Football News

Real Madrid v Barcelona predicted XIs: Xavi’s derby specialist in form, Benzema out

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 14:00, 20 March 2022

Clásico rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona meet for the 249th time at the Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday evening (8pm UK time).

Carlo Ancelotti’s men are 10 points clear of Sevilla at the top of the table. As for their visitors, they are in third place on 51 points with 11 matches left to play. Barça, who are seeking their first league win in encounters between the two clubs since March 2019, trail Real by 15 points.

Real Madrid v Barcelona: El Clasico odds from William Hill

  • 90 minutes result: Real Madrid 11/10 | Draw 13/5 | Barcelona 9/4
  • Pierre Aubameyang goalscorer markets: First goalscorer 4/1 | Anytime goalscorer 6/5

Odds correct at time of publication. You must be over 18 to gamble. For more information, visit Be Gamble Aware.

Both are currently enjoying impressive unbeaten runs. Los Blancos have not lost in eight while the Catalan giants are seeking a 13th consecutive game without loss.

Real Madrid team news vs Barcelona: 

  • Ins: Rodrygo
  • Outs: Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema

Eyebrows were raised when Real Madrid re-appointed Carlo Ancelotti last summer. The journeyman Italian tactician had enjoyed a modest spell at Everton but few would have imagined him returning to Spain’s capital and leading Los Blancos to more silverware. As things currently stand, they are fighting on two fronts. Securing a first La Liga title — to go with his Serie A, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and Premier League crowns — looks likely for Ancelotti. Real enjoy a healthy 10-point lead with 10 matches remaining, but the Madrid boss is preaching caution and he more than anyone knows what it’s like to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

“Nothing changes. We have an advantage, and that’s good, but we have to get to the international break in good form,” he told reporters. “I’m telling you that I’ve lost a Champions League final, winning 3-0. I hope it doesn’t happen again.”

But Ancelotti has been dealt a blow ahead of Sunday’s clash with Karim Benzema unavailable due to a muscle problem, meaning Real Madrid will miss his 22 league goals. No other player in La Liga has posted this much and seven of those strikes have given Real Madrid the lead.

Benzema has also netted in two of his last three meetings with Barcelona in all competitions, as many goals as he managed in his previous 16 El Clasico appearances.

Ancelotti did not give any hints as to exactly who would replace Benzema, though he did list the likes of Gareth Bale, Mariano Diaz, Luka Jovic, Isco and Rodrygo as potential alternatives.

Predicted Real Madrid XI vs Barcelona:

  • Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Nacho; Modric, Kroos, Casemiro; Asensio, Rodrygo, Vinicius. (4-3-3)

Barcelona team news vs Real Madrid: 

  • Ins: None
  • Outs: Sergino Dest, Nico González, Álex Balde, Sergi Roberto, Abde Ezzalzouli and Ansu Fati
  • Doubts: None

What a difference a managerial change makes. The last days of Ronald Koeman’s reign as Barcelona head coach was uncomfortable to watch for those who love the club. It became clear he wasn’t able to take the club any further, and Koeman was subsequently replaced by another Barça legend in Xavi.

Xavi toughed it out at the beginning, subsequently laying the foundation for their impressive run of late. A second-place finish is on the cards where at one stage breaking into the top four felt like a bridge too far. The Catalan outfit are five points behind Sevilla with 10 matches remaining this season.

A productive winter transfer market has been a major catalyst in their stellar turnaround. The acquisition of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was an important moment. The Gabonese striker has been nothing short of remarkable and Xavi is thanking his lucky stars. “Aubameyang is a present that has fallen out of the sky,” he said. “It’s not just [the goals], it’s how he trains and his professionalism. He’s an example, [all the players] are.”

To put his incredible early form as Barça’s chief forward into some perspective, only Benzema has scored as many goals (5) since Aubameyang’s first start in La Liga.

His Real counterpart has four assists to go with those strikes, but Aubameyang is somewhat of a derby specialist. Heading into his first Clasico, he’s previously stuck in the North London derby (for Arsenal against Spurs), Derby Rhône-Alpes (for Saint-Étienne against Lyon) and Revierderby (for Borussia Dortmund against Schalke 04).

Predicted Barcelona XI vs Real Madrid:

  • Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Araújo, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, F. de Jong; Dembelé, Aubameyang, Torres. (4-3-3)

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