El Classico Preview | Barca will look to hurt a wobbling Real Madrid

El Classico Preview | Barca will look to hurt a wobbling Real Madrid

Ronald Koeman will know Barcelona can plunge Real Madrid into crisis on Saturday but for him a first Clasico as coach is more about vindication.

Inflicting a third consecutive defeat in a week on Madrid at Camp Nou would create the sort of turbulence for its opponents that Barca has grown only too used to in recent months.

But as much as cranking up the pressure on Zinedine Zidane and gaining an early boost in La Liga’s title race would be welcome, Koeman might claim the biggest rewards from a victory.

Middling start

Barcelona’s new coach, appointed in August, has overseen a middling start to the season, with three wins, a draw and a defeat meaning the trajectory of his project is not yet clear.

Most encouraging has been Koeman’s faith in youth, which has been repaid handsomely as Ansu Fati, Francisco Trincao and Pedri have all delivered more than expected in attack.

So impressive has Ansu been that it would be a surprise if he is not in the starting line-up this weekend.

But Trincao and Pedri would be braver calls, especially considering those they would replace.

Pressing issue

The most pressing issue of Koeman’s tenure is currently Antoine Griezmann, who is now on his third coach at Barcelona but still yet to find anything close to top form.

“Antoine knows his situation. The only thing he can do is work hard to change it,” Koeman said.

The merits of the decision will be defined by the result and in that regard, there will be scrutiny on Lionel Messi too, whose contribution is so often decisive.

A positive performance against Madrid will give Barcelona momentum ahead of its trip to Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday. And for Koeman, the benefits would last even longer.

Zidane, meanwhile, confirmed that capain Sergio Ramos is set to return from injury on Saturday.

“He’s our captain, our leader. He’s over his injury, but obviously we won’t take any risks. He’ll be with us, you need players who are 100% fit and Sergio is,” Zidane told a news conference.

Real will still be without a number of first team regulars, including Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola and Martin Odegaard.

Intense scrutiny

Zidane has come under intense scrutiny over the last week, with some reports suggesting his job might be at risk should it taste defeat in Catalonia.

“I’ve won a lot with these players, they’ve won a lot for me and I’ll always be with them until the end, it’s they who battle, run and fight and I can feel their support,” he said.

“But right now the most important thing is changing the dynamic, and we’ve got good games coming up to be able to do that in, and that’s what makes football so great. When things go wrong, you need to show your character and quality.

“… I can’t deny people are saying my future is at stake, but it was the same last year and it was like that in my first spell here, too. I just need to do my job and forget about everything else.”

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