Exclusive: Steve McMahon previews the El Clasico

Liverpool legend Steve McMahon shares his thoughts on this weekend's clash between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona with Goal.com Malaysia

Goal.com: It’s always hard to guess who is going to win this match. But based on form, do you think Barcelona have the advantage going into this match?

Macca: Obviously! They have a 100% winning record so far in the season, and now that they are going against Real Madrid, it is definitely going to help, and they are extremely lethal in their counterattacking game.

Goal.com: A match like this has so much history. What do you think makes a good rivalry? And do you think such rivalries are good to have in a league?

Macca: I think that with all they’ve achieved over the years, the success of both clubs makes this a good rivalry. You need rivalries in any league, and this would be the biggest and most watched all over world.

Goal.com: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, who is better?

Macca: We know that Cristiano Ronaldo just scored another hat-trick, but I love to see Messi play. The Argentine created two goals for Barcelona, and he still looks unbelievably good. He is still one of the best players in Europe, but you cannot compare them because they are such different players.

Goal.com: Jose Mourinho’s side hasn’t had the best of starts, dropping eight points from the first six matches.  If they win this match, do you think Real Madrid will really get their season started?

Macca: I think it would start their season, and they really need the points at this stage of the season already. However, Barcelona will not want to go for a draw. They would definitely want to win to get 11 points clear over their rivals. This season, and this game in particular, is massive and both teams will definitely be going out to perform their best.

Goal.com: Villanova’s team on the other hand has picked up maximum points from their first 6 matches; however, they’ll be without their inspirational captain, Carles Puyol, who picked up an injury against Benfica. How big of a loss will he be?

Macca: He is inspirational and a pure leader - he leads by example. Of course in such a big game, it will be a problem for Barcelona, but Barca always performs well when Messi plays. Puyol did get a couple of injuries of late, but Alex Song has been growing in influence since he joined the squad and he’s doing well.  Although Puyol’s absence will be an advantage to Real, I believe Barcelona can cope.

Goal.com: How do you rate Barcelona’s new signing, Jordi Alba, so far?

Macca: I think he is a sensational player going forward; he is fit and bundles up and down and is a handful for any defender. More importantly, he is a good addition and is seamlessly contributes to Barcelona’s style of play.

Goal.com: How much of an impact do you think Real Madrid’s new signing, Luka Modric, will make in the match?

Macca: I do not know whether he will play. Jose Mourinho might think El-Clasico will be too much of a game for him so soon, but he is a classy player. But if he does play, he has got to lift his game in a big match such as this.

Goal.com: Anything interesting to look out for from either sides player’s going into this match?

Macca: There is no surprise anymore when Real and Barcelona play, as the players all put in inspiring performances on such a big stage. I look forward to Andres Iniesta getting back into the team. If Barcelona wants to win this game, then Iniesta, Xavi, and Sergio Busquets should be their favoured midfield. Without a doubt, Cesc Fabregas has been sensational in the last few games, scoring goals, so he’ll be one to look out for in this match.

Goal.com: Finally, what will be your prediction for the match?

Macca: I hope it will be a good draw and I do not think Barcelona will be beaten in this match. I am willing to go for a draw, but I would not be surprised if Barca wins also.


Former Liverpool and England International Steve McMahon is a football expert with ESPN. Catch him on The Verdict at 8pm and on ESPN’s coverage of the Barclays Premier League