El Clasico: Barca out to redeem themselves
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.