Coming into the weekend, with 10 video games left, Real Madrid led Sevilla by 10 factors on the prime of LaLiga standings and each Barcelona and Atletico Madrid by 15.
Sunday’s Clasico — contest between Real Madrid and Barcelona — will not be deciding which approach LaLiga title race goes however it’s nonetheless a decisive contest between two of Spain’s largest golf equipment.
For Barcelona, it is a chance for supervisor Xavi Hernandez to spotlight how nicely, and the way shortly, the challenge is taking form. And for Real Madrid, a win might prolong their lead on the prime to 13 factors if second place Sevilla do not beat Real Sociedad. Such a margin would all however solidify Madrid’s title bid and permit them to concentrate on the Champions League.
No Benzema for Real Madrid
Real Madrid come into El Clasico with a 10-point distinction over Sevilla and a mammoth 15 factors over Barcelona. A fixture that at all times, at all times mattered is just not essential in phrases of the league however pivotal for each golf equipment to show their credentials to the remainder.
Real Madrid will not be given a lot of an opportunity that they’d have the opportunity to beat Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals regardless of coming from two objectives down to get the higher of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in dramatic vogue final week. Madrid continued their momentum by beating Real Mallorca 3-0 on Monday however misplaced Karim Benzema in the method.
A calf damage has compelled one in all Real Madrid’s most vital gamers since Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit to miss the Clasico. “We never take risks with him,” stated supervisor Carlo Ancelotti. “He still has some pain. It’s a small injury, but it prevents him from training and playing,” he added.
“We will have two weeks to prepare him for the end of the season, where he will be very important, as always. He’s always come back from little glitches like this, and he’s always made a difference.”
Against Mallorca, Benzema bagged a brace to tick his objectives tally to 413 objectives and change into France’s highest goalscorer overtaking Thierry Henry. The Frenchman has been in pulsating type with 22 league objectives and scored a 17 minute hat-trick against PSG to flip the tie round.
The essential query for Ancelotti can be who slots in now that Benzema is injured? Vinicius Junior, with 14 objectives, is the second-highest league scorer for Madrid and is an apparent inclusion. Ancelotti has loads of choices to fill in for Benzema: Rodrygo and Marco Asensio have performed most this season, however the Italian coach might additionally recall Mariano Diaz, Luka Jovic, Eden Hazard or Gareth Bale.
Asensio as a “false nine” and having bullet practice in Federico Valverde make romping runs could be a extra possible possibility.
Barcelona on the surge
The final time these two met, Barcelona — with out Lionel Messi as a squad member — have been crushed 2-1 at residence and indignant followers banged on then coach Ronald Koeman’s automobile urging him to resign. Fast ahead 5 months and there is a new sheriff in city with a brand new group, renewed persona and outcomes have began to present.
In that loss in October, Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay began in assault with Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Agüero coming off the bench. In a powerful overhaul and improve in the January switch window, Barcelona introduced in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Arsenal, Ferran Torres from Manchester City and Adama Traoré from Wolves. Dani Alves, 38, has returned to the membership and been completely essential in creating probabilities. Pedri and Ousmane Dembele are additionally offering the spark to Barcelona’s assault.
The influence is there to see. Before January, Barcelona had simply 32 objectives in 21 league video games. In distinction, they’ve scored 20 objectives in final six video games. Against Osasuna, Riqui Puig discovered the online and have become the twenty second completely different participant to rating for Barca in the league this season. Never have so many alternative gamers scored for a membership in the identical season in the Spanish prime division.
Xavi recognises this as the chance to additional emphasise how a lot the group has grown. “We have grown as a team since I arrived but it doesn’t mean anything, it’s a Clasico and we have to show our personality,” Xavi stated.
“It is a chance to show we are in a good moment because we have had good results but tomorrow is another litmus test, to prove that against another big team, we can play and impose our game.”
Xavi added: “Otherwise I know the media and they will say the improvement has not been seen in the most important game of the season.”
For Barcelona, the massive resurgence has include Aubameyang’s arrival. Benched at Arsenal, the Gabon worldwide joined as a free agent and took a pay minimize given the membership’s monetary scenario.
“The truth is, I kind of expected this because I have been working hard and wanted to make a good start (at Barcelona),” Aubameyang, who has scored seven objectives in simply 10 appearances, stated.
“Coach already knew what I could do when I arrived and we have worked hard on the pressure that I must put on defenders (to recover the ball) and knowing how to play in tight spaces that is characteristic of this team,” Auba stated.
— Barcelona have not crushed Real Madrid in LaLiga since 2019. That is 5 straight wins for Los Blancos in all competitions. The final group to dominate for so lengthy was Pep Guardiola’s Barca which gained additionally gained 5 in a row between 2008 and 2010.
— Thibaut Courtois, one of the crucial vital Real Madrid gamers this season, has the second highest save share in LaLiga. With 78.4 per cent, he is solely behind Sevilla’s Bono (80 per cent).
— New signings have made an impression already at Barca. Aubameyang has 5 league objectives, Torres has three and assisted two. Alves, a legend on the membership, and Traore even have two assists.
Barcelona are on a four-game successful streak and are unbeaten in 12 video games. Since Xavi’s arrival, Barcelona have progressed from ninth to third in LaLiga and will nicely end forward of Sevilla in second.
Real Madrid, in the meantime, have gained 5 straight in all competitions with their final defeat coming to PSG in the primary leg of the Champions League Round of 16. In the league, Real have been crushed simply twice this season — by Espanyol and Getafe.
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