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Here are the thoughts of Sid Lowe ahead of the Barca-Real clash

The Guardian contributor feels both sides have looked vulnerable at times this season.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both set to feature in this evening's El Clasico.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both set to feature in this evening's El Clasico.

SPANISH FOOTBALL EXPERT Sid Lowe is tipping Barcelona to triumph over Real Madrid in the first El Clasico of the season, which takes place at The Nou Camp later today.

Lowe has been impressed with the way Barca have started this season and feels their more convincing performances make them favourites to prevail this evening.

Nevertheless, for all their obvious brilliance, he feels both sides are vulnerable in certain areas of the pitch.

“On the face of it, Barcelona are playing much better,” he says. “Madrid are not playing well at all. But of course, Madrid on the counter-attack can cause Barcelona problems.

“And I think what we’ve seen is a Barcelona side that are largely pretty good to watch, creating a lot of chances, but who continue to be vulnerable. And Madrid are almost the opposite of Barcelona in that they’re not playing well at all, but you know that they’ll get chances every now and again.

“Against a team that opens up against them and enables them to play on the break, then you can see them scoring goals and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we got a result like the one that opens my book [the October 2012 La Liga encounter between the sides] — it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw another 2-2 draw.”

Lowe also feels both sides are capable of winning this season’s Champions League, but is by no means confident that either will emerge triumphant in Europe.

“My gut instinct would be that they’ll be amongst the favourites again. There’s a very good chance that they’ll both be in the semi-finals, but they’re still confronted by some problems. Similar problems to last year in Barcelona’s case in that defensively, they still look very vulnerable.

“And in Real Madrid’s case, they’re under a new manager — as indeed Barcelona are, of course — and I think they’re not yet clear what their identity is. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes them to sort that out. The good news for Real Madrid is that they have the time to do that [in Europe]. Whereas in La Liga, if they drop many points, they haven’t.”

Moreover, the Spanish league has been criticised in recent times for a lack of competitiveness outside of the big two. Does Lowe feel this could consequently hamper both sides’ chances of European glory?

“I think there’s a risk that it might,” he says. “I think we may have seen a quick glimpse of that last year — maybe with the semi-final defeats for both of them. The impact of their dominance, which is obviously not good for the rest of Spain, could also not be good for them if they’re not challenged every week in a way that they would like.

“So it may well be in the really serious games against big opponents, they’re perhaps not quite as prepared as they would otherwise be. I think it’s important that Barcelona themselves recognise that flaw.”

Fear and Loathing in La Liga by Sid Lowe is published by Yellow Jersey. More details here.

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