It’s easy to question the motivation for Real Madrid here, as they are not going to catch Barcelona at the top of La Liga whatever the result here. That would be overlooking the fact that there is no such thing as a meaningless El Clásico and that Los Blancos will want revenge for the 4-0 drubbing they suffered at the Bernabeu in the reverse fixture back in November.
In addition, they would take enormous satisfaction in being the team to end Barcelona’s club record 39-match unbeaten run and a victory at Camp Nou might just give them an edge for any subsequent potential Champions League meeting.
It’s worth noting that whilst the Barca attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all on active international duty in World Cup qualifiers in South America over the past week or so, Real Madrid’s key attacking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema had a less arduous time. Ronaldo was on international duty for a couple of Portugal friendlies on home soil, but neither Bale nor Benzema were called up by their respective national teams.
Other players from both teams were also kept off at least part of their international duty, with Sergio Ramos for Real Madrid and the Barcelona trio of Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic all being held back by their clubs.
This will be the first Barcelona game since the death of club legend Johan Cruyff and they will want to put on a performance worthy of the man who had a huge influence on the football philosophy at the club. Barca’s last home defeat in La Liga was back in February 2015. In 22 domestic league games since, they’ve won 20 of them.
There is no great pressure on either team in terms of the result, so this could be a very open game. There have been three or more goals in 17 of the last 18 meetings between these two teams in all competitions, with 10 games producing four or more goals. Neither defence is anything special, so backing over 3.5 goals looks a solid bet.