Ernesto Valverde Explains What Barcelona Must Do to Win Saturday’s Crucial Clásico

?Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has warned of the strengths of Real Madrid, especially at home, ahead of the first Clásicoof the season, insisting that his team must start the game well and remain fully concentrated throughout.

“They are a very powerful team in their own stadium, have very quick players, and when it seems that you’re playing well and dominating, they can hit you with very fast counter attacks,” Valverde explained as he addressed the media (FCBarcelona.com).

“We have to be alert to any situation because the smallest detail in these types of games can swing it in your favour. Therefore, we must be very attentive to all aspects,” he added. “We are excited about this match, we come into it at a good time and we are ready to face it.”

Barça hold an 11-point cushion over Real ahead of the game, an advantage that would be extended to 14 should the Catalans emerge victorious from the capital.

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Valverde’s team haven’t lost a game since facing Real in the Spanish Super Cup back in August. The former Athletic Bilbao coach admits Los Blancos won that tie because of a very early goal scored by Marco Asensio in the second leg.

The answer on this occasion is not to give Real an inch in the opening stages.

“We have to control this game well and overcome the initial pressure,” he declared. “We want to reaffirm our good form and to play a great match.”

Following El Clásico, Barça will have just under two weeks off before they are back in action in the New Year, with a trip to the west coast to face Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey.



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5 Classic Clashes Between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu

Real Madrid and Barcelona will clash in La Liga for the first time since April on Saturday, in what is a ‘must-win’ match for Zinedine Zidane’s side if they wish to keep the title race alive.

Since losing to Real in the Supercopa de Espana at the start of the campaign, the Catalans have roared ahead of their fierce rivals and currently sit 11 points clear at the summit of La Liga; having played one game more than Los Blancos. 

Saturday’s lunchtime encounter will be the 175th competitive Clasico in La Liga. As things stand, Real have a slight edge when it comes to the head-to-head in the league, but it is extremely tight: Madrid 72 wins compared to Barca’s 69 with 33 draws overall. 

Here are some of their best Clasicos from recent years that have been played at the Bernabeu.

5. Real Madrid 4-2 Barcelona, 2005

Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo headed Madrid to a 2-0 lead within the first 20 minutes at the Bernabeu in the 150th league Clásico. Despite a period of precarious play, Madrid stunned Barcelona with a third goal on the stroke of half time when Raul turned home a low cross to make it 3-1 after Samuel Eto’o had pulled one back. 

Michael Owen met David Beckham’s pass and drilled in Madrid’s fourth on the night against the league leaders. Ronaldinho’s late strike proved to be merely a consolation goal, as Madrid reduced Barcelona’s lead to just six points with seven games left to play. 

However, Madrid failed to win the league as Barcelona managed to fend off their fierce rivals and lift the title for the 17th time. 

4. Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona, 2015

Barcelona claimed the first Clasico spoils of the season with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Real Madrid at the home of their great rivals in 2015. From the first minute to the last, a below-par Madrid side were put to the sword as a Luis Suarez brace and goals from Neymar and Andres Iniesta sealed Barca’s 10th Clasico victory from in the last 15 meetings. 

With an estimated global audience of 400m reportedly watching the highly anticipated fixture, Luis Enrique’s side put on a performance fitting of the game’s box-office billing, dominating a Real side who rarely threatened to test the league leaders. 

3. Real Madrid 5-0 Barcelona, 1995

Barcelona had won four consecutive La Liga crowns prior to the 1995 season. This was the Barca team coached by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff that had taken the world by storm and had sown the seeds for their unique style of ‘tiki-taka’ football which would emerge over the next two decades. Real welcomed their rivals to the Bernabeu looking to end Barca’s dominance in La Liga. 

Barcelona’s side of stars was now falling apart and this capitulation of the squad coincided with the rise of Madrid. Youngsters like Raul and Fernando Hierro were set to take the stage by storm and go on to dominate world football. 

Zamorano scored a hat trick, with goals from Amavisca and Luis Enrique – who would go on to play for the Blaugrana in later years – completing the rout. Madrid went on to win La Liga that season to end Barca’s dominance; the Catalans finishing a disappointing fourth. 

2. Real Madrid 3-4 Barcelona, 2014

Another fantastic Clasico. Andres Iniesta fired Barcelona into the lead, but Real Madrid went 2-1 up thanks to a brace from Karim Benzema. 

Lionel Messi had received criticism that season for a number of ‘average’ performances, but showed the world exactly what he was capable of with a dominant display and a goal that drew the side level before half-time. His hat-trick – a second in as many matches – took him to 21 goals against Real Madrid. 

Carlo Ancelotti’s men would take the lead once more in the second half through Ronaldo, but when Ramos saw red Barcelona were able to take both the lead and the victory with Messi scoring twice from the spot. 

1. Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona, 2009

In 2009, a Pep Guardiola led Barcelona sealed the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League as well as this historic victory. With just four matches of the season remaining Barcelona comfortably dispatched Juande Ramos’ side. 

Seventeen wins in 18 matches had propelled Madrid into very late contention for the title, but a win for Barcelona put them seven points clear at the top of the table.Two goals from Thierry Henry, two from Lionel Messi, and one apiece from centre-back pairing Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique gave Real Madrid one of their most embarrassing defeats in the club’s history.

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Barcelona Make Initial Offer for Unsettled Chelsea Outcast David Luiz After Conte Row

?Barcelona have submitted an initial offer for Chelsea defender David Luiz as Ernesto Valverde looks to add depth to his back line. 

The Brazilian is said to have fallen out with Antonio Conte following his questioning of the manager’s tactics against AS Roma in the Champions League, and a subsequent knee issue has left him out of the side since late November, when the Blues beat Qarabag 4-0.

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Danish youngster Andreas Christensen has since stepped up in his place and has been very impressive, leaving Luiz with quite the fight to regain his spot in the starting 11 even when fit.

Telefoot report (via the ?Metro) that while the reported fallout with Conte has put other teams on alert, with Real Madrid and Arsenal said to be considering moves, it is Barcelona who have made the approach – reaching out to Chelsea and proposing a loan move for the player.

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The Primera Division leaders are soon to let Javier Mascherano join Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune and are seeking reinforcements as they look to head into 2018 with a deep squad.

Spanish radio station Catalunya Radio recently made claims of Luiz contacting Barca with a view to engineer a transfer during a recent trip to Spain.

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The defender travelled to Barcelona to visit a knee specialist and is said to have taken some time to alert the club of his availability.

The Blues, who are well stocked at centre-back, with Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahil, Ethan Ampadu and Antonio Rudiger all available, are reportedly willing to offload Luiz.

We should have a clearer picture when the transfer window opens up next month, however.


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3 Key Battles Which Could Decide Barcelona’s Clash With Real Madrid on Saturday

El Clasico is one of world football’s most iconic games, with past encounters giving football fans some of the most gruesome and exhilarating moments in the history of the sport. 

The two sides will meet once again this weekend, with – as expected – a huge amount at stake. A win for Barcelona would see them go 14 points clear of Real Madrid before Christmas and Real – who recently won the FIFA Club World Cup – will go into this game knowing that they must win in order to make up ground on their rivals.   

Here’s a look at three key battles that could decide the game between Spain’s two giants. 

3. Sergio Busquets vs Casemiro

These two holding midfielders will arguably have the most important role to play in this weekend’s Clasico. 

Busquets has been pivotal in his role for nearly a decade and has always shown consistent composure when he’s on the ball. His distribution is also second to none, and when he’s in possession he is constantly looking to put Barcelona on the front foot.

The Spaniard will be aware that he has the experience advantage over Casemiro, but the Brazil international’s physical and attacking prowess makes him a tough match for Busquets. Casemiro is aggressive in his play and isn’t shy of a tackle or two, which could catch the Barca midfielder off guard if he’s not careful. 

2. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Gerard Pique

Cristiano Ronaldo has had a fairly underwhelming Primera Division campaign so far – scoring just four times in 11 games. However, if there was ever an occasion to get the best out of CR7, it’s most certainly a Clasico.  

He often performs to the best of his abilities when it comes to the biggest games of the season, and what’s bigger than a must win Clasicofor Ronaldo and Real Madrid. The Portuguese forward knows that there can be no leniency when Madrid are attacking, but Gerard Pique will try his best to make sure Ronaldo has a quiet afternoon. 

Pique has been part of a defence that has conceded just seven goals – the joint best in Europe’s top five leagues – in La Liga this term. Pique will want to impose himself by using his physical attributes to try and stop Ronaldo and co., but he will be aware that he’s in for a busy afternoon. 

1. Marcelo vs Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has the most goals of any player in Clasico history with 24, and not many people are more aware of the Argentine’s abilities than left-back Marcelo. The Brazilian full-back has been at Madrid for a decade now, and will still find it extremely difficult to cope with the lively number ten.   

Messi has had an eventful first half of the season – scoring 20 goals in 26 games in all competitions and hitting the woodwork more than a dozen times. He knows that if he can help his teammates in claiming victory then he’ll see his beloved Barca go 14 points clear of rivals Real  after just 17 games.   

Marcelo will need to bring his A-game if he hopes to have any chance of curtailing the threat which Messi poses, while trying to support Ronaldo inLos Blancos’attack.  

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Pep Guardiola Under Investigation by Spanish Police Over Involvement With Catalan Referendum

?Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been caught up in an investigation by Spanish Police into the recent Catalan referendum.

The revelation comes on the same day that the whole of Catalonia descends on polling stations for an official snap election which could finally bring an end to the independence crisis in the area.

Guardiola – who has always been passionate about his Catalan heritage – voted in October’s referendum by post, a referendum that the Spanish government has condemned as illegal and unpatriotic.

According to reports from Catalan newspaper ?El Nacional, the former Barcelona boss was much more involved than first thought, as he was named in the Civil Guard’s report depicting those that participated in the rebellion.

The report states that during a march on June 11 2017, Josep Guardiola read a pro-independence manifesto in a “mobilization to defend the unilateral road”, with the intention to “mobilize all supporters of independence”.

Whether or not Guardiola will be punished for his actions remains to be seen, but City certainly won’t want their prized tactician embroiled in politically fueled scandal whilst they sit pretty at the top of the Premier League.

Under Pep’s guidance, City have won 16 games on the bounce and sit 11 points adrift of their Manchester rivals. They will be hoping that nothing more than a slap on the wrist comes of his actions, and this isn’t the bump in the road that they’ve been dreading.

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