The headline fixture of the Spanish football calendar is set to play out next weekend when Barcelona host their great rivals Real Madrid in El Clásico.
Ahead of the first Clásico of the season, Get Spanish Football News has taken a look at some of the game’s key talking points.
Here are our five things to know ahead of El Clásico:
1. La Liga state of play – As tends to be the case leading into El Clásico fixtures, Barcelona and Real Madrid find themselves in the thick of the early running for La Liga supremacy. It is the latter who boast the advantage as things stand, sitting pretty at the top of the table owing to a record of eight wins from nine. Barça, on the other hand, sit two spots back in third, with one win from their last three. Nevertheless, should the Catalan giants ultimately emerge on the right side of the result (assuming both win this weekend), they will move level with Real in the standings.
2. Barça’s returning men – Likely to prove central in the case of Barcelona pulling out a result in Catalonia will be the club’s swathe of returning stars. The Blaugrana have been plunged into something of a personnel crisis of late, heavily limiting the options at the disposal of head coach Xavi Hernández. Whilst the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Jules Koundé remain sidelined, though, expected to return to the fold next weekend will be key men Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Pedri.
3. Real’s Nacho boost – Barça, however, will not be the only ones welcoming key personnel back. In a timely boost for Carlo Ancelotti and the powers that be at the Santiago Bernabéu, it was this week announced that Real stopper Nacho will also be available for selection. The veteran defender was originally ruled out of the Clásico through suspension after a needless red card picked up against Girona last month. But, after a successful appeal, his ban has since been reduced from three games to two, reinforcing Real Madrid’s defensive options.
4. Bellingham chasing history – Turning attentions towards another member of Los Blancos’ squad, Jude Bellingham will be eyeing yet more history on Saturday. The English international has of course enjoyed a scintillating start to life in Spain, quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite in the nation’s capital. His most recent outing saw Bellingham join Cristiano Ronaldo and Alfredo Di Stéfano as one of just three players to net ten goals in their first ten appearances in Real’s colours. After Ronaldo was condemned to defeat in his first Clásico outing, though, Los Merengues’ latest Galáctico will be hopeful of going one better, continuing to break records in the process.
5. Revenge on the cards? – Barcelona will head into next weekend’s action with sights firmly set on revenge against the club’s most bitter rivals. This comes with the most recent meeting between the two sides, in the second leg of last season’s Copa del Rey semi-finals, having seen Real emerge on the right side of a remarkable 4-0 result at Camp Nou. Karim Benzema, since departed, proved the star of the show on that occasion. Who will establish themselves as the difference-makers this time round?
Conor Laird | GSFN