El Clásico

Real Madrid - Barcelona: preview, team news, starting XIs

Zinedine Zidane and Quique Setién go head to head in the Bernabéu with plenty at stake at the top of LaLiga in the second Clásico of the 2019-20 season.

Real Madrid - Barcelona: preview, team news, predicted starting XIs
ALBERT GEA REUTERS

Real Madrid go into Sunday’s Clásico on one of their worst historic runs against Barcelona in LaLiga. Since the last time the home side tasted victory in the Bernabéu in 2014, Madrid have beaten their eternal rivals just once in the league, a 2-1 victory in Camp Nou in April 2016 marking Zinedine Zidane’s first game against Barça as a manager.

Since then it has all been uphill for Madrid; despite Zidane leading Madrid to the Liga title in 2016-17 he only took a point off Barcelona during that campaign and the Cules’ famous 3-2 victory in the Bernabéu in April heralded a winless run for Madrid that now stretches to six consecutive games since Messi presented his shirt to a disbelieving Bernabéu deep into stoppage time.

With Madrid trailing Manchester City in the Champions League ahead of the return leg in the Etihad, knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Real Sociedad and staring down the barrel of a five-point deficit in LaLiga if Barça are victorious, on paper Zidane is under pressure. In reality though it will take more than another potless season for the Frenchman’s “flor” to wither in the eyes of Florentino Pérez, who won’t have swiftly forgotten the twin thorns of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari or his relief when Zidane agreed to return nine months after resigning

If nothing else, another Spanish Super Cup adds a little polish to a season in which too much has been gambled on the form of Karim Benzema while Madrid’s transfer policy has been very much staked on the future. The signings Zidane was provided with have largely failed to make an impact, to the extent that Rodrygo has been relegated back to Castilla and Luka Jovic omitted from the Clásico squad entirely. Eden Hazard’s injury problems have not aided Zidane’s cause and only Ferland Mendy has provided an extra spark to the machinery that Real ended last season with.

For Barcelona boss Quique Setién Sunday’s game is a free hit. In his first Clásico after replacing Ernesto Valverde in January the former Betis and Las Palmas manager, who has a decent record against Zidane, has been hamstrung by injuries and his board’s much-maligned machinations in the transfer market. Setién will play what he has and rely on his tactical acumen to get the better of Zidane, probably by packing his midfield and relying on the timeless magic of Messi.

Zidane may choose to follow suit. The Real manager’s midfield is the only line of his side to have earned recent credit and Isco has played his way into the reckoning. Gareth Bale is another option to partner Karim Benzema but the youthful exuberance of Vinicius and the work rate of Lucas Vázquez give the Frenchman other possibilities, particularly given Barça may be forced to start with their second-choice full backs.

Real Madrid starting XI vs Barcelona

Courtois, Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos, Isco, Benzema, Vinicius.

Barcelona starting XI vs Real Madrid

Ter Stegen, Semedo, Piqué, Sergio, Arthur, Messi, Griezmann, Jordi Alba, De Jong, Vidal, Umtiti.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona: what the managers said

Zinedine Zidane: "It's delicate. It's true we've not had great results but this happens. We know we can change this. We're good enough and, with the fans behind us from the start... I understand our fans could be upset but we need them and we'll give 100%. "It's a great chance to turn the momentum. I'm a positive person and my players will go out to win."

Quique Setién: "In a Clásico, people tend to forget about the points, positions in the tables. This is a Clásico where both teams always play as hard as they can regardless of the situation they're in. I expect a very tightly contested game, very evenly matched. The question is who gets things right to win the game."