MADRID – Seeking to stay in the game for the La Liga title, Real Madrid is set to face off again against Barcelona at Santiago Bernabeu stadium, just three days after the Catalan club defeated 3-0 Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal.
The third-placed team, led by Argentine coach Santiago Solari, does not have many options as it is obligated to win Saturday’s match, not only to cut Barcelona’s lead from nine points to six, but also to redeem itself in front of its fans following Wednesday’s Spanish Cup Clasico.
In the Cup match, Madrid was unable to turn its dominance into results on the scoreboard which ultimately the boys in white paid for dearly as only two plays by France forward Ousmane Dembele allowed Barcelona to secure the win.
First, Dembele set up Uruguay forward Luis Suarez for the first goal and then Madrid and France defender Raphael Varane turned a pass by his countryman into his own net while trying to clear it out.
Suarez went on to score the third and final goal for Barcelona in the 73rd minute.
Brazilian forward Vinicius’ speed, courage and skills were not enough for Madrid to find the back of the net against the Catalan side, who is seeking its third triple of titles in Barcelona’s history (La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League together in the same year).
Both coaches, Solari and his Barcelona counterpart Ernesto Valverde, have a few hours to prepare for the Saturday rematch and will have to make decisions related to the starting lineup.
For Solari, the question is whether to keep the current starting line up or to make changes, possibly fielding, for example, Wales forward Gareth Bale or Brazil left back Marcelo as the side is seeking an attacking edge.
Brazil forward Philippe Coutinho and his countryman, midfielder Arthur Melo are also new starting options that Valverde may mull over for the league game.
In other La Liga play, second-placed Atletico Madrid is scheduled Sunday to visit Real Sociedad, which has been on the upward swing since coach Imanol Alguacil took the helm of the first team in December 2018 for his second tenure as Sociedad’s head coach.
Atletico, led by Argentine coach Diego Simeone, has lost in his most recent two visits to Real Sociedad’s stadium of Anoeta and if Atletico wants to remain a contender in La Liga action, the Madrid-based squad has to overcome their opponent.
Real Sociedad got a big boost ahead of the Sunday game, with Brazil striker Willian Jose being eligible after serving a one-match suspension in his team’s 0-0 draw on Monday.