El Clásico is nearly here, with Barcelona to host Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon in their first meeting of the 2020/21 season.
Both La Liga giants come into this match after shock results in the previous matchday, with Real Madrid losing 1-0 at home to Cádiz on the same day that Barcelona fell away to Getafe by the same scoreline. Neither side is in form, then.
But, as the cliché has it, form goes out the window with a fixture like this.
El Clasico: Barcelona vs Real Madrid odds with William Hill:
- Barcelona: EVS
- Draw: 27/10
- Real Madrid: 13/5
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of publication (13:30, 23/10/2020).
Barcelona v Real Madrid build-up, pre-match team news & previous line-ups:
Both Spanish giants have endured shaky starts to their seasons, with Barcelona 10th in La Liga, having taken just seven points from their opening four games, following a 1-0 loss to Getafe last time out.
Real Madrid may be sitting prettier in third, with three wins from their first five matches, but back-to-back home defeats to Cadiz in La Liga and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League have Zinedine Zidane’s side reeling.
El Clasico therefore comes at a crunch time for both Koeman and Zidane, with neither being afforded any leeway by the demanding fans of their huge clubs.
- Barcelona (vs Ferencvaros): Neto; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Dest; Pjanic, De Jong; Trincão, Coutinho, Fati; Messi.
- Real Madrid (vs Shakhtar Donetsk): Courtois; Mendy, Varane, Militão, Marcelo; Valverde, Casemiro, Modric; Asensio, Jovic, Rodrygo.
New signing Sergino Dest may well continue at left-back, with Jordi Alba still working his way back from a hamstring problem sustained in the 1-1 draw with Sevilla earlier this month.
Real Madrid are expected to be boosted by the return Sergio Ramos who has been included in the travelling squad. Ramos was substituted during Real’s 1-0 defeat by Cadiz following a blow to his left knee and missed the shock 3-2 loss to Shakhtar, but a scan subsequently revealed no serious damage.
However, Zidane will be without midfielder Martin Odegaard, who picked up a calf injury on international duty with Norway.
Players to watch:
- Barcelona: El Clasico is always about Lionel Messi for Barcelona. How can it not be? But Barca fans will be delighted with the progress of Ansu Fati, who is rapidly developing into an assured and dangerous attacking of his own presence for Koeman’s side. The Spaniard has slotted neatly into Barca’s attack and his consistency is shown by the fact he has netted four goals in five appearances so far this season, more than any other Barca player. Fati’s well-taken volley against Ferencvaros showed a player enjoying a purple patch that many will hope will carry over to the Clasico.
- Real Madrid: If, as expected, he is passed fit to play then Sergio Ramos is always the man to keep a watchful eye on for Real Madrid. The 34-year-old has played in more El Clasico fixtures than any other player and, after two harrowing defeats for his side, will be more motivated than ever to beat his side’s most bitter rivals. His organisational and motivational skills, as well as his famed nasty streak, could be exactly what Zidane’s team need to get out of their current rut.
Scoreline prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
1. Zidane may stick with last season’s Clásico set-up
Ronaldo Koeman’s Barcelona line-up isn’t likely to throw up too many surprises, with the only big question mark coming at left-back given that Jordi Alba remains an injury doubt. However, it is the complete opposite for Zinedine Zidane. Anyone who can consistently predict the Real Madrid coach’s line-ups should stop watching football and go and buy a lottery ticket immediately.
Last season, Zidane used 36 different line-ups in the 38 LaLiga games Real Madrid played on their way to the title. It’s not just that he changed the line-up from one week to the next 36 times, he actually used 36 entirely different combinations over the whole season.
So, predicting Zidane’s XI is complicated, but you’d imagine he’d look to repeat what worked so well in last season’s two Clásicos when Real Madrid were the better side in the goalless draw at the Camp Nou and when they won the return match 2-0 at the Bernabéu.
On both occasions he played a version of a 4-3-1-2, albeit with different personnel. Sergio Ramos is a doubt for this weekend’s game, but elsewhere don’t be surprised if Zidane fields Benzema and Vinícius up top like he did in the last victorious Clásico, while Luka Modrić, who has started the season well, could occupy the No.10 role this time instead of the out-of-form Isco, ahead of a familiar midfield three and back four.
Then again, prepare to be surprised when it comes to Zidane…
Barcelona predicted XI: Neto; Sergi Roberto, Gerard Piqué, Clement Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong; Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho, Ansu Fati; Lionel Messi.
2. Ramos’ injury outcome will be decisive
The alarms sounded when Ramos had to come off at half-time of Real Madrid’s loss to Cádiz last weekend, having suffered a tough blow to his knee in the first half that saw him miss midweek’s 3-2 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk. He has been training alone since and it remains unclear whether he will be fit to start against Barcelona.
The captain leads this rivalry’s appearances chart with 44 and should be there for his 45th Clásico. He can give Barcelona headaches, both in defence and attack, and would love nothing more than to take and score a penalty at the Camp Nou. The centre-back has netted his past 22 spot-kicks, whether with Real Madrid or Spain, but has never scored from 12 yards against Barcelona. If Barça concede a penalty, like they did last weekend against Getafe and in midweek at home to Ferencváros, and Ramos is on the pitch, it’ll be time to crack open the popcorn.
3. Messi is out of form, in El Clásico too
Lionel Messi is still going to be Barcelona’s main dangerman in this game. Of course he is. But the Argentine isn’t in the best run of form, having scored just one goal so far this LaLiga Santander campaign from his four appearances, in which he has completed the 90 minutes each time. And that one goal was a penalty against Villarreal in his first outing of 2020/21.
The No.10 has played a total of seven games this season when you also include Barcelona’s win over Ferencváros and his Argentina appearances in World Cup qualifying, which takes his tally up to three goals from seven games, but keep in mind that those goals in the Champions League and with the Albiceleste against Ecuador were also from the spot.
Looking at the recent history of El Clásico, Messi hasn’t been in the best scoring form there either. He may be the all-time top scorer in this fixture with his 26 goals, but he hasn’t netted in his past five games against Los Blancos. It may sound blasphemous to say it about a man who has scored so many goals and produced perhaps the most iconic Clásico celebration, but this might be a weekend to bet against Messi scoring.
4. It could be another low-scoring affair
This fixture finished goalless last season when it was played in December, after initially being postponed from its October date. That was a big surprise because there hadn’t been a goalless Clásico before that since 2002. There weren’t even that many goals by usual Clásico standards in their second meeting of the season, where Real Madrid ran out 2-0 winners.
These two teams simply don’t possess the same goalscoring might as they had in previous seasons. Cristiano Ronaldo has left, the MSN has been broken up, and so far this season Real Madrid have just six goals from five La Liga games, while Barcelona are doing a little better with eight goals from four.
Considering how excellent Thibaut Courtois has been in goal recently and how well Neto has been doing as he fills in for the injured Marc-André ter Stegen, we might not see many net ripples this Saturday. Maybe it won’t be another 17-year gap between goalless Clásicos.
5. Real Madrid to get the ‘away’ win
As always with a Clásico, it’s so tough to call. The fine margins can change everything in these matches, but let’s jump off the fence and go for Real Madrid.
Zidane has never lost to Barcelona at the Camp Nou, with his record there currently two wins and three draws from five visits as a coach. Given the current circumstances, home advantage should be even less of a factor for Barça, so maybe the visitors can take advantage.
Don’t expect many goals, as outlined above, but Madrid might just nick an away win at the Camp Nou, like they almost did last season.