Who does Guillem Balague think will win tonight's El Clasico?

The Sky Sports pundit gives his thoughts on this evening’s big game in Spain.

Guillem Balague has tipped Barcelona to beat Real Madrid tonight.
Guillem Balague has tipped Barcelona to beat Real Madrid tonight.

SPANISH FOOTBALL EXPERT Guillem Balague is backing Barcelona to win tonight’s El Clasico.

Barca currently comfortably lead La Liga and are 10 points ahead of rivals Real Madrid, who they will meet in the Nou Camp this evening.

Luis Enrique’s side are unbeaten since October and have lost just twice in the league all season.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, have had a far less encouraging campaign. The Spanish side were beaten 4-0 by Barca in the reverse fixture, and a number of disappointing results ultimately saw them replace Rafa Benitez with Zinedine Zidane as manager back in January.

Sky Sports pundit Balague consequently finds it hard to see anything other than a Barca win, particularly given how recent history has panned out.

“The fact that Real Madrid have not beaten Barcelona with Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo in the same side is quite funny, but it is what it is,” he tells The42. “Also, they haven’t won at the Camp Nou since the Mourinho era.

“You have a team that probably doesn’t need to play well to win, they’ve got so much dynamite up front.

And Real Madrid are trying to find their feet and the league’s not their real target. The game will be seen as a rehearsal for the Champions League. The glory is only five games away (in Europe), but in the league, it’s all lost.

“But Zidane is playing for his future, so a really bad defeat or a really bad defeat in the (Champions League) semi-finals may mean that the club will be forced to look for somebody else.

“So there’s a lot to play for, but Barcelona are outstanding at the moment.”

Balague believes Barca have more “collective answers” than their opponents tonight and feels they have a good chance of repeating last year’s treble-winning feat, despite no team having ever won back-to-back Champions League trophies before.

If you look at the stats, Neymar is better than last season,” he says. “Luis Suarez is better than last season. They’ve had an extra year of playing together. And Messi, if he continues scoring this way, he’s going to beat the 91 goals he scored in 2012.

“So they are better than last season, and there’s no reason why they couldn’t repeat what they’ve done, and they’re in the process of it, of course. They’re in the cup final, the quarter-finals of the Champions League, they’re going to win the league.

“I don’t know how you can surpass that — you have to win the European Super Cup, which would be the only one missing. But they could just get the treble crown again.”

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And while some critics believe Luis Enrique is a lucky manager to have such amazing talent at his disposal, Balague suggests the former Spanish international’s role in rejuvenating a troubled team has been underestimated.

Luis Enrique has done a lot. He inherited a side that wasn’t working and needed a little bit of adjusting. What Pep Guardiola tried at Barcelona was to defend as a team, to attack as a team and to give it different layers. He managed to do the first two bits, and before the third one, he decided to leave instead of maybe doing what Barcelona did after that, which is to add counter-attack, adding a number 9 to their football, creating more space for Messi that way.

“That was taken on by Tito (Villanova), but he wasn’t there long enough, and Tata Martino didn’t understand it, but Luis Enrique had a clear idea what he could do and what he has done is to mirror the image of himself as a player. He’s very comfortable with direct football.

“He’s abandoned some of the essence implemented by Pep, but he’s not Pep, he couldn’t have taken the team in the Pep direction. But you still get some of the stuff that made them a winning team under Pep — control, the passing, the full-backs going forward, the ball-playing centre-backs, it’s still a lot of Pep’s team, but then Luis Enrique’s changed direction a little bit, which obviously has worked.”

Sky Sports will show El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid exclusively live on Saturday (kick-off: 7.30pm).

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