After the distraction of the International break, La Liga action returns as Real Madrid host Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the season.
Barcelona lead Real Madrid on the league table by 3 points and a win for them will see them stretch that lead to 6points which will all but cement their position in the race for the title.
Real Madrid suffered their first defeat under new manager Rafa Benitez in their last La Liga outing against Sevilla. They will be hoping to bounce back from that defeat with a win against their fiercest rivals in Barcelona. A win will see them go top of the table on goal difference.
This will be Rafa Benitez’s first taste of the El Clasico and it will be a perfect opportunity for him to silence many of those criticizing him for being too defensive minded in his game play this season so far.
Barcelona on the other hand are currently on a roll. Following an injury to Lionel Messi 2 months ago, many assumed this Barca team had lost a certain bite in attack. How far from the truth that has been. Neymar and Suarez have taken up the mantle in Messi’s absence and talk of Barca being a one man team has certainly been put to bed. They have scored 13 goals each and are the in-form attackers in the league so far. With Ronaldo having something of a goal drought so far, it would take a brave man to bet against this duo outscoring him and Messi in the league this season.
The El Clasico has over the years been the deciding factor in the destination of the La Liga crown and both teams will be well aware of that heading into it.
After the dream first season of coach Luiz Enrique’s reign in charge in which he won all but one of the competitions he was involved in, there was talk of how he was going to motivate a crop of players who had won almost everything. He has done that superbly this season. After a shaky start in which they lost 4-1 to Celta Vigo and Lionel Messi was out due to injury against Las Palmas, the task at hand became much more difficult than it already was. However, Barca have rallied well in hard times. They put together a string of good performances and as a result of that are sitting pretty at the top of the league.
Lionel Messi is reported to have had his first major training session with his teammates last week but it seems highly unlikely he will start as that can further aggravate his injury. He alongside Ronaldo have been the major protagonists over the years in this match.
The last time these two teams met at the Bernabeu last season Real Madrid won it 3-1.
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris last weekend, reports in the Spanish capital indicate that there will be extremely tight security and that even sandwiches will be searched. Many lives were lost in the attacks in Paris and every precautionary measure is being taken to avoid a repeat of such an incident.
- Lionel Messi did not feature for his country during the International break but reports suggest he might at least be on the bench after being out for two months. He is the highest goal scorer in the El Clasico.
- Neymar and Suarez who have been putting in virtuoso performances in Messi’s absence will most definitely be leading the line for Barcelona.
- Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez who both returned from injury last time out will start this match. The latter scored a goal in the defeat to Sevilla.
- Goal keeper Keylor Navas is facing a race for fitness to feature in the game. He has been in great form this season and has conceded only one goal in La Liga this season.
- Karim Benzema is unlikely to start eventhough he is back from injury. He was reportedly arrested by French police last 2 weeks on certain allegations.
- Marcelo is still out therefore Nacho will continue in his absence.
- Danilo will also continue at right back in the absence of the injured Dani Carvajal
- Isco is likely to start.
- Barca goal keeper Claudio Bravo will start in goal after returning from injury
The El Clasico is one of the most anticipated football matches in the world and is never short of drama and entertainment. With some of the best players on show, it never disappoints.
There have many ugly incidents in history of the match as a result of the fierce rivalry between the two clubs.
Don’t miss this one because it’s always nothing short of an epic!
KICK OFF is at 17:15 GMT.