Real Madrid sit pretty at the top and Barcelona are for once trailing their arch nemesis. Real have looked in superb form this year and it will take a brave man to bet against them. Barcelona on the other hand have not enjoyed the greatest of starts to the season, but this game might well be the kick start they need.
Madrid will be missing the services of both Gareth Bale and team metronome Toni Kroos for this all important game, but they seem to have found able replacements for the same. FC Barcelona on the other hand have a fully fit squad and should give the Champions League winners a good run for their money. Madrid will most likely replace Bale with Lucas Vazquez and Kroos with Mateo Kovacic.
The Madrid starting XI will comprise of the standard Keylor Navas in goal, Dani Carvajal and Marcelo as the full backs and Sergio Ramos with Pepe in the heart of defense. The defense is the first choice line up for Zidane and they will be very difficult to break down. Pepe has been enjoying a stellar year so far and is one of the best center backs in the world right now. The ever reliable Keylor Navas and Sergio Ramos are as safe as they come.
The midfield would comprise of Casemiro as the defensive rock with Kovacic and Modric playing ahead of him. With Casemiro’s presence, Modric has extra freedom to portray his full array of tricks, and Mateo Kovacic has been a revelation so far. It will be interesting to see how he plays as an attacking option rather than a defensive one. Isco is also in with a shout for a place and it’s looks very close between these two as to who will get the start. The attack picks itself, with Cristaino Ronaldo and Karim Benzema up front with Vazquez in place of the injured Bale. Vazquez has proven to be a valuable option up front, and sits ahead of Marco Asensio and James Rodriguez as the winger.
As for Barcelona, they have a full strength squad and will be looking to cut the deficit down to three points come Saturday. They have uncharacteristically lost a lot of games they were expected to win and that hes left them 6 points behind leaders Madrid. However, the team is coming together slowly but surely. Barcelona have become slow starters in the past few seasons, and this term looks no different.
The defense comprising of Sergio Roberto, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba is a very settled one and one of the bet in the business these days. Doubts still remain over their two goalkeepers Ter Stegen and Cilissen, and they will be tested by the Madrid front line.
As for the midfield, the once dominant Barca midfield is fading these days. Age has finally caught up with Iniesta and Busquets and they are not able to dictate games like they used to. Iniesta is coming back from injury and he may take some time to settle in, but then again you can’t rule out a player of his class in big games like this one.
The player who I feel will be most important is Ivan Rakitic. He is the guy through whom most of Barca’s attacks run through these days and once again his contribution will be pivotal.
As for MSN, they are easily the best front three ever assembled and are always more than handful. Both Luis Suarez and Neymar are legitimate candidates for one of the top 3 players in the world and they are only superceded by Lionel Messi. Messi is like the Mozart on the pitch with Neymar and Suarez his disciples. Both these players and Iniesta are legends of the game, but it is Messi who stands out. His battle with Ronaldo is the stuff of football folklore, and this game is yet another chapter in the book.
Expect nothing less than 110% from both teams and sets of fans, and this game as always promises to be a dynamite!
Photo by HUSSA!N