Any tie between two of the biggest clubs in the world is always a highly-anticipated affair. And this latest edition, which will be contested at the Santiago Bernabeu, is set to be a real classic.
As things stand, Real Madrid are three points clear of Barcelona on top of La Liga. They also have a game in hand, meaning that a win in this fixture could effectively seal the league title. A loss, of course, would make things a lot more interesting in the run-in for the La Liga title.
For Barcelona, it has been a really rough past few weeks. The Blaugrana were unable to score at Camp Nou against Juventus mid-week, which thus saw them crash out of the Champions League after conceding three in Turin. That means that they were unable to score against the Bianconeri in over 180 minutes of action – the same Juventus side they swept aside 3-1 to win the Champions League title in 2015. Between their two games against Juventus, Barcelona managed to beat Real Sociedad, but it was far from a convincing performance. And prior to taking on La Vecchia Signora, they suffered a shock 2-0 loss to Malaga.
Did that effectively hand the league title to Real Madrid? If they do lose on Sunday, it might. The visitors will also have to make do likely without the services of Neymar, who, as of Saturday, is still banned for the next couple of games after sarcastically applauding the ref during the team’s loss to Malaga. Luis Enrique hasn’t given up hope that his star man’s ban won’t be overturned, but Blaugrana fans haven’t placed much hope in his being able to feature.
Real Madrid, by contrast, are in the final four of the Champions League, but it wasn’t without its fair share of controversy. Cristiano Ronaldo was his brilliant best as per usual and netted a hat-trick, but two of those goals were offside. That makes a real strong case for the need for VAR technology in the Champions League Still, he scored five out of Real Madrid’s six against Bayern – which is not an easy feat in itself – and will surely be relishing his chances to add more to his overall seasonal total against Los Blancos’ arch rivals.
As Barcelona struggle to deal with the absence of Neymar, Real Madrid could likely be welcoming back Gareth Bale for this match. The Welsh star missed out on the team’s matches against Bayern and surely will be hoping to play a vital role in the biggest footballing match on Earth.
Simply put, a win for Real Madrid could slam the door on the La Liga title race. Can Barcelona get back on track after a difficult fortnight? Or will Los Blancos wrap up the title race this weekend – and even better, by getting the better of their bitter rivals in front of millions of fans?