Having started the season in typical Barcelona fashion. Tito Vilanova, the man who replaced Barcelona great Pep Guardiola, finds his team top of the La Liga table with a total of 18 points from 18. Along with 17 goals scored and only 5 conceded – life after Pep maybe isnt as bad as everyone expected.
Real Madrid however, are not finding things as easy as the Catalan's this year. Although winning the Super Copa for the first time under the guidance of Mourinho – Madrid find themselves sixth – and a massive 8 points behind Barcelona.
Defeats to Sevilla and Getafe, as well as a draw against Valencia have seen Madrid tumble off the perch of the league – in which they dominated last season. Many reason's have been made of Madrid's slump – most notably Cristiano Ronaldo and his 'unhappiness', there is also the rumour that Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane has fallen out with Mourinho. Whatever the reason, Madrid need a victory. A victory against Barcelona this early on could work wonders for Madrid.
Madrid have managed to turn things around of late – with a 5-1 victory over Deportivo La Coruna, a game in which Ronaldo scored his first hatrick of the season. As well as beating Manchester City 3-2 in their opening game of The Champions League.
However, a victory over Barcelona this early would undermine these two results. Knocking Barcelona off their perch is still a task Mourinho feels he needs to do – and the psychological effect it could have could be huge. If Madrid are too win they would only trail Barca by 5 points – a feasible task. But the real interesting idea is how Barca would react. We are yet to see Barcelona lose in the league this season – and how they react under new boss Vilanova could be crucial to their season. These two sides have already met twice this season, with a Barca win and a Madrid victory. However, on the away goal ruling Madrid were Super Copa champions.
Last 5 El Clasico Results: -
29/08/12 – Bernabeu - Real Madrid 2 – 1 Barcelona
23/08/12 – Nou Camp – Barcelona 3 -2 Real Madrid
21/04/12 – Nou Camp – Barcelona 1 – 2 Real Madrid
10/12/11 – Bernabeu – Real Madrid 1 – 3 Barcelona
16/04/11 – Bernabeu – Real Madrid 1 – Barcelona 1
Key Player: Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo
With his first hatrick of the season against Deportivo La Coruna & his sixth goal of the season – Roandlo remains Madrid's main man this season. Although supposedly 'unhappy' at Madrid – Ronaldo is still scoring goals. With 4 goals in his last 5 appearances against Barcelona, Ronaldo has finally overcome the obstacle of scoring against Barcelona. The Catalans will be all too aware of Ronaldo, especially after his double in the Super Copa this season.
With 155 goals in 153 appearances for Real Madrid – he has justified his £80,000,000 price tag. If Ronaldo is too see out his contract at Madrid – it will be amazing to see how many goals the Portugese start can manage.
Key Player: Barcelona – Lionel Messi
The little Argentine is the best player in the world – and with 70+ goals in all competitions last year Messi will be more eager than ever to carry on his phenomenal goal scoring record. With 3 goals in his last 5 El Clasico appearances – Messi will be more than up for the challenge of downing Madrid once more. With an 11 point lead this early on in the season, would it be too much for Madrid?
The all time leading goal scorer for Barcelona, Messi has caused Madrid nightmares over the years and will be keen to do so. With 8 goals this season already for Barcelona – Messi will be more than up for the challenge of facing Madrid this Sunday, along with the possibility of eliminating Madrid from the league so early on.
Players To Watch: Real Madrid -
Mesut Ozil – With the arrival of Luka Modric – much has been made of Ozil's position at Madrid. A natural play maker, Ozil has an outstanding amount of assist's in the Number 10 role. However, with introduction of Luka Modric also playing in the play-maker role – and Ozil's inability to finish off the last 15minutes of a game, it will be interesting too see who starts for Madrid in midfield. A position that will be key to taming Barcelona's play.
Pepe & Sergio Ramos – An absolute rock at the back for Real – Pepe & Ramos against Barcelona is always great for us neutrals. However, with poor disciplinary records against the Catalans – most notably Messi – it will be interesting too see how the duo manage against a Barca side who will no doubt be attacking the game from the off. In order for Madrid to stand a chance, they will need 11 men on the pitch. Mourinho will no doubt let these two know that prior to the game.
Players To Watch: Barcelona -
Cristian Tello – The Barcelona youngster has three assists to his name this season. Playing with the likes of Messi, Xavi & Iniesta will be great for the youngster – who is doing more than enough to show Vilanova he has the ability to play for Barcelona. Tello has scored for Barca in this season's Champions League campaign – and will be keen to show his ability to Vilanova with a display against Real Madrid.
Cesc Fabregas – Much has been made about life at Barcelona for Cesc Fabregas. With little playing time at Barca and very few starts – The once Arsenal hero has now appeared to find 'coming home' a struggle. However, Fabregas is a world class player. With two goals already this campaign – Fabregas will be looking at this Madrid game to stake a place in Vilanova's side.
Alex Song – Song moved to Barcelona this summer. Seen as a squad player – Vilanova has used Song as a centre back due to injuries to Pique and Puyol. Not the quickest of players, it will be intersting too see how Song manages up against the likes of Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema and co.
Predicted Score: 2-2
This El Clasico will be different to usual. Madrid need the win much more than Barcelona – so I believe they will attack from the off. Barcelona's natural game will soon kick in and I expect them to dominate.
I think this game has Cristiano Ronaldo all over it. Barca will enjoy the lions share of possession – but I think the Real Madrid super star will steal a valuable point off Barcelona this Sunday.View live match commentary