Match Preview: Barcelona vs Real Madrid – 2021/22
They have faced off in cities all across the world and now they are set to battle again in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. High expectations and a nervy history in the Capital. Both teams are devoid of the services of their long standing commanders, how will Real Madrid and Barcelona fare?
Spain’s greatest rivalry renews itself yet another time, this time on foreign soil. Ancelotti’s team were in a run of fine form before the turn of the year, with their last loss dating back to October. The beginning of 2022 was complicated, with Madrid failing to maintain rhythm and speed that showed off their spectacular football. It wasn’t to stand for long however, as they went on to thump Valencia at the Bernabéu. Now, they stand toe to toe with Football Club Barcelona for a place in the Spanish Supercup final.
What to Expect:
Barcelona come into this game having done slightly better than before. Xavi’s arrival has supplemented an influx of youthful exuberance. Youngsters like Gavi and Nico Gonzalez now find themselves playing week in week out. Ousmane Dembele has rediscovered purpose, with Memphis repositioned as a winger and Luuk De Jong now playing up front.
Xavi hasn’t taken very long at all to find his preferred eleven. With this, the coaching staff have also brought the club together in times of crisis. A shift of intensity becomes more and more evident and that points to just one thing — this will be a Clasico unlike any in recent times. Do not expect a tired Barcelona to give in to Real Madrid’s pressure and do a favour on Ancelotti’s side.
With Madrid being in fine rhythm from their most recent triumph at the Bernabéu, one should foresee them taking control of proceedings in Riyadh. It does not particularly mean they will be the team with the greater volume of ball possession, it simply means that Marc Andre Ter Stegen’s net is more likely to be threatened than Thibaut Courtois’.
Either way, there will be goals. With the format no longer being a two legged game, all battles will be fought in this one war. Barcelona’s biggest hurdle will be to negate Madrid’s midfield presence. While the Catalans can rely on the trickery of their youth to help them stay in the game.
The likes of Gavi and Nico must be pinned down, and Busquets playing either of Dembele or De Jong in behind the high line mustn’t be ruled out either. While Madrid do have a tendency of preserving leads and finishing out results masterfully, their rivals do tend to sometimes go to sleep late in games, as was the case at the weekend at Granada.
Even with Madrid’s opponents being wounded and battered from recent battles, there isn’t any reason for them to not go all in for this one. Afterall, it is a one shot at a chance for a title that never looks bad at the end of the season. Madrid should, as ever, be up for any do or die game.
Things weren’t looking good in the Barcelona camp but Ferran Torres, Araujo, Ansu Fati, Frenkie De Jong and Pedri were all given the green light to participate tonight.
Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz didn’t travel with the team to Riyadh due to injury. David Alaba picked up a knock before the game and has been ruled out.
Carvajal — Militão — Nacho — Mendy
Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos
Asensio — Benzema — Vini Jr.
Alves — Piqué — Araujo — Alba
De Jong — Busquets — Gavi
Dembelé — De Jong — Torres
Player to Watch:
Real Madrid: Vinícius Júnior. Eden Hazard is yet to make an appearance in El Clasico. After the Belgian’s fragile ankle, Vinicius is the second biggest reason behind that. He alongside Karim Benzema stole the show last week. Vinicius really is having fun out there. Fair to say, 38 year-old Dani Alves will have his fair share of chasing shadows.
Barça: Gavi. Iniesta-esque player in many ways. Arched back, small stature, eyes on the ball, neat footwork. This boy is everything La Masia could’ve dreamt of graduating. His technique is brilliant for someone his age. He won’t run the midfield, or outplay Madrid’s, but he has the ability to start plays that end up with the ball in the final third. He is vertical, confident, and generously gifted.
Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid.
Don’t expect Real Madrid to completely outplay Barcelona, but at the end of the day Ancelotti’s men are objectively the better drilled team and are more efficient at scoring goals and defending leads. May the best team win, Hala Madrid!