The first El Clasico of La Liga this season is fast approaching, with Barcelona hosting Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Sunday afternoon.
It will be a strange scenario in many ways as it’s the first clash between these two sides in many years where neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo will take part.
The latter of course secured a move to Juventus this past summer, while Messi is sidelined after sustaining a fractured arm in the win over Sevilla last weekend.
In turn, coach Ernesto Valverde is handed a selection conundrum as he’ll have to find a way to continue to cope without his talisman, just as his side did in their win over Inter in the Champions League in midweek.
Further, with the pressure piling on Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui given their struggles in recent weeks, it remains to be seen who deals with the tension better.
As far as the likely line-up for the hosts goes, it’s largely as expected in defence and midfield, with Arthur keeping his place after producing a classy performance in the heart of the side in midweek.
However, the key change could come in the attacking third. After scoring against Inter, Rafinha is being tipped to get the nod from Valverde again this weekend, partnering Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho in the attacking trident.
That means Ousmane Dembele could be left on the bench, while summer signing Malcom will be there to join him as he continues to struggle to get a look in.
It’s a solid XI with plenty of experience and quality. Whether or not it’s enough to see off Madrid remains to be seen, but certainly with no Messi available, it will be down to Rafinha and Coutinho to produce the creativity and magic moments in the final third to help find a breakthrough against Sergio Ramos and Co.
Probable Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Rakitic, Arthur; Rafinha, Luis Suárez and Coutinho (via Sport).