Matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid are always enormously significant, regardless of the underpinning circumstances heading into the game. But Saturday’s at the Camp Nou feels particularly pertinent, even in the anthology of iconic contests we’ve witnessed between the two.
Indeed, it’s been rare for Barcelona to enter this fixture in a lull of form in recent years. Manager Luis Enrique branded their slapdash effort against Real Sociedad in the 1-1 draw last weekend as the “worst game” since he took over the post in 2014. With six points between them and league leaders Real, it’s clear some serious improvement is needed.
By contrast, this is a game in which Los Blancos can make a major statement. In recent meetings between the two sides it has been rare for Madrid to be in such a strong position and not since their last La Liga triumph, in 2011-12, have they been in a position to deliver what is potentially a telling blow in the race for the title. This is a tremendous chance to do so.
Real, of course, won this fixture last term, coming from behind to snatch a late victory through Cristiano Ronaldo and breathing life back into their title challenge. It was a win that tipped Barca into a poor run of form that almost cost them the La Liga they clinched in 2015-16.
If Los Blancos are to repeat that trick, it’ll be without some key men. With no Gareth Bale and no Toni Kroos, Zidane will need to call on all of his tactical acumen to create a winning formula. There are also big doubts over the fitness of Pepe, Raphael Varane and Casemiro too.
Barcelona’s only major absentee is likely to be Jordi Alba by contrast and Enrique, as such, will be relying on key individuals to make their mark in this one. Far too frequently this season they’ve relied on Lionel Messi to pull them out of the mire and this is a chance for another Clasico hero to emerge.
Where and when to watch the game:
Date: Sunday, April 23
Time: 2:45pm ET
US TV: beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS en Español
US streaming: fuboTV (free 7-day trial)
UK TV and streaming: Game is blacked out.
Having spent the summer bolstering the squad with some exciting young acquisitions, there looked to be more depth to so many different areas of the Barcelona team this season. But the Blaugrana have been dependant on the same familiar faces 2016-17.
It’s something epitomized by the struggles of the side since Andres Iniesta has been sidelined with injury. Since he hobbled off against Valencia in late October, Barcelona have only won three of their seven games played. Thankfully for Cules across the globe, the majestic midfielder is set to return this weekend.