Real Madrid vs Barcelona preview, betting tips and prediction: Blaugrana to supply knockout blow to Real's title hopes

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The excitement is building in households everywhere. Christmas may be just around the corner, but that isn’t on the minds of most football fans; the biggest game in the world takes centre stage on Saturday lunchtime. Barcelona travel to Real Madrid for El Clasico, and it promises to be another cracker at the Santiago Bernabeu.

This is a fixture that never fails to live up to the hype, there have been so many legendary encounters over the years. Barcelona have won by four, five and six, Real have won by four and five, there have been six-goal thrillers and seven-goal stunners, including last year’s clash in Madrid. It twisted and turned; Real were winning, then the Blaugrana took the initiative. James Rodriguez had seemingly saved a crucial point for the league leaders and eventual winners, only for Lionel Messi to stun the home crowd yet again to grab a winner in the knick of time; 4-3, for the second time in four years.

But this game has a different outlook, with an 11-point gap between the sides, Real’s title race could already be run. Having played in and won the Club World Cup this week, Real do have a game in hand and will hope victory can spark a LaLiga revival. It looks like the fireworks could be set off again. Don’t be expecting much festive cheer on Saturday.

Form

Real Madrid may have won the Club World Cup this week, their fifth title of 2017, but they hardly convinced overall. They struggled to break down Al Jazira in the semi final and had to come from a goal down, but Cristiano Ronaldo did break yet another record as the highest scorer in the competition’s history. But they are struggling domestically, sitting fourth in LaLiga. Retaining the title feels a world away now, while they struggled in the Champions League, finishing second in their group behind Spurs.

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On paper, it has been a fantastic season for Barcelona, who top the league by six points and remain unbeaten to this point. But it has not been all plain sailing for Ernesto Valverde; their performances have been questionable at times and they certainly do not look as strong as yesteryear. Although Luis Suarez is among our tips as FGS, having scored a brace against Deportivo La Coruna last week, he has struggled for form overall. Andres Iniesta’s recent performance levels will certainly breed hope, though.

Team News

Nelson Semedo didn’t make the side last week and Sergi Roberto did enough to keep his place at right-back. Valverde may have an issue out wide after Paco Alcacer was forced off with an injury, and with Ousmane Dembele still out with a hamstring problem, Aleix Vidal could start at the Bernabeu. Samuel Umtiti will also miss out.

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Gareth Bale remains Zinedine Zidane’s only major injury doubt, meaning Isco could start. Marco Asensio will be pushing for a start, too.

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