Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu sets the stage for the 257th El Clasico as La Liga leader Real Madrid and reigning champions Barcelona square off in a blockbuster clash.

It wasn’t a perfect performance from Real Madrid in the return leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Manchester City in midweek despite progressing on penalties to set up a semi-final date versus Bayern Munich. Back to La Liga commitments after a narrow 1-0 win at Mallorca last weekend, Los Merengues are looking to protect their four-game winning league streak and, in turn, extend their eight-point lead at the table’s summit. Unlike that game at the Etihad, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been relentless in domestic football, winning their last four home league outings ‘to nil’ while averaging 2.75 goals per game. As if that’s not encouraging enough, Los Blancos have defeated Barcelona in both competitive meetings this season, including a 2-1 comeback in the reverse fixture in Catalonia.

Visiting Barcelona would wish this encounter to take place on their home turf after losing three of their last four H2Hs in Madrid (W1). In contrast to Madrid’s buoyant mood, Los Blaugranas’ confidence is in tatters after a disastrous 4-1 home loss to Paris Saint-Germain halted their Champions League run in the quarter-finals. Anything other than three points would only add to their misery and almost certainly end their hopes of defending the title in Xavi Hernandez’s swansong season. Xavi has an account to settle with Los Merengues before he leaves, looking to even the score with Madrid in his tenth El Clasico in charge of Barcelona (W4, L5). On a rare positive note, Xavi’s men haven’t conceded in their last six La Liga outings (W5, D1) to take their unbeaten league run to ten games (W8, D2).

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