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Crucial questions that will determine Sunday’s Classico

SportsFootballCrucial questions that will determine Sunday's Classico
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we’re a little over 24 hours away classico that has a huge impact on this season Laliga title race. barcelona lead real Madrid Nine points atop the table and have won the last two meetings between the sides, and a third straight win would wrap up the league title for the Catalan club.

On the basis of a resounding victory in the last-16 of the Champions League liverpoolHowever, there is every reason to suggest that Madrid are beginning their progress at the turning point of the campaign. They spainwere the defending domestic champions and won the October meeting between the clubs in convincing fashion.

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What you should expect when the two famous rivals square off on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, Live Stream on ESPN+,, ESPN’s Barcelona and Madrid correspondents Sam Marsden and Alex Kirkland tell the biggest stories and make their predictions ahead of the match.

How relevant is the previous Clásico, and how could Madrid change the result?

Barcelona’s 1–0 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on 2 March was not entirely fluke – although his goal, frank caseyhitting the net through Thibaut Courtois‘ The involuntary deflection of the Save and Adder Militão was there, of course – but it was unusual. In Courtois’ words, Madrid “dominated” the game. Barcelona had a historically low 35.4% of possession, forced to sit back and defend deep. Madrid had 13 shots against Barca’s four. The difference in XG, or expected goals, was minimal: 0.57 for Madrid and 0.63 for Barca. Madrid’s problem was having the final ball and creating high quality chances. None of his shots hit the target.

, Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (US)
, Barca vs. Madrid: Sunday at 3pm ET, stream live on ESPN+

For coach Carlo Ancelotti, the idea for Sunday’s LaLiga Clasico – and the return leg in the Copa on April 5 – is simple: play the same way while being more clinical in the final third.

“We have to repeat this match in Barcelona,” he said after the Copa match. “Defensively, with high pressing, it was one of Madrid’s best games. If we can play with this intensity, we will have more chances.”

Expect Madrid to stick with that high press on the midfield – whether it’s luka modric, toni kross, federico valverde Or Eduardo Camavinga — Pushing up to disrupt Barca’s passing. it will be down Karim Benzema And Vinicius Jr. To be more decisive in attack. In that previous meeting, Benzema had just one shot and Vinicius was restricted to two, unable to break away from the public’s attention. Ronald Araujo,

Of course, Barcelona would also like to improve the Copa performance. It’s hard to imagine Xavi’s team having so little ball at Camp Nou. — Kirkland

Are the two goalkeepers the most important players here? If so, what does that say about the Clasico situation?

The Clásicos of the past 15 years have been largely defined by goal scorers and flair players. Lionel Messi And Cristiano Ronaldo, Modric and Andres Iniesta. However, ask the supporters of either club who is currently their most important player and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen And Courtois would likely rank near the top. This suggests that the quality of this fixture has perhaps dropped in recent years, but nothing should be taken away from the two goalkeepers.

German stopper Ter Stegen is having what is arguably his best season since joining Barca nine years ago. Through 25 La Liga games, he has conceded only eight goals, while keeping 19 clean sheets for this stage of the campaign, both league highs. The eight goals that have been conceded come from an xGA (goes against expected) of 20.56. He made 51 saves, some of them spectacular, including heroic performances in several 1–0 victories. Putting out targets is only part of his job, mind. He is also Barca’s first line of attack and has completed 82.5% of his 699 attempted passes in LaLiga. No goalkeeper in the league has scored more tries or has a higher success rate.

On paper, Courtois’ figures don’t compare to this season, but his value to Madrid is similar. In the big moments, he’s there. Just ask Liverpool. On Wednesday he kept him out again as Madrid progressed in Europe, and he was man of the match in last season’s Champions League final between the same two sides. Recent highlights include a fine defense real valladolid Madrid claim three points and massive stoppage at 0-0 borja iglesias in a recent goalless draw against real betis, — Marsden

Why does Madrid beat all comers in the Champions League but often struggle against Barca?

While Madrid have beaten some of Europe’s best over the past year — Dispatching Paris Saint Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City Heroically on their way to winning the Champions League – Barcelona have proved to be a tough test. They had a convincing 3–1 win in the Spanish Supercopa final on 15 January, before Barca’s back-to-the-wall 1–0 win in the Copa. 1 win on 16 October, but before that, Barca put together one of the most convincing performances by an away team at the Bernabeu last season, beating Madrid 4–0 on 20 March.

Look back a little further, however, and Madrid’s record is much better. They went six Clásicos without defeat until a 4–0 loss, including four consecutive wins in La Liga in 2020 and 2021 for the first time since the 1960s. Xavi’s arrival at Camp Nou, and Barca’s subsequent improvement – at least domestically – has seen the fixture become unpredictable once again. The comparison with last season’s Champions League victory is also somewhat misleading. Those epic comebacks were only necessary because of how bad Madrid were in a 1-0 first leg loss to PSG, and 3-2 home and 4-3 away losses to Chelsea and Manchester City.

In short: This Real Madrid team is capable of greatness and plenty of mediocrity, and we’ve seen plenty of that in recent seasons, both in Clásicos and in Europe. — Kirkland

How is the Negreira case hanging over this game and affecting the relationship between these two clubs?

Barcelona paid former vice-president of the refereeing committee in Spain Recent seasons have been testing the bond that has developed between the two Clásico rivals. They are participants in the European Super League project and were among the only teams to reject LaLiga’s deal with private equity firm CVC for an immediate cash raise in exchange for a future percentage of their television money. Presidents Joan Laporta and Florentino Perez are both able to see that even though they always want to win, both teams benefit if the other remains strong.

Madrid was the only LaLiga side not to condemn the revelation of Barca’s payment to former referee Jose Maria Enriquez Negira in a letter released by Spanish clubs two weeks ago. At the end of last week, after prosecutors decided to look into corruption charges against Barca, Madrid decided to join the complaint. Reports suggest that Barca hoped this would happen due to mounting fan pressure on Pérez to act, but they too have been disappointed – with TV3 suggesting Laporta will cancel Sunday’s traditional pre-game directors’ lunch. will do it.

Barca continued to maintain their innocence against the allegations, with Laporta saying they had never “bought refereeing or influence.” For many, however, his image is already tarnished with no decision yet. And what happens on the pitch is also being seen through the prism of the case. Meanwhile, fans of opposition teams are throwing fake banknotes during Barca games and chanting slogans to relegate them.

After such incidents during the victory, Xavi said, “It was sad to see.” athletic club last weekend. “Barca is being judged prematurely, which is not good for society.” — Marsden

real madrid players to watch

Vinicius. His losing fight with Araújo was the story of the last Clásico. But Vinicius is in form, scoring and playing a key role in Madrid’s La Liga win espanyol last weekend, and will be determined to come out on top this time. — Kirkland

barcelona players to watch

Rafinha, Still settling down after summer switch leeds unitedSince then he has been Barca’s main striker in 2023 Ousmane Dembele got injured. He scored the winner in each of Barca’s last two LaLiga matches, in 1–0 victories. After scoring only once in his first 17 games overall, he now has five goals in his last 10 games and eight in 20. — Marsden

Predicted Real Madrid starting XI

Courtois; Dani Carvajaljoin, dance, ferland mendy, Eduardo Camavinga, Kroos, Modric, Valverde; Vinicius, Benzema. — Kirkland

Predicted Barcelona starting XI

Ter Stegen; araujo, Jules Conde, Andreas ChristensenAlejandro Balde; Sergio Busquets, frankie de jongHow, Gavi, Rafinha, Robert Lewandowski, — Marsden

score prediction

Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid: A win at Madrid may not propel them back into the title race, but a six-point gap will ensure Barca can’t take it easy between now and the end of the season. — Kirkland

Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid: A draw is good enough for Barca to maintain their nine-point lead at the top, while Madrid can settle for a point and reserve their efforts for upcoming challenges in the Copa del Rey and Champions League. — Marsden

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