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Barcelona v Real Madrid preview: Xavi's men look to take step towards title

With a nine-point advantage at the top of La Liga, Barcelona could all but seal the title in Sunday's El Clasico against Real Madrid.

The current Blaugrana side are a far cry from the free-flowing models of old, with their more pragmatic style under Xavi helping them seal three straight 1-0 wins in all competitions.

One of those came against Los Blancos in the Copa del Rey but they have looked sharper in last Saturday's 3-1 victory over Espanyol and Wednesday's 1-0 win over Liverpool.

That latter victory maintained their hopes of defending their Champions League crown and a victory on Sunday in Catalunya would put them right in the race to retain their league title.

WhatBarcelona v Real Madrid
WhereCamp Nou, Barcelona
When20:00, Sunday 19th March
How to watchBet365's European Soccer Live Streaming Highlights and Viaplay Sports 1
OddsBarcelona 23/20, Draw 5/2, Real Madrid 9/4

Recent history favours Barca

There's no doubt that recent games have gone Barcelona's way and it is Xavi's willingness to abandon some of his footballing principles to produce a team that can grind out victories.

Their Copa del Rey win at the Bernabeu on 2nd March was the result of a well-executed gameplan and was their third victory in the last four competitive meetings between these sides.

Barca are 23/20 to grab another victory in the Full Time Result market but their Camp Nou record against Real is strange, with their last home victory when facing their great rivals a 5-1 success in October 2018.

That will boost Real's belief and there is perhaps a sense that after a difficult winter which saw almost all of their stars play all the way through due to their participation in the World Cup, Spanish Super Cup and Club World Cup, they might be emerging from their slumber.

Under Carlo Ancelotti, Zinedine Zidane and Ancelotti again, Real have shown themselves to be the masters of playing winning football and are 9/4 in the Full Time Result on Saturday.

Los Blancos won the reverse fixture 3-1, a Correct Result which is available at 25/1, while Barca are 16/1 to win by that scoreline, having done so in January's Super Cup.

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Benzema one to watch

Real's improving form is mirrored by the resurgence of their captain Karim Benzema. The Frenchman missed the World Cup due to a thigh injury but has bounced back, especially over the last couple of months.

Benzema scored three of his side's goals in their 6-3 aggregate win over Liverpool and has a decent record against Barcelona.

The 35-year-old has scored 13 career goals against Barca, with four of those coming since 2021.

Benzema is 15/8 in the Anytime Goalscorers market, currently behind La Liga's top scorer, Robert Lewandowski.

The Pole has scored 15 goals in his maiden La Liga season, four more than Benzema, to lead the way in the fight for the Pichici award.

Lewandowski is 21/20 in the Anytime market, while another Barca player to keep on eye is Raphinha.

The Brazilian has scored the winner in his team's last two games and is 7/1 to be Last Goalscorer.

Card markets offer options

Despite these being fiery fixtures, there has been just one red card in El Clasicos since 2018. Yes in the A Red Card In The Match market is 2/1 and the card markets could be something to look out for.

Over 5.5 cards in the match is 4/6, a tally that was achieved in the recent Copa del Rey fixture. However, the pair's other two matches this season have produced four cards so under 5.5 at 11/10 also deserves consideration.

Gavi was yellowed in two of those matches and is 5/4 in the Player to Be Booked odds. Franck Kessie has also been booked twice in that time and is 3/1, but could be a substitute.

Real's man to watch here is Federico Valverde who is another on two cautions and is 15/4. Add in that he also picked up a yellow at Camp Nou last season, and he could be in the book again.

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