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Real Madrid vs Barcelona - Guide to seasons first Clasico

ผู้เขียน: แหล่งที่มา:ต้นฉบับ 2022-12-09

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One of the footballs biggest matches returns asReal MadridhostBarcelonain the 250th competitive edition of the clash simply known asEl Clasicothis Sunday (Oct. 16, 10:15 a.m. ET, ESPN+).

Sundays match sees both sides on top of theLaLigatable, with Barcelona just above Real Madrid due to goal difference. Barcelona snapped a six-game winless streak against their rivals in an emphatic 4-0 win last season, although Real Madrid would go on to win their record 35th LaLiga championship.

-Real Madrid vs. Barcelona on ESPN+(Sunday, Oct. 16, 10:15 a.m. ET)

Following an offseason in which Barcelona spent nearly €150 million ($145.6 million) to bring in new players, the Catalan side has its sights set on a 27th league title. Meanwhile, Madrid are eyeing back-to-back crowns for the first time since the 2006-08 campaigns, not to mention extending their record Champions League haul to 15 trophies.

ESPN correspondentsSam MarsdenandAlex Kirklandbreak down both sides and look at what to expect ahead of Sundays match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Kirkland:Madrid started the campaign as if it were a seamless continuation of last seasons expectation-busting, double-winning campaign, with nine wins out of nine in all competitions. Their first and only slip-up to date came in a 1-1 home draw withOsasunaon Oct. 2, but theyve bounced back since and also kept a first clean sheet of the LaLiga season in Saturdays 1-0 win atGetafe.

-Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.)

Summer signingAurelien Tchouamenihas helped fans forget about the departure of Casemiro toManchester United, while young starsVinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes andFederico Valverdeare developing into this teams new generation of leaders, with the support of old handsLuka ModricandKarim Benzema.

Real Madrids David Alaba will welcome ex-Bayern teammate and new Barcelona star Robert Lewandowski to his first official Clasico on Sunday.

James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Marsden:Barcelona are much improved from last season -- I mean, they should be after spending over €150 million -- but they still look like a team in development. Thumping wins have been contrasted with struggles to break down stubborn opponents, and they are on the cusp of another disappointing Champions League exit after poor results againstBayern MunichandInternazionale.

The squad is packed with quality, though, and withRobert Lewandowskiat one end and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen at the other, they have been effective in both boxes. They are the top scorers (20) in LaLiga after eight games and also have the best defence, having conceded just one goal.

A trip to the Santiago Bernabeu will provide a better idea of whether they can compete for the title this season, as well as the chance to bounce back from Wednesdays draw with Inter.

Marsden:Lewandowskis impact has been felt on and off the pitch. On it, he is the top scorer in LaLiga with nine goals in eight games, three more than anyone else. Off it, he is a leader. His professionalism, attitude and work rate are infectious. Xavi has praised the influence he has had on the younger members of the squad already.

He may be 34, but he is still a striker at the peak of his powers and his move to Barca has provided fresh motivation. He is likely to watch Benzema win the Ballon dOr this year, a prize he feels he deserved during his time at Bayern Munich. He hopes the spotlight that falls on Barca will give him a better chance at individual glory; Barca hope that desire will propel them to success. --Marsden

Real Madrids Karim Benzema hopes to bounce back from an injury-riddled season against Barcelona.

David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Kirkland:Its been a strange start to the season for Benzema. Just a few months ago, his goal-scoring heroics in Madrids dramatic Champions League run were dispelling any remaining doubts that this was a player worthy of Ballon dOr recognition. Now, an injury-disrupted spell -- including a month on the sidelines with a thigh problem -- means he hasnt scored since August.

Three LaLiga goals from five starts is a modest return, and Benzemas missed penalty against Osasuna saw Madrid lose their 100% record. Fortunately,Viniciusand Rodrygo have stepped into the breach. Benzema was rested at the weekend, and Tuesdays Champions League1-1 drawagainst Shakhtar Donetsk gave him one last chance to find his form before theClasico.

Kirkland:Madrids midfield, the bedrock of their success over the past decade, is finally undergoing a generational change.

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The club made the smart decision to move on Casemiro, 30, for a significant fee, having already signed Tchouameni, 22, as his preemptive successor. Tchouameni has already shown in flashes that he can replace the Brazilian -- and even improve on his offensive output -- but is yet to be tested in a game of this magnitude.Toni Kroos, 32, remains hugely influential but is not a guaranteed starter.

Its the veteran Modric, 37, who refuses to be dislodged from Madrids best XI. The best use ofEduardo Camavingas talents has been as a impact substitute, while Valverdes consolidation on the right means the classic midfield three is now effectively a four-man set.

Marsden:Gavi and Pedri have established themselves as regulars for Barca andSpainat just 18 and 19, respectively. No one doubts their quality or their potential, but they now need to turn that into silverware to be put on par with their predecessors,Andres Iniestaand Xavi Hernandez, and the Madrid midfielders they will face on Sunday.

The good news: theyre both on the right path. WithSergio Busquetssat at the base of the midfield,Gavipops up everywhere. He is so busy, in fact, that some people at the club believe he needs to slow down just a little bit to become even better.

As forPedri, few have shown such a brilliant understanding of the game at such a young age. He has demonstrated he can control games; can he now control aClasico?

Marsden:Barca need their other attackers to score more to lessen the load on Lewandowski, whose brace against Inter could not salvage a win on Wednesday. On paper, their attacking depth in support of the Polish striker is incredible:Ousmane DembeleRaphinhaAnsu FatiFerran TorresandMemphis Depay. So far this season, though, they have not delivered consistently enough.

Dembele has been the pick of the bunch, brilliant at times, but he still needs to improve his decision-making in the final third. He has four assists but only two goals. Xavi wants him to score more, though to be fair, the Barca coach wants everyone to score more.

After Lewandowski, only Dembele, Ansu and Pedri have scored more than once in league games this season. They each have two. That is not good enough after 11 games, especially compared with Madrid, who have four players with four or more goals.

Kirkland:The early highlight of Madrids season has been the way Vinicius, Rodrygo and Valverde have helped forge a new identity for this team as a direct, dynamic counterattacking unit. Vinicius is the teams top scorer, with seven goals in all competitions, and Rodrygo and Valverde have both chipped in with four each.

The only dilemma coach Carlo Ancelotti will face against Barcelona is whether to start Valverde -- whose recent contribution has made him nearly undroppable -- or Rodrygo. The likely outcome is for the Brazilian to be held in reserve for later in the game, given the lack of convincing attacking alternatives withMarco AsensioandEden Hazardout of form and favour.

Kirkland:MadridsClasicobuildup has been hit by injury doubts over the two players they can least afford to lose:Thibaut Courtoisand Benzema. Courtois will be a last-minute decision as he recovers from a sciatic nerve problem, while Benzema is now expected to be available, albeit lacking match sharpness. If Courtois doesnt make it -- thoughindications arethat his fitness is trending up --Andriy Lunins lack of big-game experience would be a major concern.

Elsewhere, Madrids squad is strong, with Ancelotti choosing two of three elite centre-backs --Eder MilitaoDavid AlabaandAntonio Rudiger-- each week, and able to call on the likes of Camavinga and Rodrygo if a second-half energy boost is required.

Among Barcelonas new defensive signings, Jules Kounde and Franck Kessie have battled injuries.

Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Marsden:Barcas summer spending served the dual purpose of improving the starting lineup and adding depth. That depth has been pushed to the limit in defence, though, where a spate of injuries forced Xavi to field three left-backs againstCelta Vigo, before a makeshift back three could not contain Inter..

The losses ofRonald AraujoUruguay) andJules KoundeFrance) while on international duty, perhaps Barcas best two defenders, has been a huge setback. Further injuries toHector BellerinandAndreas Christensenhave even reopened the door forGerard Piqueto come back in from the cold.

Further forward,Frenkie de JongFranck Kessieand Memphis have all suffered knocks. De Jong and Kessie are back again, Memphis is not far away and there is an outside chance Kounde could face Madrid, but Barca will be weakened in defence at the Bernabeu.

Marsden:Barca go into the game top of LaLiga, but sluggish 1-0 wins in their last two league games against Celta and Mallorca, coupled with injury problems, had already reduced the euphoria that was beginning to bubble before the recent international break.

The morale-sapping draw with Inter then further dented the mood around the club and Xavi takes his side to Madrid at perhaps the lowest moment of his time in charge of the club. While the buck could be passed for last seasons Champions League exit, he will take huge responsibility if, as looks likely, it happens again this term. Despite that, he will find reasons for optimism. Barca won 4-0 in Madrid last season and recent history shows they often enjoy their trips to the capital.

Kirkland:You get the feeling Carlo Ancelotti is never anything but confident. Winning LaLiga and the Champions League was a surprise, a late-career highlight and vindication that the 63-year-old Italian can still deliver at the highest level. He also has shown that, assisted by a youthful staff including son Davide, hes capable of growth and innovation in whats likely his career swan song.

Ancelottis Madrid side is versatile -- they can keep the ball, sit deep, press high or play on the counter -- and hell want revenge for last seasons 4-0 humbling at the Bernabeu, an eyebrow-raising result despite not ultimately meaning much. Hell have learnt lessons from that game; notably that the ill-advised gambit of playing Modric as an emergency false nine isnt one to be repeated.

Madrid have to open up a little more at home and, with Barca used to facing teams sitting deep, they can take advantage of any space afforded to them.

Kirkland:Neither team goes into this match in its best form, and I would expect a much tighter game than last seasons 4-0. I can see Lewandowski scoring in his firstClasico, and Benzema finding his scoring boots again, in a 1-1 draw that sets us up nicely for the title race to come.

Marsden:Clasicosdont always follow the form book, so I wouldnt take too much from Barcas post-international break struggles. They will be keen to move on from the Inter result quickly, although it wont be easy against a solid Madrid side. With neither team desperate for the three points at this stage of the campaign, I will sit on the fence with an entertaining 2-2 draw.