First El Clásico of the Season – Quick Preview

First El Clásico of the Season – Quick Preview

Perhaps the most contested rivalry of soccer, El Clásico returns to place Barcelona and Real Madrid on opposite ends of the field. Camp Nou will host yet another matchup between the two giants, this time with major differences in rosters, management, and performances.

What are the differences, and what does this fact mean for Sunday’s bout?

The last time the clubs met was in May, when a 2-2 scoreboard settled the highly anticipated match. Luis Suárez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Gareth Bale were able to chip in on the scoreboard of a fairly balanced match. This time around, only two of those four players will get a chance to score, since each team’s biggest star simultaneously will be missing ‘the derby of Spain’.

For Barça, Messi misses the match due to an arm fracture which he suffered last week during Barcelona’s match against Sevilla. On the other end, Los Blancos have now famously lost Ronaldo to Juventus in his Serie A quest for glory. In addition, Barcelona have lost Paulinho and iconic Andrés Iniesta to Asian soccer leagues, while Real Madrid have acquired star keeper Thibaut Courtois and Ronaldo-substitute Mariano. Since the summer, Madrid’s bench welcomed Julen Lopetegui, after Zinedine Zidane gave up his managerial duties in June.

Real Madrid’s Lopetegui (left), and Barcelona’s Valverde

However, not much has changed in terms of each team’s strategic formations. Generally, Lopetegui has stayed true to Zidane’s directions, but the flow of offensive techniques has shifted more to the center. With Cristiano on the field, Madrid’s attacking would often come from the left, with Benzema serving mainly as a support for the Portuguese. Now, Mariano has become the focal point of attacking, who expects feeding from left-winger Marco Asensio and right-winger Gareth Bale — Benzema now starts from the bench.

How has each club adapted?

Real Madrid has seen a disappointing start of the season. They currently stand eighth on the La Liga table, with a scoreless streak of four games in their last six. The club has been handed unlikely losses from CSKA Moscow in the Champions League and one at home from Levante. To stir things up, Luka Modrić has now become the topic of much discussion, which could see him leave Spain to trade his white jersey with that of black-and-blues of Inter. In short, going into this El Clásico, things don’t look well.

Precarga foto ampliada
Benzema (nr.9) and Lopetegui reacting to loss at home vs Levante

As for Barcelona, Valverde has not changed things that much, either. With the exception of Rafinha having taken Messi’s place, Suárez, Coutinho, Rakitić, and Busquets work along to push forward. In their most important match without Messi, Barcelona showed great comfort in the way they built their attacking and defending against Inter. While the offensive line put up a show with the trademark tiki-taka passing, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué defended the Catalan net with convincing positioning, exposing Inter’s incapability to match their skill.

Barcelona’s expected core celebrating second goal against Inter

Despite everything, Madrid will step on the away pitch to contest the three points, and not just to participate. A win propels them from eighth to fourth in La Liga, and also makes a statement for what should be expected from them this season. For the home team, either a draw or a win shifts them up to first place, assuring their comfort when walking into this game.

Personally, ‘Cant del Barça’ should be expected to be played from Camp Nou’s speakers at the end of the game, as they are clear favorites. Nevertheless, Madrid shouldn’t be underestimated, as they could steal an away point, which wouldn’t mean much for the La Liga table, but it would benefit their current reputation in the soccer world.

The matchup will be televised on Bein at 11:15 ET.

Cover photo: laliga.es
Coaches photo: elespanol.com
Barcelona celebrating photo: wp.com
Benzema photo: as.com

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