Joy Sports’ Gary Al-Smith reckons Real Madrid are physically and mentally stronger than Barcelona ahead of Sunday night’s Clasico – and predicts a win for Los Blancos.
Lionel Messi is the leading goal scorer in El Clasico all time with 21 goals, with 10 in the last 16 league meetings. In that same time, Cristiano Ronaldo has eight goals. The question is if these two superstars will decide Sunday’s game, and possibly, help define the location of the La Liga trophy come end of season.
Real Madrid selection conundrum
Gareth Bale got himself injured against Gijon, and despite his importance for Los Blancos, the sheer squad depth means Zidane won’t be too flustered – especially, considering the performances of Isco and Marco Asensio in recent weeks.
So, who gets the starting berth in place of the Welshman? “I have decided who will play instead of Bale, but I am not going to tell you.” On Isco, who was almost unplayable against Gijon: “He is ready and that is the most important thing for me”.
A unique Barcelona situation
Enrique, in the space of seven days, could find himself in a position where he was in the reckoning for a treble to staring at just the possibility of one trophy.
Before Juventus dumped his side out of Europe, the coach may have been optimistic of a final trophy-laden season. But after the exit, a loss against Real will kill morale in the dressing room, and further cement the feeling at the Nou Camp that despite the trophies he’s delivered for the camp, he was not really that good.
The prospect of beating Alaves in the Copa del Rey final at the end of May will not be enough to provide a shine for this club. But everything could change if Barca get Lionel Messi in the mood.
Ronaldo v Messi
Both players have not been their dizzying best this season, but considering the insane numbers they’ve put together every season in La Liga, their average may be enough to keep their teams going.
Messi, with 44 goals in 45 games this season and 14 assists, can singlehandedly turn the form guide on its head. With a poor game against Juventus in midweek to serve as motivation, the 29-year old should have more than enough motivation to turn up another Clasico to remember.
As for Cristiano, a 20th La Liga goal beckons. It says a lot that his 28 goals in 37 games is being called “a bad season”, per his standards. But with 16 goals in all competitions against Barcelona, it will be wise not to bet against Ronaldo netting on Sunday.
Xavi, ex-Barcelona midfielder : “As a Barca fan, I’ve got to back them to win it. As for the scoreline, let’s say 2-1. Having said that, although I’m hoping and pulling for Barcelona to come out on top, I think it’s very tightly poised.”
Marcelo, Real Madrid defender: “The world practically stops still to watch [El Clasico]. It’s a huge thing. Every player wants to play in it, and the people on the street are already talking about this game a month before it’s played.”
Why Real Madrid will win
Barcelona have won just one of their last four matches, and the heat’s on Enrique. His opposite number, Zinedine Zidane, is a bit more relaxed, having just got into the Champions League semi and being ahead of the Blaugrana by three points, with a game in hand.
Real has also not lost since February 22.
Barca have to deal with a poor defensive setup, a suspended Neymar and generally, have to admit that Real have a more rounded team. The least to expect for the Madrid side is a draw. That bad defense is a real issue, especially knowing that Zidane’s side are better than the two teams who hit a combined seven goals against Barca – Juventus and PSG.
Real Madrid will win, which will guarantee a record 33rd title, and a first since 2012.