Real Madrid and Barcelona are set for a showdown in the upcoming El Clasico, which is always a mouth-watering clash. Real Madrid and Barcelona have enjoyed contrasting seasons so far.
However, the Catalan side have found some form under current manager Xavi since the turn of the year. Los Blancos, meanwhile, have been rampant in the league and deservedly sit at the summit.
Real Madrid are 10 points ahead of Sevilla in second position in the league table after 28 games played.
Barcelona are in third position, but way behind in terms of points due to a poor start to the campaign. They are a staggering 15 points behind the league leaders. While an El Clasico win would suit Barcelona nicely, the stakes for Real Madrid are higher.
It is expected that Los Blancos will field their best XI for the clash. It is as follows:
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
There’s no doubt who will guard the Real Madrid goal in El Clasico. After a shaky start, Thibaut Courtois has significantly grown as a goalkeeper in the Santiago Bernabeu.
He has been dependable and has come up with big saves when required.
Courtois is high on confidence after a morale-boosting round of 16 win over Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).
He had a big say in that, having saved a crucial penalty in the first leg from Lionel Messi. Come the weekend, Courtois and his gloves will have a role to play once more in El Clasico.
Right-back: Dani Carvajal
Spanish right-back Dani Carvajal has had a mixed season. It’s possible that Carlo Ancelotti might go with Lucas Vazquez.
However, the magnitude of an El Clasico game may result in Carvajal getting the nod for his experience.
A lot will depend on Carvajal and the form he shows in El Clasico. Barcelona’s attack has looked lively in recent times. A poor performance from the experienced right-back could spell doom.
Ferland Mendy is still out, so left-back Nacho will retain his position. He was excellent against PSG and should slot right in the position.
Veteran Marcelo is an alternative, but it’s unlikely that Carlo Ancelotti will make a change
Aside from defensive duties, Nacho will also have a role in linking up with Vinicius Jr. Real Madrid’s left flank could be the difference maker if it works to its potential.
Centre-back: Eder Militao
Eder Militao has stepped up this season following the departures of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos. He has been energetic, dynamic and defensively robust. There were doubts over his abilities at the start of the season, but Militao has proven his case.
Militao’s task will be cut out against Barcelona, and he will have to keep his concentration levels high.
Barcelona’s current system is highly fluid, and Militao will have to be cautious to not get caught napping.
Centre-back: David Alaba
David Alaba’s first El Clasico was a memorable one where he scored the first goal in a tightly contested match. Ancelotti will play him once again in his preferred centre-back position, and Alaba will have to do an important job.
Besides being defensively strong, Alaba will have to coordinate well with his partner. The backline will also depend on Alaba’s experience in commanding things at the back.
Defensive midfield: Casemiro
Casemiro missed the crucial tie against PSG due to suspension and will be raring to go into the match.
Casemiro has been extremely important for Real in several El Clasico games in the past. His tussle with the Barcelona players is well-known, and Casemiro will once again look to control the midfield in El Clasico.
Xavi will likely want to gain control of the midfield to take Real Madrid out of the game. It will be up to Casemiro to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Central midfield: Toni Kroos
Having regained his fitness, Toni Kroos will be a natural selection for this important fixture. He was excellent against Mallorca, and there are no question marks of injury this time around. Real Madrid should be glad to have a fit Kroos back for El Clasico.
The German will hold the key for Real to dominate the midfield. His ability to stitch passes and keep the ball rolling will be necessary. Barcelona have footballers like Frenkie De Jong, so the job won’t be easy.
Central midfield: Luka Modric
Luka Modric has been the master of many El Clasico games for nearly a decade. The Croatian turned back the years with his performances against PSG. Karim Benzema may have scored a hat-trick, but Modric’s role in that turnaround was no less.
Modric may have gained a few years, but his gameplay is still at the top level. He will look to control the midfield and ensure that Barcelona’s attack doesn’t build up in the first place.
Left-wing: Vincius Jr.
Vinicius Jr. has had an outstanding season so far and will look to continue his form. The right-back position has been a thing of worry for Barcelona, and Vinicius Jr. will look to exploit that in El Clasico.
Against Mallorca, Vinicius showed a lot of tenacity and toughness. He can win matches for Real Madrid on his own and will undoubtedly be the hope for the Los Blancos faithful.
Rodrygo sustained an injury in the last game against Mallorca. However, he has since been declared fit as per the latest report from AS USA and should start the all-important El Clasico match.
The Brazilian has started his last two La Liga games ahead of Marco Asensio and is in decent form. Overall, he has made nine starts in 23 league games, contributing with two assists and his trickery and pace down the right will be an asset in the game.
Centre-forward: Marco Asensio
Prolific striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of El Clasico with a calf injury sustained in the 3-0 win over Mallorca.
Considering how important the 34-year-old has been to the team, Ancelotti may not want to take chances with important clashes against Chelsea coming up in the Champions League.
As seen in the latest Barca Blaugranes report, Ancelotti said:
“Benzema and Mendy won’t be here tomorrow and they’ll stay next week working with us,” he told a pre-match press conference. We’re not going to risk it. He can’t play tomorrow, he hasn’t trained. He has discomfort and can’t train or play.”
The Frenchman has been an absolute phenomenon this season and orchestrated a remarkable turnaround at the Santiago Bernabeu against PSG. Not having him leading the pack in a match like El Clasico would be a huge blow for Los Blancos.
In this scenario, we expect Marco Asensio to play in his position as a false nine. Notably, Los Blancos used him up front once this season in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey this season in Benzema’s absence.
The 26-year-old has scored eight goals in 14 La Liga starts this season. He has scored a goal in his last two league games and will be fancying his chances of doing better in the all-important El Clasico fixture.