Barcelona head into this weekend’s El Clasico with a six-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga after 16 games.
11 points behind us are rivals Real Madrid, who do have one game in hand following their trip to the UAE for the FIFA World Club Cup last week.
We are undefeated in La Liga under Ernesto Valverde, with 13 wins and 3 draws, amassing 42 goals and conceding only 7 since he joined in the summer.
Meanwhile, Madrid have already been beaten twice this season (at home to Real Betis and away to Girona) as well as drawing four times – including home games against Valencia and Levante at the start of the season.
Valverde has every reason to be confident in visiting the Santiago Bernabeu stadium to pick up all three points this weekend.
Whilst the Real Madrid defence has only conceded 11 goals in their 15 La Liga matches they have looked shaky when tested on several occasions this season.
Though I read on Spanish-Football.net that he only has two goals in his last six La Liga outings, you can be sure Lionel Messi is going to at least hit somewhere near his top form on Saturday. He was desperately unlucky not to get on the scoresheet in last weekend’s 4-0 thrashing of Deportivo La Coruna when he hit the frame of the goal on three occasions.
Messi has had the beating of Sergio Ramos and co in the past and the fact the defence may need to go man-to-man just helps us further. Luis Suarez and Paulinho both scored a brace each last weekend which gives us a three-headed monster up front for them to deal with.
Casemiro is the only out-and-out holding midfielder that Real Madrid have, though Luka Modric and Toni Kroos do both drop into that position, the latter duo are simply not great defensively.
As Marcelo loves to bomb forward from left-back we can expect Messi and Sergi Roberto to enjoy plenty of space to exploit down the right wing. Messi cutting in from that side against Sergio Ramos should only favour us and our superstar’s chances of scoring.
On the opposite flank, the pacey Jordi Alba and Suarez should be up against Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane. Casemiro will almost certainly be on duty to silence his fellow countryman, Paulinho.
How much threat Real Madrid will offer remains to be seen. Cristiano Ronaldo has been fantastic in the Champions League this season but not so great in La Liga or any recent El Clasico.
Karim Benzema has not looked sharp so far this season, just like he wasn’t 12 months ago, but Zinedine Zidane continues to stick with his fellow Frenchman anyway. I don’t expect Gareth Bale to start but wouldn’t be surprised if he came on at some point. Even then, the Welsh forward has looked far short of form this season as he continues to try recover from injury after injury.
I am confident of coming away with three points from the Bernabeu this weekend to take us one step closer to another La Liga title.