El Clasico Preview: Real Madrid v Barcelona

Real Madrid Barcelona

Real Madrid will look to extend their lead at the top of La Liga when they take on arch-rivals Barcelona in El Clasico on Sunday night.

La Liga
23 April 2017
Match Day 33
Kick-off: 20H45 (GMT+2)
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu

Referee: A. Hernández
Assistants: T. Magán, J. Pérez
Fourth official: A. Pérez

Head-to-head summary:

Real Madrid 61 18 17 26
Barcelona 61 26 17 18

Previous encounter:

Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid 3 December 2016 (La Liga)

Barcelona goalscorers: L. Suárez (53′)
Real Madrid goalscorers: Sergio Ramos (90′)

Players to watch:

Cristiano Ronaldo is fresh off the brace he scored in the victory over Bayern Munich and could once again be a crucial player for the hosts. He has netted 31 goals in all competitions this season, in addition to 12 assists.

With Neymar on the sidelines through suspension, Barca will be looking to the other two stars in their trio, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, to pick up the slack in the final third.

Team form and manager quotes:

Los Merengues should be full of confidence ahead of the clash as they are coming off a dramatic victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals. The Spanish side beat the German outfit 4-2 after extra-time on Tuesday to clinch their spot in the last four.

Manager Zinedine Zidane’s men have not lost in their last 12 games in all competitions, and have won 10 during that unbeaten run which has seen them open a three-point lead over Barca.

When asked about the availability of star winger Gareth Bale, Zidane told his press conference: “He will not play because we don’t want to take any risks.”

“He wants to come back, he has been working hard. Hopefully he will be back for the Clásico but it’s not certain yet. We will see how he progresses day by day.

“Gareth has worked very hard to get back with the team after being out three months injured. When he returned he was very excited and happy. He has some issues which stop him being able to play. We just hope it is nothing serious.”

Meanwhile, Barcelona endured a disappointing Champions League result in midweek, drawing 0-0 at home against Juventus to lose 3-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.

The Catalans have gone through a difficult period recently, losing two of their last four games across all competitions, including a 2-0 defeat away at Malaga in La Liga.

“Barca have a team built to compete, to win trophies and to face every challenge,” said manager Luis Enrique, according to the Daily Star.

“It is clear we are very hurt to be eliminated from a competition that excites us so much, but now comes a key game against the leaders and a direct rival.

“We have to get ready to compete and I am sure we will do that.”

Team news:

Real Madrid remain without centre-backs Raphaël Varane and Pepe for the clash, while winger Gareth Bale is doubtful with a calf strain.

Barca will have to make do without star forward Neymar who serves a red card suspension, while Rafinha is unavailable due to a meniscus injury.