The two arguably biggest teams Real Madrid in the world lock horns in the first La Liga El Clasico of the season with plenty at stake for both sides.
Reigning champions Los Blancos are well aware their title hopes will be all but gone if they fail to beat the Catalan giants who head to Santiago Bernabeu with a huge 11-point advantage.
A Must-Win for Real
Real Madrid have endured a mixed start to the new season. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost two and drew four of 15 La Liga matches which currently puts them in fourth place in the standings, behind Valencia, Atletico Madrid and leaders Barcelona.
Trailing the Catalan side by huge 11 points – but with a game in hand – Los Blancos will have to wave goodbye to chances of defending the title if they lose the forthcoming fixture against their fierce rivals. The meeting at Santiago Bernabeu does not only offer three points but also hope that Zidane’s men could be able to turn their fortunes around. Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has been under huge pressure this season with plenty of criticism being directed towards two of his first-team stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. And while the Portuguese played a crucial role in his team’s FIFA Club World Cup-winning campaign the Frenchman is very much still struggling to rediscover his scoring form. With only two goals in 11 La Liga matches, the 30-year-old striker could use the Barcelona match to send a strong message to his critics. Cristiano Ronaldo, on his own part, picked up his form with goals in last four matches for his team and is once again expected to lead forward despite having slight injury problems following the Club World Cup final vs Gremio.
Ballon d’Or winner managed to shake off the fitness problem and will be available to start against Barcelona, together with injury-troubled Welsh star Gareth Bale. Zinedine Zidane will, in fact, have no selection worries ahead of the big match.
Barcelona Out for A Revenge
Back-to-back Spanish Super Cup defeats back in August where the only two setbacks Barcelona have suffered this season. Ernesto Valverde has made a flying start to his Barcelona tenure and appears to be leading his team to the La Liga title.
Still unbeaten and with 42 goals scored in 16 league matches, Barcelona are enjoying a huge advantage in front of their biggest rivals. The Catalans are going through a purple patch which extended to all competitions they are a part of this season and will travel to Santiago Bernabeu in high spirits. Barcelona will hope Leo Messi will be able to continue his fine form which currently as him sitting top of the league’s scoring chart with 14 goals to his name. The Argentine wizard is being chased by revitalized Luis Suarez who had a slightly slower start to the season but is catching up with four goals in last four matches which took his total tally to nine this season. Last season’s trio might be gone with Neymar now at PSG, but his fellow Brazilian has emerged as the third most valuable Barcelona player this season with six La Liga goals and a string of impressive performances. Former Tottenham flop is proving to be a fantastic signing despite intense criticism and doubts he was welcomed with at Camp Nou.
Valverde with have to do without Samuel Umtiti and Gerrard Deulofeu who are ruled out for the occasion, whereas the long-term absentees Dembele, Rafinha and Turan are also out of contention.
Real Madrid have nothing to lose and no time to wait and are therefore expected to come strong from the off. Los Blancos need to win in order to keep their title hopes alive which could, ultimately, open plenty of space for Barcelona to burst forward.
Top pick: Barcelona 3.20 (11/5) @Betfair
Alternative pick 1: Leo Messi to score anytime 2.10 (11/10) @PaddyPower
Alternative pick 2: Barcelona to win and Over 3.5 goals 6.70 (57/10) @188bet