El Clasico preview: Barca expects ‘a festival of football’ vs. Real

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It’s hard to ramp up the intensity for a match-up between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but an incredible security undertaking given the ongoing terrorism threat has put even more of an edge on the brilliant stage that is El Clasico.

At the heart of the match is the rivalry, as Barca has a three-point lead on Real heading into Saturday’s match at the Bernabeu.

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Winning at Real Madrid is an obvious challenge, but something the Blaugranas have done plenty of times in recent years (5W-3D-4L since 2008-09).

That said, Real is one of three La Liga sides — Barcelona and Valencia the other two — still unbeaten at home this young Spanish season.

Both of Barca’s losses have come away from the Camp Nou, to Sevilla and Celta Vigo. And this isn’t a “But Lionel Messi is back and that’s the old way”, as Messi’s status for the match is uncertain and he played in the 4-1 loss to CV.

It does look a lot like we’ll see Messi vs. Ronaldo yet again, but Barcelona’s Neymar has been clinical since the Argentine went down with an injury on Sept. 26. The Brazilian has a goal or an assist in every match but one since the Messi injury, taking advantage of the opportunity.

What they’re saying

Rafa Benitez on facing Barcelona: “The way you take on Barcelona changes a lot depending on whether you’re the coach of Extremadura, Liverpool or Real Madrid. Real Madrid have certain characteristics, which are that the team have to attack, score goals and create danger in and around the opposition goalmouth. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Luis Enrique on managing in El Clasico: “There is nothing more stimulating than the Clásico. We will see a strong Real Madrid and we hope to be at our level to cause them problems. We like games with atmosphere. We hope tomorrow will be a festival of football.”

Prediction

Goals. Messi or not, Barcelona won’t settle for defense at the Bernabeu. Believe it or not, the pressure will be Ronaldo’s side to live up to the expectations of the home crowd. Call it a classic, and 3-3.