Lionel Messi

The first Clasico of the season brings Real Madrid to the Camp Nou trailing Barcelona by three points, with their two new managers out there to do more than just claim a prestigious win in football’s biggest rivalry, but also prove they’re the right men for the job, erasing any doubts someone might still have.

In the weird and illogical world of the Spanish league, Carlo Ancelotti is the one with something to prove. His team is trailing Barcelona by three points, and his promises of better football than what Real Madrid played under Jose Mourinho haven’t been fulfilled. Insisting on starting Karim Benzema instead of Alvaro Morata and letting go of Mesut Ozil haven’t really helped him at this point in the popularity contest.

As a manager, Ancelotti has been slightly unlucky against Barcelona. He was the manager of PSG last season, knocked out of the competition in the quarter finals through away goals. He’s also been knocked out against them when managing AC Milan. But it’s how Ancelotti handles the tactical questions he’s facing that will decide whether or not Real Madrid make it three league matches in a row without losing in Barcelona.

Gareth Bale seems to be the main question: start him or not, and where? For some reason, Ancelotti prefers using Bale on the right wing, which means shifting Angel di Maria to the left side, or benching him altogether. The problem is that Di Maria has been Real Madrid’s best player this season, and benching him doesn’t sound wise. Moving him to the left means Cristiano Ronaldo playing as the main striker, which will bench Karim Benzema.

So, is playing a 4-3-3 a good idea? It creates numbers in the middle of the pitch, which is always a good idea against Barcelona, but using the same tactics that Barcelona do, making it man vs man thing, might be a bit risky.

For Gerardo Martino, derbies aren’t anything new, but there’s certainly a difference between the Rosarido rivalry and what he’s experiencing now for the first time. And while his rotation seemed to make sense up to his point, benching experienced players before this kind of match is always a lot harder.

Martino has hinted that someone – Xavi or Andres Iniesta, will start the match on the bench. He wants Cesc Fabregas to play, and he wants to keep the form of three forwards, which means Messi in the middle, Alexis Sanchez on the right and Neymar on the left. Unless he plans on using all four central midfielders (including Sergio Busquets) and giving up on a winger, a big name will have to be sacrificed.

Prediction – It’s always hard to gauge the abilities of both teams through the La Liga and the competition it offers. However, there seems to be something slightly more fluid in Barcelona’s ability, and it does seem that they have more to offer in terms of scoring than just one scorer who does everything. A win for the home side.