Saturday is a special occasion in LaLiga as we get our first Clasico of the 2023-24 season as Barcelona host everlasting rivals Actual Madrid. These video games are at all times massive occasions — that is their 255th official assembly, with Actual Madrid edging the collection with 102 wins to Barca’s 100 and 52 attracts — and it’s totally a lot true heading into their conflict at Montjuic.
Despite the fact that the sport will happen at Olympic Stadium as a consequence of renovations at Barça’s Camp Nou residence, the environment will probably be each bit as electrical. The house facet will want that with a purpose to prevail. Not solely are Carlo Ancelotti’s Actual facet high of the desk after 10 video games, with Barça only a level behind them, however Los Blancos have been dominant in current conferences, beating Barcelona 4-0 within the Copa del Rey semifinal, second leg and successful three of their final 4 away video games in opposition to Xavi’s facet.
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That stated, Barça are reigning LaLiga champions and will probably be hoping to rebalance the rivalry this weekend. So how will the 2 groups fare on Saturday? What sort of type is every workforce in? Are there good bets to make? Who would be the key gamers that influence the ultimate end result? And who do our consultants suppose will win?
What’s new for the reason that final Clasico, and the way have these groups progressed since
The spoils have been shared final season, however Barça will really feel they edged it by beating Madrid within the Spanish Tremendous Cup last and once more at Camp Nou on their option to the 2022-23 LaLiga title. Madrid, who had received final season’s league assembly on the Santiago Bernabeu, responded with a thumping 4-1 mixture win within the semifinal of the Copa del Rey. Nevertheless, there have been modifications on either side of the divide since.
Xavi: Barcelona will probably be at 100% for El Clasico
Barcelona boss Xavi says his facet are in fine condition for Saturday’s conflict with Actual Madrid after their 2-1 win vs. Shakhtar Donetsk within the Champions League.
Madrid’s talisman Karim Benzema left for the Saudi Professional League, so Carlo Ancelotti has re-built round Vinicius Jr. and €100 million signing Jude Bellingham, who has made a scintillating begin to his profession on the membership. Elsewhere, Ancelotti is beginning to part out veteran midfielder Luka Modric, whereas Fran García, Joselu and Kepa Arrizabalaga additionally arrived in the summertime. The latter changed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who, like Eder Milito, is sidelined with a long-term ACL harm.
In the meantime, Barça are attempting to evolve beneath Xavi Hernandez. A stable backline received them LaLiga this season, however Xavi desires to enhance the assault. João Cancelo, João Félix and Ilkay Gündogan all joined this summer time with a purpose to assist with that goal; veteran midfielder Oriol Romeu and defender Iñigo Martínez additionally signed in the summertime as Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Ousmane Dembélé (amongst others) departed. An unbeaten begin to the season has adopted, albeit with ups and downs alongside the best way, they usually go into Saturday’s sport only a level behind LaLiga leaders Madrid. — Sam Marsden
How have Barca and Actual Madrid seemed to date this season?
Actual Madrid go into this Clasico on the high of the desk, with eight wins, a draw — Saturday’s 1-1 at Sevilla — and only one defeat to date, though that loss, 3-1 to Atletico within the Madrid Derby, stung. They’ve the very best defensive document in LaLiga, conceding seven objectives in 10 video games, however scoring is a priority. Girona, Atletico Madrid and Barca all have extra objectives than Madrid’s 21. They’ve over-relied on Jude Bellingham’s over-performance (with eight objectives) and whereas Joselu has delivered (with 5) neither Vinícius Júnior (two, after a month out by harm) or Rodrygo Goes (one) have accomplished sufficient.
Bellingham has been LaLiga’s strongest participant this season, with these eight objectives coming from 22 pictures and an xG (Anticipated Objectives) of 4.05, however Rodrygo has been its most profligate, with one objective from 34 pictures and an xG of three.88.
Barcelona are the one unbeaten workforce in LaLiga, however their document has been marred by three pointless attracts: 0-0 at Getafe, 2-2 at Mallorca and 2-2 at Granada. Each 2-2s have been characterised by evident defensive errors, whereas goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s decline from final season’s superhuman type to “mere mortal” has additionally contributed. His Objectives Prevented — which subtracts the variety of objectives conceded from the variety of objectives he’d be anticipated to concede — is at -0.01. Mainly, he is solely saving what he ought to, nothing extra.
5 of Barca’s seven league wins have include slender one-goal margins, together with their final two, 1-0s v Sevilla and Athletic Membership. Hit arduous by accidents, new arrivals Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo have been essential as have kids Lamine Yamal and most not too long ago, because of his match-winner in opposition to Athletic, Marc Guiu. — Alex Kirkland
Ancelotti vs. Xavi: Evaluating, contrasting their teaching types and the way it would possibly play out on Saturday
They’re eons aside by way of age and expertise, however the pair are eternally linked by the truth that each males possess the extraordinary energy to persuade and encourage. Okay, in addition they share the truth that their careers have been spent in all-time nice midfields — Ancelotti as extra of an organiser and prompter with Roma and Milan, Xavi a beautiful orchestra-conductor with top-of-the-line passing ranges in historical past. However within the trendy period, an age the place high coaches actually must get beneath the pores and skin and perceive the psyches of their famous person gamers, “Carletto” and Xavi are blessed with heat, large communicative powers and a fascination for constructing.
To some extent, and with out overdoing it, the type of soccer every coach promotes tells a bit bit about how they have been as gamers.
Ancelotti was gifted, sensible and profitable: make no mistake about that. However he was pragmatic too, usually charged with guaranteeing that the legendary gamers round him excelled.
Xavi, each the participant and the coach, wasn’t solely an evangelist for a really particular type of soccer — he was/is one thing of an “extremely.” To him, it is We play this manner, and no different means, and I am by no means altering. It is one thing that, given Barcelona’s terrible harm issues, may cost a little him on this Clásico. They may want a sensible method, quite than a daring one, to compete with this model of Madrid, however he’ll persist with his rules.
Please observe that there is excessive respect and affection between the 2; they’re each what you would possibly name “gents.” Does that imply that it is not possible that they get tense, noisy and agitated on Saturday? No, by no means. However as soon as the mud settles, they will nonetheless be from an elite group: soccer’s good guys. — Graham Hunter
Are Barcelona’s accidents going to be an excessive amount of to beat?
When Barcelona scored the successful objective in opposition to Athletic on Sunday night time, the gamers celebrating within the stands have been larger names than those celebrating down on the pitch. Frenkie de Jong, Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Pedri and Jules Kounde have been all up there, collectively leaving an enormous hole within the workforce down there.
Three days later, when Barcelona confronted Shakhtar Donetsk within the Champions League, they did so with solely 14 first-team gamers obtainable. The hope stays that a few of these — Lewandowski and De Jong the more than likely — will probably be obtainable by the point the Clasico comes round. However then, let’s return to the beginning: when Barcelona scored the successful objective in opposition to Athletic on Sunday night time.
That night time, Marc Guiu scored the winner. Aged 17, making his first-team debut, he had been on the pitch for 33 seconds. Towards Shakhtar, the excellent performer was Fermin Lopez, one other child from the academy.
The reality is that groups have a tendency to show to youth once they have issues; though Barcelona is a bit completely different, that is even the case there. The excellent news for the membership is that they so usually appear to reply. Made in La Masia, the phrase goes, and what’s made there may be good. That is the membership, in fact, that crammed a whole Ballon d’Or podium with homegrown gamers: Iniesta, Xavi and Messi.
After all, that is to not say that these children are pretty much as good, or nonetheless much less that Barcelona will probably be unconcerned if they don’t get a few of their high gamers again in time for Saturday’s kick off. Madrid, in spite of everything are a distinct proposition, Barcelona have struggled to get going with out De Jong, Oriol Romeu particularly, and Lewandowski’s presence is significant in a sport like this. But when Guiu and Lopez have been goalscorers within the final two video games, teenager Lamine Yamal has additionally been a sensation — adequate that Raphinha’s place is not assured even when he is match. Alejandro Balde is now a daily.
They usually do no less than have one veteran chief obtainable: 19-year-old midfielder Gavi. — Sid Lowe
Who would be the key participant to tip this contest someway?
Ilkay Gundogan. By way of headlines, the Germán midfielder has made a low-key begin to his Barcelona profession. However with accidents to Pedri and De Jong, the duty in midfield has been thrust upon him, and he has loads of big-game expertise. No Barça participant has created extra probabilities (21) in LaLiga this season, and Gundogan will probably be tasked with discovering the areas in Madrid’s half. — Sam Marsden
The apparent reply is Bellingham, and I am positive others can have picked him … so for selection’s sake, how about Vinicius Junior? He hasn’t hit the heights of the previous two seasons, however after a month again from harm, he is proven indicators — in opposition to Napoli and Osasuna particularly — of being near his finest. Madrid’s left-hand facet with Vinícius and Bellingham — the latter has been drifting left in current video games, each out and in of possession — could possibly be decisive. They’re going to love attacking the house behind Barça defender Joao Cancelo when he will get ahead. — Alex Kirkland
I do not purchase the concept that there’s one key man in a Clasico. These video games usually have a few of Newton’s Third Regulation of Movement in them: in different phrases, for every nice efficiency, there’s nearly at all times an equal and reverse nightmare show. So, whereas it is apparent that Bellingham’s type places him ahead as Madrid’s key man, what about Vinicius? Xavi will rely closely on Cancelo and Ronald Araújo to shackle them. Whichever of these pairs of gamers dominate is the place you may discover the proverbial “key man.” On paper it is the Englishman, however Araujo is fairly particular. I am saying Bellingham or Araujo. — Graham Hunter
Fermín López. The teen gives a number of battle in the course of the pitch, in addition to a capability to get into the field and contribute. He could possibly be the surprising hero in a sport filled with superstars. He scored an excellent objective in opposition to Madrid within the Clásico performed in Dallas over the summer time, and he’ll be extra-motivated for his first aggressive assembly in opposition to Los Blancos as a result of he is been a Barça fan all his life. — Moises Llorens
Jude Bellingham would be the key, for numerous causes. First, as a result of he’ll be liable for assuaging among the strain on Rodrygo and Vinicius to attain in such an essential Clasico. Second, his type would naturally intimidate any opponent and third, his power of character is overwhelming — the place higher than Montjuic to stake his declare to being the participant of the season? Bellingham’s assertive play will probably be very important in protecting Romeu busy within the Barca midfield and liberate his two Brazilian teammates, who each head into Saturday’s sport with one thing to show. — Rodrigo Faez
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook
Barcelona cruised to the LaLiga title final season, successful by 10 factors over second-place Actual Madrid regardless of underlying numbers that have been a lot nearer than that. By way of 10 video games this season Actual Madrid are atop LaLiga, one level forward of third-place Barcelona, although Barcelona’s underlying numbers are higher to date.
Nevertheless, the most important on-field storyline for this sport is accidents. Barcelona had solely 12 first-team gamers obtainable for Wednesday’s Champions League sport, they usually seemingly will not have Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong or Pedri (amongst others) for El Clasico. With out these playmakers, it is arduous to see Barcelona piling up scoring alternatives.
Joao Felix has been fairly good this season, with three objectives and three assists, however Actual Madrid’s protection has been stable, conceding the third-worst pictures in LaLiga to date. I like Barcelona beneath 1.5 objectives at -125.
Actual Madrid clearly aren’t intimidated by enjoying at Camp Nou, successful three of their final 4 league conferences there, and 5 of the final seven total. Supervisor Ancelotti has seen every little thing in every single place, and he is received half of his league video games vs Barcelona since rejoining Madrid two years in the past. Given all that have and pedigree, I am taking Actual Madrid to win and a pair of+ complete objectives, which Caesars has +225.
With Barcelona’s well being points, Actual Madrid is just higher proper now, and 27 of the final 30 league Clasicos have had a number of objectives. — Paul Carr
Prediction time! Who will win on Saturday?
Barcelona 2-1 Actual Madrid. Both I am actually unhealthy at predictions, or current Clásicos have defied logic. On that foundation, regardless of a prolonged record of accidents, I am tipping Barça to edge it. Bellingham will get his objective, however Xavi’s facet will benefit from their residence benefit. — Sam Marsden
Barcelona 1-3 Actual Madrid. It is a robust one to name; the groups met 5 instances final season, with Barça successful three of them, however I am reminded of the best way Madrid harm Barca on the break of their 4-0 Copa del Rey win at Camp Nou in April. Barça would possibly dominate possession, however the tempo of Vinicius, Rodrygo, Fede Valverde and Bellingham may do severe harm on the counterattack. — Alex Kirkland
Madrid will win. Barcelona, beneath Xavi, have the higher Clasico document in current months. However whichever facet is in higher bodily situation will get an enormous benefit in imposing their high quality extra efficiently. Los Blancos have higher momentum, fewer issues and that 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona at Camp Nou final time they visited (within the Copa). — Graham Hunter
Barcelona 1-1 Actual Madrid. With Barça’s lengthy harm record — it is price noting that even when they get some gamers again, they are going to be out of match rhythm — Madrid are favourites because of their power and stability in midfield. Nevertheless, Barça have residence benefit, which makes a draw appears affordable. — Moises Llorens
Barcelona 1-2 Actual Madrid. Neither defence is as sturdy as in different seasons, given the gamers lacking, so I believe each groups will rating. Bearing in mind the tiredness of Champions League motion in midweek, each will probably be comparable by way of power, however I believe Madrid are a superior workforce bodily. A sport like that might go in favour of the guests if Los Blancos are capable of impose themselves early and keep their high-scoring type. — Rodrigo Faez