Each edition of El Clásico is loaded with its own storylines, with each installment adding another layer to the historic rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Described by La Liga as a ‘true cultural phenomenon, catching the attention of millions of fans around the world’, Sunday’s match at Barca’s Camp Nou stadium will be fraught with meaning as the outcome could do anything but settle the race for the title.
A victory for Barca would open a 12-point lead at the top of the table, making the league title a high probability, if not a mathematical certainty, while a victory for Real Madrid would keep the race alive with 12 matches remaining after the match. Sunday.
Los Blancos travel to Camp Nou buoyed by Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat on Wednesday to seal their place in the Champions League quarter-finals with a 6-2 aggregate win.
Vinícius Jr, who was dubbed ‘the best in the world’ by Real coach Carlo Ancelotti on Wednesday, excelled in the win, creating the game’s only goal for Karim Benzema, and his battle with Barcelona defender Ronald Araújo could be the key to deciding. The classic.
“He’s struggled a bit more in recent games, but Viní Jr. is still Viní Jr,” Ancelotti said on Saturday, according to Real’s website.
“His mobility brings us so much, I’m thinking of putting him on the right because he’s capable, but we’ll see. This freedom and play without a fixed point of reference could be crucial.
“That’s another problem for defenders. I joke that he plays on the right… he will be on the left but with more freedom.
Benzema, another stalwart of Real’s attack, will play on Sunday despite suffering a knock during the week, Ancelotti said.
While Benzema will take to the field to Los Blancos, Barça will be without Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé through injury, two of their most impressive players this season.
The Blaugrana have already beaten Real Madrid twice this year, in January to win the Spanish Super Cup final and in March to take a 1-0 lead in the Copa del Rey semi-finals. The second leg will take place at Camp Nou on April 5.
However, Real triumphed in October’s league game at the Bernabéu, with Ancelotti’s side winning El Clásico 3-1.
Barca coach Xavi has played down any notion that his side are the favorites to win Sunday’s game.
” They are strong. Very strong, recently,” Xavi said, according to Barca’s website. “They are physically much better than they were in January. I’m sure they will put our defense under pressure.
“This Madrid side are European champions and they comfortably won the last league. It will be a close game, and I say we have a 50% chance.
It has been an unbalanced season for Real, trailing Barca in La Liga and facing that 1-0 deficit in the Copa del Rey semi-finals, but remaining on track to defend their Champions League title.
Ahead of Sunday’s match, Ancelotti addressed speculation over his future at the club, saying he “would stay at this club for the rest of my life but it’s impossible”, adding that it was “a decision to be made by the club”.
“If they want me for three months, I’m going to take advantage of it and it’s like they want me for three years… Anyway, I’m sure we’re going to win something this season and that’s going to put doubts at rest. We are at a disadvantage in the Copa and La Liga but not in the Champions League.
Barca, meanwhile, have failed again in Europe, failing to reach the Champions League round of 16 and losing to Manchester United in the Europa League, while the club are also embroiled in a fee payment scandal. referees.
“‘We only focus on the competition,” Xavi said on Saturday. “We try to be natural with the players and not get distracted by anything that can happen at a club like this.”
El Clásico kicks off at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon at Camp Nou, Barcelona. It is available to watch on the following channels:
Canada: TSN, RDS
Brazil: Star+, ESPN
UK: Premier Sports, La Liga TV, ITV