This coming Saturday, the biggest fixture in domestic football will once again be beamed across the world for all football fans to sit back and enjoy. El Clasico is without question one of the most prominent dates in the yearly sporting calendar and like always, a lot is on the line.
The La Liga title may be out of Real Madrid's grasp as they currently lie in third place, ten points behind Barcelona, but the derby fixture should still be viewed as a promising opportunity for Zinedine Zidane and his troops to display the enormous quality they possess.
The one competition they have a chance of winning is the Champions League and if they are to achieve European glory, they will have to beat the best. A positive display against their biggest rivals would go some way to reinforcing the belief that they can attain the most coveted of silverware.
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Can Madrid put Barca to the sword
Back in November, Madrid suffered one of the worst defeats in their modern history. Rafa Benitez put out a squad which possessed little match fitness and Luis Enrique's mercurial Catalan talents disposed of their opponents 4-0 at the Bernabeu.
Lionel Messi wasn't even playing, but his replacement Sergi Roberto filled in admirably while Luis Suarez, Neymar and Andres Iniesta, in particular, highlighted the gulf in class between the two sides, an image which would have hurt Madrid and their loyal fans.
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Barcelona have arguably improved since then, with the team embarking on a sensational unbeaten run which currently stands at 39 games in all competitions. Teams have tried and failed spectacularly to halt Enrique's side, so can Zidane and his troops destabilise this footballing juggernaut?
Madrid squad approaching full strength
With a number of injuries throughout the season often hampering the consistency and quality of this Madrid side, for once they will be entering a fixture of this magnitude with a side close to firing on all cylinders.
Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema seem to have overcome their injury woes and both performed very well in the 4-0 win over Sevilla. Having their front three, including Cristiano Ronaldo, performing to a high standard will be crucial if they are going to challenge Barcelona.
Ronaldo has been in impressive form this season, with 41 goals and 13 assists in all competitions in just 38 games. With his offensive buddies alongside him again, the Portuguese superstar could be a huge threat to what has been a weak Barcelona back line at times.
In midfield, the team also seem to be finding a balance with Casemiro providing an essential defensive screen, while Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have forged an effective duo. The midfield battle will be very decisive in how the Clasico pans out and Madrid can certainly rival Barcelona's, at least on paper.
Villareal draw should inspire hope
The Catalans in their last fixture drew 2-2 with Villarreal, letting a two-goal lead slip in the process. Enrique's side struggled to make a sustained impression on proceedings for large portions of the game and were lucky not to lose the game in the closing stages.
By no means were Barcelona desperately poor, but the volume of defensive lapses and lack of domination across the pitch will surely give Madrid some hope.
The way the Catalan's play means that teams with some attacking impetus will get some opportunities and this is something Madrid will have to exploit.
It is something that they are more than capable of producing, particularly with the resources at their disposal. Zidane and his men should see this fixture as an audition to show their quality and remind the rest of Europe how threatening they are.
Another heavy loss and they could suffer a crisis of confidence, something which has happened before. The club will surely be eager to prevent this happening again in a game of vital importance.
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