Barcelona lead 3-2 going into the second leg of this Clasico match, and Real Madrid aren’t going to get any closer than that. Despite playing at home and only needing a 1-0 victory tonight—to take the tie on away goals—Madrid have shown nothing so far that makes that likely.
Luka Modric arrived from Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, but Madrid’s early-season problems will not be instantly solved. Madrid have missed Pepe more than they would admit, conceding five goals over the last two games.
Modric’s initial role was as a defensive midfielder, so it may be hoped that he can add some bite to a Real defence that has looked uncomfortable at times.
However, Modric has expressly stated that his preference is for a central midfield role, so it remains to be seen how he will be employed under Jose Mourinho.
According to EuroSport.com, Pepe fully participated in training on Monday. He is expected to return to the lineup after suffering a concussion in the opening game of the season. It’s unreasonable to expect him to immediately return to normal, however, and there will still be uncertainly within the defence.
Madrid slipped to their second straight defeat against Getafe last week and do not look like a team about to find their form. This upcoming game could’ve been even worse, too, had Barca keeper Victor Valdes not gifted them a crucial away goal in the dying minutes.
Being the master of psychology that he is, Mourinho is preaching indifference to all concerned when asked about the importance of tonight’s game (via The Guardian):
It does not matter to me whether we win or not, what I want to know is whether the psychological profile that we showed against Getafe is just a temporary thing or the product of a psychological mind-set that has been building up.
We can lose. The fundamental thing for me is to see what players I have got and what psychological profile they have.
If Madrid continue their current form, he will get his wish.
Barcelona, on the other hand, are doing quite nicely. Winning all three of their opening games, they already have a five-point lead over Madrid.
Furthermore, they won at the Bernabeu twice last year—in La Liga and the Copa del Rey—so will have no fear of playing Madrid away from home.
Barcelona are the reigning Super Cup champions, and Madrid couldn’t have arrived at this match with worse momentum.
Everything about this game screams a Barca victory. Tito Vilanova will be desperate to assert his team’s dominance over their old rival this early in the season, while the combination of poor form and defensive uncertainty is likely to be Madrid’s undoing.