Best Odds: 19/20
Barcelona play host to their eternal rivals Real Madrid on Sunday in this season’s first El Clasico that could be Julen Lopetegui’s final match as Los Blancos boss. The two teams find themselves in contrasting forms but it could count for nothing in the biggest football match in Spain.
Thirteen matches into the 2018/19 season, the Spanish champions have suffered a single defeat. Ten wins and three draws would have been a close to a perfect record for any side in the world but not for the perfection seekers from Catalonia.
Ernesto Valverde’s men have looked far from their invincible selves thus far in the campaign. Barcelona endured a four-match winless La Liga run ahead of the last weekend’s 4-2 victory over Sevilla which was a huge morale boost ahead of the big game. Barcelona are currently sitting top of the league, only one point ahead of the surprisingly high-flying Espanyol and Alaves and will need to grab all three points against Real Madrid in order to keep their early La Liga title challenge alive. It will be easier said than done as the Catalans head into El Clasico without Leo Messi but Valverde’s men showed they can cope without the Argentine wizard, having beaten Inter Milan comfortably 2-0 in the Champions League during the week.
Leo Messi will be joined by Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen in the treatment room but Ernesto Valverde should have no other selection issues ahead of El Clasico.
Rafinha put in a fine display against Inter Milan and is likely to continue as a starter ahead of Ousmane Dembele.
Off to their worst start to a season in last 17 years, Real Madrid find themselves at a crossroads. Julen Lopetegui remains in charge but his days could be numbered if he fails to beat archrivals from Barcelona and raise the quality of his team’s play.
Real Madrid have won just one of their last six games in all competitions but an unconvincing Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen will hardly be enough to hide the truth. It’s simple, Real Madrid are unrecognizable at the moment. It would appear that they’ve lost their edge and are lacking the leadership of one Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese left Los Blancos in the summer and the forthcoming El Clasico will be the first one in last 11 years no to feature both him and Leo Messi. |And with Luka Modric looking severely fatigued in recent weeks, it will be interesting to see which selection choices Lopetegui will make. Having lost three of their last four La Liga matches, Real Madrid are desperately looking to get back to winning ways and it’s certain that a possible El Clasico win would do wonders to the team’s morale.
Dani Ceballos was rested in midweek and could return to the fold to replace tired Luka Modric.
Dani Carvajal is suffering from a calf injury and is not expected to be fit for Sunday but Marcelo should be in contention following a recent hamstring injury.
Key Factors to Consider
- Sunday’s El Clasico will be the first in 11 years without both Messi and Ronaldo
- Barcelona lost only one match this season in all competitions
- Real Madrid are winless in their last four La Liga matches
- Five of last six encounters between Barcelona and Real Madrid produced over 2.5 goals
- Barcelona failed to win any of last four El Clasico matches at Campo Nou
The first El Clasico in last 11 year not to feature either Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is bound to be a special occasion. With both sides looking far from their usual best, Barcelona have a chance to inflict what could easily be a final blow to Julen Lopetegui’s chances to keep his job at Real Madrid.
Best Odds: 19/20
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