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DEBATE | Real Madrid vs Barcelona Tactics: How will both sides look to set-up the midfield for the Clasico?

Real Madrid vs Barcelona Tactics

Real Madrid vs Barcelona Tactics

Is there a bigger game in World football than the El Clasico? I doubt it. The two giants of World football face off at the Bernabeu in a crucial game for the Spanish title race. Real Madrid vs Barcelona is a game that is eagerly anticipated worldwide, and with good reason. This particular one though, could all but end Barcelona’s hopes of retaining their title, putting Real in pole position and their city rivals Atletico as the primary challengers.

Real Madrid

Where can they win the game? It’s no surprise that the two games which Real Madrid lost in the league this season (away to Atletico & Barcelona), they lacked the tactical astuteness of a certain Xabi Alonso in the heart of midfield. The Spaniard will be available for this fixture and while the likes of Ronaldo and Bale will be crucial to the side’s success, Xabi will have a vital role to play. The three aforementioned Real players will be complementary to each other. Although Barca’s midfield is usually known for taking control of games, but this time Ronaldo & Bale on either side will keep them busy as they attempt to assist their full-backs in covering the flanks.

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This will naturally open up pockets of space in midfield for Xabi to exploit, playing balls from deep in midfield. This is where the man atop the front three is crucial. Reports have claimed that Karim Benzema will be fit for the game with Madrid fans particularly thrilled with this. Though, as an alternative, Alvaro Morata up there wouldn’t be that bad an option. Morata is less dynamic that Benzema and will more likely stay up off the shoulders of the last defender, preventing a high line from Barca’s central defenders. This reduces their ability to push-up against Real’s midfield. Morata can play the role of striker to hold up play, allowing Ronaldo and Bale to cut in while also connecting with Xabi.

Where can they lose it? My concern for Real Madrid are the players that will play in midfield ahead of Xabi Alonso. While they can be attackingly adept (though i’m still concerned about this too), they certainly lack defensive skill. Modric will be one of the starters, the other remains a question. But neither can contribute Barcelona deep in midfield areas. While Ancelotti might set them to push Iniesta and Xavi back, preventing their passing creativity, you’d expect the experience of those two to pull through.

Who could prove to be the key man? It’s obviously hard to look past the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo as a key players, but as mentioned, i’m going to stake down Xabi Alonso as the key man that could win Real Madrid this game and propel them even further away from their arch rivals.

External factors: Psychologically, Real Madrid couldn’t ask for a bigger prize. The chance to go seven points clear of the Catalan giants should be enough of an incentive. This should give them enough of a boost to overcome any physical weariness from mid-week.

Real Madrid’s Tactical write-up was provided by Sami Faizullah. Follow him on twitter at @SamiFaizullah

Barcelona

Where can they win the game? Its no secret that Barcelona’s strengths lie in their midfield. With the Madrid players ahead of Modric and Alonso offering less of a defensive contribution, a gap will eventually open up between the two central midfielders and that ones up spaces ahead. Here is where Barcelona, with their hallmark style of play, are capable of exploiting this area to the fullest, playing their passing game to the point where they will draw out the central midfielders, leaving the defense exposed and more often than not, out numbered. Another area where Barcelona are capable of working a way towards goal is through the Madrid full backs. With Neymar’s trickery against Carvajal and Sanchez’s work-rate against Marcelo’s attacking minded nature, the wide areas could offer to be a useful plan B for the Catalans.

Where can they lose it? Madrid have formed to be a spectacularly dangerous counter attacking team. With Barcelona’s midfield working their way up field, and the full backs providing extra support out wide, their defensive line will slowly get higher. A loss in possession could be lethal with the likes of Ronaldo and Bale having enough pace to outrun most Catalan players. Madrid’s attacking trio will offer a potent aerial threat against the relatively short Mascherano and average-performing Pique. February saw Barcelona’s defense come under scrutiny with an average of 1.75 goals scored against them per game.

Who could prove to be the key man? There will be expectations for Messi to put on a show after regaining confidence after his hattrick last week but more crucially, Iniesta’s dynamic abilities in the central of the park will control a lot of Barcelona’s play. The 29 year old’s ability to work his magic at will on Sunday will be of paramount importance.

External factors: Barcelona will have a week worth of rest before the Clasico where as Madrid players will be a bit weary from their mid-week Champions League outing against Schalke but the League leaders wouldn’t be too worried about this as only Ronaldo, Alonso and Ramos look to retain their place in the starting line-ups. Both clubs have mid week league fixtures to be aware of.

With Atletico facing Betis 4 hours prior to the Clasico, much of the mindset of this game will depend on the result from the Estadio Benito Villamarín.

Barcelona’s tactical write-up was provided by Razim Refai. Follow him on twitter @RazimRefai

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