Real Madrid vs Barcelona: A Clasico that could decide the title

Atletico are faltering and the two giants are jousting for top spot tonight

David Salinas

The second Clasico of the season will have a lot of impact. The team that wins will sleep as league leaders. Both teams are in good form. It’s the first time the Alfredo Di Stefano will host a game of this size, albeit behind closed doors. Madrid have some big absences in defence, and Barcelona will have Gerard Pique back, looking for their 10th win in a row on the road in La Liga. Lionel Messi, Barca’s captain, will equal Sergio Ramos’s record of 45 appearances in Clasicos. And the million dollar question: Will this be his last?

Champions Real Madrid are aiming to defend their title and Barcelona to wrestle it off them. Winning the Clasico would be a huge step towards it, although the current leaders are Atletico Madrid, who face Betis on Sunday.

Barcelona have cut down Atletico’s 12 point lead, winning 51 of the last 57 points available to them (89.4%). Real Madrid have won 43 of the last 57.

Zinedine Zidane’s side are in good form, beating Liverpool 3-1 in the Champions League quarter final first leg in midweek, with Vinicius Junior hitting his first double as a Madrid player.

Koeman’s pupils have beaten Valladolid, Huesca, Athletic, Granada, Elche, Betis, Sevilla, Osasuna and Real Sociedad on the road in their last nine league trips. If they can add Madrid’s scalp they would equal their record best run in that regard, matching 2010-11 with Pep Guardiola and 2012-13 with Tito Vilanova.

It’s a similar situation to 08-09, when Barcelona headed to Madrid in week 34, and it was a fight for the title. Barca had 82 points and Madrid 78. Barca won 6-2 in that historic triumph. The Blaugrana emerged with one hand on the trophy.

The team’s big hope tonight is Lionel Andres Messi Cuccitini. The No 10, league top scorer with 23 goals, has not netted against Madrid in their last four games. He is the top scorer in the Clasico of all time with 26 goals. His most recent goal against them came in 2018 in Camp Nou, a 2-2 draw, and away from home in December 2017 in a 3-0 win.

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