Both Real Madrid and Barcelona suffered surprising defeats in La Liga last weekend and are set to lock horns for the first El Clasico of the season.
Barcelona and Real Madrid Clash in First El Clasico of the Season
Shaky Start to the Season
Zinedine Zidane’s side ran away to the title after a stellar second half of the season and come up against a Barcelona side under transition with new manager Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman failed to sign his targets over the transfer window like Memphis Depay from Lyon and comes into an important first Clasico encounter as a manager with seven points out of a possible twelve; sitting in ninth spot. Barca did grab an emphatic midweek win in the UEFA Champions League, however, beating Hungarian side Ferencvaros 5-1.
The Galacticos, on the other hand, have had a subdued week, losing to Cadiz despite dominating possession (74%) before conceding a consecutive defeat in a week to Shakhtar Donetsk (3-2) in the UEFA Champions League. A win seems a must after the week Zidane’s men have had, sitting third and a point off top spot, a point here wouldn’t be the worst scenario.
Messi Impact Key for Barcelona in El Clasico
Superstar Lionel Messi failed to get his departure away from the Nou Camp over the summer and the Argentine has only scored once this season in four La Liga appearances with 17-year old prodigy Ansu Fati top-scoring with three.
He did manage to score on Wednesday night alongside Fati, Philippe Coutinho, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele but the spotlight will continue to show Messi’s determination to leave Barcelona.
The 33-year old failed to score in both fixtures last season but has two goals and three assists to his name in all competitions, showing he is still able to perform to his high standards.
Under Koeman, a new fresh injection of youth at the top end of the pitch has given him much-needed attacking prowess with the high-profile departure of Luis Suarez to rivals Atletico Madrid and the misfiring Antoine Griezmann.
The 57-year old’s main concern will be his midfield and defensive options with Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba pushing for starts after recovering from injuries. Busquets came on in midweek as a substitute for the final fifteen minutes whilst left-back Alba has trained with the squad after a hamstring injury.
Number one goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen continues to be sidelined with injury, meaning Neto will keep the gloves, but Samuel Umtiti remains the only other major injury doubt.
As for the visitors; Eden Hazard’s career in the Spanish capital continues to be blighted with injury along with Dani Carvajal, Mariano Diaz, Martin Odegaard and Alvaro Odriozola also sidelined for the Clasico.
The Belgium winger will have been on the treatment table for 236 days by the time matchday comes around, meaning over 50% of his Madrid career thus far has seen him injured since the start of last season according to Marca.
Captain Sergio Ramos is set to take his place in the heart of the Madrid defence after missing the defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk to overcome a knee injury. Vinicius Jr, Toni Kroos and Benzema are also set to come into the team as Zidane’s injury list keeps mounting.
Head to Head
The Super Giants of world football collide for the 182nd time in La Liga with Madrid edging the head-to-head wins 73 to 72.
Last season’s fixture at the Nou Camp ended in a dreary 0-0 showing, but Madrid ran out victorious on home turf in March, winning 2-0.
Barca’s Nou Camp invincibility has seen Madrid fail to beat them in the league since 2016 with WhoScored.com data suggesting Barcelona’s attacking prowess at home doubled to playing away from home. At home, Koeman’s side are averaging 14.5 shots per game whilst away from the Nou Camp that figure moves down to seven with dribbles per game going up.
Barcelona League form: WWDL
Real Madrid league form: DWWWL
Embed from Getty Images