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LaLiga race gets tougher as Barca renew rivalry with Real Madrid in El Clasico battle

messi-benzema

Football fans are set to be thrilled in the latest El Clasico of 2019/20 LaLiga season as Barcelona host Real Madrid today Wednesday 18 December 2019 at the Camp Nou.

The cracker will feature the world’s biggest club game. This match was originally scheduled to be played in late October, but LaLiga took the decision to postpone the fixture due to safety fears surrounding violent protests which were ongoing in Catalonia at the time.

As ever, the meeting of Barcelona and Real Madrid is one which could have a major effect on the title race, with both clubs pushing hard to be placed at the summit of LaLiga’s log table.

Los Blancos manager Zinedine Zidane has stated that his side must focus on dethroning champions Barcelona as they look to build back to their glory days, while the Blaugrana will be looking to take three points off their rivals and take a massive step toward a third straight title and a fifth in the last six La Liga seasons.

“We have 33 titles,” Zidane said. “Barca [26 titles] are doing well, I will admit when a rival is doing well, but in history, Real Madrid has more league titles. But they have been doing better lately and we need to change the dynamic.”

The centre of attraction will be on will Lionel Messi, who is fresh from winning a Sixth Ballon d’Or [world’s best player prize] and holds the all-time record for the most El Clasico goals, with 26 to his name.

“You are aware of the privilege you have [of coaching Messi], but sometimes the day to day doesn’t allow you to enjoy it,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. “Over time you enjoy it more. I’m aware of it, I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve coached Leo.”

In addition, Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has the chance to make a record 43rd El Clasico appearance, pushing ahead of Manuel Sanchis, Francisco Gento (both Real Madrid) and Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona) in the record books.

Barcelona have enjoyed recent dominance over Real in LaLiga matches, stringing together a run of six unbeaten matches and completing a league ‘double’ over the capital club last season, with 5-1 home and 1-0 away wins.

Overall, the teams have met in 242 competitive matches, with Barca claiming 96 wins compared to 95 for Madrid. This evens out to 72 wins apiece in their 178 LaLiga meetings.

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema in action

 Barcelona vs Real Madrid – Last five LaLiga meetings

2 March 2019: Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona

28 October 2018: Barcelona 5-1 Real Madrid

6 May 2018: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid

23 December 2017: Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona

23 April 2017: Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona

Barcelona vs Real Madrid – Head-to-head, LaLiga

Matches played 178

Barcelona wins 72

Madrid wins 72

Draws 34

Barcelona vs Real Madrid – Head-to-head, all competitions (excludes friendlies and exhibition games)

Matches played 242

Barcelona wins 96

Madrid wins 95

Draws 51

Barcelona v Real Madrid – Key stats

First played: 13 May 1902

Most appearances: 42 – Manuel Sanchis, Francisco Gento, Sergio Ramos* (all Real Madrid); Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)

Most goals: 26 – Lionel Messi* (Barcelona)

Most assists: 14 – Lionel Messi* (Barcelona)

Biggest win: Real Madrid 11-1 Barcelona, 19 June 1943

Most consecutive wins: 6 – Barcelona (25 January 1948 – 15 January 1949) & Real Madrid (30 September 1962 – 28 February 1965)

Longest undefeated runs: 14 – Real Madrid (31 January 1931 – 3 February 1935) & Barcelona (1 November 1917 – 3 June 1928)

Most consecutive games scored: 23 – Barcelona (27 April 2011 – 13 August 2017)

Key players to watch 

Barcelona: Lionel Messi

With a record 26 El Clasico goals (plus a record 14 assists), Lionel Messi has truly become a master of ‘El Clasico’ and is the player Real Madrid most fear – though he did not score in either of Barca’s La Liga wins over their arch rivals last season. The Argentine recently won a sixth Ballon d’Or title to further cement his status as one of the all-time greats of the game, but his hunger to help Barca defeat Real remains undimmed.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action

Real Madrid: Karim Benzema

Real Madrid have had a roller coaster season thus far, but throughout their ups and downs Karim Benzema has stepped forward to become their key figurehead in attack. The veteran French striker has been banging in the goals with regularity this season, carrying the heaviest burden in attack while the likes of Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior have struggled to find consistency in their form.

Key battles to watch

Ernesto Valverde v Zinedine Zidane

The tactical battle of wits between Barcelona’s Ernesto Valverde and Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane will be vital to deciding this edition of ‘El Clasico’. While Valverde will want to see his side control possession and feed plenty of passes to their deadly forward, Zidane’s ‘Los Blancos’ will set up to use their pace and power on the counter attack and make best use of set-piece scenarios.

Sergio Ramos v Luis Suarez

If Luis Suarez leads the line for Barcelona, he will come into direct contact with Real Madrid centre-back and captain Sergio Ramos. Suarez certainly got the better of this battle last time out at the Camp Nou, scoring a hat-trick to help his side to a 5-1 win. Ramos, who is set to make a record 43rd ‘El Clasico’ appearance will be determined to stymie the hosts.

Frenkie de Jong v Toni Kroos

This battle of elegant midfielders could fly under the radar given the stellar attacking power on display, but will be absolutely vital to the outcome of the game. Kroos’ passing range and dead-ball ability has been one of the best in Europe for almost a decade, but in de Jong Barca have a gifted young player who combines exquisite vision with quick feet and outstanding tactical nous.