Monday, 16 April 2012

El Clásico preview

Football fans around the world will be transfixed by the most eagerly anticipated clash of the season on Saturday night. Barcelona vs Real Madrid at the Camp Nou promises to be explosive as Spain's big two go head-to-head once again in La Liga. With just four points separating the league leaders Madrid and second-placed Barca, the outcome will undoubtedly prove pivotal in the race for the title.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will both be eager to deliver  

Madrid have failed to overcome their bitter rivals in the league since May 2008, losing five and drawing two of the seven matches since. They have evidently lacked the mental edge over the Catalan giants in recent seasons and they will be more desperate than ever to change that this time round.

A win for Los Merengues would not only give them a seemingly unassailable lead of seven points at the top of the table; it would also give them a massive boost in belief ahead of a potential Champions League final showdown with Barca at the Allianz Arena in Munich on 19th May.

Barca go into the game having won eleven consecutive league matches and gradually whittled down Madrid's points advantage from ten points since 12th February. Over the same period, Madrid have won eight times and drawn on three occasions (Malaga (h) 1-1, Villarreal (a) 1-1 and Valencia (h) 0-0).

The match is sandwiched in between the first and second legs of the Champions League semi-finals as Barca face Chelsea (Wednesday 18th April (a) and Tuesday 24th April (h)) and Madrid go up against Bayern Munich (Tuesday 17th April (a) and Wednesday 25th April (h)). The extra day's rest for Madrid is certainly something they can draw plenty of encouragement from.

As for the sub-plots, there are several to feast your eyes on. The best two players on the planet, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, are tied on the record-breaking La Liga tally of 41 goals and both know that their performance in a game of this magnitude could go a long way to deciding who prevails as the winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year and the UEFA Ballon d'Or come the end of the calendar year. Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho rekindle their mind-game ridden feud while the core of Spain's 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup-winning side put international allegiances aside once more with emotions set to run extremely high.

Madrid would no doubt settle for a share of the spoils but would equally enjoy ending their jinx against the Spanish champions, and laying down a huge marker with the latter stages of the Champions League in mind. Barca, on the other hand, will view the game as a must win if they're to emulate the club's record of four consecutive La Liga titles between 1990-91 and 1993-94.

Regardless of the result, the millions of viewers across the globe are set to be treated to a football match of the very highest calibre. A mixture of confrontation and play-acting often overshadows the action on the pitch when the two sides meet, but if that can all be refrained from, they both have the potential to ensure that Saturday's encounter lives up to it's illustrious name. El Clásico is upon us.

Predicted team line-ups
Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Fabregas, Sanchez, Messi.

Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Khedira, Alonso, Di Maria, Kaka, Ronaldo, Benzema.

Predicted scoreline
Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid

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