One of the biggest matches of the football calendar is around the corner as Catalan giants Barcelona take on their arch-rivals Real Madrid in Saturday's much anticipated Clasico at the Camp Nou.
This will be the first explosive encounter between the Spanish rivals in more than seven months on the pitch where Barca will be aiming to beat Los Blancos for the first time in over two years.
Their last win in a league fixture against Carlo Ancelotti's boys was a 3-1 win in December 2011 at the Spanish capital. Without doubt, this will be a nail-biting encounter where a global audience of 400-500 million viewers will tune in to watch the greatest players showcase their talent. Real Madrid have won 90 of the 224 Clasicos, with Barcelona winning 86.
Coming to Saturday's match, Gerardo Tata Martino's Barcelona sit at the top of the La Liga table with three point lead over Real Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti's team can be on top spot if they can grab all three points this weekend. Barcelona must make use of the home field advantage factor and pressuriae Madrid to a great extent. Jose Mourinho's first game as in-charge of a Clasico resulted in a 5-0 embarrassing loss to the Catalans, and a similar result could be expected on Saturday if Ancelotti's tactical masterplan goes erroneous.
This will be a tough call for Barcelona coach Tata Martino, who has managed to get eight wins and one draw, as he makes his Clasico debut tomorrow for the first time since taking over Barcelona this summer.
Barcelona looked short of creativity and attacking ideas in their Champions League game against AC Milan, although they had great possession. The Blaugrana are fragile defensively, a fact that that was clearly pointed in their performance against Milan which resulted in Robinho's opening goal.
Pique is doubtful for Saturday's clash after he picked up a hamstring. Marc Bartra is a possible replacement for the Spaniard. In midfield Sergio Busquets will start at pivot along with Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. Most likely Xavi will be handed rest as he played in the last two games.
Brazilian sensation Neymar will join four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi along with Alexis Sanchez or Pedro Rodriguez playing on the right wing. Neymar has started his debut season with three goals and six assists from thirteen games. Iniesta has been in a superb form with incredible understanding and vision on the pitch. While Fabregas can add the much needed acceleration and finesse to the squad and also he is great contributor to crucial goals.
2013 PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale has had an inconsistent start to his Real Madrid career in Spain due to injuries which kept him at bay during Tottenham’s entire pre-season.
The Welshman was able to score a neat goal in his first appearance for Madrid. The 24-year-old came on as as a substitute Madrid's 2-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday.
After the departure of Ozil to Emirates stadium, Isco and Modric have been playing the key roles in Madrid attack. If they can stop Busquets at the pivot, then they can get past Barca's defensive line. Carvajal has been handed the task of stopping Neymar at the left flank. While Di Maria will be kept a check by Brazilian Adriano.
On the other hand, Sergio Ramos and Illaramendi will try to stop the quick feet of Messi. Portuguese winger, Cristiano Ronaldo will man marked by Dani Alves.
Coming to the squad, Pepe and Ramos will form the defensive partnership with Carvajal and Marcelo operating down the flanks. Ronaldo will be be joined by Angel Di Maria and Isco in attack zone with either Morata or Karim Benzema starting as striker.
The Spanish media have reported that Barcelona will honor their former manager, Tito Vilanova, with a mosaic before to the start of match and will spell out " Forca Tito" meaning Chin up, Tito!
Possible starting lineups:
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Sergio, Fabregas, Iniesta; Sanchez, Neymar, Messi
Real Madrid: Lopez; Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Carvajal; Khedira, Illarramendi; Ronaldo, Di Maria, Isco; Benzema
Predicted Score: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
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