Spanish soccer powerhouses collide again on Sunday. Real Madrid takes on archrival Barcelona in the first ‘Clasico’ of La Liga’s season (the two teams met twice in the Spanish Supercopa which Real Madrid won). While Barcelona is continuing to dominate in La Liga, Madrid has had a tough go of the early season. Barcelona is a perfect 6-0, good for 18 points, while Real is 3-1-2 (or 3-2-1 for American readers), accumulating ten points, good for seventh place. Records aside, this shapes up to be another fabulous match up between two soccer goliaths. Here are three things to watch for.
- 1. Barcelona’s backline without captain Carles Puyol
Puyol dislocated his elbow this past week during a Champion’s League match against Benfica. The veteran is expected to miss around six weeks, obviously making him unavailable for the match. Puyol has become injury-prone, and Barcelona has played without him plenty of times. But the bottom line is that when Puyol is playing, the back line is just that great. Puyol has a knack for causing problems for goal-machine Cristiano Ronaldo, so it’ll be interesting to see if Puyol’s absence allows Ronaldo to find the net.
- 2. Which Real Madrid team will we see?
- The team that defeated Barcelona for the Spanish Supercopa? Or the team that has already lost two games in La Liga? Real has struggled to find consistency this season, looking world-class one moment and relegation-class the next. “Good” play won’t cut it against a team like Barcelona, especially when the game is in Barcelona. At the least, Real will have to be “Great” in order to pull out a win. A slow start could prove costly.
- 3. Which Real Madrid role player will step up?
To beat a team like Barcelona, it takes a complete team effort. We all know what Ronaldo, Alonso, and Casillas can do. But it will take more than that to win. Players that are a bit inconsistent like Ozil, Benzema, Higuain, and Di Maria will have to play meaningful minutes and contribute on both sides of the ball. In addition to the “usual suspects,” newly acquired players like Luka Modric and Michael Essien will have an opportunity to firmly plant themselves in the middle of this rivalry with effective play. They’ll have to help maintain possession when they play and get the ball to the goal-scorers in dangerous positions. Who will be the “magic man” for Real Madrid?
Despite Puyol’s injury, Barcelona is playing very well, while Real has been rather inconsistent. Because of that, my prediction is a Barcelona win.
Final Score: Barcelona wins 3-2
Stats obtained from foxsports.com