It is a somewhat limp installment, but still El Clasico all the same.
On Saturday at the Camp Nou, FC Barcelona face Real Madrid in La Liga and despite the lower quality of the two outfits compared to previous years, Ronald Koeman still believes that “nothing has changed”.
“The big change is that there’s no crowd. The worst thing that could happen to a clasico is that there is no crowd. But I don’t see El Clasico any different from my time. If you don’t win there’s criticism,” commented the Catalans’ coach, at his prematch press conference.
Sticking with the theme, changes aren’t expected in the Dream Team legend’s usual starting XI either.
As Marc-Andre Ter Stegen continues to recover from a knee operation, Neto will attempt to keep his first clean sheet in four matches.
Helping him do this will be a back line of a returned Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
In Koeman’s 4-2-3-1, a rested Sergio Busquets partners Frenkie de Jong as double pivot. Philippe Coutinho is the central attacking midfielder, with Ansu Fati to his left and Antoine Griezmann to his right manning the wings.
Koeman refuses to be drawn into confirming that Griezmann is “indisputable” in his plans, through being picked constantly even in light of poor form. Yet his experience sees him take preference over the likes of young guns Francisco Trincao and Pedri, who could well feature at some point of the proceedings.
Up top, Lionel Messi seeks his first goal from open play in 2020/2021 and looks to prolong his record as the fixture’s top scorer of all time – though he has now gone 425 minutes without successfully striking against one of his favorite victims.
Koeman finds gaining all three points “important” for the strength of his sporting project as “you learn you gain confidence if you win matches”.
And though the opposition have lost their last two outings, the Dutchman does not believe the results will have any bearing on what happens between the title combatants this weekend.
“The players of Barça and Madrid have so much experience,” Koeman explained.
“I don’t expect a vulnerable Madrid – quite the opposite. I’m sure they don’t lack motivation. We have to prepare ourselves. The opposition have their qualities when they have the ball. Sometimes they have played more in a 4-4-2 when they play against us. And they’re probably not going to leave us the spaces they’ve left in their last games. We expect a more compact Madrid,” it was said.
Source: Forbes – Business