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Real Madrid vs Barcelona Preview

Written by @Wayde_D for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now! 

Real Madrid vs Barcelona | Sunday 23 March | Santiago Bernabeu | 22:00

The biggest derby in the world takes place in Spain on Sunday, with Real Madrid and Barcelona clashing in a potential season defining El Clasico. There is a lot at stake for both teams, as ten games remain in the league and a win for Madrid will most likely see them lift the title, while a win for Barca will keep them in the title race, which could go down to the wire. La Liga leaders Real sit three points clear of surprise package Atletico Madrid, with Barca a point further back in third. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have something to prove as they have not lost in the league since the 2-1 defeat to champions Barcelona in October.

To Win (90mins)
Real Madrid 5/4
Draw 24/10
Barcelona 21/10

Real Madrid
Real Madrid looked fully prepared for the El Clasico, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half goal gave them a 1-0 win in Malaga last Saturday night to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to thirty matches. Make that 31, as Madrid have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, thrashing Schalke 9-2 on aggregate. Recently, Madrid have overcome sides effectively with minimal fuss. They look in control and that stems from their newfound defensive solidity, with Ancelotti’s back four conceding just six goals in the eighteen matches they have played so far this year. Los Blancos have the best defence of La Liga in 2014 and have kept clean sheets in four of their last five games. They have been sublime all season at the Bernabeu, except for one slip-up against Atletico Madrid, going 1-0 down. Besides that, they have won all twelve matches, scoring a mammoth 42 goals and conceding just ten times. Madrid have the most expensive attacking trio on the planet this season following the €100 million signing of Gareth Bale. The Welshman has often played on the right flank, with €94 million man Ronaldo on the left, and Karim Benzema – who cost €41m in 2009 – working through the middle with great effect of late. In the short space of time that they have played together they’ve proven a deadly combination, most notably scoring two goals apiece in a 6-1 drubbing of Schalke. It’s no secret that Ronaldo has been the standout performer in the league this season, topping the scoring charts with 25 goals, three more than Diego Costa and seven more than Lionel Messi.

Four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has set his sights on beating Real Madrid next weekend after leading Barcelona to a 7-0 thrashing of Osasuna on Sunday. Messi overtook Paulino Alcantara to become Barca’s all-time leading scorer with his second goal of the afternoon, before completing his hat-trick to take his tally for the club to 371. Alexis Sanchez, Andres Iniesta, Cristian Tello and Pedro also got in on the act, in a sparking attacking display. Messi is hoping that a win in the Spanish capital will put his side right back in the La Liga title race. “I hope we see a good version of Barcelona and we can get a positive result, which we need to still be in there fighting for La Liga just a point behind,” he told Barca TV. “We have a unique opportunity to cut the gap on Madrid. It will be a very difficult game because we are playing away from home and Real Madrid is a great team playing with a lot of confidence. It will be difficult, but it all depends on us.” The Argentine’s first hat-trick of 2014 means he has now scored twelve times in his last nine games and he believes he is slowly getting back to his best after missing the last two months of 2013 due to a hamstring injury. “I feel good, as I have said before, little by little I am getting better after the injury. There were very difficult moments because I had a run of injuries, but I am feeling good and hopefully I can maintain this level until the end of the season.” It’s on the road where Barcelona’s title credentials have been questioned. They have been inconsistent winning only eight of their fourteen away games, losing three times.

VERDICT: Real Madrid 5/4
Real Madrid are unbeaten against Barcelona at the Bernabeu in the last three meetings, winning twice and drawing once. Barcelona might be able to control possession but Real Madrid have the defence to keep them at bay and the likes of Ronaldo and Bale could take advantage of Barca on the counter. The home win is tipped which could eliminate Barcelona from the title race for the remainder of the season.

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