Barcelona - Real Madrid Preview: Mourinho's side can all but seal La Liga title with victory at Camp Nou
Spanish football's biggest rivalry takes centre stage on Saturday as Los Blancos look to improve on their dismal recent record in Clasicos and take a step closer to league glory
By Karthick Arvinth
Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol
Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Fabregas, Messi, Pedro
Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo
Ozil, Kaka, Ronaldo
Alexis Sanchez is a doubt for Barcelona's 219th Clasico meeting with Real Madrid, after the Chilean picked up a leg injury in the midweek Champions League defeat at Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola has no other injury concerns, with long-term absentees David Villa, Andreu Fontas and Eric Abidal the only players unavailable.
Gerard Pique should make a return to the Blaugrana defence, with Carles Puyol filling in at left-back in place of the versatile Adriano.
Real Madrid could recall Marcelo to the starting line-up, while it remains to be seen whether his compatriot Kaka - dropped to the bench in the last two matches - regains his place in the team.
Xabi Alonso is available after serving a one-match domestic ban, but Ricardo Carvalho (thigh) and Lassana Diarra (hamstring) are unlikely to be involved.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Barcelona are on a 11-game winning streak in La Liga, outscoring their opponents 33-8 in those matches.
- The Catalans have scored 167 goals in all competitions this term - 15 more than in the whole of last season.
- Barca's current unbeaten streak of 54 at home in all competitions is the second longest in club history. The club record is 73 and dates back to 1973-76.
- Lionel Messi (pictured right) has scored 29 goals in his last 16 appearances for club and country.
- Real Madrid are on an 18-match unbeaten run in La Liga (W15, D3). Their last league defeat came on December 10, when they lost 3-1 to Barcelona.
- Los Blancos are yet to register a Liga victory over their arch rivals since Pep Guardiola became Barca coach in 2008 (D1, L6).
- In 14 games against Guardiola's side in all competitions, Madrid's record is W1, D4, L9, with the solitary victory coming in last season's Copa del Rey final.
- If they score on Saturday, Madrid will surpass their own record of 107 goals netted in a single La Liga campaign set under John Toshack in 1989-90.
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Top 3 Predictions
FC Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid CF
- 16.45 %
FC Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid CF
- 13.86 %
FC Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid CF
- 8.1 %
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Oct 26, 2013||FC Barcelona 2 - Real Madrid CF 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Mar 2, 2013||Real Madrid CF 2 - FC Barcelona 1|
|Spain - Copa del Rey (ESPC)||Feb 26, 2013||FC Barcelona 1 - Real Madrid CF 3|
|Spain - Copa del Rey (ESPC)||Jan 30, 2013||Real Madrid CF 1 - FC Barcelona 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Oct 7, 2012||FC Barcelona 2 - Real Madrid CF 2|
|Dec 6, 2013||F.C. Cartagena 1 - FC Barcelona 4||ESPC|
|Dec 1, 2013||Athletic Bilbao 1 - FC Barcelona 0||LIGA|
|Nov 26, 2013||Ajax 2 - FC Barcelona 1||UCL|
|Nov 23, 2013||FC Barcelona 4 - Granada 0||LIGA|
|Nov 10, 2013||Betis 1 - FC Barcelona 4||LIGA|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
|22||Ángel Di María||Midfielder|
When they lose the ball, Madrid will try to imitate what Chelsea did so well on Wednesday and suffocate Barca in the final third of the pitch, making the diminutive Argentine's role all the more crucial for the home side. If the 24-year-old can pick up the ball in and around the 18-yard-box, such is the terror he invariably inspires that he will naturally draw Real's centre-halves towards him, leaving gaps for Cesc Fabregas and Pedro to exploit.
With Madrid's forays into the Barcelona box likely to come through swift counter-attacks, the Frenchman's role will be a straightforward one of holding the ball up, drawing defenders towards him and spreading the ball to the flanks where Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil should have space to work in. The former Lyon striker will also be a threat from set-pieces, which are the Catalans' biggest weakness defensively.
While logic suggests Jose Mourinho will employ attrition tactics at Camp Nou, it is questionable if his players possess the defensive concentration and energy needed to carry out the plan. Real can hurt them, but Barca's greater coherence and attacking verve should see them come out on top again.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed