What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Barcelona vs Real Madrid
When: Sunday 7th October, 2012, at 18:50 UK Time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Important Win

The first league Clasico of the 2012/13 La Liga season kicks off after just six fixtures, yet even at such an early stage of the campaign there is much to play for when Spain’s strongest two sides square off in the world’s most watched club football match. Holding a commanding an eight-point advantage over Real Madrid, Barcelona know that a win would make it hard for their opponents – if not impossible – to keep hold of the Spanish crown.

New coach Tito Vilanova knew the pressure that existed before taking control of the Barcelona dressing room from Josep Guardiola, as the Blaugrana had their most successful era under their former boss. However, things have been great for the ex-assistant, who has a perfect record in La Liga and the Champions League so far. Despite being a good distance away from each other in the standings, Vilanova nonetheless predicts a tough night for his side when they welcome Los Merengues.

“It will be a tough game against Real Madrid. What we must do now is to recover from these last two matches and start to think about the encounter at the weekend."

With Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique missing this one through injury, the Blaugrana will have to deploy a makeshift centre-back pairing. This could be one of their weak spots that Real Madrid will need to capitalise upon.

Back in Business

Whatever slump Real Madrid seem to have endured at the start of the season has been put to rest recently. Specifically, Los Blancos smashed nine goals in their last two games and look to be ready for El Clasico. But Barcelona are neither Deportivo La Coruna nor Ajax, and as such, a bigger effort will be needed by Jose Mourinho’s men to snatch another win at the mythical Camp Nou.

After scoring five goals in his last two games for Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo will undoubtedly be the team’s main threat in this clash. Speaking after the win against Ajax in Amsterdam, the forward declared that his side have the needed confidence to snatch the win, while praising the opposition.

“It will be a tough match, I think we are doing well, we are all committed to getting a good result. They have a good chance too because they have a very good squad and there is not much difference between the two teams, but we have confidence", declared the ex-Manchester United man.

Real Madrid have conceded too many times through set pieces of late however, and that will be a problem that Mourinho will need to address, as any mistake could prove to be fatal for his side, especially at the Camp Nou.

Recent form

Barcelona 2-0 Granada (22/09; La Liga)
Sevilla 2-3 Barcelona (29/09; La Liga)
Benfica 0-2 Barcelona (02/10; Champions League)

Real Madrid:
Rayo Vallecano 0-2 Real Madrid (24/09; La Liga)
Real Madrid 5-1 Deportivo La Coruna (30/09; La Liga)
Ajax 1-4 Real Madrid (03/10; Champions League)

Key absences

Barcelona: Carles Puyol; Gerard Pique; Isaac Cuenca; Eric Abidal; Thiago Alcantara

Real Madrid: None

Players to watch

Barcelona – Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean winger has endured a tough time recently, but his goal against Benfica was deserved and will have boosted his confidence. However, he will need to step up against Real Madrid and prove that he remains an important member of the Barcelona team.

Real Madrid – Sergio Ramos: Ramos’ transition from right to centre-back remains as easy as ever, but it is his off the pitch problems with Mourinho that has seen his name hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. Impossible to deal with at his best, he nevertheless has a tough task.

Match Prediction

Clasicos do not come any less important than this. Real Madrid have broken the psychological barrier that saw them trail Barcelona in recent years, but find themselves in a tough situation where it does seem only a win can keep their league hopes alive. However, Barcelona are undoubtedly in better form, focused on the task at hand and it is this determination that should earn them the win. Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid.

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