Club football returns from the international break with a bang as Barcelona host Real Madrid in the final league Clasico of the season.
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Daniel Rocca, BARCELONA PENYA UAE
Barcelona are ten points ahead of Real Madrid with eight games remaining. Therefore while this game will probably not be the most significant in Clasico history, it will almost certainly be the most emotional as a packed Nou Camp pay tribute to the recent loss of Johan Cruyff.
The Dutchman was a true Barca icon and one of the most important architects in the Catalans’ rise to the top. In Cruyff’s debut season at Barcelona they thrashed Real 5-0 in a title-winning season.
Although this was to be his one and only La Liga triumph with the club, his return as a coach proved to be even more successful with four-consecutive league wins coupled to a European Cup conquest.
Many in Spain regard Cruyff as the one most responsible for implementing the current style of the Barcelona and the national team. More importantly he turned a team of perennial underachievers into arguably the best team of the last 25 years.
Barcelona add a touch of class to their shirts for this weekend's Clasico. pic.twitter.com/Q0RqdnsAOi— TheODDSbible (@TheOddsBible) April 1, 2016
Both teams have more important Champions League quarter-finals coming up and Barcelona may not field their preferred midfield triumvirate of Ivan Rakitic, Andreas Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
Neymar arrived back early from international duty due to suspension which indicates that he will play, but question marks remain over Luis Suarez’s participation with a key clash against Atletico Madrid around the corner.
Real have similar concerns ahead of their Wolfsburg tie, knowing that their mostly likely chance of success this season lies in the European competition.
PREDICTION: Barcelona 3, Real Madrid 1 and Messi to score at least one goal from open play.
LIKELY BARCELONA XI: (4-3-3) Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba; Busqets, Iniesta, Turan; Messi, Neymar, Suarez.
BARCELONA PLAYER TO WATCH: The Camp Nou crowd prior to the game.
REAL MADRID PLAYER TO FEAR: Cristiano Ronaldo was in great form for Portugal and is still his team’s most dangerous player.
WHERE TO WATCH: The giant screens on Sevilles’ outdoor terraces in WAFI. Call to book tables.
Omar Mabrouk, REAL MADRID DUBAI FANS CLUB
A friend of mine (who supports neither Real or Barca) described staying up to watch this Clasico as ‘like having a double espresso decaf’. His reasoning was that the points-difference between the two sides was too great and subsequently the game is insignificant.
While his assessment was a little bit harsh (closing a gap of 10 points in eight games is not unheard of), his argument does hold some truth. Generally the only Clasico matches that define a season are in the Champions League and not the watered-down La Liga versions.
Speaking of the Champions League, that rolls around three days later and many people believe that in 2016 Barcelona versus Atletico is bigger game than Barcelona versus Real Madrid. However as a Madridista, winning a Classico in the Camp Nou would be a major highlight of our season, irrespective of where we finish in the league.
“The Classico matters, it always matters, because if we win this game, we will be only seven points behind, and anything is possible,” Gareth Bale said. “We will keep fighting until the moment the league is impossible, but at the moment (winning) it is very possible.”
Another reason to be excited is that Saturday will be Zinedine Zidane’s first Classico and the Los Blancos legend will wish to lay down a real statement of intent.
As ever Real Madrid’s season will be measured in the most part by the Champions League success, the trophy the makes Real the No. 1 team in the world of football.
PREDICTION: Barcelona 1, Real Madrid 1.
LIKELY REAL XI: (4-3-3) Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Isco; Bnezema, Bale, Ronaldo.
REAL MADRID PLAYER TO FEAR: CR7’s performances at the Camp Nou have always been astonishing and this time is unlikely to be the exception.
BARCELONA PLAYER TO WATCH: Messi, Suarez, Neymar.
WHERE TO WATCH: Real Madrid Cafe in JBR
Ahead of Saturday night’s mouth-watering El Clasico showdown, former Barcelona and Real Madrid stars analyse the famous front three strike forces of each side.
Using statistics and combined goalscoring records, ex-greats, including Fernando Morientes and Luis Garcia, run the rule over Messi-Neymar-Suarez and Ronaldo-Benzema-Bale.
The Welshman has scored 15 times in 18 league appearances during an injury-disrupted campaign, but his presence has been missed as Madrid have slipped 10 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona ahead of their trip to the Camp Nou on Saturday.
With just eight games remaining, a first league title looks beyond Bale, but he is hopeful that a win on enemy territory can inspire the confidence needed to propel Madrid to an 11th European Cup.
“Anything is possible in football. We know were ten points behind we’ll keep fighting until the league is no longer possible,” he said.
“If we win on Saturday, we are seven points behind. We’ll give it 100% and try to win the game.”
“Hopefully we can have a great run of form between now and the end of the season and take home some trophies.”