After the back-and-forth battle that will follow tonight’s El Clasico.
Real Madrid (25-4-2, 65 points) will have a chance to move even closer to its first La Liga title since 2012 when it faces cross-town rival Barcelona (25-4-2, 66 points) at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo and company will need all their star power to put away Lionel Messi and Co. as Jose Mourinho’s side stands in Real’s way of a historic 16th La Liga title.
Sunday’s result could potentially break Real Madrid’s hold on the Spanish title, which has been in lockstep with their dominance of Europe. While their success in Europe has been anything but a given in the Spanish league, Real Madrid have no competition for the Champions League crown. Instead, they’ll be waiting to see which team they will play in the quarterfinals of the competition.
Three things to watch for in this year’s Clasico:
The Cristiano Factor
The match will be all about Cristiano Ronaldo. What a sad state of affairs that must be for the Spanish league when the world’s best player is only the second-best footballer on your team.
Both clubs are adjusting to life without the departed Neymar from Real Madrid and his Brazilian teammate Lucas. As Madrid has the veteran Sergio Ramos to play with tonight, Barcelona will be down to Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique.
Still, Lionel Messi may not have the Barcelona star quality to handle Ronaldo when the two units face off. While Pep Guardiola has managed to remove a lot of the stardust from Ronaldo’s game, he and the likes of Marcelo and Nacho may find the former Real Madrid player more capable than usual.
Is Barcelona for real?
When you think of some of the best to ever lace them up for Real Madrid, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo are the first names that come to mind. But one player should not be taken lightly in such a match-up of that magnitude.
It’s not always easy to trust the progress of a team with La Liga title aspirations and a current UEFA Champions League run under its belt. But looking at how Barcelona has returned in a short period of time following the injury to Luis Suarez, it seems the critics have underestimated Lionel Messi’s impact on the team in his first year with Leo’s Barcelona.
Opponents, look out.
The 80,307 at the Santiago Bernabeu will be out in force tonight. So too will the Catalans’ normal home crowd as it almost always competes in the top 20 of world’s stadiums in terms of capacity. This is no secret, so it will be interesting to see if it can push on.
Here’s the sched
Today at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, Real Madrid will host FC Barcelona.
Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, Real Madrid will host FC Celta Vigo.
Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, Real Madrid will host Deportivo La Coruna.