Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti says his players will try to deny Barcelona’s deadly-looking front three “space” in Saturday’s La Liga match.
Barcelona new boy Luis Suarez is eligible to make his (competitive) debut in the first ‘El-Clasico’ of the season having completed his four-match ban for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.
Barca new coach Luis Enrique has confirmed the Uruguayan, who moved to the Camp Nou from Liverpool £75m will play against their fiercest rival. If Suarez starts, he could partner Lionel Messi and Neymar- the duo who have already combined for 17 goals in 10 games so far this season.
While Messi aims to equal Telmo Zarra’s record of 251 goals in the Spanish top flight, needing just a goal against their Santiago Bernebeu hosts, Ancelotti has hinted that the Argentine superstar may have to wait a bit to break more records and says Suarez’s presence does not change the game.
“The plan is the same as always: try to deny their forwards space. We have to play with two lines that don’t give away any free space. Only then can we have more control over him,” The Italian boss said in his pre-match press briefing at the Ciudad on Friday.
“I have a lot of respect for Suarez’s quality. Whether he plays or not doesn’t change our plans or those of Barcelona. So it isn’t a problem for us.”
Real were beaten in both legs of this encounter last season, starting with a 2-1 defeat at the league leaders before a narrow 4-3 loss at home.
Unbeaten Barcelona are yet to concede in a league game so far this season and sits at the top of the table four points clear of Real. The Los Blancos have embarked on an eight-game unbeaten run following back-to-back defeats to Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid in the opening three weeks of the season.
Ancelotti believes both sides go into the Week 9 encounter “in very good form” and also noted that the key battle area could be in the defence.
“We’re in good shape, but every game against Barcelona is difficult. Both teams go into the match in very good form and I always have confidence in my team. We have improved a lot in defence, not giving our opponents many chances. I’m happy with what we’ve done and I hope we continue in this vein.
“Pressure is normal in a Clásico. There is no other game in the world with so much quality in attack, and the same goes for midfield and at the back. Defending well is very important and could be key, Luis Enrique may well think the same.
“Approaching the game is quite easy because we know each other. We’ll play the football that we want to play, with our ideas. We have to attack to the best of our ability and defend to the best of our ability. To win, we have to put in a great match. I don’t think we have an advantage in midfield because we’re playing against a team that has always had quality and experience in the middle of the park.
“In La Liga last year it didn’t go well for us, but we’ll try to do better in this game. We’re in better shape than the same match last year.”
Highest goal scorer at this year’s World Cup James Rodriguez is set to have his first taste of the El Clasico after his big money move to Real Madrid from Monaco. The 23-year-old Colombian will be saddled with more responsibility in the absence of Gareth Bale- sidelined with a Buttock injury.
Rodriguez has already proved to Madridistas he is a team player and most recently provided an assist for Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener in Wednesday’s 3-0 group stage win at Liverpool.
“He (Rodriguez) is playing in a different position and at Anfield we were very happy with his work,” the 55-year-old said.
The manager also gave an update on the fitness of his defensive pair Pepe and Sergio Ramos, who missed the trip to Anfield with a calf problem, saying: “They trained well and I think they’re going to play.”