It is fair to say that the Clasico isn’t what it used to be. It isn’t over the top to suggest that these two sides are on the decline, especially compared to recent years, where both were dominant forces in Europe.
While this match doesn’t have the glitz and glamour about it like previous years, it is still a match between the two biggest clubs in world football, and there is even more at stake given how tight the title race is this year, with just two points between the pair.
Real Madrid Expected Goals (xG)
Real Madrid have had a rough couple of weeks, drawing at home to Celta Vigo, losing to Levante and then being beaten at home by Manchester City in midweek in the Champions League.
This poor run of form has allowed Barcelona to overtake them domestically, but they have been unfortunate in that time, deserving to win both league games according to expected goals.
In fact, though Madrid sit second in the table, they top our xG table this season, and boast the best underlying process in La Liga, so Zinedine Zidane has got his side doing a lot right.
Madrid have drastically improved since Zidane’s return, with improvements in both attack and defence, the latter being the more impressive.
They have allowed an average of just 1.07 xGA per game this season, while being La Liga’s most potent attacking force according to expected goals (2.21 xGF per game), their issue has been converting their chances.
Madrid have scored just 46 times this season from chances equating to 55.3 xGF, so need to start taking their chances if they are to win the La Liga title come the end of the season.
It is worth pointing to Madrid’s games against Atletico Madrid and the first El Clasico this season as a gauge of what to expect here.
Madrid drew 0-0 at the Nou Camp in the reverse Clasico, and drew 0-0 against Atletico Madrid away from home before beating them 1-0 at the Bernabeu. Not very high-scoring or entertaining games.
There is no reason to think this will be any different, with Madrid happy to keep things tight.
Barcelona Expected Goals (xG)
Barcelona find themselves atop La Liga after winning five of their last six league matches since the appointment of Quique Setien, a good start for the experienced and expansive coach.
Their xG rolling average shows the decline under Ernesto Valverde, and the separating of the lines in the second half of this season, so things are on the up for Barca.
However, four of their games under Setien have come at the Nou Camp, with away games featuring a deserved 2-0 loss at Valencia and a scraped 3-2 win at Real Betis.
Their process at home and away from home is staggeringly different.
At home they average 2.39 xGF and 1.12 xGA per game, while on their travels they average 1.56 xGF and 1.33 xGA per game. That’s a stark difference. They clearly don’t like travelling.
Add to that the fact that they have a severe injury list, and an already thin squad of players, and Barcelona become much less appealing to win this game.
They would probably take a point now, as that would leave them top of the table, so expect a cagey approach from Setien’s side.
I think Real Madrid are the better of the two sides, and the underlying numbers show that Barcelona really don’t travel well.
Of course, while they have plenty of injury issues, they still have Lionel Messi fit and firing, and the little magician could easily whip up something special. But as a team, Madrid are functioning much better than Barca this campaign, so taking the home side is the play in the Match Odds 1X2 market.
I also like the look of the unders in the goal market. Given what we have discussed about Madrid’s set-up in big games, and the lack of goals in their three big clashes already this season, I was hugely surprised and pleased to see that Under 2.5 goals can be backed at odds-against. That looks a nice bet.
Combining the two is worth a punt also, with Madrid to win 1-0 at 9/1 standing out to me. If one team is to win this one, it will be a narrow win.