El Clásico Preview: Real Madrid Eyes A Comeback To Unsettle Barcelona’s Numbers Control


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In pure soccer terms, this Clásico will be decisive, as the winner will gain the genuine belief that it can win La Liga.

Table-topping Barcelona hosts Real Madrid for the fourth matchup in five competitive meetings this season, and the equation is simple. Barcelona can virtually secure the league title with a victory that would extend the Catalans’ lead to 12 points with as many games remaining. As for Real, it can—at least—not let it slip away with three points on the road. That would leave a six-point deficit, surmountable for a team used to enthralling comebacks.

Yet, even without a league trophy in four years, the cold statistics point towards a Barcelona procession. While lacking in European competition, coach Xavi’s charges have been formidable defensively in La Liga—especially at home, where it has conceded just one goal. That came against local challenger Espanyol. Avoiding the same fate against another rival will provide a steady platform to prosper in its biggest test of 2023.

Real has it all to do. The talisman, Karim Benzema, could feature but is hampered by injury, while up-and-coming forward Álvaro Rodríguez appears to be sidelined. The 18-year-old has picked up consecutive bookings while leading the line for Castilla, Real’s second-string team, adding another dent to the Real front line before the derby. Meanwhile, Blaugrana striker Robert Lewandowski is primed and ready for action, giving Barcelona the upper hand in the attack. The 34-year-old is the division’s top scorer with 15 goals.

“Whatever happens tomorrow, it won’t be definitive,” said Xavi in the buildup. “There’s still a long way to go, but winning would mean a big blow for Real Madrid.”

On how the encounter pans out, he added, “I think Madrid will be more offensive than usual. I think it’s good for the fans, the spectacle, and maybe for us.”

From the opposing camp, Ancelotti spoke about thwarting Barcelona’s players, “They are solid at the back and don’t concede many goals,” he said. “That’s how they’ve managed to win games despite being up against it more than they’re used to. It’s hard to know how the game will go because each one is different.

“We have to look at Barcelona like a lion tomorrow, not a cat. If you go into it thinking they’re little cats, you’ll take it too lightly, and it’s a massive game in which we have to fight until the end and show real commitment.”

The math suggests Barcelona has the advantage. Yet, for all the control, this remains a campaign ridden with angst. To combat considerable debt, Barcelona has sold club assets and activated financial levers to—extraordinarily—spend its way to success. So, with a healthy advantage, there is pressure to win La Liga, especially after departing the Champions League and Europa League this campaign.

If that wasn’t tense enough, it’s experiencing something even more pressing. The club is under investigation for making payments to former refereeing chief José María Enríquez Negreira after he allegedly received €7.3 million ($7.9 million) between 2001 and 2018 through his firms. Current president Joan Laporta—himself in bother for reportedly paying Negreira’s son (Spanish) €750,000 ($808,000)—has publicly fought back in defense of the club, claiming there is a campaign to destabilize the team.

Whether or not Barcelona has previously acted corruptly to gain an advantage on the field, you sense this is destabilizing for the side ahead of this mammoth test. Despite involving multiple clubs, another scandal that comes to mind is Calciopoli in Italy, which resulted in stiff sporting punishments for some of the nation’s best sides in 2006. With mocked-up bank notes flying around in Barcelona’s away win at Athletic Club, the scrutiny isn’t about to subside—at a time when the players need to focus on a game like no other.

As for Real, the mindset could not be more different. Indeed, it’s comparatively serene and opportunistic. Well behind in the standings, Ancelotti’s squad will relish the chance to conjure up a grain of doubt in the Barcelona dressing room, having proven it can win from losing positions on many occasions. Psychologically, it also knows that a 3-1 victory in their last league meeting handed Barcelona its first real knock of the season.

Real is aware that Barcelona will have to drop more points to have any chance. This game may tip the balance, however. Steady as Barcelona may seem, any hiccups will see the nerves kick in, and—after its heroics in the Champions League in recent times—Real knows it’s not over until it’s over.

Regarding further selection news, Barcelona has center-back Ronald Araújo returning, and the hosts’ only serious setback is Pedri’s probable unavailability, with a hamstring injury set to rule him out. As well as the Benzema and Álvaro headaches, David Alaba is the only other pressing absence for the guests. Given its options, Real will rely on pace and goals from Vinícius Júnior and Federico Valverde on the counter-attack to triumph.

On balance, the numbers and options mean Barcelona has the firepower. The fairytale story, however, belongs to the Madrid side, unburdened by nothing other than making this a trophy race to remember. Here’s a six-pointer, if there ever was one.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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