EL CLASICO PREVIEW: Why Real Madrid will win

The first El Clasico of the 2017/18 LaLiga Santander season between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona is set to take place on Saturday, 23rd December.

The first Clasico of the campaign will once again break records that only a select few sporting events in the world can compete for.

The fixture will be broadcast live in 188 countries, with potential viewing figures of 650 million, reinforcing its international magnitude.

Real Madrid will win. Why? They have Ronaldo. A Ronaldo who won his fifth Ballon and won his club the FIFA Club World Cup the other day. A man said to be the best in the world and has finally found his boots at this time of the season, after an arguably slow start.

Remember, Neymar has not been properly replaced and Luis Suarez's inconsistent form is a consequence of him struggling to find as much space.

Madrid were fancied to retain the title, particularly having beaten Barcelona home and away in the Super Cup. But it did not take long for weaknesses to emerge - failing to win any of their first three home games, the worst start at the Bernabeu in over 20 years.

The strikers must take some responsibility. At this stage of last season Cristiano Ronaldo had 10 goals in La Liga, Gareth Bale five and Karim Benzema four. This season Ronaldo has four, while Bale and Benzema have two apiece. But it is not just about those three.

It's a must-win game for Real Madrid, who are 11 points behind their arch-rivals, but Barcelona are undefeated in La Liga and they will be desperate to keep it that way.

Who are the key Madrid players?

Cristiano Ronaldo

With five goals in four games, Cristiano Ronaldo comes into the game in his best form of the season. He is now a striker, so the key thing for him is that he needs the service of the team. He doesn't beat defenders one-on-one anymore, instead he needs the ball in positions where he can finish in one or two touches.

He has been getting more of that service lately. He's also starting to feel comfortable in the position, and he has accepted the fact that he doesn't have to play in every single game. From that point of view, he is maturing.

What we saw in the Club World Cup final against Gremio, however, was a player who wasn't in such a hurry. It was a better performance from him - he scored the winning goal from the free kick - and Real Madrid will need more of the same against Barcelona.

Luka Modric

Modric is another player who is back to his best. He is better when Casemiro is present because it allows him to make those passes that break defensive lines.

He uses his pace in the first five metres to get away from opponents, he's got vision, quality and leadership. He is one of the best midfielders in the world and I cannot believe he has been at Real Madrid for six years now.

It's no coincidence that they have won so many trophies in that period - including in a calendar year for the first time in the club's history. We are talking about an historical Real Madrid and Modric is the engine and brains of the team.

Karim Benzema

Benzema is still not scoring enough. One of the reasons why he hasn't left Real Madrid is because he was signed by Florentino Perez, but also because Zidane has let the club know that if they let him go, it will be a struggle to keep him at the club.

Zidane thinks Benzema is absolutely crucial to link the midfield and the attack. It's only fair that his team-mates demand more of him in terms of goals, but he does so much more than scoring.

Zidane thinks Benzema is absolutely crucial to link the midfield and the attack. It's only fair that his team-mates demand more of him in terms of goals, but he does so much more than scoring.

He has that sense, in a way like Messi, to know what the team and the game demands, whether to play the ball deeper or wider. Yes, he has lost his goalscoring touch but his instinct is still there and I think he will start scoring again.

You can see he is sharp, he has lost weight, he's in a good state and hardly gets injured these days. They are all reasons to suggest he will become important again. He has never let Real Madrid down in the big games, whether it be with a goal or an assist, and they will be hoping for another important contribution on Saturday.

Real have come out on top in 72 of their 174 La Liga meetings with Barca and have a greater trophy collection than the Catalan outfit.

So yeah, 73rd win on Saturday!