Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Picks, predictions, how to watch El Clasico

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Picks, predictions, how to watch El Clasico
8 min read

We go over everything you need to know for Real Madrid vs. Barcelona on Matchday 9.

El Clasico is back with Real Madrid hosting Barcelona Sunday in Matchday 10. Both teams are tied at the top of the La Liga table, giving this Clasico the typical feel of a massive clash. Here’s everything you need to know for this match, including odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Real Madrid v. Barcelona
Date: Sunday, October 16
Time: 10:15 a.m. ET
TV channel: None
Live stream: ESPN+

Odds, picks & predictions
Real Madrid: +125
Draw: +255
Barcelona: +190

Moneyline pick: Real Madrid +125

Barcelona are coming off a tough 3-3 draw against Inter Milan in the Champions League with Robert Lewandowski getting a late equalizer to rescue a point for the Catalan club. Real Madrid also had a draw in Champions League play but it was less tense with a 1-1 result. Barcelona have only given up one goal in La Liga play but Real Madrid tend to hold teams down at home. Back Los Blancos to get the win Sunday to go to the top of the table.

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Champions League refereeing controversy: Why Fikayo Tomori shouldn't have seen red against Chelsea, and more

How Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele escaped a red card and the rest of the week's biggest calls

The football world is calling the 17th minute red card to Milan's Fikayo Tomori for denying obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) and subsequent penalty a travesty, lamenting the injustice of the call. Cries of the "game's is gone," ringing out from fans. But, the real crux of the issue is not whether the punishment fit the crime, but rather whether there was a crime at all.  What the debate should be is whether the upper arm body contact that occurred is in itself a foul because everything depends on how its answered. There is no way withing the rules to advocate for a penalty and yellow card, that can't occur, so the question is was the incident a foul at all. Let's take a look at the call and the rest of the major decisions from the Champions League Matchday 4 (you can catch all the Champions League action on Paramount+).

Going to the law, any DOGSO infraction that occurred by holding, pulling or pushing has always been a penalty and red card. That was true even before a recent change to the law was implemented. Before the 2016-17 season the International Footballing Association Board, the organization responsible for the rules, made a very notable law change altering sending off offenses inside the penalty area for DOGSO to avoid what was considered a "triple-punishment". Before the change, a player who committed a DOGSO offense in the penalty area was automatically red-carded, was handed a one game suspension, as well as giving away a penalty.

The law change was modified to the following: 

"Where a player commits an offense against an opponent within their own penalty areas which denis an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offender is cautioned if the offense was an attempt to play the ball; in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.) the offending player must be sent off."

That modified DOGSO in the penalty area to be yellow card only if there is an attempt to play the ball. Officials are asked to liberally apply "attempt tp play the ball" in application. However, DOGSO red card for triple-punishment was purposely kept for plays that where not clear attempts to play the ball but purely tactical and not football actions.​​​​​​​

The law is clear in this situation, if the referee determines (1) a foul has been committed in the penalty area, (2) that it satisfied the requirements to be a denying obvious goal scoring opportunity, and (3) the foul was not an "attempt to play the ball" then the offending player must be sent off. 

Given the way the rule is written, the debate truly is whether a foul occurred in the first place by Tomori against Mount. Is there actual physical contact by the arm on Mount? Yes. Does this level of contact rise to a foul that warrants a penalty and red card in the context of this play? The answer here is no. Both players are battling for not only possession, but also for spatial advantage when initially getting to the ball. There is no other defender who can intervene in the play aside from the goalkeeper once Tomori is beaten, but when you don't slow down the play and take still shots but rather watch it at full speed, you can see Mount fights through the contact and makes a solid attempt at getting to the ball before the keeper is able to block it. This kind of play, at this speed, and at this level, is a common, expected level of football in terms of physical contact meaning that officials frequently would not call this an infraction.

Is there debate to be had on this play? Yes! It's clearly a borderline situation, which is another reason why it is not appropriate for VAR to recommend it down for a penalty or for overturn of a penalty. It is not a clear and obvious error. In fact, I can fully appreciate the referee in real time believing there is enough physical contact and holding by Tomori to call it a foul, penalty and red card but on review, ironically best angles are the ones from goal line which the referee would never have a view of, and those are the ones that confirm the contact is just not enough leading to the preferred decision of no foul in the first place. However, Tomori does take a risk by extending his arm not only once but twice and as a result the decision can go either way. So the call itself is a close one but it's important to remember that if it is a foul, it also must be penalty, red card and one game suspension. 

The Final Decision: No foul but also no VAR recommendation to overturn the penalty kick and red card. 

Another DOGSO decision from Tottenham vs. Frankfurt
While we are playing in DOGSO world, a brief refresher on the four considerations of when a foul rises to a denying obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO). In a previous column on DOGSO, we looked at how referee's must account for four considerations at the moment the foul occurs to come to the right decision:

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