El Clasico: Barca looks to end Real Madrid’s title hopes

AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza
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El Clasico has been anything but predictable in recent seasons.

There was Real Madrid’s dominant Spanish Super Cup earlier this year, and Barca’s four-point grab last season despite Real winning the title.

2015-16 saw the visitors win both matches, including Barca’s 4-0 smashing of Real at the Bernabeu, while the previous season saw the home sides come out on top in La Liga play.

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2013-14 was a year Barcelona snared both league matches but lost the Copa del Rey final, while the previous three season drew cries of “Too much!” as 17 Clasicos dotted the landscape of soccer in Spain (and European tournaments, where Barca dismissed Real from the 2010-11 Champions League).

Enter Saturday morning’s derby in Madrid, where the hosts will be challenged to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after returning from UAE where they claimed a third Club World Cup in four seasons.

Real’s dropped points in two of its last five league matches, but is coming off a resounding 5-0 home defeat of Sevilla. The reigning champs are 11 points back of Barca with a match-in-hand, and might as well say goodnight to the league with a loss on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo leads Real with 16 goals this season, nine more than Marco Asensio.

As for Barca, they’ve sorting themselves out following the Neymar exit drama. Paulinho has proved a decent replacement for Neymar so far, equaling the six goals his countryman had scored at this point last season. Lionel Messi has, no surprise, been Barca’s best asset with 18 goals. Luis Suarez is second with nine in 13 appearances.

Prediction

There’s a lot of pride and pressure at the Bernabeu, and Real may be weary but won’t be caught off-guard. Barca has allowed a stingy seven goals in 16 matches this season, and Real will be fortunate to grab a goal. Barca will do the same, and we’ll call it 1-1 (2-2 if we’re feeling greedy).