By Gerry Armstrong
Just a few days ago, Real Madrid spectacularly crushed their arch-rivals, Barcelona, 3-1 in the Copa del Rey semi-final 2nd leg; to make the victory even sweeter, they did it at the Nou Camp, Barcelona’s own backyard. Will this weekend’s El-Clasico be a heated ‘rematch’ where the Catalans will be looking for revenge against Los Blancos? Most likely. However, I do feel that Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho will rest most of his key players for the match against Manchester United in the Champions League next Tuesday. With 16 points adrift from Barcelona at the top of the table, the league is pretty much done and dusted, but El Clasico is always going to be a fierce encounter between two great sides.
Mourinho would call upon the likes of the bench such as Kaka, Marcelo and Pepe to name a few, and rest the key players for the pivotal Manchester United match. I know it will be an unusual sight to see, but if Madrid lose this weekend against their greatest rival, Jose Mourinho might not be too upset. While it is mathematically possible to still win the league, Barcelona won’t drop 16 points in their remaining games. Real Madrid would rather focus their efforts on realistic silverware this season such as the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
For the Barcelona faithful however, the team’s disappointing form recently may be a cause for concern. Their performance as of late has dwindled, and I believe that the biggest reason to justify that is due to Tito Villanova’s absence from the club. He’s been missing for six weeks since his cancer operation and his squad is affected by that void (currently filled by assistant manager, Jordi Roura). Although his players initially managed to keep themselves motivated and focused, it was short-lived and they got really poor, especially in their match against AC Milan where they did not even have a single shot on target against them - and Copa del Rey semi-finals shouted dismal performance when they lost 3-1 to Real Madrid at Nou Camp - a very discouraging result indeed.
I particularly look forward to a likely encounter between two youngsters in the coming match; that is Barcelona’s Christian Tello and Real Madrid’s Rafael Varane. Tello’s making a name for himself this season as a reliable go-to forward at Barcelona; I particularly enjoy his direct style of play and his composure in front of goal. As for the young player brimming with great talent from Madrid’s side, Rafael Varane may well be Real Madrid’s best defender right now; he’s already a world star in my eyes.
When we discuss El Clasico, we can’t help but to analyse the two heroes for the competing teams. So without further ado, here’s my report on Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Is it any surprise that both are top scorers for their team right now, as they have been for the last few seasons? Messi right now stands at 56 and is expected to score a great deal more for the remainder of this season. On the opposing side, Ronaldo has also been spectacular as of late, making into the score-sheet most of the time and currently stands at 47 goals. While both are definitely THE forces to be reckoned with, Ronaldo may edge Messi simply based on form. Expect the likelihood for them both to get on the score sheet this weekend.
So, what’s my verdict? I believe Barcelona will be the team to secure all three points in this clash.
Don’t miss La Liga expert Gerry Armstrong’s commentary during the eagerly anticipated battle between Real Madrid and Barcelona on STAR Sports this Saturday, at the prime time of 11pm!