MX23RW : Tuesday, February 19 12:02:23
May 6, 2018 at 7.45pm UK at ​Camp Nou (Barcelona)
Attendance: 97,939
Real Madrid
Suarez (10'), Messi (52')
Roberto (45')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Ronaldo (14'), Bale (72')

Preview: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews the La Liga action as Barcelona welcome rivals Real Madrid as the sides meet in El Clasico at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona welcome the visit of Real Madrid in the El Clasico with Ernesto Valverde's side already crowned La Liga champions.

Zinedine Zidane's Real charges will be heading to Catalonia full of confidence having made it into the final of the Champions League, and will now be hoping to prevent Barca going the entire La Liga season unbeaten.


Ernesto Valverde takes Barcelona training on February 19, 2018© Offside

Barcelona are arguably employing their most functional squad in recents years, but Valverde's charges have shown nothing but ruthless consistency during their march to the La Liga title.

The Catalan outfit wrapped up the Spanish top-flight crown last weekend following a predictable win over Deportivo La Coruna, signalling a domestic triumph with four games still to play. Valverde will now be looking to create an 'Invincibles' side by capping off the term unbeaten.

Valverde's tenure has not always been smooth, especially when defensive mistakes and a lack of control in the middle have stirred criticism in the Spanish press, but thankfully Barca have had Lionel Messi to call on when needed, who has produced some of his best domestic form of late.

The Argentine forward has played a part in 44 of Barcelona's 87 goals in La Liga and has proven an irreplaceable cog in Barcelona's dominance in the league this term. Messi was crucial in the reverse of the Clasico just before Christmas, when the 30-year-old scored twice in a dominating 3-0 win in the Spanish capital.

Valverde has tended to play his strongest starting XI domestically and that has arguably contributed towards his side's laboured and ultimately shocking Champions League exit at the hands of Roma, although the Catalans do have a Spanish double to look back on with both a 25th league crown and the Copa del Rey in the bag.

Welcoming Madrid to Camp Nou, Barcelona will rest safe in the knowledge that they have won 26 of their last 28 home matches and have been winning at both half time and full time in 22 of those contests.

The club will be planning the best of celebrations for Andres Iniesta, who recently announced that he will be departing the club, potentially for China, after 22 years in Catalonia. Should the playmaker start for the hosts, it will surely be his last Clasico in a Barcelona shirt.

Barcelona's shameful exit in the Champions League will likely scar Valverde for months to come, but the coach will be itching to cap off an impressive first term in charge by finishing as unbeaten La Liga champions, while a league double over Madrid will surely fire up everybody involved in Sunday's clash.

Recent form: WDWWDW
Recent form (all competitions): WLWDWW

Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo with a bleeding gash during the La Liga game between Real Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna on January 21, 2018© Offside

Real Madrid head to Camp Nou having reached their third Champions League final on the bounce after beating Bayern Munich, leaving Zidane with the chance to break another European record by becoming the first manager to win three straight crowns.

Madrid have shown remarkable efficiency in the knockout phases of the tournament, delivering at the crucial moments despite some blemishes of inconsistency against the Germans and Juventus in the round prior. The club have also received a little help from an almost unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo in front of goal.

Should Real beat Liverpool in Kiev, Zidane will have pulled off the extraordinary, but the club's run in the Champions League has arguably done Los Blancos no real favours in the league.

With four games remaining, Madrid sit in third position in the standings and are now battling to overhaul city rivals Atletico Madrid in order to claim a second-place finish come the end of the month.

As things stand, Diego Simeone's men hold a four-point lead over Real, but Zidane's charges do have a game in hand over Los Colchoneros. Added to the chase, Madrid will also revel in the opportunity to thwart Barcelona's pursuit of an unbeaten championship win by claiming victory on Sunday.

Zidane has two options ahead of the clash - does he opt to rest his key figures before the final, or will the Frenchman go with a full-strength side in order to put some sort of a dent in Barcelona's domestic dominance this season? Early indications from Zidane suggest that he is leaning away from rotating his squad during the derby.

Since being beaten by Espanyol in February, Real have moved to eight games unbeaten in the league to push Atletico all the way in the bid for second place behind the champions.

Madrid's focus will quite likely be veering towards another historic accomplishment in Europe, but the capital club will not shy away from a Clasico that is hugely important to both fan bases, as well as Real's confidence heading towards the game at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in just a few weeks.

Recent form: WWDWDW
Recent form (all competitions): LWDWWD

Team News

Ivan Rakitic in action for Barcelona on February 20, 2018© Offside

Iniesta will be hoping to shake off a minor calf issue as he bids to start in what should be his last Clasico as a Barcelona player.

Philippe Coutinho should also be a part of the hosts' midfield, sitting alongside Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets. Both Luis Suarez and Messi are expected to lead the line as usual.

Zidane has made a few comments in the press suggesting that he wants to be at full strength for the trip to Catalonia. Madrid are likely to start with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in attack, while Isco could play just behind the front two.

Dani Carvajal remains out with an injury picked up in the Champions League, meaning that Lucas Vazquez may stand in again at right-back - if not, Achraf Hakimi may feature. Raphael Varane might also sit out as he continues to manage a slight knock.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Coutinho, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Suarez, Messi

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Navas; Vasquez, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo

Head To Head

Barcelona celebrated Christmas by producing a thumping 3-0 victory over Real when the sides met last, Messi, Suarez and Aleix Vidal all bagging in an emphatic away win at the Bernabeu.

That victory snapped a two-game losing streak against Madrid, who won both legs of the Supercopa de Espana to claim a 10th title at the expense of Barca.

Across the last five competitive meetings between the teams, both sides have won two and drawn once.

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We say: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid

Regardless of Barcelona's early league win and Real's progression into the final of the Champions League, neither side will want to give up any ground in what is always a hotly-contested derby.

Barcelona will be keen to back up their La Liga title by finishing the season unbeaten under Valverde, while Zidane will want to ensure that his side do all that they can to spoil the party for Blaugrana.

Barca have been the better side over the distance, but Real have shown in Europe that the club have a number of talents capable of turning a game on its head when it matters most.

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Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos in action during his side's Champions League clash with Tottenham Hotspur
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