The first Clásico of the season is upon us, as Barcelona welcome Real Madrid to Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon.
It’s been a turbulent few weeks for both sides. The hosts will be looking to recover from last weekend’s disappointing away defeat to Getafe, though they comfortably defeated Ferencvaros in the Champions League in midweek.
Meanwhile, off the field drama continues to plague the Catalonians.
Los Blancos desperately need to recover some form after two defeats on the spin. Zinedine Zidane’s injury-hit side fell to a shock 1-0 defeat at home to newly promoted Cadiz on Saturday, and then followed this up with a 3-2 loss to a depleted Shakhtar Donetsk in their Champions League opener.
The performances have been so bad there is even talk that Zidane is under pressure at the Bernabeu, with the Mauricio Pochettino waiting in the wings.
Dodgy form and off-field issues aside, this is still the biggest league fixture in club football and anything can happen. Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s clash…
When is Kick Off? Saturday 24th October
What Time is Kick Off? 15:00 (BST)
Where is it Being Played? Camp Nou
TV Channel/Live Stream? Premier Sports (UK), FuboTV (US)
Referee? Juan Martinez Munera
Spanish left-back Jordi Alba is still a doubt with a hamstring problem. However, Junior Firpo featured against Ferencvaros, so should be available to start and this could allow new recruit Sergino Dest to play in his favoured right-back position.
Antoine Griezmann and Sergio Busquets were both rested in mid-week, and should come back into the starting XI. Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Samuel Umtiti both remain out of contention.
As for the visitors, captain Sergio Ramos is expected to return to the side after missing the defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk with a knock. Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola are both doubts, so it will likely be up to Nacho Fernandez to fill in at right-back again.
Mariano Diaz, who was an unlikely scorer the last time the two sides met, is doubtful, while Eden Hazard and Martin Odegaard are both sidelined through injury.
Barcelona: Neto; Dest, Pique, Lenglet, Firpo; Busquets, De Jong, Coutinho; Griezmann, Messi, Fati
Real Madrid: Courtois; Nacho, Ramos, Varane, F Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius
La Blaugrana have had a mixed time of late. After flying out of the traps with emphatic wins against Villarreal and Celta Vigo, the Catalan giants have picked up just one point in their last two league outings. The triumph over Ferencvaros will have reignited some confidence at the Camp Nou but their have been some signs of frustration at the start of the new Koeman era.
Star man Lionel Messi has been going through an uncharacteristic dry spell in front of goal. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner is yet to score from open play this season in all competitions.
Last season’s champions are also yet to hit their stride. They began by picking up ten points in their opening four games, but never looked at their best. This was then followed up by a couple of poor results against Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Karim Benzema is also struggling in front of goal. The former Lyon man has been limited to just one goal so far this season – an injury time strike against Levante.
Here is how both sides have fared in their last five outings.
Barcelona 5-1 Ferencvaros (20/10)
Getafe 1-0 Barcelona (17/10)
Barcelona 1-1 Sevilla (4/10)
Celta Vigo 0-3 Barcelona (1/10)
Barcelona 4-0 Villarreal (27/9)
Real Madrid 2-3 Shakhtar Donetsk (21/10)
Real Madrid 0-1 Cadiz (17/10)
Levante 0-2 Real Madrid (4/10)
Real Madrid 1-0 Real Vallodolid (30/9)
Real Betis 2-3 Real Madrid (26/9)
When the two sides last met, Real Madrid came out on top thanks to goals by Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz at the Bernabeu. Last season’s clash at the Camp Nou produced the first goalless draw in the Clásico since way back in 2002.
With neither side looking at their best in recent times, it’s a difficult one to call. Barcelona have ranged from scintillating to clueless this term, while Real Madrid have put in consistently average performances.
It could all depend on whether the hosts turn up or not. If Barcelona can reproduce the performances against Villarreal and Celta Vigo, then they should have too much for their opponents. However, a repeat of the drab showing against Getafe will inevitably lead to another poor result.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid