PREVIEW: FC Barcelona v Real Madrid
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It’s never necessary to emphasise the importance of a Clásico because everyone knows it’s a must-see game between two giants of Spanish football. Match day seven of the 2020/21 LaLiga season sees Ronald Koeman's first Clásico as a manager, and it’s also the first match between Barça and Madrid to be played without a crowd inside the stadium.
The eternal rival
Coach: Zinedine Zidane. The former midfielder has never crossed paths with his opposite number as a player or a manager, therefore this will be the first meeting between them.
Top scorer: Vinicius has three goals in all competitions; two in the league and one in the Champions League.
League position: With one game less than joint leaders Real Sociedad and Villarreal, Los Blancos are currently in third position. Their 10 points have come from three wins, a draw and a defeat.
Current form: Real have lost their last two matches in all competitions, after being beaten by Cadiz in the league last weekend before losing to Shakhtar Donetsk (2-3) in the Champions League in midweek.
The squad: Zidane has called up 20 players: Courtois, Lunin, Luis López, Militão, Sergio Ramos, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo, Mendy, Kroos, Modrić, Casemiro, Valverde, Isco, Benzema, Asensio, Lucas Vázquez, Jović, Vinicius and Rodrygo.
The Objective: A win to draw level
The statistics from Barça v Madrid matches couldn’t be closer. In all competitions, both teams have 96 wins in this fixture, but if only league matches are counted, Real Madrid lead Barça by a solitary victory. In 180 league Clásico’s, Los Blancos have 73 wins with Barça on 72 and 35 draws. If the hosts can win tomorrow, it will leave everything level until the next meeting.
A match that ensures goals
The 0-0 last season at Camp Nou was a rare occurrence, because the last 10 clásico’s have seen an average of 2.7 goals per game. Messi, with 26 goals, is the top scorer in the history of this fixture, and it’s a clash that also saw five goals from current Barça coach, Ronald Koeman.
Ansu Fati has scored against Real Madrid for the youth teams, but Saturday’s fixture should provide the youngster with the first opportunity for doing so at senior level. The No.22 is Barça’s current top scorer with four; three in the league and one in the Champions League.
Koeman's first El Clásico squad
The Barça coach, who first played in this fixture on October 7, 1989, has decided to call up the following players: Dest, Piqué, R. Araujo, Sergio, Aleñá, Griezmann, Pjanic, Braithwaite, Messi, O. Dembélé, Riqui Puig, Neto, Coutinho, Lenglet, Pedri, Trincao, Jordi Alba, S. Roberto, F. De Jong, Ansu Fati, Junior, Iñaki Peña and Arnau Tenas.
Ter Stegen, Matheus and Umtiti are out due to injury.
“It’s a different game to the rest. You always feel more pressure, but I’ve been in football for many years. I’m used to dealing with this pressure.
“The game will be strange, as when you play at home in these kinds of games the fans are almost an extra man. We hope that we can soon have our supporters back at the stadium.
“The players deserve to win this game because of the work they are doing every day. Winning games shows that we are on the right path.”
Did you know?
FC Barcelona haven’t scored in their last two league clásico’s. There’s only one occasion in history where they’ve gone three games in the league without scoring against Real Madrid, and that came way back between March 1957 and February 1958.
FC Barcelona have scored 399 goals in the history of this match in all competitions, and could reach 400 on Saturday.
If Real Madrid win the match, it will be the first time since May 2008 that they’ve won two consecutive LaLiga clásico’s.
Real Madrid have only won the first encounter between the sides each season once in the last 12 campaigns; October 2014 (3-1). The last time they won the opening clásico played at Camp Nou was in December 2007 with a goal from Julio Baptista.
Top scorer in the fixture, Lionel Messi, hasn’t scored with any of his last 16 shots (six on target) against Real Madrid, and has gone 425 minutes without finding the net against Los Blancos, the second worst run of his career.
Zinedine Zidane has only lost two of his nine matches against Barça in all competitions, winning two of his four victories at the Camp Nou.
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