League leaders Barcelona will measure forces with their bitter rivals Real Madrid, at the emblematic Camp Nou for Round 31 of La Liga, on a clash that will also serve to pay a heart-touching tribute to the legendary Johan Cruyff, who passed away last week.
We are at the moment in the final countdown for the greatest Spanish derby, between two of the most lethal powerhouses of European and World football. This El Clasico, however, doesn’t have the importance which it had in previous seasons, given the difference in points between both teams at the La Liga table.
Europe’s ultimate prize that is Champions League can still be snatched by Madrid, who will face Wolfsburg in the first leg of Champions League quarterfinal next Tuesday. Meanwhile, Barcelona have to face a much tougher challenge in Atletico Madrid, and the fixture may loom heavily irrespective of the fanfare of El Clasico. Still Barcelona are a solid favourite at home on Saturday, even after only picking up a draw in their last match.
Despite Marc-Andre Ter Steregen’s dissatisfaction towards his recent situation at Barcelona, Luis Enrique will certainly field Claudio Bravo on this weekend Clasico.
The possible injury to Jordi Alba might leave Luis Enrique to make some changes in the defensive quartet and probably adapt Aleix Vidal to the left side of the defence line. Dani Alves will possibly return to the right back position while Pique and Mascherano will take stage at the centre of defence.
With the usual midfield trio remain a doubt for El Clasico, Enrique will probably need to make some changes in the centre of the field also. Busquets and Iniesta will most probably recover in time for the high-voltage match and might have the company of Sergi Roberto or Arda Turan if Ivan Rakitic fails to recover from his calf injury.
Up front, there is no need to make any major changes at all and Luis Enrique will obviously field the usual dynamic trio, Messi, Suarez and Neymar, to cause another mayhem on Real Madrid’s defence line.
All thoughts are focused on El Clasico. Zinedine Zidane and his boys are only concentrating on Saturday’s clash against Barcelona. Nothing else matters now. Even though they have to face Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, Los Blancos are fully focussed on the crunch battle at the Camp Nou. Because of the fixture’s importance, the French manager and his coaching team will not at all compromise on the starting eleven and will pick their best possible side. Of those, 10 players have already been decided, except for any last-minute changes, which Zidane is not interested in making.
Keylor Navas, who returned from Costa Rica on Thursday, is untouchable in goal and he will have to do an uphill task to neutralise any kind of threat from the lethal MSN trio.
In defence, Pepe and Sergio Ramos, who has just recovered from their respective injury, are the most experienced and aggressive central defenders Zidane will want in a thrilling match like classic Marcelo, who enjoyed a welcome break during the internationals, will be on the left.
The only question mark in the starting eleven is the right back position. It is a tough battle between Dani Carvajal, who has been working really hard over the past two weeks in Valdebebas, and Danilo who rightly earned his place in the last few important games. However, the Brazilian may well keep his place in the starting line-up.
The midfield and attack are believed to be the same one who destroyed Sevilla 4-0. Casemiro is all set to start in the holding role. He will be assisted on the right by Luka Modric, and Toni Kroos on the left.
There is no such room for Isco and James who haven’t shown the necessary defence-attack balance which the BBC strike force of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo need all the time and which is essential if Real Madrid are looking to find that magical sparkle at Camp Nou.