Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui expects to keep his job at the Bernabéu no matter the result in Sunday’s Clásico with Barcelona at Camp Nou.
The two sides form a ferocious rivalry that dates back much further than football itself as Spain’s two most powerful cities go head to head.Embed from Getty Images
Barça’s captain and talisman Lionel Messi will miss out on this famous fixture after sustaining a broken arm in last weekend’s 4-2 win over Sevilla. His absence means that this will be the first Clásico without either Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo for over a decade, ending a golden era in the rivalry.Embed from Getty Images
Ernesto Valverde will also be without defenders Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen due to injury, leaving Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet to start of the centre of defence.
Lopetegui has a decision to make at right back with regular starter Dani Carvajal ruled out with a calf injury. Lucas Vázquez started there in midweek against Viktoria Plzen with Nacho also able to play there.
On the other side of the defence, Marcelo is a doubt following the ankle injury he picked up in the Champions League. Madrid’s 18-year-old Brazilian Vinicius Junior could feature in his first Clásico after his suspension, following a red card playing for the B team last weekend, was rescinded. Gareth Bale should be fit to play having missed the last couple of games with a muscle injury.
Ernesto Valverde responded to reports of Ousmane Dembele’s poor attitude in his press conference on Saturday; ‘He’s young, yes we have big demands on him but we focus on sporting matters alone.’Embed from Getty Images
When asked about his opponents Valverde spoke of his focus on his own team; ‘To be honest we don’t take too much notice of Real Madrid, of course we can’t avoid it but going into the game we don’t really think too much about things happening at Madrid. We just focus on what they are as a team.’
Julen Lopetegui came out fighting in his pre-match conference and talked about his job prospects; ‘I expect to keep breathing whatever happens. I’m not going to die. I am 100 per cent focused on helping my team for tomorrow, nothing more.’
The former Spain boss also played down the impact Messi’s injury would have on proceedings; ‘We focus on ourselves, on strengthening our attributes as much as possible.’
Barcelona’s last 5 league games – D L D D W
Despite holding top spot, Valverde’s side have gone through a torrid run of results in La Liga over recent weeks. A loss at Leganés was followed by frustrating 1-1 draws against Athletic Club and Valencia. A convincing 4-2 win over Sevilla last Saturday will have boosted morale hugely heading into this fixture.
Real Madrid’s last 5 league games – W L D L L
Similarly to their Catalan counterparts, Madrid are going through a rough patch and currently sit outside the European places in the table. As a result of their poor form, the pressure has severely mounted on manager Lopetegui with some reports in Spain suggesting that this Clásico will decide his future.Embed from Getty Images
Head to Head
Real Madrid have won just twice in their last ten league meetings with Barcelona with their last win at Camp Nou coming in 2016.
Los Blancos are unbeaten on their last three league visits to Barcelona with their last defeat coming in 2015 when Luis Enrique’s ‘blaugrana’ stormed to a famous treble.
Last season’s fixture saw 10-man Barcelona come away with a 2-2 draw after clinching the La Liga title the previous week. There has been a red card in the four of the last five competitive fixtures between the two.Embed from Getty Images
Ernesto Valverde and Julen Lopetegui last faced off as managers during the 2014/15 Champions League group stage. Lopetegui’s Porto were victors in both meetings with Valverde’s Athletic Club as Porto progressed and Athletic were eliminated.