REMEMBER Terry Gibson? Well, we've signed him and while he won't be kicking a football he'll be looking into his crystal ball and bringing us his best Spanish tips every week.
The ex-Spurs, Coventry and Manchester United striker is probably best remembered for his time as part of the infamous Wimbledon Crazy Gang side of the late 80s and early 90s. Now an expert in all things La Liga he works as a pundit and co-commentator on Sky Sports’ Spanish football coverage and is a contributor to unibet.
Here he previews El Clasico.
Barcelona v Real Madrid (Sun 7.45pm)
It is traditional for the newly crowned league champions to receive a guard of honour from an opposing team, but on this occasion Real are refusing to do so. It all stems from Barcelona not doing likewise when Madrid returned from winning the World Club Cup back in December. It didn’t help matters when Barcelona then dismantled Real with a 3-0 victory that pretty much ended Madrid’s title challenge before Christmas.
I’m not entirely sure if the tradition exists for the Club World Cup, but for domestic honours it certainly does. Deportivo la Coruńa obliged last week after Barca had won the Copa del Rey the week before and it was over in the blink of an eye.
It really shouldn’t be a big deal, but isn’t it ironic that it just happens to be the Clasico fixture that sees Barcelona debut as La Liga Champions for 2017-18. Now let’s look at the on-pitch matters.
Barcelona are approaching the game unbeaten with four to play. It’s 34 unbeaten this season and 41 in total in La Liga since they lost to Malaga last April. That’s pretty impressive, as no team has ever gone through a 38-match season remaining unbeaten in its entire history.
After this game they play Villarreal at home on Wednesday, Levante away and Real Sociedad at home. Obviously, this is the biggest hurdle for them to overcome. If they do it, they will have achieved something no other team has been able to do and that is clearly now the motivation.
I think we know how much Real would like to put a stop to Barcelona’s attempt. However, after their midweek exertions against Bayern and the post-match celebrations, I’m not too sure if they are going to be in ideal physical condition to take on the challenge fully.
It really is incredible how Madrid are so successful in the glamour European Competition, and their will to win, coupled with belief that they are invincible in that competition, means that they are so difficult to beat.
They have certainly done it the hard way this season, beating Paris SG, Juve and Bayern Munich. The fact they have played poorly in the last three ties makes it even more astonishing that they have actually reached another final and emphasises the spirit that keeps them alive in times of trouble.
In fairness to Zidane’s side, they will be much stronger when Dani Carvajal returns. The experiment of playing Lucas Vazquez as a right-back should never be tried again and it meant that Luca Modric was forced into playing in that position for most of the game against Bayern, in order to help out his struggling team-mate.
With the onus on the Champions League final, I believe Zidane has some work to do in terms of bedding down a more familiar starting line-up for the final. If I’m being honest it all looks a bit untidy at the moment in terms of personnel and tactical style.
He needs to settle things down and come up with a selection and system that can beat Liverpool. The question is, will he do so in this game or after this game? He may well choose to rest some of the definite starters and therefore use the last three La Liga games as preparation?
With all of these advantages, I cannot see any other result this Sunday other than a Barcelona win. When Barca are motivated and physically fresh after not playing midweek, they have the potential to really put Madrid away in this game.
Barca will want to celebrate in style after winning the league and cup double, and they will want to pay a fitting tribute to Andres Iniesta in what will be his final Clasico appearance.
Clearly, we have seen a Barcelona who have been better and more consistent than Madrid domestically this season. The 15-point difference between the two is proof of that and I’m going to go for a conclusive home win.
The signs of late have been really positive regarding the form and understanding of the attacking trio of Suarez, Messi and, importantly, Philipe Coutinho, and I’m expecting that front three to flourish in this match. If Carvajal is missing again, I fancy Coutinho to have some fun down Barca’s left flank.
Messi got a hat trick last weekend and I’m backing him to get the first for Barcelona in this one.
- Barca 3, Real 0 (14-1, Unibet)
- Messi to score first (7-2, Unibet)
- Barca to win both halves (13-4, Unibet)
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