning hat-trick for the Whites.
Madrid's last win over their rivals came at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign, when Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema bagged in a 2-0 win, completing a 5-1 aggregate hammering of Barca in the Spanish Super Cup final.
El Clasico last five meetings: Barcelona vs Real Madrid
23 April 2017: Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona (La Liga)
23 December 2017: Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona (La Liga)
02 May 2018: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid (La Liga)
28 October 2018: Barcelona 5-1 Real Madrid (La Liga)
02 March 2019: Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona (La Liga)
Aggregate Score: Barcelona (WWDWW) 14-5 Real Madrid (LLDLL)
· Barcelona could gain more league victories than Real Madrid for the first time in El Clasico history (currently both teams have 72 wins). With their 1-0 win at Santiago Bernabeu in LaLiga in March 2019, the Blaugranas (96) outperformed the Whites (95) in total wins in El Clasico in all competitions for the first time since 1931 (6/5).
· Barcelona have won more La Liga games against Real Madrid than any other side (72), while Real Madrid have beaten Barcelona the most often in the competition (72).
· Barcelona are one goal away from reaching 400 goals in El Clásico history in all competitions and just four goals away from equaling Real Madrid’s record (403).
· Real Madrid have gone six LaLiga matches without winning against Barcelona (D2 L4), their worst losing run in El Clásico since December 2011. In fact, their seven-game winless streak ending in December 2011 was Real Madrid’s worst ever such run in EL Clásico in LaLiga.
· Lionel Messi has failed to score or assist in his last three games against Real Madrid in all competitions. The Argentinean has never gone four consecutive appearances against them without scoring or assisting.
· Messi (41) could equal Xavi Hernandez (42) for most appearances in El Clasico in all competitions by a Barcelona player.
· Luis Suárez could become the third Barcelona player to reach 10+ goals against Real Madrid in LaLiga history (nine), after Lionel Messi (18) and Cesar Rodriguez (12).
· Other than Barcelona players Lionel Messi (11) and Luis Suarez (9), Antoine Griezmann has scored the most LaLiga goals against Real Madrid since the start of the 2010/11 season (seven in 18 games).
· Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto has provided six assists in eight appearances against Real Madrid in LaLiga, with five of those assists resulting in Luis Suarez's goals. They have combined for more LaLiga goals in El Clasico than any other duo in the 21st century (five).
· Ernesto Valverde could equal the longest unbeaten streak of any Barcelona manager in El Clasico in all competitions (W4 D2 L0), registered by Pep Guardiola between April 2011 and January 2012 (W4 D3 L0).
· Sergio Ramos has the opportunity to become the player with the most appearances in El Clasico history (43), outperforming Manolo Sanchís, Francisco Gento, and Xavi Hernández (42 for each one).
· Zinédine Zidane is unbeaten in his four managerial games at Camp Nou in all competitions (W2 D2) and he could become the first Real Madrid manager to remain unbeaten in five away Clasicos.
Players to watch:
Lionel Messi is a dominant player in world football and in this fixture he has been incredibly efficient. In the 41 appearances he has featured against Real, Messi has scored 26 times and has additionally got 14 assists in all competitions.
He always has a significant role in how important matches turn out but with this one being as crucial as it is, Messi will definitely turn on the style.
Messi has directly contributed to 18 goals in La Liga this season (12 goals and six assists), no player has contributed to more.
The French forward, Karim Benzema, has been reborn this season for Real Madrid. He is their standout performer, top scorer, and top creator.
Indeed, they could be out of the title race if it were not for his clinical edge. The team have struggled to continue their scoring pace with Barcelona this season but Benzema has been impressive with a dozen strikes, 36% of his Madrid’s total league outlay to date.
His late goal against Valencia last time out could prove essential at the end of the season.
Benzema has scored 12 goals for Real Madrid in La Liga this season, at least nine more than any other teammates.
Possible Starting Lineups:
Barcelona XI (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, de Jong; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann
Outs & Doubts: Arthur, Ousmane Dembélé, Jean-Clair Todibo, Moussa Wagué, Junior Firpo (out)
Real Madrid XI (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Isco
Outs & Doubts: Eden Hazard, Marcelo, Lucas Vázquez, James Rodríguez, Marco Asensio, Brahim Díaz, Álvaro Odriozola, Mariano (out)