Whilst Barca come into Spanish football’s biggest fixture amid a crisis under soon-to-leave Luis Enrique, a confident Real Madrid side, having just knocked Bayern Munich out of the Champions League, are strong favourites.
Luis Enrique has a number of key decisions to make, especially regarding the formation. Barca’s classic 4-3-3 was failing them often this season, forcing them too deep to attack or defend efficiently, but after switching to a 3-4-3, they are now exposed in full-back positions, where they have been found wanting recently, and Messi is often lacking the space to cause danger.
It remains to be seen whether Luis Enrique will take a huge gamble and try a new system or whether he’ll attempt to alter one of the previous two formations slightly.
Whilst the front three have often been their get-out-of-jail card this season, when they fail to perform, the rest of the team doesn’t step up.
Their midfield has been called into question on many occasions this season with Denis Suarez and Arda Turn being underwhelming, Andre Gomes being very poor and Iniesta and Rakitic being inconsistent. The former seems to lack fitness and therefore doesn’t perhaps get the game time the Barca need him to get, but we do see flashes of the old Iniesta now and again, and Barcelona will need him to show more than just a flash tonight.
With regards to the front three themselves, Neymar foolishly finds himself suspeneded, meaning Paco Alcacer has the unenviable task of filling his boots tonight.
Messi and Suarez will need to find form again also if Los Azulgranas are to breech Real’s solid defence.
As for Real, they have just progressed into the Champions League semi finals, ousting the formidable Bayern Munich in the process, and they will be brimming with confidence.
Full backs Dani Carvajal and Marcelo could be key to winnning the game, as Sergi Roberto doesn’t seem quite at home at right-back and Jordi Alba has lacked game time and is out of form, so Real’s impressive duo could dominate both flanks. especially Marcelo who will be up against a frail Sergi Roberto, whilst he could have even more freedom to get forward and cause havoc as he loves to do with the unwillingness to track back of Lionel Messi.
Whilst there are question marks over the availability of Gareth Bale, there is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema will be very dangerous, and Ronaldo’s outstanding ariel ability will cause Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti problems throughout the match, especially if Marcelo is allowed the freedom to supply the Portuguese with crosses.
Also in Madrid’s favour is the recent form of Isco.
Often left out of the starting line up, there is no doubting the young Spaniard’s quality and after a fine performance against Sporting Gijon, he could well be in contention to start the Clasico.
And if you were thinking that there would surely be some form of problem for Zidane’s men, you would note the absence of Pepe and Raphael Varane at the back.
However, Real should be just fine anyway, as Sergio Ramos and Nacho Fernandez are fit, the former being a world-class centre half, the latter being a real indicator of the strength of Madrid’s squad.
Where Real have quality players ready to step in to aid fatigue and injuries such as Isco, James and Nacho, Barcelona have players who have failed to fill such voids, Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer and Denis Suarez to name a few.
Overall, that is oneof the main reasons why Real have been able to sustain form throughout the year, and with a solid system in place, confident players and pretty much everything in their favour, it looks as though this game can only be won by Real Madrid – but this is El Clasico, and anything can happen.