Madrid, Spain | XINHUA | Matchday seven in La Liga has the ‘Clasico’ between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid as the main event as Spain’s two biggest sides go head to head once again. Neither Barca nor Real Madrid are in their best form at the moment, and perhaps because of that, the game could be more interesting than ever. Here are some things to look out for in the Clasico.
1 Defense likely to be vital.
Real Madrid have struggled at the back in recent games, conceding a hatful of chances in their 1-0 defeat at home to Cadiz last weekend and falling apart as they trailed Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 at halftime on Wednesday. Sergio Ramos should be back to provide leadership in central defense. However, with Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola both still out, Zidane still hasn’t solved the problem of who should provide cover on the right.
Barca have also been guilty of giving rivals too many chances, but the possible return of Junior Firpo or Jordi Alba, who is back in training, should give them more balance down the left and if Alba is fit, his understanding with Messi would be a big plus for Ronald Koeman’s men.
2 Who will hit form in attack?
Barca’s Antoine Griezmann has struggled once again this season as Koeman has tried him both through the middle and down the right, while although Leo Messi has produced moments of magic, he has still to score from open play. However, Ansu Fati has been excellent at the start of the campaign. Koeman will be able to use the pacy but erratic Ousmane Dembele and the prodigious Pedri as substitutes if needed.
Marco Asensio returned to the Madrid starting line up in midweek and can always produce a goal from nothing, while Vinicius Jr. will look to get behind Barca right-back Sergi Roberto, but so far Karim Benzema has failed to reproduce last season’s form, while Luka Jovic continues to disappoint. How Zidane must wish he had Eden Hazard fit and available.
3 Midfield battles
Real Madrid may just have the edge in midfield with Casemiro likely to be the enforcer, supported by Tony Kroos and either Fede Valverde or Luka Modric, with Valverde’s energy maybe getting him the nod at the start of the game.
Real Madrid will look to stifle Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong as Getafe did a week ago. However, the return of Philippe Coutinho to the starting XI should give Barca more creativity.
Zidane will think that if Valverde and Casemiro have a good day, his side can take all three points.
4 Off the field pressure?
It’s hard to say what effect off the field affairs will have on the two squads with Zidane’s chance of losing his job now being openly discussed in the case of a Real Madrid defeat.
Meanwhile, the Barca players are unhappy at the club’s plans to reduce their wages further to ease their debts. Gerard Pique gave a powerful interview in the La Vanguardia newspaper in which he criticized club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Bartomeu also faces a no-confidence vote in the near future, but once the whistle blows to start the game, it’s unlikely the players will be thinking of anything other than beating the eternal rival on the pitch.