Barcelona meet Real Madrid in the return fixture of El Clásico on matchday 26 of La Liga. Blaugranagram gives its preview and predictions.
It’s that time of the year, folks. It has been a turbid past week in Spain with the Negreira scandal catching flames. Real Madrid have decided to go against Barcelona in the case after weeks of silence, adding to the intensity of the much-awaited Clásico. That being said, let’s jump ito the preview.
There are no two ways about it. Barcelona win and they almost seal La Liga here so it would be fair to say that the outcome of the title race could be decided on Sunday. Barcelona will host Madrid in what will be Xavi Hernandez’s first home Clásico so that adds to the occasion. The former La Liga champions currently lead their rivals in second place by 9 points and Sunday could be a chance to go 12 up or at least, maintain the gap.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side will be ready for the Clásico, having eliminated Liverpool from the UEFA Champions League round of 16 earlier this week. For them, however, fatigue could be an issue as they will have played Barça, after only three days of rest. While los Blancos have looked like a dominant force in Europe, they have been scratchy in the league with five draws and three defeats in comparison to Barca’s two defeats and as many draws. For them, anything less than a victory on Sunday will be damaging to their title hopes (or their hopes of at least getting back into the race) and so one can expect them to come out all guns blazing.
Xavi’s men have been very in and out lately but have done well to bounce back after successive defeats against Manchester United in the Europa League and Almería, earlier this month in La Liga. Since then, the Blaugrana have registered three straight 1-0 victories, including one against the visitors on Sunday in the away leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals. For them, the silver lining will be the ability of their defense to contain the opposition even at times of great pressure and the form of Raphinha. The Brazilian winger has been one of the most in-form players in Europe in 2023 and will be a key player for Barcelona on Sunday.
Luckily for Barça, their opponents on Sunday have also looked in and out lately. Madrid have only managed to register three wins in their last five La Liga fixtures while registering two draws against Atletico Madrid (home) and Real Betis (away). All hopes will once again rest on the prolific duo of Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema. Ancelotti’s midfield has looked inconsistent lately, so Sunday could be an interesting test for his side against an in-form Barca midfield.
Barcelona will be buoyed by the return of Pedri, and Ronald Araujo. Pedri has recovered from a hamstring injury that he sustained in mid-February against Manchester United while Araujo returns after serving a one-match ban against Athletic Club following a red card against Valencia. One, however, shouldn’t expect Pedri to be slotted in straightaway for this highly anticipated clash and there is a chance that Xavi might not risk playing him at all to prevent a relapse. But, if he is 100% fit for the game, one could expect him to make an appearance in the game at some stage in the second half.
Real Madrid will be missing the services of David Alaba but that’s about it for them as they could be fielding a full-strength XI. Fatigue, as mentioned, could be an issue but we will have to see about that. Vinicius Jr has been the standout player for them this season and Benzema has found form lately so it could be interesting to see how the duo combine against a solid Barcelona backline.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen: Koundé, Araujo, Christensen, Balde: Busquets, Roberto, de Jong: Raphinha, Lewandowski, Gavi
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Nacho; Kroos, Camavinga, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
Barcelona have got a point to prove and amidst the recent turbulence surrounding the club, Xavi’s men will be eager to make a statement. Playing at home with a sell-out crowd behind them will give them a significant advantage combined with Madrid’s midweek fixture fatigue troubles. So expect a final scoreline of 2-0 in favor of the good guys.
Prediction: Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid