Barcelona (+170) at Real Madrid (+145), Draw (+250)
The biggest club soccer matchup in the world of will take place this Saturday when Real Madrid (7-3-1) host FC Barcelona (9-0-2) in El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (12:15 PM Eastern).
Right before the international break Barcelona claimed the top spot in the standings by beating Villarreal 3-0 at home while at the same time Real Madrid lost to Sevilla 3-2.
Barcelona is on a four-game winning streak entering this game, also beating Rayo Vallecano (5-2), Eibar (3-1), Getafe (2-0). The club has played since late September without playmaker Lionel Messi, who injured his knee against Athletic Bilbao; Messi started training with the team this week and could be fit to return to Madrid.
“Whether he plays or not is down to the coach, the medics and how he feels but he has been looking sharp in training,” striker Lions Suárez said in the press conference on Wednesday. “However, it is the type of injury where there are risks for the future. Messi is a player that makes a difference in all games and in clasicos he has always made a big impact but we will have to see if he is ready.”
Without Messi in the lineup, Barca has seen the duo of Neymar and Luis Suarez step up in his place. The Brazilian leads the league with 11 scores, followed by the Uruguayan with nine; both have added three assists, each.
Real Madrid is three points below Barcelona in the standings and will trust their great defense to win a tight affair. The Meringues have allowed only seven goals this season, the second best mark of La Liga below Atletico Madrid, but only three of those seven goals were scored against starting goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Navas missed the two World Cup qualification games for Costa Rica to be fit to play Barcelona. He has been dealing with a nagging strain in the adductor muscle of his right leg.
Beyond Navas’ injury, Real Madrid has shown several problems creating offensive football under coach Rafa Benitez. Numerous rumors suggest playmaker Cristiano Ronaldo is not happy with his role under Benitez’s Madrid, and he believes this team will never win anything under the ex-Liverpool’s coach.
Last season, both teams split the season series with the home team winning each game. Madrid won at home 3-1, but it was one of the first games Luis Suarez played with the Blaugranas. FC Barcelona punched back by winning the rematch at the Nou Camp 2-1, but that night it was the Merengues who looked better despite ending on the wrong side of the score.
Barcelona should dominate the ball possession and has shown to be more in sync at the moment. Their idea under Luis Enrique is solid, and it doesn’t matter whether Messi plays or not. Navas will be the key player for Madrid on Saturday; he either has the game of his life of his team will suffer a bad loss.
Pick: FC Barcelona (+170).
(Photo Credit: Ver en vivo En Directo (Originally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])
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