Barcelona look to kick-start title challenge in El Clasico

Barcelona take on Real Madrid on Saturday in the first El Clásico of the season, and 173rd in the league. It is the 232nd in all competitions. The Catalans will have to make the most of their home advantage if they are to close the gap on their visitors, who top La Liga. Real sit six ahead of Barcelona going into the match, but anything goes when these two sides go head to head – Click here to watch El Clasico live streaming online and enjoy Barcelona vs Real Madrid for free!!

Barcelona have won four out of the last six El Clásicos, with Real Madrid taking the last meeting between the two sides, 2-1 at the Camp Nou. Zinedine Zidane takes his side over to Barcelona knowing that a win would open up a nine point gulf between the two clubs – Barcelona play magnificent football, but that is a big gap at such an early stage of the season.

Then again, rather have a gap that big to make up now rather than later on in the campaign. Still, Real are the only unbeaten side in the league. Ten wins and three draws from the first 13 games, with a league-high 36 scored and only 11 conceded – a tightness at the back beaten only by Villareal.

This will of course offer superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo another chance to lock horns directly. Both enjoy getting on the scoresheet in this fixture, with Messi hitting the most recent impressive milestone when he struck a hattrick in Barcelona’s 4-3 win at the Santiago Bernabeu back in 2009. Real have won this fixture four times more than Barcelona, and have scored seven more goals. Looking at those stats alone would incline one to think they should be able to see off their hosts, especially given their slightly better league form.

But this is Barcelona. IN Barcelona. There is a magic about the football that isn’t quite tangible, yet clearly visible. They will want to close that gap, and with the dynamic front line of Messi, Suarez and Neymar they will be really testing Madrid’s defensive line. The supply is outstanding, but Madrid are assured and resolute.

Sergio Busquets is a man Barcelona would have been looking at to stamp his authority in the middle of the park, but his influence seems to have declined somewhat since Luis Enrique implemented a more direct style at the club. That is because the three forwards are usually the target from passes anywhere on the field – and often Busquets and his midfield cohorts are bypassed. That is a style that has proven fruitful at times, but Madrid could look to expose that and control the game themselves.

Whichever side wins, this is a fixture that rarely lets the fans down. Whether there is a vested interest or you are a neutral viewer, seldom does this match fail to deliver superb entertainment. A Barcelona win closes the gap and keeps things more immediately competitive, but Real look stunning at times and Barcelona could find it difficult to break them down. It will boil down to whether Barcelona’s forwards can outfox Madrid’s composed defence.

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