Barcelona v Real Madrid Cheat Sheet
Barcelona v Real Madrid
The LaLiga title could be all but settled on Sunday night as Real Madrid travel to Camp Nou to take on league leaders Barcelona. It’ll be their first visit to Barcelona’s stadium since October 2021 when they recorded a 2-1 victory, but this time it is the home team who will be the favourites. The game will be shown live on ViaPlay and LaLiga TV in the United Kingdom with an 8pm GMT kick-off on Sunday night.
Xavi has won three of his five previous meetings with Carlo Ancelotti since his appointment at the club, but he is yet to meet with Los Blancos at Camp Nou. This fixture may well decide the title race and will also set the tone for another Clásico in Catalonia in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg in April.
Real Madrid have won both of their last two visits to Camp Nou, but this time the odds will be firmly stacked against them as Xavi experiences his first Clásico on home turf from the dugout. Barcelona are the leaders of LaLiga by a nine-point margin, remain unbeaten at home and have dropped only four points from a possible 36 in front of their own fans so far this season.
That makes the leaders a tough test for any side, even Real Madrid. For Barcelona, the priority will be to avoid defeat and to ensure that their nine-point lead remains intact, even if it can’t be extended. Xavi’s new pragmatic style has even been likened to Diego Simeone’s approach of late, and that may well mean that he tries to grind out a result and make it difficult for the visitors.
Real Madrid have certainly not been in fantastic form of late either. They had to come from behind to beat Espanyol last week and drew their two previous LaLiga games, and that lack of attacking swagger could play into Barcelona’s hands should they seek to repeat the 1-0 win they secured at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu earlier this month in the Copa del Rey.
If Barcelona are to take a point or more, it would add to the recent Clásico trend. Four of the last six meetings in which Barça have avoided defeat have been with a win to nil, with the exceptions being the 3-1 Super Cup win in January and a 0-0 draw in 2019. They will also be boosted by home comforts given that they have conceded just one goal in 12 league matches at the Camp Nou this season.
In their last five games, Real Madrid have failed to score in two and have only scored once in another two. One of those games was the first leg of a Clásico Copa del Rey semi-final, which ended with Real Madrid failing to register a single shot on target in an eventual 1-0 loss to their rivals. It doesn’t help Carlo Ancelotti that his star striker Karim Benzema comes into this rematch less than 100 percent fit.
Barcelona have been able to silence Real Madrid in their recent meetings under Xavi and, with their own forwards not in great form, such as Robert Lewandowski only having scored two in his last six games, we can expect a low-scoring affair.
One of the key players in turning the Clásico tide back in Barcelona’s favour in recent meetings has been Gavi. The 18-year-old midfielder has already become a thorn in Real Madrid’s side and he seems to especially relish these rivalry matches.
When the ball gets rolling in El Clásico, Gavi goes at 100 miles per hour. From his three Clásico appearances so far this 2022/23 season, the teenager has one goal, two assists and two yellow cards to his name. One way or another, he is at the heart of the action and we should expect nothing less this Sunday night, one week on from his viral header-on-the-ground tackle against Athletic.
In this particular Clásico, the absences due to injury of Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé mean that Gavi is likely to be deployed in an even more advanced role than normal. He should play on the left of attack, alongside Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, which is the same position he was in when he scored against Real Madrid in the Super Cup Clásico in January.
It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he scores in this meeting too, while Gavi is always a good bet for a booking as he has nine already this season across all competitions and there’ll be a no-nonsense referee in the form of Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea.
As for Real Madrid, they’ll be hoping that Vinícius can get the better of Ronald Araújo, the Barcelona centre-back who has been deployed at right-back in his past three Clásico appearances with the sole objective of stopping the Brazilian winger.
Carlo Ancelotti has acknowledged that he needs to find a solution to help Vinícius escape Araújo’s man-marking and overloading that side with Rodrygo could be an option. That should help free up some more space for Vinícius and allow the winger to be more involved than he has been in recent Clásicos.
Even with Araújo on top of him, Vinícius has still had his chances. For example, he still managed to get off two shots in the most recent Clásico, for which Araújo was widely praised. In this one, with Vinícius needing to be the leader of the attack since Benzema isn’t 100 percent fit and with Ancelotti looking for ways to move Vini off Araújo’s island, he should be able to shoot at least twice during the 90 minutes.
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