This contest may have little bearing on the title race, with Real Madrid a full 10 points clear of second-placed Sevilla, but it’s certainly not an insignificant meeting with Barcelona in need of every available point as they seek to secure Champions League football next term.
Only three points separate them from fifth-placed Real Betis, but they have some budding momentum and with each passing week a top-four finish appears more likely.
The Europa League may not be somewhere Barcelona are used to, but nonetheless a hard-fought victory against Galatasaray over two legs will have boosted the feel-good factor around the club.
Xavi’s return and a near-perfect January transfer window have certainly left the Catalan’s in a much better position compared to earlier in the campaign under Ronald Koeman.
The gulf between the two Spanish giants has certainly been noticeable in recent head-to-head results. Including Los Blancos’ extra-time winner in their Spanish Super Cup meeting in January, Real have won five of six unbeaten clashes with Barca since 2019/20, including each of the past five.
They scored at least twice inside 90 minutes in each those last five clashes, though both teams have scored in all of the last four meetings and the Catalans are scoring goals at present.
Both Teams To Score
Clearly, the arrivals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres and Adama Traore have strengthened Xavi’s attacking options and across all competitions, Barcelona have scored at least twice in six of their last seven appearances, and scored four times in four of these.
That includes putting four past top-half outfits Valencia and Athletic Bilbao, as well as Napoli in Europe, so they certainly have the firepower to cause Madrid some uncomfortable moments.
Both teams have now scored in eight of Barcelona’s past nine on the road in all competitions, while Real Madrid have conceded the opening goal in their last two home games against sixth-placed Real Sociedad and French giants PSG.
Carlo Ancelotti only has the one defensive concern with Ferland Mendy ruled out, so veteran Marcelo can be expected to start at left-back. His bigger issue surrounds Karim Benzema, who is a major doubt after sustaining a calf problem versus Mallorca last time out.
His brace and assist in that encounter took him to 32 goals and 13 assists in all competitions this season, and with the league title virtually sewn up and a Champions League tie with Chelsea looming on the horizon, it would be pointless to risk the French forward on this occasion when looking at the bigger picture.
Xavi has a number of players sidelined, and will have been sorry to lose the in-form Sergino Dest to an injury midweek against Galatasaray. Sergi Roberto was already sidelined, so Barcelona should have their own veteran Brazilian full-back on display with Dani Alves set to slot in on the right flank.
Elsewhere, his most notable absentees are centre-back Samuel Umtiti and Ansu Fati, though the former has only made a single appearance this season and the latter has also seen extremely limited game time, with the precocious youngster’s hamstring an ongoing concern.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
GENTING CASINO ONLY OFFERS SPORTS ARTICLES AND NOT SPORTS BETTING
Genting Casino is a leading global casino brand. We provide a premium online casino experience with our huge selection of online slots and live casino games. Genting has been recognized many times for its work in creating fun, safe gaming experiences winning multiple industry awards during its 50 years in business.