Real Madrid head into Saturday’s Clasico with Barcelona fresh from a dominating display against Liverpool in the Champions League, and with victory for either side having the potential to influence the LaLiga Santander title race, here are eight factors which could help swing the match.
Zinedine Zidane‘s own future has been called into question of late, however the French coach is merely drilling his players along his usual ‘every match is a final’ mantra that has worked so successfully for him in Madrid.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have enjoyed a renaissance under Ronald Koeman after his recent change of system, and it seems as though we are getting a Clasico where both teams are arriving into it in a good moment, as opposed to the first meeting between the two earlier in the campaign.
Atletico Madrid‘s lead at the top is now down to a solitary point, despite many pundits awarding them the title at the mid-season mark, and with both Barcelona and Real Madrid looking to overcome this deficit, here are the aspects which could be vital at the Estadio Alfredo di Stefano on Saturday.
Inertia of results
Both teams are coming off a great run of results. Real Madrid‘s last defeat came on January 30 against Levante, and since then they have chained 11 wins and two draws. Barcelona last tasted defeat on February 16 when they fell to PSG.
Moods of the teams
Thanks to the aforementioned results, both teams are in good spirits ahead of then match, although the 3-1 victory over Liverpool has made Real Madrid feel even better.
Some of their players have regained confidence, especially Vinicius Jr after his brace against the Anfield club.
Barcelona struggled to achieve a win against Real Valladolid, which could dampen spirits somewhat.
It seems that at this point, the recovery of Real Madrid‘s players from their efforts in the Champions League may be decisive.
This Champions League clash could have a double-effect on Los Blancos’ players. On one hand they could arrive with traces of physical fatigue, whereas they could arrive with maximum intensity after such a high-demand match in midweek. Barcelona will feel more rested, which should give them a certain advantage.
Both teams have accumulated defensive injuries and Real Madrid won’t be able to count on any of Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos or Raphael Varane.
Still, against Liverpool, Lucas Vazquez, Eder Militao and Nacho Fernandez proved to be reliable substitutes, almost to the point of forming a stronger defensive unit that Barcelona will be able to put out on Saturday.
Ronald Koeman’s team depends on the presence of Gerard Pique to be able to provide leadership, but he has been inconsistent in terms of his availability.
This is the area where the match will be decided. Both teams have top international players. Whoever is able to impose their rhythm will have a significant advantage. The trident formed by Casemiro, Kroos and Modric is the heart of Real Madrid and it seems unbeatable right now.
However, Barcelona with Busquets, De Jong and Pedri can compete and demonstrate their own ability during the match.
Dembele, Messi and Griezmann have been more reliable in terms of goals than Vinicius Jr, Benzema and Asensio, however Los Merengues’ trio are on quite the roll at the moment.
Everything seems to depend on whether Messi has a day of inspiration, which if he does then Barcelona are halfway towards a victory. If he doesn’t, then Real Madrid will become clear favourites.
Barcelona has players that are capable of unbalancing a defence through individual actions. Messi stands out in this regard above anybody else, whilst Ousmane Dembele is another of the great specialists in creating chances. Barcelona depend a lot on the magic in these two players.
Real Madrid are working better as a unit in different concepts of the game. They retreat in defence and arrive with more organisation in attack.
They are a team that is generally more supportive of each other, although Barcelona have to a degree improved in this regard. Saturday’s result may show different, but Barcelona are still behind their rivals in relation to this.