La Liga Preview: Madrid, Barcelona set for El Clasico showdown
By Football News
Real Madrid and Barcelona go head-to-head in one of the most eagerly-anticipated El Clasico games of recent years at the Bernabeu on Sunday.
The meeting of Spain's two most successful clubs always attracts worldwide attention and this weekend's clash will be no different as Barca travel to the capital desperate to close the four-point gap to the La Liga leaders.
A win for the hosts will heap further pressure on Gerardo Martino, the Barca coach coming under fire in recent weeks after some faltering performances, including defeats at Real Sociedad and Real Valladolid in the last four league games, a run that Real have taken full advantage of by storming to the top of the table.
Barca bounced back in emphatic fashion last Sunday, though, thumping Osasuna 7-0 at Camp Nou, and will take heart from the fact that they were the last side to defeat Madrid in the league this season.
Goals from Neymar and Alexis Sanchez earned Martino's men a 2-1 success in October, but since then Carlo Ancelotti's side have been almost unstoppable, winning 15 and drawing three of their 18 league matches to emerge as favourites to claim a 33rd La Liga crown.
The game sees the world's two finest players face each other once more, with Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo outshining Lionel Messi this season.
Despite being hampered by injuries, Messi has racked up 31 goals in all competitions, but Ronaldo has been simply irresistible, netting 41 so far in yet another sensational campaign, including 11 in his last seven appearances.
This year, however, La Liga's duopoly continue to face stiff competition from Atletico Madrid as Diego Simeone bids to bring the Liga trophy back to the Vicente Calderon for the first time since he was a player in 1995-96.
Simeone and his men travel to rock-bottom Real Betis, knowing that a win will haul them level with Real, if only for a couple of hours.
At the wrong end of the table, third-bottom Real Valladolid could climb out of the relegation zone when they host fellow strugglers Rayo Vallecano, who sit two places and three points above them in the table.
Sandwiched between the two sides are Getafe, who face a tough task in visiting Bilbao to take on Athletic, while second-from-bottom Almeria take on another top-five outfit when they welcome Real Sociedad.
The division's in-form side are Sevilla, who have won four league matches in succession, and visit an Osasuna team looking to banish the memories of their Barca thrashing.
Sixth-placed Villarreal travel to Valencia looking to bolster their European ambitions, while ninth plays 10th as Espanyol host Levante.
Elsewhere, Celta Vigo welcome Malaga and Elche visit Granada.