La Liga Decider?: 7 Talking Points Heading Into El Clasico Between Barcelona And Real Madrid

La Liga Decider?: 7 Talking Points Heading Into El Clasico Between Barcelona And Real Madrid

La Liga Decider?: 7 Talking Points Heading Into El Clasico Between Barcelona And Real Madrid
El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Sunday could decide La Liga

Played before a global audience to rival the Super Bowl and the World Cup final, this season’s second installment of El Clasico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid could potentially decide the 2019/2020 La Liga title race.

Hurtling towards the big match on Sunday evening, here are some of the main talking points surrounding it.

Momentum and Morale

At the moment, the former is all with FC Barcelona and the latter has been rocked at the Bernabeu.

Somehow, amidst internal crises which seem to start afresh each passing week, Barça have gone from losing 2-0 at Valencia, and looking as though they could fall six points behind Madrid at any given moment, to enjoying a two point cushion possibly extended to five at the weekend.

This luxury has been afforded to them by Los Blancos drawing with Celta Vigo 2-2 and falling to Levante 1-0 in their last two outings. Last night, former Barça boss Pep Guardiola stuck the knife in further by beating their rivals 2-1 in the Champions League with Manchester City, further knocking the confidence of Zinedine Zidane’s troops.

Weaknesses down the left

Regular left back Jordi Alba picking up a knock against Getafe, his stand-in Junior Firpo has been poor and again failed to impress in the 1-1 draw with Napoli on the continent earlier this week.

At fault for Dries Merten’s 30th minute opener, Real Madrid should look to exploit this chink in Barça’s armour whether it is City goal scorer Isco or his assist provider Vinicius Jr running at him from the right wing.

That being said, Ferland Mendy has looked better than an aging Marcelo on the slide this term in the same area of the pitch and was strong at the Camp Nou in its first Clasico. Last night, though, he appeared vulnerable dealing with the tricky runs of Riyad Mahrez which is something that Blaugrana manager Quique Setien will have picked up on spying from the stands.

Samuel Umtiti or Clement Lenglet?

Gradually getting his philosophy across to the players, one thing Setien has not been able to nail is who partners Gerard Pique. Against Napoli he went for Umtiti, who failed to handle the pace of Gennaro Gattuso’s attackers, but has in other affairs alernatively opted for his compatriot Lenglet. If Pique, who hobbled off at the Stadio San Paolo, is not up to the task however, the Les Bleus pair will partner one another.

Sergio Ramos

Caught out for two goals that could define his team’s campaign – equalisers from Santi Mina for Celta and Gabriel Jesus for City both at the Bernabeu – Ramos was also red-carded against the Premier League holders therefore making him unable to fight for Madrid’s European survival at the Etihad.

Clearly out of sorts at present, the Spain skipper may rise to the occasion or have his misery prolonged in the sport’s biggest derby.

A high press or sit back?

The Napoli draw wasn’t Barça’s best performance, and saw their chances of going all the way to the Istanbul on May 30 written off by the local media, but one positive to take from it was how well they pressed and barely let down in intensity.

As Lionel Messi noted in December however, Real Madrid are charged by their fans to entertain and attack at home. “When we play at the Bernabeu, many more spaces are generated. They attack us more because they have the obligation as the host team and people push them for that,” were his exact words.

Considering this, then, will Setien’s men build upon their pressing success or sit back, wait for the gaps to open up and capatilise on them?

4-4-2 or 4-3-3?

Beaten into honouring the classic 4-3-3 formation following the mentioned toppling at the Mestalla in January, Setien gambled with a 4-4-2 on Saturday against Eibar which saw Messi bag four and Arthur the other in a 5-0 rout.

At the Bernabeu, it remains to be seen which approach the 61-year-old favours to work best.

Ansu Fati or Arturo Vidal?

The 17-year-old has been rested for the Catalans’ last two fixtures, and will be fresh to face Real Madrid.

Either in a four man midfield or the disputed left spot up top however, Vidal has fought his way to recognition and could still get the nod despite his hot headed red card in Italy.

Fati possessing game changing talent that if imposed on the match could elevate him further to stardom, Vidal boasts an intensity and aggresiveness, mixed with grand stage experience, that is not found elsewhere in the first team squad.

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El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Sunday could decide La Liga

BARCELONA, SPAIN – DECEMBER 18: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) vies with Real … [+] Madrid’s German midfielder Toni Kross (R) during Spanish El Clasico football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 18, 2019. (Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)


Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Played before a global audience to rival the Super Bowl and the World Cup final, this season’s second installment of El Clasico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid could potentially decide the 2019/2020 La Liga title race.

Hurtling towards the big match on Sunday evening, here are some of the main talking points surrounding it.

Momentum and Morale

At the moment, the former is all with FC Barcelona and the latter has been rocked at the Bernabeu.

Somehow, amidst internal crises which seem to start afresh each passing week, Barça have gone from losing 2-0 at Valencia, and looking as though they could fall six points behind Madrid at any given moment, to enjoying a two point cushion possibly extended to five at the weekend.

This luxury has been afforded to them by Los Blancos drawing with Celta Vigo 2-2 and falling to Levante 1-0 in their last two outings. Last night, former Barça boss Pep Guardiola stuck the knife in further by beating their rivals 2-1 in the Champions League with Manchester City, further knocking the confidence of Zinedine Zidane’s troops.

Jordi Alba will not feature in El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid

BARCELONA, SPAIN – February 15: An injured Jordi Alba #18 of Barcelona before leaving the field … [+] during the Barcelona V Getafe, La Liga regular season match at Estadio Camp Nou on February 15th 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)


Corbis via Getty Images

Weaknesses down the left

Regular left back Jordi Alba picking up a knock against Getafe, his stand-in Junior Firpo has been poor and again failed to impress in the 1-1 draw with Napoli on the continent earlier this week.

At fault for Dries Merten’s 30th minute opener, Real Madrid should look to exploit this chink in Barça’s armour whether it is City goal scorer Isco or his assist provider Vinicius Jr running at him from the right wing.

That being said, Ferland Mendy has looked better than an aging Marcelo on the slide this term in the same area of the pitch and was strong at the Camp Nou in its first Clasico. Last night, though, he appeared vulnerable dealing with the tricky runs of Riyad Mahrez which is something that Blaugrana manager Quique Setien will have picked up on spying from the stands.

Samuel Umtiti or Clement Lenglet?

Gradually getting his philosophy across to the players, one thing Setien has not been able to nail is who partners Gerard Pique. Against Napoli he went for Umtiti, who failed to handle the pace of Gennaro Gattuso’s attackers, but has in other affairs alernatively opted for his compatriot Lenglet. If Pique, who hobbled off at the Stadio San Paolo, is not up to the task however, the Les Bleus pair will partner one another.

Sergio Ramos was sent off last night for Real Madrid against Manchester City.

MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 26: FIFA Referee Daniele Orsato of Italy (R) shows a red card for Sergio … [+] Ramos of Real Madrid (L) during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Santiago Bernabeu on February 26, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Ricardo Nogueira/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)


Getty Images

Sergio Ramos

Caught out for two goals that could define his team’s campaign – equalisers from Santi Mina for Celta and Gabriel Jesus for City both at the Bernabeu – Ramos was also red-carded against the Premier League holders therefore making him unable to fight for Madrid’s European survival at the Etihad.

Clearly out of sorts at present, the Spain skipper may rise to the occasion or have his misery prolonged in the sport’s biggest derby.

A high press or sit back?

The Napoli draw wasn’t Barça’s best performance, and saw their chances of going all the way to the Istanbul on May 30 written off by the local media, but one positive to take from it was how well they pressed and barely let down in intensity.

As Lionel Messi noted in December however, Real Madrid are charged by their fans to entertain and attack at home. “When we play at the Bernabeu, many more spaces are generated. They attack us more because they have the obligation as the host team and people push them for that,” were his exact words.

Considering this, then, will Setien’s men build upon their pressing success or sit back, wait for the gaps to open up and capatilise on them?

Lionel Messi scored four goals against Eibar

10 Lionel Messi from Argentina of FC Barcelona celebrating a goal with 22 Arturo Vidal from Chile of … [+] FC Barcelona during La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona and SD Eibar at Camp Nou Stadium on February 22, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


NurPhoto via Getty Images

4-4-2 or 4-3-3?

Beaten into honouring the classic 4-3-3 formation following the mentioned toppling at the Mestalla in January, Setien gambled with a 4-4-2 on Saturday against Eibar which saw Messi bag four and Arthur the other in a 5-0 rout.

At the Bernabeu, it remains to be seen which approach the 61-year-old favours to work best.

Ansu Fati or Arturo Vidal?

The 17-year-old has been rested for the Catalans’ last two fixtures, and will be fresh to face Real Madrid.

Either in a four man midfield or the disputed left spot up top however, Vidal has fought his way to recognition and could still get the nod despite his hot headed red card in Italy.

Fati possessing game changing talent that if imposed on the match could elevate him further to stardom, Vidal boasts an intensity and aggresiveness, mixed with grand stage experience, that is not found elsewhere in the first team squad.

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