La Liga Barcelona vs Real Madrid: El Clasico to live up to its name
Barcelona are currently nine points clear after 25 games, so can Carlo Ancelotti once again produce a tactical masterclass to reduce the gap to six?
Los Blancos are buoyant after progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League this week following a surprisingly comfortable 6-2 aggregate win over Liverpool.
After being 2-0 down early at Anfield in the first leg, Madrid fans had a right to be concerned, but Ancelotti has never been one to panic about his game plan, and within a blink of an eye it was 2-2 before his side eventually ran away with a 5-2 victory on the night.
Sadly for Liverpool, a repeat of their famous three-goal comeback against Barcelona in 2019 was not on the cards, with Karim Benzema scoring the only goal in a clinical 1-0 win at the Bernabeu on Wednesday - his third goal in the tie.
That success will have given the Madrid players an enormous boost of confidence, and they will travel to Catalania with a very real belief that they can upset spoil Barca's incredible form at Camp Nou, where they have conceded just one goal in 12 home Liga games (Won 10, Drawn 2).
Barcelona have no European competition to concern this season, having been defeated by Manchester United earlier this month in the Europa League.
Consequently, their focus is now entirely on domestic competitions and a memorable season in Spain looks on the cards. While they are heavy favourites to lift the league title, they are also strongly fancied for Copa Del Rey glory having secured a 1-0 away win in the first leg of their semi final, which was again an El Classico encounter. The second leg is to be played in early April, with Barcelona the hosts. Xavi has major injury concerns with Pedri and Ousmane Dembele still injured, and those two alongside Robert Lewandowski would normally offer the highest output offensively for the Catalan side.
Ronald Araujo missed the 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao last weekend through suspension, and he will return to a tough assignment against the in-form Benzema and Vinicius Junior.
Real Madrid are still without David Alaba, with utility man Eduardo Camavinga once again likely to deputise for the Austrian. Ferland Mendy, who is a natural left full back, has been out of favour with Carlo Ancelotti.
While Barcelona have proved to be one of the sternest defences in Europe, at home especially, Real Madrid should still feel confident of taking all three points here.
Xavi's side have struggled to maintain their early season scoring rate whilst Real Madrid are on a major high following their demolition of Liverpool in Europe.
Expect a game with lots of chances alongside full-blooded action, with Carlo Ancelotti's experience and tactical shrewdness coming out on top to offer hope of taking the La Liga title race to the wire.
Real Madrid to win is a valuable play at odds exceeding 2/1, while a bet on +0.25 Asian Handicap could be the shrewder and safer option.
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