Euro 2020 Special

El Clasico: New-Look Barcelona Head To Santiago Bernabeu

Barcelona will head to Madrid on Sunday to tackle Real Madrid in what promises to be a blockbuster El Clasico fixture.

Real Madrid brushed aside Barcelona at Camp Nou in October, but a new-look Barcelona under Xavi Hernandez will present a much bigger challenge for the hosts.

Los Blancos enjoy a comfortable lead at the top in La Liga, but the outcome of the game will be critical for building up momentum for the upcoming UEFA Champions League fixtures.

Here’s our preview of Sunday’s El Clasico fixture between Real Madrid and Barcelona.



For Real Madrid, the domestic season has been one without any major faults. After losing the title to Atletico Madrid last season, the capital giants have bounced back in style.

They have lost just two matches in La Liga so far with their last defeat back in January. Apart from a fixture against Atletico Madrid in May, the game against their arch-rivals on Sunday is the last real challenge for Carlo Ancelotti’s men in the league.

Los Blancos are now 10 points clear of second-placed Sevilla and 15 points ahead of both Barcelona and defending champions Atletico Madrid. Only a disastrous streak of results can change the outcome of the season, and it looks unlikely given the team’s form.

But a victory in El Clasico has its significance in history and Carlo Ancelotti is unlikely to take any major risks in the game.

The availability of Karim Benzema is the main talking point at the Santiago Bernabeu in the build-up to the game. The Real Madrid captain has picked up a calf problem in the dying moments of their win against Mallorca last week.

In his absence, Carlo Ancelotti will rely on Vinicius Junior to lead the attack. The partnership of Benzema and Junior has been the key strength for Los Blancos this season and Benzema’s absence could blunt their attack against a strong Barcelona.

If Benzema misses out, Carlo Ancelotti could turn to Marco Asensio or Gareth Bale, though both players had a mixed record in previous instances.

With a strong midfield and defensive unit, there are unlikely to be any major changes to the starting XI.



Barcelona had a complete overhaul of both their management and squad mid-season as Xavi Hernandez orchestrated a remarkable turnaround at Camp Nou.

The loss of Lionel Messi has cost them dear as they slipped to the ninth spot in the league, leading to the sacking of Ronald Koeman and the appointment of Xavi. Since then, the Blaugrana have climbed steadily up the table and now have their sights firmly on securing a Champions League berth.

An impressive effort by the club in the January transfer window gave the club a completely new attacking unit led by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres. Aubameyang has scored six goals in nine appearances so far, while Torres added another five to the tally. Barcelona have won seven of their nine fixtures in La Liga this year and would like to continue that momentum well to the end.

Under Xavi, Barcelona have mastered possession and pressing of the ball but still remain vulnerable to counterattacks. The key for the visitors will be to keep the ball away from the hosts and limit counterattacks. Barcelona will take even a draw as a sign of success and a mark of how far the club has come since its dark days in October.

There are no major injuries for the visitors and Xavi is set to field his best side with the hopes of winning their first El Clasico since 2019.



The rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is the most high-profile rivalry in the world, and along with the final of the UEFA Champions League, is one of the most-watched television events worldwide. The rivalry between the Spanish and Catalan giants has political and cultural aspects to it but has primarily succeeded in attracting following due to the quality of the teams throughout history.

The presence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on opposite sides for the past decade has expanded the scope of the game and the fixture is still considered competitive even after their exit.

Real Madrid lead the head-to-head statistics with 100 wins compared to Barcelona’s 96. A further 52 fixtures have ended with the scores level, showing the close margins with which the fixtures end. Both clubs are also traditionally strong on their home grounds with Real Madrid winning 54 of the 91 matches held at Santiago Bernabeu.

Los Blancos have also been the dominant side for the past three years, winning four of the last five El Clasicos. That includes a 2-1 victory over Barcelona at Camp Nou earlier this season, with Lucas Vazquez’s extra-time goal sealing the match for the visitors.



There has rarely been an El Clasico that didn’t determine the outcome of La Liga, but this time Real Madrid are very comfortable at the top. A 10-point gap to a stumbling Sevilla shifts their focus to continental glory.

The absence of Karim Benzema could be a further blow to the hosts, allowing Barcelona to capitalise on the opportunity. But Xavi’s men have problems of their own and the midfield battle between Barca’s youngsters and Real Madrid’s veterans will most likely determine the outcome of the game.

Expect a highly competitive El Clasico to end in a draw.

Real Madrid Predicted XI:  Thibaut Courtois, Dani Carvajal, Eder Militao, Nacho, David Alaba, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, Vinicius Junior.

Barcelona Predicted XI: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Dani Alves , Gerard Pique , Eric Garcia, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Gavi, Ousmane Dembele, Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

When: Monday, 21st March, 1:30 AM IST

Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Where to Watch: All La Liga fixtures will be featured on Viacom18 Media network. Select matches will be telecasted live on MTV and other regional channels.




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