What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Real Madrid (2nd; 76 points) vs Barcelona (1st; 84 points)
When: Saturday 16th April, 2011, at 21:00 UK time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

Out for Blood

With eight points separating the eternal enemies prior to the start of this match, Real Madrid know deep inside that even the most resounding of wins cannot turn the league momentum in their favour. However, a good win could very well put them in the correct frame of mind as they prepare to face Barcelona in other, more crucial matches in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

Having secured their Champions League progression on Wednesday night with a 1-0 away win in London after drubbing Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 at the Bernabeu last week, Jose Mourinho’s team now turn their attention to the first of four Clasicos to be played in less than 20 days. During the press conference after the Tottenham game, midfielder Xabi Alonso highlighted the magnitude of the upcoming games against Barcelona: “It will be very intense, we know this very well. These are the games that much has been said about, they are a reality and now we must go for them."

Mourinho’s unbeatable home run came to end two weeks ago as the team crashed against minnows Sporting de Gijon. Against Barcelona, the Portuguese will have to find other forms of motivation and tactics to defuse the Catalan bomb. A bomb which exploded with a 6-2 victory here in 2009 – a repeat for Mourinho, after a 5-0 loss at the Camp Nou earlier this season, is unthinkable.

Let the Games Begin

It seems so long ago since Barcelona completely destroyed Real Madrid in November. A five-goal drubbing and some eyebrow-raising tactics from Jose Mourinho meant that the Blaugrana have never looked back in their quest to secure a third successive La Liga title. A win against their eternal foes would realistically end the domestic season.

Speaking ahead of the highly awaited encounter, Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta declared that his team will go for the win in the Bernabeu, even though their opponents won’t be easy to beat: “We know our goals and we must give everything. We will show off our brand of football and soul. They are a great team and they have a grand capacity at all levels. We will play our next game with respect for them, but we are there to play football.”

One area that Barcelona will have to pay extra attention to will be their defence. The team just hasn’t been the same with skipper Carles Puyol sidelined, and against an attack-potent team such as Real Madrid, things could get tricky should they reveal gaps at the back.


Recent form

Real Madrid:
Real Madrid 4-0 Tottenham Hotspur (05/04; Champions League)
Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Real Madrid
(09/04; La Liga)
Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Real Madrid (13/04; Champions League)

Barcelona 5-1 Shakhtar Donetsk (06/04; Champions League)
Barcelona 3-1 Almeria (09/04; La Liga)
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-1 Barcelona (12/04; Champions League)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Fernando Gago; Esteban Granero (suspended)

Barcelona: Carles Puyol; Eric Abidal; Bojan; Javier Mascherano (suspended)

Players to watch

Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo’s record in Clasicos remains horrific, as he – and the rest of the team – have failed to find the back of the net since landing in Madrid. Highly motivated after scoring in Los Blancos’ last three matches, the Portugal captain has a chance to finally break the deadlock as his team welcome Los Cules.

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: The diminutive Argentine has broken the hearts of Madridistas worldwide in recent Clasicos. Difficult to deal with at his best, Messi was at the heart of the 5-0 drubbing last November, even though he himself failed to get on the scoresheet. At the Santiago Bernabeu, he will be hoping to guide his team through another epic night.

Match Prediction

Few predicted that Real Madrid would crash the way they did against Barcelona earlier this campaign. And while a replay seems very much far-fetched, Los Merengues will be truly left for dead should they produce a similar showing. The home side have a chance of winning the match, but only if they manage to impose themselves from the very first minute.

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