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FOTO: ARCHIVE FCB

The countdown has ended. Ten o'clock on Saturday 10 is the moment when yet another passionate clásico kicks into action. Right now, there is probably nothing else in football that quite compares to the thrillers involving the top two teams in La Liga

Confidence boosting experiences

This year, Madrid are three points clear at the top of the table, and have a game in hand as well. Things are very different to the way they were the last three seasons when 6-2 and 2-0 wins and a 1-1 draw practically secured league titles for Pep Guardiola's team. The manager is still unbeaten at the Santiago Bernabéu, having also won 2-0 in the Champions League of 10/11 and drawn 2-2 in the Supercup 11/12.

21 players

Barça rarely slip up on the big occasions under their latest manager. And tonight he has the added bonus of an almost complete squad of 20 first team players. The starting line-up is as much of a mystery as ever, with Cuenca, Dos Santos and Oier from the B side also joining the squad because immediately after the game finishes, they will be jetting off to Japan to play in the Clubs World Cup. Assistant manager Tito Vilanova is also joining them tonight after recovering from his operation, although he will not be flying to Asia.

The biggest veteran of Madrid v Barça derbies is Xavi Hernandez, who is set to make his 600th official appearance for Barcelona tonight.

Mourinho's concerns

As for Madrid, manager José Mourinho has three main issues to sort out before Saturday night. There are doubts regarding the fitness of Arbeloa, the choice of players to form his midfield, and the roles of Higuaín and Benzema in attack. His assistant, Aitor Karanka, told a press conference on Friday that Madrid, who are on a 15-match winning streak, will be playing a 4-3-3 system. The only definite absentee is the injured Ricardo Carvalho.


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