Barcelona looks to cement title with win over Real Madrid in El Clasico

One of the fiercest rivalries in world football resumes Saturday when Real Madrid travels to Camp Nou to face Barcelona in the 231st “El Clasico.”

The stakes are always high when these Spanish giants square off, but there’s even more drama than usual swirling around this match.

How to watch: Saturday, 2:15 p.m. ET, beIN Sports

Man in the middle: Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez will be in charge of his first Clasico Saturday. Interestingly enough, he is the last man to show a red card to Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (at Cordoba last season).

History lesson: As is the case with any good rivalry, the all-time results are nearly even. In 230 meetings in all competitions, Madrid holds a slim edge in wins, 92-90. Another 48 matches have ended in a draw. In La Liga meetings, Madrid holds a 71-68 edge in victories with 32 draws.

Recent history lesson: Barcelona got a brace from Luis Suarez and goals from Neymar and Andres Iniesta to thump Real Madrid, 4-0, at the Santiago Bernabeau in November. And that was without the services of Lionel Messi.

Table watch: With eight games remaining, Barcelona has nearly put the La Liga race to bed. The Catalans are on 76 points, which is nine better than Atletico Madrid and 10 better than Real Madrid.

Honoring a legend: Barca fans plan to honor Johan Cruyff before the match with a mosaic that reads “Gracies Johan,” and that will also appear on the team’s kit.

Another legend breaks new ground: This will be the first Clasico as manager for Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman is no stranger to the rivalry, having played against Barca 11 times in his Madrid career. He won four, drew four and lost three.

Stat of the day: Ronaldo has scored 41 goals for Real Madrid this season, but none of them have come against a top-four side in La Liga.

From the managers:

Analysis: Thirty games is a pretty good indicator of a team’s fortunes, and in La Liga this season, Barcelona have been dominant.

On the day on which Cruyff is going to be honored, it’s hard to imagine the Catalans playing at anything but their best. And with the added bonus of being able to effectively clinch the La Liga crown with a win over their rivals, it’s hard to look past the home side in this match.

Madrid has its full compliment of attacking threats with Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and the returning Karim Benzema available, but Barca’s trident of Messi, Suarez and Neymar are equally potent, having tallied 68 goals this season.

And it’s a good bet that number will be higher when this edition of “El Clasico” ends.

But it’s the Barca midfield that will likely control the flow and pace of this match.A 60 percent possession mark isn’t out of the question, and that makes for a long day of chasing for Madrid.

2-1 has been the scoreline for the last three meetings at Camp Nou, and it feels like a decent pick for this one, too. Barca has been on the right end of two of those, and I think it will come out on top again Saturday.

About Randy Capps

South Carolina native, Fulham apologist, writer and sports fanatic.

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