By Shikharr Chandra
Ahead of the clasico, Real Madrid are leading the standings in the La Liga, are in the final of the Copa Del Rey and have booked a berth in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Cristiano Ronaldo has once again been amongst goals as always and is their ‘go to’ man. New signing Gareth Bale looks to have finally adjusted to life in Spain’s capital after his record breaking move from Tottenham at the start of the season.
The major plus point for Carlo Ancelotti has been how the trio of Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso have fit in perfectly in the 4-3-3 formation.
On the other hand, Barcelona find themselves four points behind Madrid in the league and know that a defeat on Sunday would all but end their hopes to retain the La Liga title.
Lionel Messi and Neymar haven’t struck the right chords to be deemed a successful partnership. With several off field issues involving his transfer to Barcelona, life for the Brazilian hasn’t been all that easy.
There have been speculations on the future of Tata Martino though the club was quick to dismiss it. Since the last time, the Catalan giants faced Madrid, they have suffered five defeats of which three have come in the last seven.
Unlike their rivals, there seems to be no such tension surrounding Madrid. Since the controversial defeat to Barcelona at Camp Nou, Ancelotti has guided the side to 31 wins in all competitions so far.
It must be noted that while the summer transfer window was dominated by Bale’s move to Bernabeu, Madrid also bought some of the best talents in Spain in Isco and Asier Illaramendi. Also Jese Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata were promoted to the first team.
Although chances to play at Madrid come at a premium, the aforementioned players have given a decent account of themselves this term.
Meanwhile, Barcelona let go of Thiago Alcantara to join Bayern Munich in search of regular football action. The worrying part of the whole Alacantra deal was that Barcelona never really made an attempt to stop the Spanish midfielder.
Of course, Barcelona have quality in their midfield with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas but they have struggled on occasions as has been illustrated in the defeats they have suffered.
Martino’s aim was to make Barcelona less dependent on Messi but it seems they are still waiting for the Argentine to bail them out on several occasions.
The decision to let go of Mesut Ozil has been forgotten and Di Maria's shift from a winger to a more central player has been another evidence of Ancelotti's tactical nous. The Argentine this season has managed 13 assists in all competitions and even though his goal tally of seven has not been that great, but that has hardly been a worrying point. He boasts a passing percentage of 83 and has managed at least three key passes per game this season.
While Di Maria has adapted to life in midfield, Modric’s rise to prominence has been phenomenal. The Croatian has been a work horse for the club working well on all parts of the field. His goal and assist tally of two and six have worked well in the attack whereas his tackling and interceptions have made him an able partner for Xabi Alonso.
As the two sides go into the game, there is a lot at stake. There have been changes in the two rivals’ fortunes since the last time they met. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top as they look to seize the points in their favour to win the title.
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