Even though it’s only December, tomorrow’s game between Barcelona and Real Madrid has even more significance than usual. Some people are even calling it a season defining match already. It is, for me, a bigger game for Barcelona than it is for Real Madrid, given the two teams recent performances and results. Whilst Zidane’s Real Madrid are unbeaten in 13 league games this season, Barcelona’s draw at Sociedad last week saw the players and in particular boss Luis Enrique come under serious fire from the fiercely critical Catalan press.
At the time of writing this, Real Madrid are 6 points clear of Barcelona at the top of the La Liga standings. Real, who have only won the league once in the last 8 seasons, have not had a lead as commanding as this in La Liga since 2012, when Jose Mourinho was in charge. This is also the biggest lead Real have held over Barca in the League since 2008, when Bernd Schuster was boss.
Should Madrid come away from the Nou Camp with a victory tomorrow, they will hold a 9 point lead over Barca; a lead in which surely even at this stage of the season is too big to make up.
Andres Iniesta, the legendary Barca midfielder, has been declared fit for the game after missing several weeks with an injury. This will come as a huge boost to Barca, with Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez being unable to adequately replace the playmaker in the centre of midfield. Real will go in to the game in relatively good shape fitness wise, with Gareth Bale being the only real long-term injury at the club currently.
Barcelona – Lionel Messi
Yes, it’s an obvious pick, but he really does make all the difference. When he’s not playing well, Barca very rarely play well. Expect to see him dropping deeper to receive the ball off the Barca midfielders if the game is congested in the middle third, trying to make something happen.
Real Madrid – Luka Modric
Perhaps a surprising choice to most people, who would’ve gone for Cristiano, but Modric is the one who keeps this Madrid team ticking over and with Toni Kroos out injured, his role as deep lying playmaker will become even more crucial in ensuring Barca do not enjoy too much possession in the midfield areas. Technically superb and a great passer.
Under Zidane, Real Madrid have found a more pragmatic approach whilst still having the firepower and flair needed to finish teams off when needed. Barca are struggling for form currently, with key players such as Busquets having a tricky time of it. However, this is not an ordinary league game and both teams will be giving it everything in what is the most important game of the season to date. If Real win this, it’s a long way back for Barca and potentially Enrique as boss.
I predict a 2-1 win to Real Madrid.