Better late than never.
Although we’ve had to wait for a few weeks, the first El Clasico of the season is virtually upon us, and it can’t come soon enough for fans and players alike.
There really isn’t a game like it anywhere in the world, and this one could be the most closely fought in the league for years.Barcelona certainly hold the upper hand in recent league fixtures against Real Madrid, but it’s Los Blancos that have been in better form.
As always, a fascinating chess match awaits, so let’s take a look at three things that could decide the outcome.
There have been some huge names over the years that have influenced results in this most epic of club fixtures, but none more so than Leo Messi.
The most goals and most assists in El Clasico, the Argentinian is always front and centre whether he scores or not.
If he is on song, and Real do normally give him the room in which to play, then Barca can win this one at a canter.
Although the visitors are in better form than they were when they arrived at Camp Nou last season, it’s worth remembering that they went home with their tails between their legs after losing 5-1… and Messi wasn’t even playing!
Barca’s defensive problems
Karim Benzema will be champing at the bit to get at Barcelona’s edgy defence.
This season, more than any other over the last decade, the Catalans have looked brittle at the back.
They are susceptible to pace centrally and down the flanks, and other, less accomplished forward lines have made a mockery of Barca’s centre-back pairings this season.
Ernesto Valverde has to ensure that the back four are well covered by whichever defensive midfielders he chooses, because Los Blancos are back to their free-scoring best and won’t need to be told by Zinedine Zidane to shoot on sight.
Real Madrid’s midfield need no introduction. The names Modric, Kroos and Casemiro roll off of the tongue without a second thought.
They’ve had their issues, but as a threesome, there’s probably no finer in Europe.
Sergio Busquets is beginning to look the veteran he is becoming, and Ivan Rakitic appears to be on his way to anew club, but luckily for Barca, Frenkie De Jong has been a revelation this season and Arturo Vidal is still the wily old marauder he always was.
It’s safe to say that the battle, and consequently the result, will be won and lost in the centre of the park.