Crucial 'Clasico' to have huge impact in La Liga Santander title race

The latest chapter of "El Clasico" could help shape up the championship picture in the La Liga season.
By Dugout Philippines

MANILA—Monday’s (Philippine Time) La Liga El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu arrives at a key moment in the Spanish title race - and with nothing between the two teams' historical record ahead of the latest chapter in the biggest club rivalry in world football.

Barcelona travel to Real Madrid with a two point lead in the table, meaning victory for either team would be a huge step towards claiming the 2019/20 LaLiga Santander title.

Real Madrid had led the standings after a 15-match unbeaten run in LaLiga, until Zinedine Zidane’s side slipped to a surprise 1-0 defeat at Levante last weekend, with the most exciting title race in many years taking yet another twist.

That saw Barça dramatically take over at the top, after Quique Setien’s men beat Eibar 5-0 at the Camp Nou, with a four-goal ‘poker’ from Lionel Messi stretching the Argentine’s lead in the LaLiga Santander top scorer race.

Barça club captain Messi is also the La Liga El Clasico’s record goalscorer with 18 goals in 26 LaLiga meetings, including a famous hat-trick at the Bernabeu in 2014. However, his Real Madrid counterpart Sergio Ramos will make his 44th appearance against Barça on Sunday, the most of any player ever on either team.

Both sides come into Sunday’s game with serious fitness concerns. Real Madrid superstar Eden Hazard is definitely out after suffering another ankle injury last weekend, while Barça may be without three first choice defenders in Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique.

That should bring opportunities for younger players, with Real Madrid youngsters Fede Valverde and Vinicius Junior both potential game-changers. Barça’s 18-year-old forward Ansu Fati could also make his first La Liga El Clasico start.

Both sides go into the game locked together with 72 wins each in La Liga El Clasicos, alongside 35 draws, the latest of which was a tightly fought 0-0 at the Camp Nou last December.

A quirk of recent years has been the away team often getting positive results in this fixture, with Barça having won their last four visits to the Bernabeu. However, Real Madrid are unbeaten at their own stadium this season in La Liga, while Barça’s away form has been a concern with defeats at Athletic Club, Granada and Levante.

Setien’s side showed their ability on the road with a 1-1 draw at Serie A side Napoli in Wednesday’s (Philippine Time) Champions League last 16 first leg, with Antoine Griezmann grabbing a key away goal for the Blaugrana.

Thursday (Philippine Time) then saw Real Madrid’s path to the Champions League quarter-finals grow more complicated, as they were beaten 2-1 at home by Manchester City, although Los Blancos will still believe they can overcome the deficit in the return game.

Monday sees the focus back squarely on La Liga, though, as a potential 650 million fans around the world tune in to see whether Real Madrid or Barça can tilt the historical El Clasico record in their favour and take what could be a decisive step in this season’s title race.

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