The Real Madrid-FC Barcelona historic rivalry will be re-ignited when the two teams will face off in the third El Clasico of the season on Sunday at the Nou Camp.
Following is a prediction of how the two teams could stack up and what could be the possible scoreline for the highly-anticipated game.
The Catalans will be without their influential leader Carles Puyol after the latter suffered a dislocated elbow during the club’s midweek win over Benfica.
Thiago Alcantara and Gerard Pique too are unavailable for Sunday’s game but Tito Vilanova will be boosted by the return of midfielder Andres Iniesta.
The Spaniard has been the club’s best performer after Lionel Messi over the past 12 months and will be one of the most important players for Barcelona against Real Madrid.
Victor Valdes will be the undoubted number one despite his horrendous error in the first Clasico of the season.
He’s been the club’s first-choice goalkeeper for almost a decade now and it overwhelmingly unlikely that he’ll be dropped in favor of Pinto come Sunday.
Dani Alves is a shoo-in at right back and the left-back role should go to Brazil international Adriano. Jordi Alba might be a relatively better option but with Tito starting the Spaniard and resting Adriano for the Benfica game was a clear indication that the former Valencia man will have to do with a reduced role.
Javier Mascherano and Alex Song will be likely two central defenders in the absence of any other alternatives for the injured duo of Pique and Puyol.
The midfield will be the key to Barcelona’s victory and as aforementioned, the club will be glad that Iniesta will be fit enough to start the game. The 28-year-old will be probably paired up with Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets in three-man midfield.
Even though Cesc Fabregas has been in red-hot form lately, the chances of the former Gunner starting ahead of Xavi look remote.
Upfront, Lionel Messi will be deployed in the ‘false nine’ role with Alexis Sanchez and Tell on the wings. Pedro could miss out on a starting role as Tello was rested against Benfica, whereas, Alexis Sanchez had an excellent outing against the Portuguese club.
I don’t see David Villa as he’s lack playing-time and in my opinion, will be brought on later in the game.
Jose Mourinho will be delighted that unlike his opponents, the ‘Special One’ will have an almost full-fit team with a variety of options for almost all the positions.
Iker Casillas, like Victor Valdez, is a shoo-in for the goalkeeper role.
Marcelo and Alvaro Arbeloa should take up the full-back roles on either flanks and Sergio Ramos and Pepe should continue with their impressive partnership at the heart of Madrid’s defense.
There might have been rumors of a fall-out between Ramos and Mou, the Spain international has assured that the differences have been ‘resolved’ and is sure to start the game on Sunday.
Sami Khedira was an injury-concern for the Ajax game, but he was subsequently brought on as second-half substitute against the Netherlands' champions and hence should start against Barcelona.
Xabi Alonso should also start and could be paired alongside Luka Modric as I feel Mourinho will go for a three-man midfield to counter Barcelona’s influential possession and tiki-taka play.
The attack should consist of Di Maria, Ronaldo and Benzema.
Higuain’s tendency to waste tons of chances in front of the goal makes a liability for Los Blancos in such important games and one will be surprised if the Argentine is preferred ahead of his French counterpart.
Prediction: FC Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid