Terry Gibson's El Clasico Preview: Barcelona can keep their La Liga title dream alive at the Bernabeu


Real Madrid v Barcelona – Sunday 7:45 PM

This could well prove to be a title decider. So much so, that I believe if Real Madrid win, the title is theirs.

If they defeat Barcelona they will be six points clear. They will also have played one game less and the remaining La Liga fixture list is pretty kind.

However, a Barcelona victory would certainly make it a lot more complicated for Zidane's team.

Real Madrid have a game in hand away against Celta Vigo, which won't be easy by any means, and they also have the two Champions League semi-finals to play.

If the two teams are level after the game on Sunday evening then it will be a lot tougher for Real to win only their second title in nine seasons.

The mentality of the two teams will be interesting to see and it will play a huge part in the outcome of this game.

Will Real Madrid be slightly cautious? Even a draw would be a good result for them to keep Barca at arm’s length.

Or will they go all out to win the title on Sunday?

Barcelona, on the other hand, have no option but to go for the win, they have no choice whatsoever.

What state physically will the two teams be in for this huge match after contrasting fortunes in their midweek Champions League exploits?

Real had to endure extra time to succeed against Bayern Munich, and Barcelona, it has to be said, "huffed and puffed" for 90 minutes against Juventus without really making any progress whatsoever.

We have to consider current form as well. Real Madrid have now scored in 55 consecutive games. They are unbeaten in all competitions in the last 12, since losing to Valencia at The Mestalla late in February. They have won seven and drawn two in La Liga and have beaten Napoli and Bayern twice in the Champions League. It really is formidable form at this crucial stage of the season. Their only slip-ups have been two home draws against Las Palmas and Atletico.

For Barcelona, it has been a period where they have been well below par.

Two heavy defeats in the Champions League against PSG and Juventus and two defeats away from home against lowly placed teams Deportivo la Coruńa and Malaga have really put Enrique's team on the back foot.

I have assessed the two teams mentally, physically and on current form and lastly we will assess the teams’ tactical approaches.

Zidane rarely tries anything radical and I don't expect that to change in this game, it's not his style. He relies on fantastic players doing really good work in their right positions in a basic system that they all know. He has also somehow handled the dilemma of where and how to play Ronaldo, who nowadays drifts between the left wing and centre forward position. Nothing is a big issue for Zidane. There will be no surprise team selections and it is just a matter of who plays instead of Gareth Bale. My guess is it will be Isco. Ramos and Nacho will continue in central defence, owing to the absences of the injured Varane and Pepe.



Trying to guess Enrique's tactics is certainly a lot tougher. Neymar is suspended after losing his appeal.

Will he play a back four or a three? Who will replace Neymar if as expected he is not available? Will he play Iniesta, who he doesn't appear to think can play two big games in such a short space of time? I must admit I don't see the evidence behind Enrique's thinking on that one!

As you can see clearly Real Madrid go into this game with so many things in their favour. Better form, better league position and a clearer defined tactical strategy but as we know in these games how much of that is relevant when they go head-to-head on the day.

In my opinion, I don't see Real Madrid getting beat. They have a winning mentality at the moment and refuse to accept defeat. That mentality earned them a draw at the Nou Camp early in December when Ramos came up with one of his specials in the 90th minute.

Despite all the shortcomings regarding Barcelona this season, especially away from home, it is still tough to write them off completely.

I correctly predicted a draw in their first meeting this season and I'm going to do exactly the same in this one (4.00).

I'm even going for the same scoreline of 1-1 (8.50). Draws don't happen that often in this game and that was the first since 2012 in La Liga but that's what I'm predicting and for the title race to still be alive, only just though!

 

Bottom of the table fixtures

An interesting weekend ahead for the four teams at the bottom of the division. Osasuna are pretty much relegated being 10 points away from safety with six to play but this week they play one of the teams just above them in Sporting Gijon.

None of the bottom four got a point last week and that has been pretty common recently!

Leganés have picked up three points in the last six games, and, somehow, are still five points ahead of the bottom three!

I'm afraid I don't see either Granada or Leganés getting anything again this weekend.

Granada travel to Sevilla for Friday night’s game and Sevilla are showing signs of recovering some form, they will be too good for Granada in attack. Granada couldn't get anything against Celta Vigo's reserves last week!

Leganés go to Villarreal and that sees the worst attack statistically in the division (26 scored) against the second best defence (26 conceded). Villarreal are only behind Atletico, who have conceded 24 goals this season, and it will be a major surprise if Leganés notch in that game let alone get any points.

I'm going to go for an away win though for Sporting Gijon, and for the relegation race to finally warm up. If, as expected, Granada and Leganés are defeated, then Sporting face Osasuna in the last fixture of the relegation threatened teams this weekend.

If the coach Rubi doesn't go for it in those circumstances, knowing that a win puts his team just two points away from Leganés, then he never will.

His side were twice ahead against Real Madrid last week and it was an epic failure on his part to try to play the last 10 minutes without any strikers in order to hold onto the draw.

Isco's last minute winner was inevitable.

 

Sevilla v Granada Fri 7-45 KO home win – 1.20

Villarreal v Leganés Sat 3-15 KO home win – 1.70

Osasuna v Sporting Gijon  Sat 5-30 KO away win – 2.85