Madrid, Mar 1: With 16 points ahead in the league, Barcelona travel to the Bernabeu desperate in need of a win after two embarrassing defeats in a week against Milan in the Champions League and the El Clasico in the Copa Del Rey.
With the league title slipping away, Real Madrid will concentrate on the second-leg trip to Manchester United on Tuesday. Having beaten them on Tuesday, Jose Mourinho's side will have a similar game plan and the home fans right behind them. Real will take this clash against their arch rivals as a solid foundation ahead of the trip to Old Trafford.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been the focal points of El Clasico's for a few years now. Messi had taken full control as Barca dominated for a few seasons. But in September the balance of force was equal as both scored in a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou. But Ronaldo has come back with goals in their recent meetings.
The 16-point gap means Mourinho is likely to shuffle is squad keeping in mind the trip to Old Trafford. But Barcelona have more to worry with Messi, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas failing to match their standards in the two recent defeats.
Messi missed training on Wednesday after feeling unwell and he looked tired against Madrid but is likely to start on Saturday, but having played so many games, it could affect his energy levels. Xavi and Fabregas did not work their magic in midfield as reports suggested that the duo had taken pain-killing injections on Tuesday to overcome a hamstring problem.
Despite the poor form of Messi, Xavi and Fabregas, Andres Iniesta is currently their best player on the pitch. The playmaker was bold in suggesting changes in the first-team, and would like to play in midfield alongside Xavi.
Meanwhile, Angel Di Maria caused most of the trouble for Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol but the Argentinean is suspended for picking up two cautions against Deportivo La Coruna. Brazilian playmaker Kaka is likely to take his place but Mourinho could opt Jose Callejon in an attacking position. Pillar of Madrid's midfield Xabi Alonso, who is nursing a groin problem, could be rested with Luka Modric, Pepe and Michael Essien likely to fill in.
Germany playmaker Mezut Ozil's performance was overshadowed by the brilliance of Ronaldo and Di Maria in the Copa Del Rey win, but with Di Maria out and a couple of players rested Ozil will play a crucial role in the attacking third.
Barca will regain confidence with a win while Madrid will be gearing up for the United clash. Injury concerns to both sides makes it a tough one to predict but Messi and Ronaldo are likely to score once again in this epic clash.
*Barcelona have conceded in 12 consecutive games in all competitions.
*This is the 224th El Clasico with Barca winning 87 to Real's 88.
*Cristiano Ronaldo has scored seven goals in as many Clasicos
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Lopes-Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao-Modric, Khedira-Ozil, Callejon, Ronaldo-Benzema
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes-Alvez, Puyol, Pique, Alba-Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta-Pedro, Villa, Messi