The most eagerly anticipated game in club football will finally be played for the first time this season on Saturday. Real Madrid host Barcelona in a match that could go a long way to deciding the destiny of the league title, even at this stage of the season, such is the nature of Spain’s La Liga.
The world’s two top players will have a lot of attention on them, as Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to go head to head with Barcelona’s World Cup finalist Lionel Messi. Both have made fantastic starts to the season and will be instrumental in the outcome of the game.
But there is another man who will demand a lot of the limelight as Luis Suarez is set to make his competitive debut for Barcelona. It will be Barca’s first game following the end of Suarez’s ban for biting Italy defender Georgio Chiellini during the summer’s World Cup. However, it is an interesting situation as Luis Enrique must decide whether to start Suarez in what will arguably be the toughest test of the Catalan giants’ season.
Barcelona are unbeaten after eight games, with seven wins and a draw to their name. They have also not conceded a single goal in the league this season, which leaves Enrique with several big decisions. Should he choose to keep the same side that has served him so well this season, Suarez – and probably Gerard Pique – will be two major names that don’t make the starting line up.
Real go in to the game already four points behind Barcelona despite Ronaldo’s record breaking tally of 15 goals in seven games this season. They now face a Barcelona side boasting Lionel Messi in brilliant form, and the Argentine could surpass Telmo Zarra’s tally of 251 league goals – a figure that has stood for nearly 60 seasons – at the Bernabeu. There would be no better place to achieve the record, but he and the rest of the Barcelona squad will be focused entirely on beating their arch-rivals.
Both sides go into the game on the back of scoring three goals in their respective Champions League matches. Barcelona beat Ajax 3-1 at home whilst Madrid ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Anfield against Liverpool.
Barca will know that if they can keep their ninth successive league clean sheet they will have a brilliant chance of winning the game.
Both sides are fantastic going forward, but Real Madrid will have to do without Welsh winger Gareth Bale. However, they still have the likes of Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez and Isco to assist Cristiano Ronaldo and will fancy their chances of breaking Barca’s defensive barrier.
Madrid have already lost two league games this season, away to Real Sociedad and at home to their City rivals Atletico Madrid, and they will be desperate to avoid a third loss and keep pace with the current leaders.
There is no doubt that the game will be a blockbuster – whatever the outcome – thanks to the sublime talents that will be on display. The hundreds of millions of football fans that will be watching the game will be hoping that there will be as much drama as the 4-3 success Barcelona enjoyed at the Bernabeu last season. Meanwhile, Luis Enrique – who played for both sides – will be hoping to get the better of his opposite number Carlo Ancelotti in his first Clasico as manager.
As always, it is hard to predict what will happen, but we can expect to see plenty of challenges, emotion and skill on display in what should be a fantastic game of football.