A point behind Real Madrid, and Girona, Barcelona head into El Clasico on Saturday with a number of questions.
Despite playing the game “at home” in Montjuic, the Catalan side is riddled with injuries to a number of key starters including Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Jules Kounde.
While all five participated in the training session on Friday, Xavi Hernandez stated he wasn’t going to take any risks with them even if it is El Clasico.
“Only those who are 100% fit will get picked,” Xavi said. “Winning a Clasico is fantastic, but losing one can be extremely costly, so although expectations are good, I’ll be announcing the squad on the day itself to give us time to decide who should be on the list and who shouldn’t.”
While Barcelona have won both their games following the international break, their performances in both matches have left a lot to be desired. The number of absences certainly have played a part but with the environment at the club, not only do they need to win, they need to do convincingly.
Against Real Madrid, however, many would likely be satisfied with the win.
Madrid have only lost one match in LaLiga and despite dealing with injuries themselves, have reverted to type where in some matches they’ll be completely overwhelmed by the opponent, bend but not break and then — through Jude Bellingham this season — pull ahead and pick up the win.
“We’ll need to be careful against their powerful forward line, but I’d never change our system or style of play. We’ll go out and attack and take brave risks.
“As always, there is no favorite in a Clasico, it’s totally unpredictable. Both sides have a 50% chance of winning,” Xavi said.
El Clasico is a match both teams want to win. For Barcelona, it would mean putting themselves ahead of their main rivals in the league table. For Real Madrid, it would put distance between them and the Catalan side. Beating Barcelona in their own stadium would add that little extra to a win.
After a run of matches that saw Madrid take El Clasico, Barcelona have come out on the top in the last handful of occasions. In official matches, they won the Spanish Super Cup final, the league fixture at the Camp Nou, which all but won them the title, and the first leg of the Copa del Rey, albeit losing the return leg at home.
Still, Madrid do enter the match as slight favorites taking into account the important players Barcelona is missing. It is going to be an uphill battle for Xavi and his side. But if they’ve shown anything in the last couple of games is that they know how to suffer yet come out with the three points. A task they’ll likely have to repeat on Saturday.