This time tomorrow planet football will come to a standstill to watch what is very obviously one of the most eagerly anticipated El Clasico battles of recent times.
Whilst only three points are at stake, the quality of player on show for both sides make this a game of unreal magnitude, compared to any Barcelona vs. Real Madrid games that have gone before. Let’s take a look at three reasons why the home side will emerge victorious in this one.
Lightning fast counter attacks
How many times have we seen the pace of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in particular, destroy opposition defences? They're left in a slipstream as the afterburners are locked on.
Short, sharp passes to the wide men and before you know it, either speed merchants are on their bikes. If Barcelona commit too many men forward as they are prone to do, there’s not too much doubt that they will be punished.
Bale did so expertly in last season’s Copa Del Rey final, because genuine pace is frightening and the one thing that defences hate. Real have it in spades.
Toni Kroos pulling strings
When Xabi Alonso followed Angel Di Maria out of the exit door at Real, Cristiano Ronaldo was just one to voice his concerns. Things have settled down since the summer, with Toni Kroos proving every bit the pass-master that Real knew he would be when getting him to swap Bavaria for Madrid.
Sat close enough to the back four to provide the perfect out ball when under pressure, Kroos eye for link-up play has often seen Los Blancos turn defence into attack in the space of just a couple of considered through balls. An extraordinary ability to find time and space in even the most congested midfield areas allow, the German to dictate proceedings with ease.
Barca’s inability to defend set pieces/high balls
Let’s face it, Barcelona not being able to find the formula to adequately combat either crosses from wide areas or from dead ball situations, isn’t a new phenomenon. Well before Luis Enrique arrived on the scene the Blaugrana were reduced to little lost boys when facing high balls raining down into their own box.
For a side that can boast such excellence throughout it’s ranks, it remains a mystery to many as to why the Catalans are still unable to master such a basic defensive requirement.
Real’s wide players will ensure that Jordi Alba and Dani Alves will have to be on their A game for the entirety of the 90 minutes. Expect Barca to suffer the same treatment that Angel Di Maria metered out in the corresponding fixture last season.
With Karim Benzema prowling the central areas and ready to utilise a not insignificant aerial threat, Barca’s centre-back pairing are in for a long night too.