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Primera División

  • 10 December 2011
  • • 21:00
  • • Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid
  • Referee: David Fernandez Borbalan
  • • Attendance: 79900
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Real Madrid - Barcelona Preview: Pressure on Pep Guardiola's men to win to close gap to league leaders in Clasico battle

Real Madrid - Barcelona Preview: Pressure on Pep Guardiola's men to win to close gap to league leaders in Clasico battle

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Saturday represents the seventh installment of the famous fixture in 2011, with Jose Mourinho's club holding the advantage in La Liga with three-point lead and game in hand


PROBABLE LINE-UPS

REAL MADRID

Casillas
Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo
Xabi Alonso, Diarra, Khedira
Di Maria, Benzema/Higuain, Ronaldo

  BARCELONA
 
Valdes
Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal
Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Messi, Fabregas, Sanchez



Jose Mourinho looks set to deploy Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back after the defender returned from injury in the midweek Champions League win over Ajax. Sergio Ramos and Pepe will continue their partnership at the heart of the defence, with Ricardo Carvalho still injured.

Xabi Alonso returns from suspension and will play alongside Lassana Diarra, while Sami Khedira is likely to be given the nod ahead of Fabio Coentrao to complete a three-man midfield.

Mourinho has already confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria will start the game in support of either Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain.

Despite suffering concussion in last weekend's 5-0 victory over Levante, Carles Puyol is winning his battle to start at centre-half alongside Gerard Pique, with Barcelona set to opt for a four-man backline, although Pep Guardiola has indicated he has considered utilising a back-three, as he has done on several occasions this season.

Guardiola has no major injury woes and has a selection dilemma in midfield and attack. Sergio Busquets is expected to shield the defence with Xavi and Andres Iniesta likely to provide the creativity in the middle of the park.

David Villa is set to miss out again as Guardiola is likely to select Chile forward Alexis Sanchez on the left, with Cesc Fabregas deployed in the 'false nine' position and Lionel Messi reverting to a right-wing role.


DID YOU KNOW?
  • Real Madrid have won only one of their previous 11 meetings with their Catalan rivals (losing seven and drawing the other three).

  • However, Los Blancos have won six out of eight of their last meetings versus Barcelona when the sides have met in the month of December (one defeat, one draw).
  • Madrid have not dropped a single point after scoring first in Liga since the beginning of the 2009-10 campaign, with every other team dropping at least 18 points in this period.
  • Barcelona have won only three of their last 10 Liga away fixtures, this coming after setting the record for most consecutive away victories last season (12).
  • Lionel Messi has scored on his last five visits to the Santiago Bernabeu, netting a total of seven goals in the process.
  • Pep Guardiola's men have scored more goals in the opening 15 minutes than any other side in La Liga this season (11), while Madrid have netted the most strikes in the last 15 (10).
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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
1Iker CasillasGoalkeeper
5Fabio CoentraoDefender
3PepeDefender
4Sergio RamosDefender
12MarceloDefender
14Xabi AlonsoMidfielder
11Mesut ÖzilMidfielder
6Lassana DiarraMidfielder
7Ángel Di MaríaMidfielder
7Cristiano RonaldoStriker
9Karim BenzemaStriker
1AdànGoalkeeper
17ArbeloaDefender
33Raúl Albiol Defender
6Sami KhediraMidfielder
8KakáMidfielder
9Gonzalo HiguaínStriker
7José Callejón Striker
12Víctor ValdésGoalkeeper
22Daniel AlvesDefender
5Carles PuyolDefender
3PiquéDefender
22Éric AbidalDefender
6XaviMidfielder
5BusquetsMidfielder
4Cesc FàbregasMidfielder
8Andrés Iniesta LujánMidfielder
9Alexis SánchezStriker
10Lionel MessiStriker
13José Pinto ColoradoGoalkeeper
17MaxwellDefender
6Thiago AlcántaraMidfielder
14Javier MascheranoMidfielder
-Seydou KeitaMidfielder
7David VillaStriker
7PedroStriker
Players to Watch
Xabi Alonso
Xabi Alonso
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 14
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
The midfielder returns to the side after missing the win over Sporting through suspension, and his influence on the Madrid side cannot be underestimated. His range of passing is incomparable, and if he is given time to feed the flair players, Madrid could claim a famous victory.

Daniel Alves
Daniel Alves
Position: Defender
Squad Number: 22
Games Goals YC RC
2 0 1 0
Whether he starts at full-back or on the right of midfield, the Brazilian's ability to gain ground in opposition territory is an invaluable tool for the Blaugrana. His defensive capabilities remain in question, but with him likely to go head on with Ronaldo, the match could be won and lost on his flank.
Prediction
Real Madrid have home advantage and are in brilliant form, but Guardiola's men cannot afford to lose this game. With both sides boasting squads of similar quality, especially in attack, it's difficult to see anything other than a score draw at the Bernabeu, in what is sure to be an intensely contested encounter.

Editor's Prediction

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