La Liga: Pride the big issue in the third Clasico of the season
Madrid, March 19 (IANS) Real Madrid and FC Barcelona face each other in the ‘El Clasico’ for the third time this season with each club having different aims.
Real Madrid go into the game with a 10-point lead at the top of La Liga standings and 15 points more than their traditional rivals, meaning a win would hammer home their superiority this season after already winning the first two meetings of the season.
Goals from David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez saw Real win 2-1 in the Camp Nou when Ronald Koeman was Barca coach, while their pace on the break was decisive in an entertaining 3-2 triumph in the semi-finals of the Supercup in Saudi Arabia in January.
Barca showed signs of improvement under Xavi Hernandez in that match and although they travel to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday claiming that they still have a chance of winning the title, the reality is they are looking to confirm their upturn in form, reports Xinhua.
Barca have moved up to third place in the table and Thursday saw them qualify for the quarter-finals of the Europa League after a 2-1 win away to Galatasaray in Turkey.
That match could be a handicap for Barca given that Real Madrid have had all week to prepare for Sunday and Xavi has lost right back Sergino Dest to injury, which will sideline him for several weeks.
Real Madrid’s main injury concern going into the game is top scorer, Karim Benzema, who is struggling to recover from a calf strain that he picked up while scoring their third goal against Mallorca on Monday night.
Benzema has scored 22 goals in La Liga this season and 32 in all competitions, but it is not just his goals, but also his linkup play that is so important, along with his ability to draw defenders out of position.
If he doesn’t recover, Real coach Carlo Ancelotti will probably start with Marco Asensio in the middle and with Vinicius Jr and Rodrgyo Goes — who has recovered from a knock on his foot — out wide and with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro in central midfield.
It will be interesting to see if Barca can continue their improvements under Xavi (and the current team certainly looks stronger than in previous games), but there is still a feeling that this Clasico is more about pride than anything else.