Barça fans during a Barça-Madrid match at the Camp Nou / PHOTO: FCB ARCHIVE

As the world prepares for the Clásico on Sunday, here’s a look at what journalists from the Catalan and Spanish press are saying about the FC Barcelona-Real Madrid showdown at the Camp Nou.

The key to Clásico glory

“The team that’s the most loyal to its style of play will win,” says Rubén Uría in Sport’s panel discussion on tomorrow’s Clásico. “Madrid with pressure high up the pitch, quick turnovers and electric counters or Barça with ball possession, positional attack and acceleration in the final stretch.” Martí Perarnau believes the key to tomorrow’s match lies within “how many balls Busquets and Xavi lose and how close Pepe plays to Casillas. If he’s not pressured, he’ll situate himself in the midfield and if that happens, the white spiderweb will engulf everything, including Messi.” For Toni Pardilla it’s all about “Barça’s defensive strength ... if Barça feels insecure, the whole team trembles. But in closed matches, the inspiration of Messi, Iniesta or Cristiano will be key.”

Barça’s defence

Tito Vilanova will be without Puyol, Abidal, Muniesa and perhaps Piqué for the game against Los Blancos, but Carlos Pérez de Rozas points out in his Mundo Deportivo column that even though the Barça manager won’t be able to call on his first string defenders that Barça’s “defensive stats defend its defence.” Mr. Pérez de Rozas writes that “in the first six matches of the league, Barça have only conceded five goals. That’s an average of less than a goal every 90 minutes. Only Sevilla were able to score more than once and their first came from an unlucky rebound from Mascherano.” In addition, “Barça have only conceded twice in the Champions League. Another good average of only a goal per game.”

Mr. Pérez de Rozas goes on to say that “in the eight matches between the league and the Champions League, Barça have kept a clean sheet three times: against Valencia, Granada and Benfica ... in the two games where Barça conceded more than one goal, those were more a product of bad fortune than outright errors.” He closes his column by saying that Tito Vilanova’s Barça has won all of its games this season despite missing many important players to injury. “The team has played many minutes without Puyol, Piqué, Jordi Alba, Iniesta, and even Alexis. But the team’s level hasn’t dropped. Song, Adriano, Cesc, Tello and Thiago - when he hasn’t been injured - have played as though they were regular starters; it’s allowed Barça to lead from the start in both of the most important competitions of the year.”

Best manager in Club history

Óscar Rodríguez writes in La Información that only Mourinho can stop Vilanova from becoming the first manager in FC Barcelona history to win his opening seven games in the league. “If the Azulgranas beat Real Madrid this Sunday, the team will remain alone as the best Barça in history and Tito will enter Azulgrana history,” says Rodríguez. He adds that if Mourinho draws or defeats Barça, that Tito will remain level with his predecessor Josep Guardiola and the Dutchman Louis van Gaal after winning his opening six league matches.

How will Mourinho play at the Camp Nou

“Mourinho is looking for a tactic, a design to beat Barça’s style of play. Despite the fact that the Super Cup landed [in Madrid], Barça went over Los Blancos,” writes Marcos López in Marca. In his piece titled “Modric, Kaka, Özil or none of the three,” López says that Madrid’s “approach might be to wait in the last two thirds of the pitch with the 1-4-1-4-1 [formation] that Mourinho uses against Barça. The triangle of pressure [Essien, Khedira and Xabi Alonso] doesn’t leave room for creative players.” While Mr. López says that the “cards are marked” in favour of a more defensive approach, he does note that Özil or Modric could get some playing time in the game seeing that their presence adds depth to Madrid’s already potent trio of forwards.

Jaime Rodíguez raises the same question in El Mundo. “Will Mourinho play with a strong midfield with Khedira, Alonso and Essien? Or will he use a more standard approach, with Özil or Modric to take on a troubled Barça defence?” He finishes by noting that “a defeat this Sunday would leave the team [Madrid] devastated, 11 points behind their arch rivals, and a victory would be the best morale ‘shot’ after a very stromy start to the season.”

Where are FCB and RM's youth team players?

La Información shares an interesting graphic that details where FC Barcelona and Real Madrid’s youth team players are currently playing and what the two sides would look like if they could only field home grown players: Barça and Madrid line-ups.

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