Early front-runners host last season’s Champions.
The two biggest domestic clubs in European football meet on Sunday in what is widely considered to be the most fierce derby match in the world.
Barcelona and Madrid are separated by more than 420 miles but the rivalry between Barca and Real has been built-up through years of historical, cultural and footballing differences and it will again be a unique atmosphere inside Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium.
Real Madrid know that a loss would leave them trailing the Catalans by 11 points – a lead that could prove unassailable given the shadow the duo cast over the rest of La Liga.
But Jose Mourinho’s men – and one man in particular – have warmed up for the game in perfect style, beating Deportivo 4-1 last Sunday before beating Ajax by the same score in Holland. Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a hattrick in both games and the Portuguese winger is hoping to become the first man to score in six successive El Clasicos – try telling him that Leo Messi has a better record in these matches!
These matches are often billed as about more than just football and this Sunday that will be the case more than ever. The whole Nou Camp – around 96,000 fans in total – are expected to hold up a card which should display the Catalan nation flag, as the region steps up its fight for independence from the rest of Spain, represented, of course, by the Capital’s largest club: Real.
Current La Liga table:
The Last 5 El Clasicos
29/08/12 - Bernabeu. Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
23/08/12 - Nou Camp. Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid
21/04/12 - Nou Camp. Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
10/12/11 - Bernabeu. Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona
16/04/11 - Bernabeu. Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
Tito Vilanova is facing a massive defensive headache ahead of his first La Liga El Clasico as Barcelona head-coach.
Gerard Pique has joined Carles Puyol on the sidelines, meaning midfield duo Alex Song and Javier Mascerano are likely to line-up in the heart of defence.
Andres Iniesta is expected to recover from a thigh injury in time to start but David Villa is likely to be the bench once again, with the irrepressible Leo Messi leading the line.
Jose Mourinho has no major injury concerns ahead of the trip to Catalonia and the Special One could hand a surprise start to Brazilian Kaka, a player he tried to sell this summer.
Former Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric is expected to miss out but Sergio Ramos will again start, despite persistent rumours of a rift with his manager.
CaughtOffside Predicted Line-ups:
CaughtOffside Prediction: A fiesty 2-2 draw.
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