El Clasico

Image courtesy of uefa.com, Photo: Getty Images
Barcelona and Real Madrid are the fiercest of rivals. Photo: Getty Images/uefa.com
Despite being 16 points clear of Real Madrid  in La Liga, Barcelona  will be desperate for a win when the Spanish giants lock horns at the Bernabeu on Saturday night (AEST). Barca has established itself as the best club side in the world over the past few seasons but cracks have started to appear in their armour recently, with defeats to AC Milan in the Champions League and Real in the Copa del Rey coming in the past fortnight.

With both teams due to play important UEFA Champions League fixtures next week, neither side is expected to field its best available XI. Madrid boss Jose Mourinho is unlikely to risk influential midfielder Xavi Alonso, while club captain Iker Casillas is still recovering from a hand injury. Pepe and/or Luka Modric could earn a recall but Angel Di Maria misses out through suspension after starring in his team’s 3-1  win midweek.

Barca boss Tito Vilanova remains out of action following an operation at the end of last year, and interim manager Jordi Roura is under pressure to make changes after the team suffered defeat in two of its past three matches. David Villa and Javier Mascherano are in contention to start, while there could also be changes at the back given the Catalans heavyweights haven’t kept a clean sheet for a dozen matches. Victor Valdes should return in goal after being rested for the midweek clash. Argentine superstar Lionel Messi missed training has reportedly been ill but is unlikely to miss out.

This is the sixth El Clasico showdown this season, with Real’s 3-1 Copa del Rey success during the week their second success during the current campaign. October’s 2-2  La Liga result was one of two draws  between the clubs, while Barcelona scored a 3-2  victory in the Spanish Super Cup.

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