Zidane, Real Madrid manager

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Saturday, the biggest rivalry in the world will be on display at the Nou Camp. Barcelona and Real Madrid currently sit first and third in La Liga respectively, but the Catalans have a dominant ten-point lead over Los Blancos. With just eight games remaining in the season, it looks like Barça have the title all but locked up, but will that take away from the intensity of El Clásico?

Starting off with Real Madrid, this will be Zinedine Zidane’s first taste of the great rivalry in a managerial role. The French legend took over the club from Rafa Benítez at the start of the new year and has led Madrid to nine league wins from 12 fixtures. The only loss during this run came at home to Atlético Madrid, who you could argue is the only real contender that Zidane has had to face in La Liga. During his playing career, the 43-year-old faced off against Barça 11 times winning just four of those matches and scoring three times. Already a legend to fans for his playing days, a win on Saturday will go a long way in bolstering Zizou’s status as a manager and give fans hope for a better season next year.

One major boost for Madrid going into Saturday’s fixture is the expected return of Sergio Ramos. The center back was pulled out of the Spanish National Team camp last week due to a back injury, but reports are suggesting that he should be good to come game time. Considering the ridiculously talented attacking trio that Barça possess, any loss in the backline, especially Ramos, would have been cause for panic in the Spanish capital. When these two giants met back in November, Madrid’s defense was torn to shreds at the Santiago Bernábeu 4-0. Can they muster up a better performance on Sunday (it would be hard to do any worse) or will it be a repeat of November?

Luis Enrique as Barca player

Going over to the other manager and former player in this duel; Luis Enrique has seen this rivalry from both sides of the fence. As a player, Enrique actually spent five years at Madrid before making his highly controversial move to Barça. While he didn’t have quite as illustrious of a playing career as his French counterpart, Enrique has been quickly establishing himself as one of the best managers in today’s game. In his first year in charge at the Nou Camp, the 45-year-old won five trophies including the European Treble. Granted, he has one of the best teams of recent memory at his disposal, but he still has to manage the egos and personalities that come with it. Through his three managerial matches against Madrid, Enrique has lost just once and I don’t see him adding another loss to that record.

READ: Could We Be Watching Barcelona’s Greatest Ever Team?

You know how Barça completely dismantled Real Madrid back in November? Yea, they did that without Lionel Messi even in the starting lineup. The Argentine magician was substituted into the match in the 57th minute when his club had already opened up a three-goal lead. The stars that day were his strike partners: Luis Suárez and Neymar. If there’s a better attacking force in the game, I don’t think anyone’s found it yet. The MSN partnership has provided 69 goals and 32 assists this year. To put that in perspective, no team, other than Real Madrid, in La Liga has scored more than 48 times this season. At home, Barça has found the back of the net 54 times through just 14 games (3.8 goals/game). To make matters worse for Madrid, only one team has been able to keep a clean sheet against the Catalan club all season. Look for them to continue this goal scoring trend on Saturday.

Last time I wrote a preview for this match, I made the mistake of picking against Barcelona. I will not be making that same mistake this time around. The focus at Madrid seems to be on what the team can do over the summer to ensure a better season next year, rather than trying to salvage what’s left of this one. Barça are arguably the hottest team in the world at the moment and should run away with this edition of El Clásico. Final score: Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid


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