Real Madrid v Barcelona Saturday, 19:45 Live on Eleven Sports 1, Premier Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
Bleak times at the Bernabeu
At 8pm on Wednesday, Real Madrid could just about say their season was still alive. They had a foot in the Copa del Rey final after a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou, and had the chance to ruin the treble dreams of their great rivals. By 10pm, however, a familiar feeling had set in: Madrid were out of the cup, having been kneecapped in front of their own fans. Again.
The 3-0 scoreline flattered Barcelona, to be sure, and it could all have been so different had the sparky Vinícius Júnior had his shooting boots on. But sometimes the brute result speaks for itself, and Madrid's record in home Clásicos now makes for painful reading. They've won just four of the last 17 meetings at the Bernabeu (all competitions). Barça have won 10.
"We have fallen with honour," said Santiago Solari, but it's not clear his superiors agree; already there is talk in the Madrid media that Florentino Pérez has seen enough, and is looking for a new manager. Throw in the increasingly toxic Gareth Bale situation, and Madrid are now just one Champions League defeat away from a historically grim campaign.
Barcelona powered by Schadenfreude
If Ernesto Valverde was tempted to rotate on Wednesday, he clearly resisted the urge: this was pretty much a full-strength Barça, and although it took a while for them to get going, they eventually reaped the benefits. It was mildly ironic that Luis Suárez, a man who needs a week off more than most, was the man to lead the way, but Valverde's no-sleep-till-Brooklyn strategy appears to be working for now.
Now they have another chance to improve that Clásico record at the Bernabéu yet further. Madrid's title hopes expired some time ago, so another win here wouldn't actually have enormous consequences as far as the league table goes, but it is a chance to inflict yet more misery on Los Merengues. And with a week off before a home game against Rayo Vallecano (they play Girona in the Catalonia Super Cup in midweek, but that's for squad players and kids), there's no reason for them to hold back.
Widespread changes are unlikely, then, although Arthur and Samuel Umtiti - the two players who could strengthen the XI used on Wednesday - could be in contention for starts after returning from injuries. Arturo Vidal and Philippe Coutinho are further options in midfield.
Catalans can record another win
Madrid are without a victory in their last five league games against Barcelona (D2 L3), their worst winless streak in El Clásico since 2011. And given that home advantage just doesn't seem to be a factor in this fixture, there's no real reason to expect Solari's side to buck the trend, even accepting that they were somewhat unlucky to lose by a three-goal margin in midweek.
Their visitors are not perfect, but they're the better side at the moment. They have more matchwinners and look more stable in defence, with eight clean sheets in their last 13 league games. In cases like this, it often pays to keep things simple, and the Barça win looks like good value at 2.54.
Usual suspects could shine for Barça
Assuming both Suárez and Messi start this game (they should), Madrid's defence will have their hands full once again. Messi is the all-time top scorer in El Clásico in La Liga (18 goals), 11 of which have come at the Bernabéu, while Suárez has nine league goals in this fixture - more than anyone else since he made his debut.
Each is a good pick in the goalscorer market, but it may also be fruitful to back them both to score, using the Same Game Multi tool on the Sportsbook. [3.96] is the price.