Zinedine Zidane heads into his first El Clasico as manager looking to stun the in-form La Liga champions and cut the gap behind Luis Enrique’s team, who have a ten-point cushion ahead of their greatest rivals in the La Liga standings.
All about Cruyff
Saturday’s return to club action will be the perfect opportunity for Barcelona to pay tribute to their departed legend Johan Cruyff. Dutch maestro will be remembered at Camp Nou on Saturday in a number of ways. Barcelona players will be wearing “Gracies, Johan” on their shirts as the tribute to Cruyff replaces the FIFA World Club Champions emblem on the front. What is more, both teams will be accompanied with children wearing shirts representing Cruyff’s charity organisation. A commemorative video in Cruyff’s honour will be played on big screens at Nou Camp, while the fans will display a 90,000-piece mosaic paying tribute to the legendary footballer. As for the game itself, Barcelona players will lack no motivation against their arch-rivals and the Catalans will be keen to put a memorable display in order to pay their own respect to the man who brought revolution to Barcelona and football itself. Luis Enrique will be glad to welcome back his players following international duty and delighted to hear that his impressive MSN trio is fit and ready to play. Luis Suarez was in good form for Uruguay during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers as he made his return following the biting suspension from 2014 with a goal.
Luis Adriano will have to do without Luis Adriano who hurt his leg and will be out for about ten days, which means he will have to miss the Champions League quarterfinals against Atletico Madrid as well. Mathieu picked up an injury playing for France and remains a selection doubt for the Saturday’s game.
Zidane’s maiden managerial El Clasico
Zinedine Zidane is bracing for his first ever El Clasico on the touchline. The French manager has been a positive influence on the team as Real Madrid are currently enjoying a five-match winning run in all competitions, following the devastating 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid which put a serious dent in El Blancos’ title hopes. Sitting ten points behind Barcelona in third place, Real Madrid will nevertheless be highly motivated to close the gap and inflict a blow to the Catalans following back-to-back El Clasico losses in 2015. Zidane will, however, have to beat the tradition in his maiden El Clasico as it has been nine years since a Real Madrid manager has won his first ever match against Barcelona. Bernd Schuster last did it with a 1-0 win at the Camp Nou in 2007, but Juande Ramos, Manuel Pellegrini, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez all failed to triumph in their first ever El Clasicos. Zinedine Zidane is aware that a win over Barcelona would be good as gold as his team is in desparate need of a morale boost in the closing stages of the season. The French manager is expected to field his strongest line-up with his own trio BBC spearheading the attack. Casemiro is expected to start in midfield in front of Isco and James, while Toni Kroos is returning to Madrid with two goals in as many games for Germany under his belt.
Sergio Ramos returned from international duty with a knock and his fitness will be assessed in the following days. Marcelo is another doubt for Real Madrid, while Zidane is still having second thought on whether Raphael Varane should start instead of Pepe in the heart of defence.
Spanish greatest are returning to club action following an international break and there is no doubt that both teams will be brimming with confidence to record a win that will have little competitive significance, but a huge morale value. Barcelona have been held by Villarreal just before the break and Enrique’s men will be highly motivated to get back to winning ways and to triumph in Cruyff’s honour.
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