FC Barcelona have a tall task ahead of them when looking to beat Real Madrid in El Clasico at the Bernanbeu on Sunday.
First team coach Xavi Hernandez insists it is just a game like any other, with the Catalans trailing their bitter enemies by 15 points in La Liga with a game in hand.
But those in the know are aware that the fixture arrives as a true litmus test to measure where Xavi’s young outfit truly are in their evolution at this moment in time, amid a string of positive results as of late.
Here is how they can beat Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Contain the ‘golden triangle’ and the counter attack
Madrid’s veteran midfield trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos is one of the best to ever lace up boots together. To stop them releasing Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema on dangerous counter attacks, Barca must contain the golden triangle and suffocate their passing game.
At least given to a knock he has picked up this week, Barca do not need to worry about Benzema who will play no part in the late Sunday night fixture in the Spanish capital.
Keep the ball and be careful on set pieces
Barca would be wise not to be dispossessed in midfield and not to give away cheap fouls. If they do, Toni Kroos can easily find the imposing Eder Militao capable of latching on to free kicks who permanently provides an aerial threat.
Rise to the occasion
Games like this are a test of character, and owing to the pandemic, several key Barca stars have never played a Clasico in the Bernabeu before a hostile home crowd.
Heading into ‘hell’ midweek at the Nef Stadium, where the Blaugrana beat Galatasaray in the Europa League last 16 on Thursday, Barca have already had a taste of what it takes to get a result behind enemy lines under pressure, and players such as Gavi, Nico, Pierr-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres, Frenki de Jong, Ronald Araujo, Eric Garcia, Adama Traore, Oscar Mingueza, Pedri, Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong will all have to rise to the occasion.
Let Pedri flourish
Coming off what was arguably his best performance in a Barca shirt in Turkey, the 19-year-old can be Barca’s heartbeat and dictate play if he is allowed to run his own game and has protection from his teammates.
Attack the wings
While Militao and David Alaba form one of the stingiest defensive partnerships in world football, a left and right back pairing of Nacho and Dani Carvajal has less to write home about and could be Los Blancos’ weak point.