El Clasico. It’s the biggest game in club football, two teams chock full with global stars like Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema and Suárez. So, in anticipation of Saturday’s blockbuster clash at the Camp Nou, we preview Spain’s premier rivalry, looking at where both teams currently are and what to look out for when Barcelona and Real Madrid go head-to-head. 

Current Form 

Although in previous years Madrid have struggled in league competition, winning La Liga only once in the past 8 years, they go into this match with their Catalan rivals as the more in form team. They’ve won their last six league matches, including an impressive 3-0 win at Atlético Madrid courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, and whilst they don’t look at their best they’re unbeaten in 32. That could be the main worry for Barcelona: Madrid are winning without playing that well.  

Andrés Iniesta may be back for El Clasico.
Iniesta may be back for El Clasico

In contrast, Barcelona have a few problems. Unexpectedly, they struggled at Anoeta against Real Sociedad last weekend where their record is absolutely terrible – they’ve taken 2 points out of the last 7 matches there. Before that though, against Málaga they struggled to create clear cut chances, despite the sublime performance of Carlos Kameni being necessary to deny a Barça without Messi and Suarez. So, whilst that front 3 of Barcelona can tear apart any team in the world, without Andrés Iniesta and with Sergi Busquets playing the worst football of his career they’ve looked decidedly ordinary.  

Team News 

To compound their problematic recent form, Barcelona have recently had a number of injuries to contend with, but they could be returning just in time for the Spanish champions. Gerard Piqué is back and, after playing in the underwhelming draws against Málaga and Real Sociedad, his match fitness will be back up. He’ll probably be joined in defence by the young French star Samuel Umtiti, himself recovering from an injury, or the experienced Javier Mascherano, with Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba at full back. The midfield may again welcome the little maestro Andrés Iniesta to their ranks. He’s been out for the past month, but such is his importance to his team that he could line up alongside Rakitic and Busquets for this vital fixture. The front 3 picks itself, with all members of MSN fit and raring to go. 

Gareth Bale's injury is a blow for Real Madrid.
Bale’s injury is a blow for Real Madrid

Real Madrid have an injured superstar to contend with though. Gareth Bale underwent ankle surgery the other day, after injuring himself for four months against Sporting Lisbon – a huge blow for Los Merengues. In defence, it’s expected that the trio of Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal will retain their place, with Raphael Varane joining Ramos in defence after Pepe played the full 90 minutes against Cultural Leonesa in midweek. In midfield, although Casemiro returned in midweek; El Clasico may be too soon for him. That would then leave a gap in midfield alongside Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, unless Zidane returns to the 4-4-1-1 that worked so well against Atléti and opts for a front 2 of Ronaldo and Benzema, with Lucas Vazquez and Isco in there too.  

Prediction 

This should be a close one. Neither team is playing particularly well, despite Real Madrid’s unbeaten streak and so could really go either way. The fact that this El Clasico is at the Camp Nou may swing the pendulum in the Barça’s favour, especially if Andrés Iniesta returns to orchestrate their passing game. Plus, they will always have that front 3 of Messi, Suarez and Neymar to punish any defence. However, Madrid can boast the league’s top scorer: Ronaldo, which is a pretty strong boast.  

I’m going to back Barcelona to bounce back at home to their great rival with a 2-1 win, however if Iniesta is missing I’m sure they’d take a draw in the season’s first El Clasico.