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El Clásico is back. Once the ball starts rolling at 9.00pm in Madrid, but anything from the middle of the day to the middle of the night elsewhere around the planet, the whole world will be watching the latest instalment of the biggest club fixture of them all.
It won’t decide who wins La Liga, but the result will have a huge bearing on the final outcome. If Barça can get another win at Santiago Bernabéu, something that’s become a very pleasant habit of late, they will go five points clear at the top of the table. If Madrid win, they’ll leapfrog the Catalans and go top.
Five in a row?
Last season’s 1-0 win at the Bernabéu, settled by Ivan Rakitic’s 27th goal, was an incredible FOURTH consecutive Liga win away to Madrid in the league, setting a new record not just for Barça but for any team away to the all-whites.
Barça could also set a record of eight league Clásicos without defeat. Or, what is the same, Real Madrid could go their eighth without winning.
Setién’s the man
So Barça are now chasing what would be an even more unprecedented FIVE victories away to Madrid, and with Quique Setién in charge, they have a man who knows how to do it too.
He’s taken teams to the Bernabéu three times before and has yet to lose. His Las Palmas side picked up an impressive draw, while with Betis he went there twice and won both times, without conceding a goal. Some achievement!
All time leaders?
Just a week after topping Real Madrid to become the all-time highest scoring team in Liga history, Barça now have a chance to overtake the merengues in another stat. After 179 meetings in the league, the teams are currently locked on 72 wins each. A win would tip the scales the blaugrana way for the first time ever.
The great news is that Jordi Alba is over his groin injury quicker than expected. Setién was unable to say whether his full back will start the game, but he’s in the squad, as is Gerard Piqué, whose knock against Napoli midweek was no cause for alarm.
Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembélé are both out long-term, while Álex Collado and Ansu Fati have again been drafted in from the reserves.
Madrid have been hit by the news that Eden Hazard could be out until the end of the season, while Rodrygo is suspended.
Last five meetings
8/12/19 (LIGA) Barça 0 Real Madrid 0
02/03/19 (LIGA) Real Madrid 0 Barça 1 (Rakitic)
27/02/19 (COPA) Real Madrid 0 Barça 3 (Suárez 2, OG)
06/02/19 (COPA) Barça 1 (Malcom) Real Madrid 1
28/10/18 (LIGA) Barça 5 (Coutinho, Suárez 3, Vidal) Real Madrid 1
Did you know?
After drawing 0-0 at Camp Nou, Barça now have another chance to score their 400th goal in El Clásico.
Martin Braithwaite could be making his Clásico debut on Sunday, and he’ll be doing at the same place where he played his first Liga game, wearing the shirt of Leganés.
Five Clásicos in league and cup have gone by without Leo Messi scoring a goal. The Argentinian is due one at the ground where he is the league’s top scoring visitor of all time, with eleven.
If he plays, Messi will also set a new record for Clásico appearances in a Barça shirt, 43, one more than the great Xavi Hernández. The outright leader with one game more, assuming he plays, remains Sergio Ramos.
With nine goals in all competitions, Karim Benzema is Madrid’s eighth highest scorer of all time in this fixture. But he hasn’t found the net once in the last seven meetings.
Last five games
UCL: Real Madrid 1-2 Manchester City
Liga: Levante 1-0 Real Madrid
Liga: Real Madrid 2-2 Celta
Liga: Osasuna 1-4 Real Madrid
Copa: Real Madrid 3-4 Real Sociedad
UCL: Napoli 1-1 Barça
Liga: Barça 5-0 Eibar
Liga: Barça 2-1 Getafe
Liga Betis 2-3 Barça
Copa: Athletic 1-0 Barça
Barça manager Quique Setién: "They’re at home and that makes them dangerous. Once the game starts, you forget about everything else. You know you are facing Barcelona or Madrid, but you just think about playing the best you can. Once it starts, it all comes down to the players. All the added tension around the game, it doesn’t really have any influence".
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane: “We’re in a delicate situation because we’ve not won any of our last three games at home. But anyone who knows about football knows that these things can happen. We need to be positive about things … I understand why people are upset, but we need the fans to be behind us and we’ll do everything we can in return.”
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