For the first, in a long time, El Clásico will feature neither Messi nor Ronaldo. With Ronaldo at Juventus and Messi out injured, the focus now is on two historic rivals and not their two difference-makers.
Real Madrid finally won their first match in about a month, when they defeated Plzen on Tuesday at the Bernabéu. The last time Real have gained a point in LaLiga was in El Derbi Marileño on September 29, where they drew 0-0. They’ve lost their last two league matches since. They are 8th in the league table with 14 points currently.
Barcelona are four points better, tied with Espanyol for 2nd and one point behind current league leaders Atlético Madrid. Barcelona have been through their own struggles, particularly with drawing. They won their last league match against Sevilla, however.
Both clubs will be looking for a win over their bitter rival and the points that can make a difference in a somewhat competitive LaLiga table so far. With Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou, Real will have pressure to get a favorable result from this first edition of El Clásico.
Carvajal remains the lone injury for Real Madrid. There was a scare with Marcelo after the Plzen match, but he is in the announced squad and will likely start.
Barcelona are of course without Lionel Messi, alongside Thomas Vermaelen and Samuel Umtiti.
Courtois; Odriozola, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Asensio, Benzema
Vazquez started at right back against Plzen on Tuesday, but Odriozola should get the start in Carvajal’s absence against Barcelona.
With the BBA likely starting up top, this gives Lopetegui the option of having some good choices off the bench. Ceballos is in the announced squad for Real, we’ll likely see him at some point alongside Mariano and Isco.
Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Rafinha, Coutinho, Suarez
Real Madrid-Barcelona 2-2
Let’s face it, Real absolutely need this win. While a draw is acceptable, especially on the road, a win would get Real right back in the league running and would do wonders for their confidence. It’s a tough task for Los Blancos considering their recent stretch in LaLiga.
With Messi absent, one would think Barcelona are rendered much weaker. However, Barcelona dominated against Inter on Wednesday and looked like they didn’t miss a step without him on the pitch.
El Clásico is always the must-watch matches of the year, this will likely be no different even without Ronaldo and Messi. Real must show why they can still be a top contender when many are doubting the quality of the squad and manager. A win likely gets much more favorable light on the club and on Lopetegui, especially in light of all the sacking rumors.
The best is hoped for, Real must bring their best performance of the season on Sunday and stun Barcelona in front of their fans.