One of the most heavily anticipated fixtures in football sees Barcelona welcome Real Madrid to Spotify Camp Nou for the first El Clasico showdown of the 2023/24 campaign.
Two of the dominant forces in the Spanish top flight lock horns in a mouth-watering battle for supremacy that promises an action-packed encounter.
Barca have kicked off their campaign in terrific form, with Xavi Hernandez’s side yet to suffer defeat across all competitions despite battling injury problems at every turn.
Wednesday’s Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk also saw them maintain their 100% start to the group stage with Jules Kounde, Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Raphinha, Sergi Roberto and Frenkie De Jong on the sidelines.
It didn’t help that Joao Felix joined that alarmingly extensive list of high-profile absentees after picking up a knock in the Champions League victory.
Despite their injury problems, the Blaugranas have gone through the opening act of their La Liga title defence unscathed, picking up 24 points from ten games (W7, D3).
Xavi’s side head into the weekend encounter sitting third in the La Liga rankings, just one point behind Madrid, who have also been in terrific form this term – although they cannot boast a spotless record like their Catalan counterparts.
The only defeat Carlo Ancelotti’s side have suffered came against City rivals Atletico Madrid, who ran out 3-1 winners at the Civitas Metropolitan Stadium in last month’s encounter.
Like Barca, Los Blancos also maintained their perfect Champions League Group C record at the expense of Braga, seeing off the Portuguese side in a 2-1 victory courtesy of a match-winner from Jude Bellingham.
Unlike Barca, Madrid do not have a handful of injury problems to worry about, although Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao and Dani Ceballos are expected to miss the high-profile fixture.
After picking up a knock in the midweek victory, Bellingham emerged as a doubt for the Clasico. But the dazzling Englishman has declared himself fit to play a part at the weekend after returning to training.
While a 4-0 beatdown of their eternal rivals paved the way for a Copa del Rey success, Madrid certainly wouldn’t have been too pleased with their Clasico efforts last season.
Ancelotti’s side lost three of the five duels with Barcelona last term, including a defeat that swayed the title race in the Catalans’ favour as well as the Spanish Super Cup.
Madrid will have a score to settle and head into the game as favourites, thanks in large part to the injury crisis that forces Barca to feature without a handful of key players.
Barcelona potential starting line-ups
(4-3-3): Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Joao Cancelo, Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen, Alejandro Balde; Oriol Romeu, Fermin Lopez, Ilkay Gundogan; Lamine Yamal, Robert Lewandowski, Gavi.
Real Madrid potential starting line-ups
(4-3-1-2): Kepa Arrizabalaga; Ferland Mendy, David Alaba, Antonio Rudiger, Dani Carvajal; Aurelien Tchouameni, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde; Jude Bellingham; Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo.
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