Match Preview: Barcelona vs Real Madrid – 2021/22
Super Sunday on the European football stage. Marseille — PSG, Manchester United — Liverpool and Juventus — Milan.
For obvious reasons however, the focus shifts towards El Clásico, where Real Madrid and Football Club Barcelona lock horns once again. For the very first time in as long as one can remember — without Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos. Invariably so, the dip in quality means nothing to the rivalry itself. It takes nothing away from the history that’s been made down the years.
As Karim Benzema so rightly puts it, “For me, it’s still the same. This is the best game in the world regardless of the players who are here, the ones who left. It is history. It is football. [Before Ronaldo and Messi] there was Zinedine Zidane, there was Ronaldinho, there was Ronaldo, there was Samuel Eto’o. The names change, but Real Madrid vs. Barcelona is still Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, regardless of the players. The pressure is different.”
What to Expect:
Both Madrid and Barça won their respective Champions League fixtures earlier last week. Quite poetically actually, both those wins came against two of Ukraine’s best Kyiv based football teams. They came, however, under very different circumstances.
Madrid were spared the weekend following the return from international duty. Despite the earlier dip in trajectory, they were comfortable in winning 5-0 away from home. Barcelona on the other hand may need to do a little more to cement their position both in the league and in Europe. Gérard Pique’s goal was enough to keep them in contention for qualification but a spot is still not guaranteed.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been playing an intense style, one that demands an extra 10% from each of the players on the field. It does make their football look very eye-catching. Karim Benzema’s recent form and Vinícius Júnior’s influence should be crucial as far as selection is concerned.
The return of major influence in the form of Ancelotti’s preferred midfield trident, plus his two strongest full backs, add to that Eden Hazard. This is an incredibly scary team on paper. And the results are there for everyone to see, despite a few wobbles here and there of course.
Ronald Koeman has fired up Ansu Fati into hot form ahead of the latest Clásico, and intends to build a young, energetic team around him. The Catalan giants lack experience and quality in depth on paper and aren’t in the best of positions financially. Despite that though, it doesn’t take anything away from what the team can do.
Last weekend’s match against Valencia was a good example. The disparity in experience and quality doesn’t scare them. As long as they can use the young talent they’ve nurtured, they can rely on their ability to win games, which is surely coming to shape.
The experience that the away side boast, against the youthful exuberance of Barça’s set up. Madrid’s free scoring rhythm against the home team’s high line. This should be an interesting match-up to say the least.
Real Madrid released their squad for tomorrow not long ago. It features Eden Hazard and Dani Carvajal in addition to last week’s squad. Primarily, it is a headache for the coach and his staff to decide who plays and who doesn’t, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he opts to play with the same starting eleven as the one in Ukraine. You don’t change a winning formula.
📄 Squad list for Sunday's match against Barcelona. VAMOS 💪
— Real Madrid News (@onlyrmcfnews) October 23, 2021
Elsewhere, Sergio Aguero has come on as a substitute in the last two games and the striker could have an impact off the bench this weekend. However, it looks like the game will come too soon for Pedri and Ronald Araújo. Pedri has a thigh problem, while Araújo injured his hamstring playing for Uruguay last week. Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele are still out but Jordi Alba is back in the squad.
Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Mendy
Valverde — Casemiro — Kroos
Rodrygo — Benzema — Vini Jr.
Roberto — García — Piqué — Alba
Gavi — Busquets — De jong
Dest — Depay — Fati
Player to Watch:
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema. The Ballon d’Or voting closes in about 8 hours from kickoff. Really and truly though, that’s the last thing on Karim Benzema’s mind. Once again, he was exceptional in midweek, and the game before that, and the one before, and as many football matches with his involvement as I can remember. And that simply is why he’s so good. His consistency sets him apart. The Barça defence best stay on their toes today.
Barcelona: Ansu Fati. Gérard Piqué was quick to praise Fati in an interview earlier this week. Comparisons with Vini Jr. are and will continue to be there but again, that doesn’t matter here. What matters is that Fati has returned from 10 months out and is in blazing hot form. His ability to cut onto his right foot, dribble at pace, and project runs into the area are exceptionally well drilled.
These are things you don’t lose once you develop as a footballer, and it’s clear why Fati’s presence presents such a sharp version of his team on the pitch. Ronald Koeman must really like him with the way he’s used him as of late. With freedom to roam and the flexibility to switch roles with Memphis Depay, who starts central and comes deep. Simply put, Fati is one of the hottest prospects in Spain at the moment. Watch out.
Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid.
Both the giants have been oddly convincing in the build up to this edition of the Clásico. With each game, the rivalry renews itself and a new chapter is written. May this be no exception. May the best team win.