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Three things Barcelona should do to beat Real Madrid in El Clasico

Barcelona will lock horns with Real Madrid in La Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

The Catalan giants are still reeling from their poor Champions League form, producing only one win in four games. Their chances of progressing to the next round look bleak.

By contrast, Los Blancos sealed their place in the round of 16 after drawing with Shakhtar Donetsk on matchday 4, which stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions this term.

However, both teams have recorded just one win in their last three games, and both share the same points (22) in La Liga, with Barca top due to their superior goal difference.

On that basis, Sunday’s Clasico will make for an exciting watch. Here are the things Barcelona should do to prevail in El Clasico.

Frenkie de Jong has to start

One of the criticisms Xavi faced in the wake of the Champions League failures was his squad selection.

The Blaugrana manager has been monotonous when picking his best eleven for big matches.

Xavi has stuck with Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Gavi in midfield to varying degrees of success.

For example, in the 3-3 draw against Inter Milan, the trio looked out of depth as the game wore on, and the introduction of Frenkie de Jong in the second half was a breath of fresh air.

The Dutch midfielder’s exceptional ball-carrying skills and the third-man runs helped Barca unlock Inter’s sturdy defence.

That has been the pattern this season, with De Jong making only four starts out of a possible ten.

The 25-year-old went through a turbulent summer as the Catalan club tried to sell him to Manchester United, but he persisted and stayed at Camp Nou.

The former Ajax star is too good a talent to warm the bench, and he should get the nod over either Gavi or Busquets this weekend.

Busquets has been a liability against counter-attacking teams, with age finally catching up with him. This was visible during the game against Inter when his mistake led to the second goal.

Fix the leaky defence

Barca’s defence was shambolic during the draw against Inter.

Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia forgot the basics, and their mistakes were punished by the Italians.

The Catalan club have been unfortunate with injuries, with Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Ronald Araujo sidelined.

However, nobody would expect a veteran like Pique to make schoolboy errors.

The backline without Kounde, Christensen and Araujo looks fragile, and the Catalans need to sort it out before the clash with Madrid.

Los Merengues have world-class forwards like Karim Benzema, Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo, and Barca can’t afford to be complacent.

Reports are stating that Kounde could return in time for Sunday’s clash and it will be interesting to see where Xavi deploys him – centre-back or full-back.

If he doesn’t start, Xavi should pick Marcos Alonso over Pique in central defence and Alejandro Balde in the left-back position.

Dembele and Raphinha need to deliver the goods

Ousmane Dembele is in the form of his life, but he still needs to increase his productivity in the final third, especially his decision-making and finishing skills.

The same goes for Raphinha. The Brazilian may have impressed against Inter days ago, but his overall consistency is a concern.

The goalscoring onus has solely been on Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 14 of Barca’s 28 goals this term.

The Polish striker will pose a massive threat to Madrid’s defence, which will be without goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Antonio Rudiger, who was previously a doubt after picking up a brutal head injury against Shakhtar, is now cleared fit for the Clasico.

It could play to Barca’s advantage, but Raphinha and Dembele have to be at their best.

The Blaugrana drubbed Madrid 4-0 at Bernabeu in Xavi’s first El Clasico as a manager last season, and they will be hoping for a similar result this time.

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