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El Clasico: 5 reasons Real Madrid cannot afford to lose to Barcelona

Friday 22nd December 2017

It is arguably the world’s biggest and most anticipated club football match. The first El Clasico of the season is finally here. It’s been long awaited by football fans all over the world since the beginning of the season. After Real Madrid’s 5-1 dismantling of Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup which served as the curtain raiser for the new season, not many would have expected the first El Clasico to be contested under the current conditions for both clubs.

Real Madrid’s La Liga performance has been below par compared to their usual high standards. At a time when their bitter rivals are cruising at the top of the league table and remain unbeaten this season in both the La Liga and the Champions League, what are the prospects of the Los Blancos going into this all-important match of the season?

Here are five reasons why Real Madrid cannot afford to lose:

1. The players have the club’s pride to protect

As the club finds itself in an unfamiliar position in the league, the players have their backs against the wall. Individually and collectively, they have something to play for against Barcelona. They have a chance to save Madrid’s season and not lose the league title so early in the season. They have been put in a position where they are condemned to win.

The team enters the El Clasico occupying the fourth spot on the table, 11 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona. A loss to their title rivals will put Madrid 14 points behind their arch-rivals. That will mean the title pursuit is all but over, even with a game in hand. Los Blancos have not managed to close such a gap even in their uniquely rich history.

Madrid has a proud tradition of winning when it matters most. If history is anything to go by, the Los Blancos thrive most in such conditions. It is a team which knows how to rise to the big occasion and performs when the pressure is highest. That accounts for why it is the most successful club in football history.

The proof of Madrid’s competitiveness shows in the head to head results with their arch-rivals. Barcelona leads the way in total wins having won 111 times to Real Madrid’s 99. But the same is not the case in competitive matches as Madrid leads with 95 wins to Barcelona’s 91.

It doesn’t get more competitive than a fight to redeem Madrid’s season.

2. Real Madrid’s title aspirations could be over with a loss

It’s true the league title is not won in December. And for Barcelona, Real Madrid is not the only title contender this season. Atletico Madrid and Valencia are also waiting in the wings for any slip-ups. So Barca may not win the title just by beating Real Madrid. But Madrid could kiss the title goodbye with a loss.

For a club like Madrid that considers the La Liga title a must win every season, the players are definitely not ready to let Barca have its way. Their overall performance in the La Liga so far may have been below par, but the El Clasico is a different ball game.

Coming at a time when the BBC is fit and ready to play, the match will likely not be a reflection of Madrid’s previous frailties.  Karim Benzema has not been impressive in front of goal this season. Gareth Bale has been largely injured, but he has shown his importance to the team by scoring two important goals in two substitute appearances recently. His return to the team is a much-needed boost for a club desperate for a turnaround. Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals in the La Liga have been few and far between. But he has scored five goals in his last four matches in all competitions coming into this match.

The El Clasico seems to be the perfect opportunity for the trio to prove they still have what it takes.

3. A loss could end Madrid’s season even in Europe

With the blockbuster two-legged fixtures against Paris Saint-Germain waiting, El Clasico comes at a time when Real Madrid need a win at all costs. Just as those fixtures are important to the reigning champions progression to the next phase, El Clasico is vital for several other reasons.

A win against the Basque club will be a huge confidence booster moving forward. Conversely, a loss could be very deflating. A victory will keep Madrid within touching distance of the league leaders in the hunt for another record-breaking double or even a treble this time around.

Surely, PSG will provide Madrid with their biggest test in the quest for a record-making title defence. Getting into that match in February on a high will significantly increase Madrid’s chances.

As already stated, the El Clasico will likely be a season-defining match for Madrid. A loss here can be catastrophic. Its effect can spill over into the whole season. This is because there will be no motivation to keep fighting. In a season where Madrid has been on a downward slope in the league, a loss could just be the push to slide even further downward.

Lacking motivation, the team can be in disarray before the meeting with the big money spenders from Paris.

4. It comes at the right time for Madrid after the Club World Cup title win

Real Madrid could not have planned the match to come at a better time. The club is currently on a trophy-winning run. Los Blancos have won five trophies this year alone. In a match where a win is as important as winning a trophy, this may just be another one to collect.

That is not to say Barca will come to the capital expecting anything other than a win. After all, it holds the clear advantage here. And if there is any club that knows how to make an advantage count, it is the Catalan side.

Barcelona’s impressive unbeaten run this season makes it important to meet the club at the right time. At a time when the club’s talisman Leonel Messi is in top form and the top striker Luis Suarez is finally coming good for the season with six goals in his last five matches, it will definitely be a huge task handing Barcelona a first defeat of the season.

The Blaugrana smell blood and are ready to give Los Merengues the final blow that will end their title challenge this season. Bursting that bubble of their Club World Cup win will be Barca’s pleasure.

5. A win will be the perfect Christmas gift for Madrid fans

The Madrid faithful has endured a painful start to the season. Even though their record-breaking heroes have given them much joy this year, their start to the domestic season has been unexpectedly poor.

A loss to Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu was no doubt painful to take. But newcomers Girona completed the embarrassment by beating Madrid for the very first time in their history. Further draws to Levante, Valencia, and city rivals Atletico have put Madrid in a disadvantaged position as far as the title race is concerned.

Beating the club’s main rival at home and reviving the title race will be the perfect Christmas gift for the club’s fans. I know that because I am one of them.

Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.

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