What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Barcelona vs Real Madrid
When: Saturday 21st April, 2012, at 19:00 UK time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Unexpected Result

Barcelona were optimistic travelling to London ahead of their first leg Champions League semi-final encounter against Chelsea. With Lionel Messi breaking the goalscoring record with 14 strikes so far in this season’s edition, the Blaugrana were expected to come back home with a win, given the way they have been displaying their champagne football lately.

However, that was not to happen as the side were beaten 1-0 on the night courtesy of Didier Drogba’s effort. With the return leg scheduled to be at the Camp Nou on Tuesday, now Barcelona turn their attention to Real Madrid, where a win for Josep Guardiola’s men would see them close the gap on the league leaders to just a single point.

And to do that, nothing more than a win will do, believes Guardiola.

“The league is in the hands of Madrid”, said the Catalan coach. “Our intention is to try and win to extend the race. If they win or draw, the league is theirs. We have to win and if not we will prepare to try again.”

Given the seriousness of the situation, the Barcelona boss may opt to deploy a 3-4-3 formation, as an extra measure of assuring that his side come up with the spoils on the night.

Defining Days

What was expected to be a positive 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena ended on a sour note for Real Madrid in midweek, as the visiting side conceded a poorly defended goal in the dying moments of their Champions League encounter. Now, Los Blancos’ entire campaign will be defined in just five days as they travel to the daunting Camp Nou for this league season’s second Clasico, as well as facing the Bavarians one more time on Wednesday night.

A draw would be beneficial for Los Merengues, as they would stay four points ahead in the standings with just four games remaining. However, a win would surely guarantee the league title, and despite the fact that Real Madrid have only won once in the Camp Nou in recent memory – during the 2007/08 term under Bernd Schuster – Sergio Ramos has stated his intention to return from Catalonia with the win.

“This is football: the Champions League and La Liga can be at stake for a team in a short space of time. We want to win at the Camp Nou”, declared the versatile defender.

This upcoming game could be Jose Mourinho’s biggest managerial challenge so far. After having been ten points in front at one point, the loss of such a lead would be catastrophic for the capital side.

Recent form

Barcelona 4-0 Getafe (10/04; La Liga)
Levante 1-2 Barcelona (14/04; La Liga)
Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona (18/04; Champions League)

Real Madrid:

Atletico Madrid 1-4 Real Madrid (11/04; La Liga)
Real Madrid 3-1 Sporting Gijon (14/04; La Liga)
Bayern Munich 2-1 Real Madrid (17/04; Champions League)

Key absences

Barcelona: Seydou Keita; Eric Abidal; Andreu Fontas; David Villa; Ibrahim Afellay; Alexis Sanchez

Real Madrid: Ricardo Carvalho

Players to watch

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: He keeps breaking record after record. Boasting 41 goals so far in La Liga, the world’s best player has an opportunity to bring Barcelona’s rivals to their knees and reignite the title race once again. He is also keeping an eye on Gerd Muller’s record of 67 goals in a single season.

Real Madrid – Karim Benzema: The Frenchman is expected to spearhead the attack against Barcelona. Having scored a goal after 22 seconds when the two met in the corresponding fixture last December, Benzema then saw his side slump to a 3-1 home defeat. This time around, he will hope for better luck as Real Madrid play their most important game so far.

Match Prediction

Coming away unscathed from the Camp Nou would be beneficial for the visiting side. Commanding such a small lead, Mourinho will instruct his team to remain orthodox and play for the draw against a pressing Barcelona outfit that will command this encounter from start to finish. With La Liga being within reach, it would be inconceivable for Real Madrid to collapse. Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid.

Barcelona v Real Madrid could decide this season’s La Liga. Who do you think will win? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.