It’s that time of the year again as Spain and the rest of the world turn their attention to club football’s most anticipated match; Barcelona prepare to welcome Real Madrid to the first of two La Liga Clasicos this season. The Blaugrana have taken the backseat against Los Blancos in recent meetings, but find themselves three points ahead of their rivals in the standing and in better form. A win for Gerardo Martino in his first Clasico as Barcelona coach would see him open a six-point gap over Real Madrid, which even in October, will be difficult to overturn.
Speaking ahead of the game, club skipper Carles Puyol dismissed the fact that their arch-rivals have stuttered so far, claiming that home advantage won’t matter against Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
“They will always take us to our limit. Every time they play better and go with confidence. We will have to monitor their counter-attacks as they’re very quick. It can help to have the fans, but in recent years they played very well. We will have to be careful”, said the defender.
The Blaugrana have won their last 19 matches at home in La Liga, with their last setback being the 2-2 draw against Real Madrid at the same stage of last term’s competition. Furthermore, they have scored at least three times in their last five home games domestically, meaning that Real Madrid will find it hard to defend in a stadium packed with close to 100,000 Blaugrana fans.
Real Madrid’s recent wins against Malaga and Juventus allowed the 32-time league champions to prepare in the best way possible for Barcelona. They trail the Blaugrana by three points, but the team from the capital have won at the Camp Nou recently; last February as they prevailed 3-1 over the Catalans in the Copa del Rey.
The game will be Carlo Ancelotti’s hardest test as Real Madrid coach, with the Italian eager to impress the fans, including the team’s ultras who still remain very fond of Jose Mourinho.
And despite being behind Barcelona at the moment, acting captain Sergio Ramos declared that form goes out of the window in games like this one.
“On Saturday we have an important match and it would be a big step to win in the Camp Nou, but the matches there are tough and we know that anything can happen. With the Clasico, you can’t look at recent results. They will always go out there to give their best in this type of match. There are things that we need to keep improving, but it’s always good to get a win before a Clasico”, Ramos said, fresh of beating Juventus 2-1.
Ancelotti alluded after the game against Juventus that Karim Benzema will remain his choice in attack despite the Frenchman’s poor form. “Of course I know [who will play as striker]. I want to say that I asked Benzema to work defensively against [Andrea] Pirlo, to do a specific job, and he did it very well. He didn’t score, but worked for the team and I’m very happy”, commented the tactician.
Games such as this can be full of goals, as Real Madrid realise that they cannot hold back against Barcelona. Their counter-attack will be very effective against Barcelona’s below-par defence, but they might still come up short. Should Real Madrid play their cards right, they could leave Catalonia with a draw however. Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid.