With 13 video games ideal and Barcelona leading Real Madrid by two aspects, El Clasico at the Bernabeu on Sunday could maybe well moreover merely be pivotal in deciding essentially the most compelling La Liga title speed for years.
Neither crew has seemed severely convincing this season, each and every were hit by vital damage blows, and Real now bear a Champions League home defeat to soar attend from, so there are hundreds of uncertainties heading true into a game that is most likely to be annoying and carefully contested.
Right here are a number of the vital storylines to to find for on Sunday.
Can Benzema lift the weight for shot-afraid Real?
A important aspect of Real’s season has been their fight in front of plan, which came to gentle all over all once more within the middle of ultimate weekend’s shock 1-zero loss at mid-desk Levante – the eighth time this season they’ve failed to ranking.
At some stage within the early phases of the campaign, Karim Benzema carried the weight nearly single-handedly. The Frenchman netted 13 targets within the first sixteen league video games, preserving the crew’s total deficiencies throughout the penalty space.
But Benzema has mustered easiest one league plan since Christmas – an vital one, a success final month’s local derby against Atletico Madrid – and none of the crew’s other forwards bear stepped up to play their fragment.
|Real’s La Liga scorers, with the exception of penalties|
|eleven – Benzema|
|three – Casemiro, Kroos, Modric|
|2 – Bale, Ramos, Rodrygo, Varane, Vazquez, Jovic, Valverde|
|1 – Vinicius, Carvajal, Nacho, Isco, Hazard, Rodriguez|
A worthy stat this late into the season is that with the exception of penalties no other Real participant has scored extra than three league targets. Sergio Ramos is the crew’s 2nd-perfect scorer with 5, but three of those came from the location.
The crew’s forwards are, to be blunt, having very terrifying seasons in front of plan: Gareth Bale (two league targets), Eden Hazard (1), Luka Jovic (2), Rodrygo (2) and Vinicius Junior (1) bear all hugely underperformed, making the flexibility of midfielders esteem Toni Kroos and Fede Valverde (and, obviously, Ramos) to chip in with their gorgeous share of strikes extremely necessary.
To an extent, injuries could maybe well maybe be blamed for the forwards’ lack of targets, and final weekend’s loss at Levante supplied one other predominant setback as Hazard – in precisely his 2nd game since getting again from a three-month absence – limped off with a fractured ankle that is most likely to acquire him out for the relaxation of the season.
In stark distinction to the Real crew of Zidane’s outdated managerial stint, which generally struggled to play cohesive soccer but by no technique lacked goalscoring prowess – largely due to Cristiano Ronaldo – the latest aspect are extra than able to knitting together somewhat passing patterns but continuously fail to be effective where it matters essentially the most.
Barca’s injuries at the attend, alternatives up front
Barcelona will most likely be missing their first desire fleshy-backs, with Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba injured. They’re going to earn replaced by the uninspiring duo of Nelson Semedo and Junior Firpo, and there could be moreover a doubt over Gerard Pique after he damage his ankle within the middle of Tuesday’s arrangement at Napoli.
Additional forward, no longer too long within the past installed supervisor Quique Setien has hundreds of alternatives to relief key man Lionel Messi, who has all once more carried the crew this season by recording league-high totals of 18 targets and 12 assists.
Against Napoli in midweek, Setien opted for Messi and Antoine Griezmann in assault, stacking the midfield with a narrow quartet of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Frenkie de Jong and Arturo Vidal.
He could maybe well moreover merely decide for a identical desire this weekend, but a pair of intelligent alternatives may be found in. Firstly, teen superstar Ansu Fati offers width, goalscoring and a welcome dose of the unpredictable, and his inclusion would add one other dimension to the crew’s otherwise undermanned assault.
The true wildcard, on the alternative hand, could maybe well moreover merely be oldschool Middlesbrough misfit Martin Braithwaite, who grew to change into a shock emergency signing final week after Ousmane Dembele used to be sidelined for six months.
Braithwaite made a promising debut off the bench against Alaves final weekend, helping the final two targets. The Danish striker mute has to level to that he can make a vital contribution at moments that topic, but he does offer the tempo and directness that are otherwise missing.
Asserting adjust or risking penetration?
December’s meeting used to be the first goalless arrangement between the groups since 2002, and this weekend’s showdown could maybe well maybe effectively be a equally cagey affair.
With upright two aspects between them at the tip of the desk, the stakes are high – severely as head-to-head recordsdata, no longer plan distinction, separate groups level on aspects in La Liga. Meaning Sunday’s game is effectively rate an further indicate the winner, so averting defeat will perchance be extra tempting than chasing victory.
A key tactical ask will most likely be whether or no longer managers Zidane and Setien pursue cautious adjust or make a selection dangers to search out penalty box penetration.
Within the same manner that the Barca boss must obtain tips on how to complement Messi and Griezmann, Zidane’s predicament is how he can earn his crew’s attacking mess round Benzema.
Bale ought to be the glaring possibility, severely with Hazard out, but the Welshman has performed minute in contemporary weeks to present an explanation for beginning. Wingers Vinicius and Lucas Vazquez could maybe well maybe moreover be frail, but Rodrygo is unavailable thru suspension after getting sent off with the club’s B crew final weekend.
Zidane, who loves varied his crew picks and springing surprises, could maybe well maybe moreover comply with Setien’s technique and overload his midfield, with Casemiro, Kroos, Valverde, Isco and Luka Modric all doing extra in contemporary weeks to to find a beginning location than any of the forwards.
Setien, meanwhile, is an avid adherent of possession soccer: his crew tried extra than 1,000 passes in a home obtain end over Granada, while his insistence on building from the attend led to goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen making Sixty nine passes earlier this month against Getafe.
So Barca could maybe well maybe effectively dominate possession, but can they exercise it to produce Messi and Griezmann with ammunition?
This Clasico comes with many unknowns. The answers could maybe well maybe glide a protracted manner in direction of deciding this season’s champions.