Goalkeepers: There is no doubt here, Valdes and Casillas will face each other once again, with each routinely crucial to their side in this fixture.
Defence: Barcelona have real problems, with the enormous presence of Carlos Puyol consigned to the stands after a horrible injury midweek. Pique is also unlikely to be fit in time, which means Mascherano and Song, two of the Premier League’s best defensive midfielders of recent years, will probably line up in the centre of defence. Jordi Alba may be considered too attacking for this game, so I expect Adriano and Dani Alves to be the full backs.
Mourinho’s recent spat with Ramos aside, Madrid have no defensive concerns. The first choice back four of Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos and Marcelo should play, with the Brazilian left back often very involved at both ends in Clasicos.
Midfield: Barcelona again have worries, with Iniesta a doubt for the starting line up. Given therecent form of Fabregas, he would be expected to start anyway, most likely alongside Xavi and Busquets, though you would expect all of them to make frequent forays forward and rotate with the forwards.
Real Madrid have concerns over Khedira’s fitness, but he should make it back. With the trip away to the Camp Nou the toughest match in their season, I would expect a defensively minded unit of Essian, Khedira and Xabi Alonso to start the match.
Forwards: Barcelona will probably play that Messi chap, who has gone an almost unbelievable two games without scoring in the league. To either side of him Vilanova has to decide whether David Villa is ready to start such an important match. I expect he will err on the side of caution and go with big game specialist Pedro alongside Sanchez.
Cristiano Ronaldo will clearly start for Madrid, and I’d back Benzema to get the nod over Higuain. Who the third member of their attack will be is an interesting question. I think both Ozil and Modric may be overlooked in favour of Di Maria, though you would expect the German and the Croatian to play a part at some stage.
Alves - Mascherano - Song - Adriano
Xavi - Busquets - Fabregas
Pedro - Messi - Sanchez
Marcelo - Ramos - Pepe -Arbeloa
Alonso - Khedira - Essien
Di Maria - Benzema - Ronaldo
The Result! I think Barcelona’s recent results have flattered them, whilst Real Madrid look to be getting stronger every game. However the buffer Barcelona already have should make them more comfortable, and it’s still hard to see Real beating them at the Camp Nou.
There’s always goals in this game, I predict two for each side - 2-2.
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