Real Madrid vs. Barcelona – Guide to season’s first Clasico

One of the soccer’s largest fits returns as Real Madrid host Barcelona within the 250th aggressive version of the conflict merely referred to as El Clasico this Sunday (Oct. 16, 10:15 a.m. ET).

Sunday’s fit sees either side on best of the LaLiga desk, with Barcelona simply above Real Madrid due to function distinction. Barcelona snapped a six-sport winless streak in opposition to their opponents in an emphatic 4-0 win remaining season, even though Real Madrid would cross on to win their document thirty fifth LaLiga championship.

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona on ESPN+ (Sunday, Oct. 16, 10:15 a.m. ET)

Following an offseason wherein Barcelona spent just about €150 million ($145.6 million) to usher in new gamers, the Catalan aspect has its attractions set on a twenty seventh league identify. Meanwhile, Madrid are eyeing again-to-again crowns for the first time for the reason that 2006-08 campaigns, no longer to point out extending their document Champions League haul to 15 trophies.

ESPN correspondents Sam Marsden and Alex Kirkland destroy down either side and take a look at what to be expecting forward of Sunday’s fit on the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

JUMP TO: Seasons up to now | Star strikers: Benzema or Lewa? | Battle of midfields | Better playmakers? | Injuries and intensity? | Coaches’ nook | Prediction

How has it long past up to now for Real Madrid, Barcelona this season?

Kirkland: Madrid began the marketing campaign as though it have been a unbroken continuation of remaining season’s expectation-busting, double-profitable marketing campaign, with 9 wins out of 9 in all competitions. Their first and best slip-up to date got here in a 1-1 house draw with Osasuna on Oct. 2, however they have bounced again since and likewise saved a first blank sheet of the LaLiga season in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Getafe.

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Summer signing Aurelien Tchouameni has helped enthusiasts fail to remember in regards to the departure of Casemiro to Manchester United, whilst younger stars Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes and Federico Valverde are creating into this crew’s new era of leaders, with the make stronger of previous palms Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.

Marsden: Barcelona are a lot progressed from remaining season — I imply, they must be after spending over €150 million — however they nonetheless seem like a crew in building. Thumping wins were contrasted with struggles to destroy down cussed fighters, and they’re at the cusp of any other disappointing Champions League go out after deficient effects in opposition to Bayern Munich and Internazionale.

The squad is full of high quality, despite the fact that, and with Robert Lewandowski at one finish and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen on the different, they’ve been efficient in each bins. They are the highest scorers (20) in LaLiga after 8 video games and still have the most productive defence, having conceded only one function.

A commute to the Santiago Bernabeu will supply a greater thought of whether or not they are able to compete for the identify this season, in addition to the risk to leap again from Wednesday’s draw with Inter.

Lewandowski or Benzema: Who is the most productive striker in LaLiga?

Marsden: Lewandowski’s affect has been felt off and on the pitch. On it, he’s the highest scorer in LaLiga with 9 targets in 8 video games, 3 greater than any individual else. Off it, he’s a pace-setter. His professionalism, perspective and paintings charge are infectious. Xavi has praised the affect he has had on the more youthful contributors of the squad already.

He could also be 34, however he’s nonetheless a striker on the height of his powers and his transfer to Barca has supplied contemporary motivation. He is most likely to watch Benzema win the Ballon d’Or this yr, a prize he feels he deserved all the way through his time at Bayern Munich. He hopes the highlight that falls on Barca will give him a greater probability at person glory; Barca hope that need will propel them to luck. — Marsden

Kirkland: It’s been a extraordinary get started to the season for Benzema. Just a couple of months in the past, his function-scoring heroics in Madrid’s dramatic Champions League run have been dispelling any final doubts that this was once a participant worthy of Ballon d’Or reputation. Now, an damage-disrupted spell — together with a month at the sidelines with a thigh drawback — way he hasn’t scored since August.

Three LaLiga targets from 5 begins is a modest go back, and Benzema’s neglected penalty in opposition to Osasuna noticed Madrid lose their 100% document. Fortunately, Vinicius and Rodrygo have stepped into the breach. Benzema was once rested on the weekend, and Tuesday’s Champions League 1-1 draw in opposition to Shakhtar Donetsk gave him one remaining probability to to find his shape sooner than the Clasico.

Modric’s midfield mastery or younger dynamos Gavi, Pedri?

Kirkland: Madrid’s midfield, the bedrock in their luck over the last decade, is in any case present process a generational alternate.

The membership made the good move to transfer on Casemiro, 30, for a vital rate, having already signed Tchouameni, 22, as his preemptive successor. Tchouameni has already proven in flashes that he can substitute the Brazilian — or even enhance on his offensive output — however is but to be examined in a sport of this magnitude. Toni Kroos, 32, stays massively influential however isn’t a assured starter.

It’s the veteran Modric, 37, who refuses to be dislodged from Madrid’s perfect XI. The perfect use of Eduardo Camavinga‘s skills has been as a affect replace, whilst Valverde’s consolidation at the proper way the vintage midfield 3 is now successfully a 4-guy set.

Marsden: Gavi and Pedri have established themselves as regulars for Barca and Spain at simply 18 and 19, respectively. No one doubts their high quality or their doable, however they now want to flip that into silverware to be placed on par with their predecessors, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, and the Madrid midfielders they’re going to face on Sunday.

The excellent information: they are each at the proper trail. With Sergio Busquets sat on the base of the midfield, Gavi pops up all over the place. He is so busy, if truth be told, that some other folks on the membership consider he wishes to decelerate just a bit bit to develop into even higher.

As for Pedri, few have proven this kind of good figuring out of the sport at this kind of younger age. He has demonstrated he can keep watch over video games; can he now keep watch over a Clasico?

Playmakers galore: Will Vinicius, Dembele, Valverde shine?

Marsden: Barca want their different attackers to ranking extra to reduce the weight on Lewandowski, whose brace in opposition to Inter may just no longer salvage a win on Wednesday. On paper, their attacking intensity in make stronger of the Polish striker is improbable: Ousmane Dembele, Raphinha, Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres and Memphis Depay. So some distance this season, despite the fact that, they’ve no longer delivered constantly sufficient.

Dembele has been the pick out of the bunch, good every now and then, however he nonetheless wishes to enhance his resolution-making within the ultimate 3rd. He has 4 assists however best two targets. Xavi desires him to ranking extra, despite the fact that to be truthful, the Barca trainer desires everybody to ranking extra.

After Lewandowski, best Dembele, Ansu and Pedri have scored greater than as soon as in league video games this season. They every have two. That isn’t excellent sufficient after 11 video games, particularly when put next with Madrid, who’ve 4 gamers with 4 or extra targets.

Kirkland: The early spotlight of Madrid’s season has been the way in which Vinicius, Rodrygo and Valverde have helped forge a brand new id for this crew as an immediate, dynamic counterattacking unit. Vinicius is the crew’s best scorer, with seven targets in all competitions, and Rodrygo and Valverde have each chipped in with 4 every.

The best predicament trainer Carlo Ancelotti will face in opposition to Barcelona is whether or not to get started Valverde — whose contemporary contribution has made him just about undroppable — or Rodrygo. The most likely result is for the Brazilian to be held in reserve for later within the sport, given the loss of convincing attacking choices with Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard off form and favour.

Injury issues cloud the Clasico: Who has higher intensity?

Kirkland: Madrid’s Clasico buildup has been hit by means of damage doubts over the 2 gamers they are able to least have enough money to lose: Thibaut Courtois and Benzema. Courtois can be a final-minute resolution as he recovers from a sciatic nerve drawback, whilst Benzema is now anticipated to be to be had, albeit missing fit sharpness. If Courtois does not make it — despite the fact that indications are that his health is trending up — Andriy Lunin‘s loss of giant-sport enjoy could be a big fear.

Elsewhere, Madrid’s squad is robust, with Ancelotti opting for two of 3 elite centre-backs — Eder Militao, David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger — every week, and in a position to name at the likes of Camavinga and Rodrygo if a 2d-part power spice up is needed.

Marsden: Barca’s summer time spending served the twin goal of bettering the beginning lineup and including intensity. That intensity has been driven to the restrict in defence, despite the fact that, the place a spate of accidents compelled Xavi to box 3 left-backs in opposition to Celta Vigo, sooner than a makeshift again 3 may just no longer include Inter..

The losses of Ronald Araujo (Uruguay) and Jules Kounde (France) whilst on world responsibility, possibly Barca’s perfect two defenders, has been an enormous setback. Further accidents to Hector Bellerin and Andreas Christensen have even reopened the door for Gerard Pique to come again in from the chilly.

Further ahead, Frenkie de Jong, Franck Kessie and Memphis have all suffered knocks. De Jong and Kessie are again once more, Memphis isn’t some distance away and there may be an outdoor probability Kounde may just face Madrid, however Barca can be weakened in defence on the Bernabeu.

Ancelotti vs. Xavi: Which trainer can be extra assured?

Marsden: Barca cross into the sport best of LaLiga, however gradual 1-0 wins of their remaining two league video games in opposition to Celta and Mallorca, coupled with damage issues, had already decreased the euphoria that was once starting to bubble sooner than the hot world destroy.

The morale-sapping draw with Inter then additional dented the temper across the membership and Xavi takes his aspect to Madrid at possibly the bottom second of his time accountable for the membership. While the greenback may well be handed for remaining season’s Champions League go out, he’s going to take large duty if, as appears to be like most likely, it occurs once more this time period. Despite that, he’s going to to find causes for optimism. Barca received 4-0 in Madrid remaining season and up to date historical past presentations they frequently revel in their journeys to the capital.

Kirkland: You get the sensation Carlo Ancelotti is rarely anything else however assured. Winning LaLiga and the Champions League was once a wonder, a past due-occupation spotlight and vindication that the 63-yr-previous Italian can nonetheless ship on the best degree. He additionally has proven that, assisted by means of a younger workforce together with son Davide, he is in a position to enlargement and innovation in what is most likely his occupation swan track.

Ancelotti’s Madrid aspect is flexible — they are able to stay the ball, take a seat deep, press prime or play at the counter — and he’s going to need revenge for remaining season’s 4-0 humbling on the Bernabeu, an eyebrow-elevating end result regardless of no longer in the long run that means a lot. He’ll have learnt classes from that sport; particularly that the sick-steered gambit of enjoying Modric as an emergency false 9 is not one to be repeated.

Madrid have to open up somewhat extra at house and, with Barca used to going through groups sitting deep, they are able to benefit from any house afforded to them.

Prediction time: Madrid revenge? Barça run it again?

Kirkland: Neither crew is going into this fit in its perfect shape, and I’d be expecting a miles tighter sport than remaining season’s 4-0. I will see Lewandowski scoring in his first Clasico, and Benzema discovering his scoring boots once more, in a 1-1 draw that units us up properly for the identify race to come.

Marsden: Clasicos do not all the time observe the shape ebook, so I would not take an excessive amount of from Barca’s put up-world destroy struggles. They can be prepared to transfer on from the Inter end result temporarily, even though it may not be simple in opposition to a cast Madrid aspect. With neither crew determined for the 3 issues at this degree of the marketing campaign, I can take a seat at the fence with an entertaining 2-2 draw.

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