A win is the one and only result for Real Madrid if they intend to keep their LaLiga title aspirations alive.
Heading into El Clasico against Barcelona, Los Blancos are nine points behind the league leaders. In essence, should they lose, the title race will be all but over.
It’s been a mixed bag for Real Madrid since returning from the World Cup break. Things have gone well in Europe where they beat Liverpool 1-0 (6-2 on agg.) midweek in the Champions League to progress to the quarterfinals.
In the league it’s been a different story.
Despite getting off to a strong start, Real Madrid have floundered and have seen their one-time lead evaporate and find themselves in a must-win to have any hopes at all.
While they won their first encounter back in October, the situation between both clubs have since gone on different paths.
Barcelona beat Real Madrid comprehensively in the Spanish Super Cup in January. Then, only a few weeks ago, the Catalan side went into the Santiago Bernabeu and beat Madrid 1-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal. Adding insult to injury, they did so without Pedri, Robert Lewandowski and Ousmane Dembélé and at the same time limiting them to no shots on target.
However, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is confident heading into the match.
“We have to enjoy the moment and be on the front foot in a hugely important game,” Ancelotti said to RealMadrid.com. “We can win it if we’re able to show the best of our selves in every sense; individually, collectively in attack and defense. We’re not thinking about the league being over, we’re focused on winning tomorrow’s game. That’s the only thing on our minds, we want to cut the deficit.”
If there is cause for optimism it’s that Real Madrid have had Barcelona’s number at the Camp Nou. The last time they lost at Barcelona was the 5-1 in 2018 which all but ended the tenure of then manager Julen Lopetegui. Last season, Madrid won 2-1 — a game that is remembered for being Sergio Agüero’s only goal as a Barcelona player.
What’s changed since then is Barcelona’s defensive solidity which Madrid will try to crack. They did so in their first meeting this season with the caveat that Barcelona were without Ronald Araújo and Andreas Christensen.
Barring injuries, Real Madrid are likely to field a similar line-up to one they did in the Copa del Rey semifinal. The onus to attack will be on Barcelona given they are playing at home. If that is the case, Madrid may be able to find more space on the counter and hurt them. Something they were unable to do in the semifinal. At the same time, with Madrid needing the result, they cannot allow themselves to be overeager and leave themselves exposed.
While it might be a cliché, this clash could be a prime example of whoever scores first may dictate the tempo of the game. For Madrid’s sake, they hope it will be them.
Predicted Real Madrid line-up
Carvajal – Militao – Rudiger – Nacho
Modric – Tchouameni – Kroos
Valverde – Benzema – Vinicius Jr.