Kick Off: Saturday, 02/03/2013, 10:00 EST.
El Clasico – Real Madrid vs barcelona March 2013 Preview.
FC Barcelona travel to the capital tomorrow as they prepare to take on reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid for the sixth – and almost certainly final – time this season.
Unlike recent seasons which have been characterised by Blaugrana dominance in the fixture, Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho appear to have turned the corner and are unbeaten in their last four matches against the Catalan giants.
However, with a crucial UEFA Champions League Round of 16, second-leg match against Premier League leaders Manchester United fast approaching, do Los Blancos have the squad depth required to extend that run to five matches with a win/draw at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow?
Round one of the El Clasico week certainly went to Real Madrid. In round two on Saturday, Barcelona will be desperate to turn the tables on their bitter rivals, even if the stakes might be a lot lesser than the one earlier this week.
Real Madrid completely dominated Barcelona – not in terms of possession of course – in the second leg of their Copa Del Rey semifinal Tuesday at the Camp Nou to storm into the title round in style.
Cristiano Ronaldo was easily the better of the two superstars on the day, scoring two goals in the 3-1 win, as Lionel Messi remained on the periphery for much of the 90 minutes.
Saturday will see the two teams meet yet again, this time at the Bernabeu, in the league. Unfortunately, the matchup will not carry that much spice – although it will be considerably more than most games seeing as it is still the El Clasico – with the La Liga title pretty much signed, sealed and delivered to Barca.
Real are 16 points behind and do not hold any realistic chance of catching their biggest rivals. Also, Jose Mourinho’s side have the daunting away trip to Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday hovering in the background; meaning the Portuguese manager is likely to rest several of his big stars.
Injured skipper Iker Casillas though insisted on the importance of getting a positive result in the league.
“We have to be aware that in the league, when we do not win, the fans suffer and it is our duty to fight in every match and the next one is against Barcelona,” he said. “What we want to do is win and keep cutting their lead.
“It is a disadvantage that it might not be as big as it is, but this competition is about consistency and in that regard Barcelona have been better than us.
“We will go out to win to cut the distance in terms of points. It is a considerable distance, but with the added bonus of our home fans we want to round off the week well.”
Barcelona will have a lot to prove of course, and with their Champions League second leg against AC Milan more than ten days away, they will put in all their efforts on regaining some of their pride as well as their confidence.
“Our mentality won’t change because of what happened (in the Copa Del Rey semifinal),” Andres Iniesta said
“It’s not that the team has let go or doesn’t want to win. In some situations the opposition simply have you beat. But there are still some big games left and we’re optimistic about them.
“It’s only normal for there to be doubts. That’s all part of what this is about. But the fans are always there for us when we need them.”
There are no new injury concerns for Real, although the likes of Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil might be given a rest by Mourinho, while Casillas remains sidelined.
Barcelona have received a huge blow with the news that Xavi suffered a hamstring tear, and is ruled out. Barca, though, might have Adriano back available, while David Villa could be in line for a start, after the underwhelming showing from their forwards in the last game.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona Expected Lineups.
Real Madrid: Diego Lopez; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Essien, Modric; Callejon, Kaka, Ronaldo; Benzema.
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Alba; Thiago, Busquets, Fabregas; Messi, Villa, Iniesta.