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Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Predictions
It’s a fixture not for the faint-hearted, Spain’s most eagerly-anticipated showdown: Real Madrid vs Barcelona. This latest Clasico could have serious ramifications for which way the league title swings this term, with both clubs trying desperately to keep pace with current front-runners Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone’s men looked destined to walk the league title at one point, but their form has dipped significantly since the turn of the year, allowing the Clasico clubs to close the gap and grip ever tighter to their coattails, with just three points the difference now between Atleti in first, Barca in second, and Real in third.
Ronald Koeman’s men have enjoyed an extended rest owing to their early Champions League departure, though they did play on Monday night, edging 10-man Real Valladolid 1-0 at the death. The Dutchman will now be looking to build on that win, while simultaneously making sure he doesn’t become the first Barca boss to lose their opening two El Clasicos since Joaquim Rife in 1980.
For Zinedine Zidane, he executed the perfect gameplan to pacify Liverpool’s high-octane press in the Champions League, winning 3-1 in their quarter-final first leg on Tuesday, but focus must now switch to La Liga, where Barca travel to Valdebebas looking to fare better than their Merseyside counterparts.
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Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Match Stats
Lionel Messi may be the top scorer in El Clasico across all competitions (26) and in LaLiga as well (18), but this could be a game where Karim Benzema breaks his recent nine-game duck against the Catalan club. The Frenchman played a blinder against Liverpool in midweek, not finding the target, but ruthlessly creating gaps in the English champion’s threadbare defence and holding the ball up with distinction.
As it stands, he has scored at least one goal in each of his last six La Liga games (eight goals) and is now aiming to become only the fourth Real player to score in seven or more in a row in the competition in the 21st century, after Ruud van Nistelrooy (2007), Cristiano Ronaldo (four times) and Gareth Bale (2018).
Sergio Ramos is expected to miss the tie with a calf strain, but that certainly doesn’t take the bite out of this contest. Typically a tinderbox occasion on the turf, don’t rule out the referee dishing out his fair share of bookings as tempers flair and challenging go flying in. One player who will need to keep his studs firmly at ground level is Casemiro, who has registered more fouls (43), yellow cards (eight) and tackles (68) than any player on either side this season.
27 Feb 2019 – Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona – Copa del Rey
Real Madrid have won their last two games against Barcelona in La Liga, including autumn’s 3-1 win, which elicited early apprehensions about Koeman’s tenure, but they haven’t won three in a row (in all competitions) since 1978, something the Dutchman will desperately want to avoid.