Barcelona v Real Madrid Betting Preview
The first Clasico of the season takes place on 28th October as two European football powerhouses resume their perpetual struggle for supremacy.
The Camp Nou is the venue as Real Madrid take on Barcelona in the 238th competitive game between La Liga’s big two. With no love lost between the pair, this rivalry dates back to the 1920s and goes way beyond football.
It’s Catalan pride versus the team from the Spanish capital and the fixture has so often been the battle between the La Liga champions and the subsequent runners-up each season. Between them, Barcelona and Real Madrid have won the Spanish league crown on 15 occasions since the turn of the millennium. Barely anyone else gets a look-in.
Madrid's poor start means this could be a final chance for Julien Lopetegui to keep his job. Barcelona on the other hand, will have to do without Lionel Messi after the Argentine was ruled out with a fractured arm.
Barca Have The La Liga Edge
Barcelona have edged recent clashes in the Spanish league; Real Madrid haven’t beaten Barca in La Liga since April 2016. The Catalan side romped away from the capital with a 3-0 win last season before the two played out a bad-tempered 2-2 draw in May.
Camp Nou celebrated the inevitable Catalan charge to the Spanish football title that day as Gareth Bale scored a stunning equaliser. The game was also notable for it being Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta’s final Clasico on his way to lifting the league crown for one last time.
Despite that, the May game was something of an anti-climax given Barca had the league all but sewn up. Having recognised the value of a competitive Clasico, La Liga chiefs made the decision before the season to ensure the final fixture between the pair will be played out earlier this time around so that there’s plenty still to play for and to keep the global TV audience on the edge of their seats.
Both sides are in the midst of something of a transition season, though Real Madrid have made the biggest readjustments as they bid to battle Barca harder for the title this time.
Madrid Readjusting To Challenge For The La Liga Title
Madrid may have become the undisputed best team in European football recently, but in the process, they’ve lost their grip on domestic dominance. It’s probably fair to say that Real were a better all-round side than Barca last season, but they just couldn’t prove it in La Liga.
Zinedine Zidane stepped down from the position as Los Blancos boss at the end of last season following his unprecedented Champions League successes and former Spain manager Julen Lopetegui is still establishing himself in the hot seat. The Spaniard has endured a difficult start to life at the Bernabeu with potential replacements already being lined up if reports are to be believed.
Lopetegui arrived at the Bernabéu with a reputation for possession football and it’s a brand which is evolving to maximise the Real engine room of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. The Madrid side struggled at times last season to effectively build from the back and the Spanish tactician has been busy trying to emulate his Spain side, but to no avail so far.
This is Isco’s season to really shine for Real Madrid. Arguments have raged as to whether the Spanish playmaker slows down midfield but now, aged 26, the attacking midfielder is attempting to dictate Los Blancos' forward moves after Cristiano Ronaldo's departure.
Barca’s Fearsome Front Line
Meanwhile, Barca boss Ernesto Valverde may have been busy tinkering with his midfield too, but in Messi, Suarez, Coutinho and Dembélé he retains the most fearsome attacking line-up in the world. Valverde may have been criticised on occasion for his cautious approach to latter-stage Champions League fixtures, but he tends to unleash the full force of the Catalan might each time a game against Real Madrid rolls around.
All eyes remain on whether Ousmane Dembélé can reach new heights and this fixture offers the former Borussia Dortmund wonderkid the chance to prove his worth. El Clasico is the stage upon which reputations are built. The 21-year-old struggled with injuries last season but showed what he can do in the Champions League with a goal against Chelsea to book Barcelona’s place in the semi-finals. With Lionel Messi confirmed to miss out on this Classico, it's the perfect opportunity for Dembele to step up.
While the title won’t be decided in this one, the first Clasico of the season often gives a decent indication on the current state of Real and Barca – the two La Liga championship heavyweights. The game will also be of great interest to Atletico Madrid fans watching on in order to figure out which of the pair – or both - they’ll have to better this year should they harbour genuine title ambitions.
El Clasico always delivers something special. There hasn’t been a goalless draw in the fixture since 2002, and this game is so much more than merely a big match in the footballing calendar. Each Clasico plays out like a final in which winning at the end of 90 minutes is the only thing that matters.
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