Almost 100,000 fans in Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium and a worldwide television audience of around 600 million will take their seats on Saturday afternoon to watch the biggest domestic club game in the world as FC Barcelona entertain Real Madrid in what has become known as El Classico.
The first Classico of the season comes at a bad time for Barca who have seen how two consecutive draws in LaLiga have seen them slip to six points behind Real Madrid at the top of the league table.
Last weekend saw Real Sociedad outplay Barca for 90 minutes to raise serious questions about their form and a 1-1 King’s Cup draw away to third tier Hercules on Wednesday did nothing to dispel those doubts.
The good news for Barca coach Luis Enrique is that he will have Andres Iniesta available for the first time in almost two months after the Spain international recovered from a knee injury.
Iniesta can certainly provide the spark Barca have been missing in midfield, but the Barca coach may be reluctant to risk him from the start of what is likely to be a tense and physical game.
Elsewhere Samuel Umtiti proved his fitness in midweek, while Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba have recovered from knocks they picked up in San Sebastian.
Real Madrid have no new injury worries as they prepare for a match which could give them one hand on the league title after just 14 games if they are able to repeat last season’s Camp Nou triumph.
Gareth Bale, who successfully underwent an operation on an ankle injury during the week, will be out until the end of March, while Tony Kroos is also sidelined with a broken bone in his foot.
Madrid boss, Zinedine Zidane’s main issue is whether to start with Isco, who was outstanding two weeks ago as his side won 3-0 away to Atletico Madrid, or Casemiro, who returned after two months out in Wednesday’s King’s Cup game.
Elsewhere Karim Benzema will share an attacking role with Cristiano Ronaldo, who will once again to head to head with Leo Messi: a duel between the two best players in the World, which is fitting for the biggest game in the world.