Cape Town - Barcelona, still reeling from their
Champions League exit against Juventus in mid-week, face arch-rivals Real
Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Sunday.
Kick-off is at 20:45 (SA time).
Real will be buoyed by their 6-3 aggregate
win against German champions Bayern Munich and Ronaldo’s hat-trick will
certainly have given the star player a huge boost ahead of El Clasico.
Meanwhile, Barcelona’s appeal against
Neymar’s 3-match ban was rejected by the Spanish Referee’s Authority and the
Brazilian will miss his first Clasico since arriving in Spain.
The Brazilian was given a second yellow
against Malaga in a league match 2 weeks ago and would only have missed 1
match, but he was handed an additional 2-match ban for clapping sarcastically
at the 4th official!
Barcelona, in 2nd position, are 3
points behind Real who lead the table and also have a game in hand. Should Barca not win this match, it will put
Real in a very powerful position to win their first league title since the
2011/12 season and rub further salt in the wounds of a seemingly disjointed
Barca team who are facing criticism from all quarters. There is also no confirmation yet as to who
will take over the head coaching role at the club next season with names of
possible candidates being mentioned every day - an unsettling situation for
everyone at the club.
Meanwhile, former star player and current
coach Zinedine Zidane has been given a confidence boost by club president
Florentino Perez who is quoted in the local media as saying that no matter what
happens this season, Zidane will be in charge of Los Blancos next season.
I expect this to be a tense match and much
will depend on how well the referee controls the emotions of the players. Lionel Messi will be looking to bounce back
from his own personal disappointment in mid-week where the star player looked
slightly out of sorts and defender Gerard Pique will have to handle the abuse
that is certainly going to be thrown his way by the 85 000 home supporters
after some of his social media comments he made after Real had beaten Bayern.
My prediction is a 1-1 draw with at least 1