Forget form, injuries and lineups. El Clasico is a battle of wits and pride no matter who takes the pitch.
Carlo Ancelotti and Luis Enrique will be racking their brains all week as the “2nd Leg” of the Clasico takes place Sunday Night in Barcelona. Real Madrid will come in off an important win over the weekend that will lift the morale of the club amidst controversy, injuries, trouble with fans and many other story lines. Gareth Bale was able to break his 9 game scoreless drought with two goals at the Bernabeau Sunday. Fans had been riding his poor form with jeering and the likes in the last several games. Even after he scored their was jeers and boos as it seems some fans were hoping the goal would have counted for their Golden Boy Ronaldo. All Barcelona fandom aside, booing your own stars is something that I have never understood or agreed with, more so even during a game. Funny enough the first hate that Bale received from the Madrid fans was when he took a shot earlier in the year instead of passing it to an open Ronaldo. Let me re-state, Gareth Bale, the same guy who tore up the premier league for several seasons single handedly winning games for the Spurs, was booed at the Bernabeau for doing his job as a forward of taking shots. All strikers take bad shots but the level of hate the Welshman was receiving is pedantic.
Still even with the hate and everything their Captain and long time Madrid Legend Iker forced the players to go in the middle of the pitch last Tuesday after their defeat to FC Schalke to applaud the fans. Mind you Iker is one of Madrid’s most decorated players in their history if not their most and even he was booed at certain points last year during the keeper fiasco that played out through the year with Diego Lopez.
Sergio Ramos is questionable to return in time and in my opinion will be their biggest loss if he doesn’t return as their back line has been absolutely horrendous in the last few games. Their constant lack of urgency and adaptation is evident as they need their leader in their biggest game of the season.
Luka Modric made his first competitive appearance last week coming on in the match against FC Schalke and while he is not in top form yet I will be surprised if he doesn’t start. He was the engine of the squad before his injury and will look to put his touch and grease the Real Madrid goal scoring machine.
James Rodriguez has finally started to do light training but if he plays at all this Sunday it will likely be as a late sub as he nowhere near match fitness.
On the other side of the coin, Sergio Busquets is doubtful for the match. The chain between defense and the midfield recently signed an extension with the club and has been missed. His subtle but key part in the blaugrana squad helps alleviate pressure and open up the passing game when playing against counter attacking squads like Real.
Barcelona come into the game in their best form of the season with recent key victories in Manchester and Eibar, taking the lead of La Liga and seeing their ace from Argentina at his peak of the season. Alves and Alba will rejoin the squad from suspension and it’ll be no doubt who the first 11 of the team sheet will be. I give a slight edge to Barcelona this weekend and not a monumental one like most pundits are saying. This is a rivalry that transcends almost any story line at there and the rivalry is at the height of its existence in the last decade. These games tend to be extremely close regardless of everything else leading up to the match. One thing is for sure, the lucky few who will be at the Camp Nou on Sunday will be in for a thrill of a match.
-Disgruntled Sports Fan