El Clasico: Can Barcelona show class to upstage Jude Bellingham-inspired league leaders Real Madrid?

FOOTBALL El Clasico: Can Barcelona show class to upstage Jude Bellingham-inspired league leaders Real Madrid?

Mark Kinyanjui 11:30 - 28.10.2023

Can the defending La Liga champions avenge their heavy 4-0 loss to Real Madrid last season by outclassing them at home?

Barcelona will be locking horns for the umpteenth time with sworn rivals Real Madrid at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys on Saturday afternoon as the La Liga champions aim to tame the league leaders in a high-stakes clash.

The Catalans, who remain unbeaten in all competitions this term, are third in the table, picking up 24 points from their opening 10 matches of the campaign, while Real Madrid are top on 25 points.

The Xavi-coached outfit comfortably the best side in La Liga last season, becoming champions with four matches to spare, ultimately finishing 10 points ahead of second-placed Real Madrid, but it does appear that this campaign will be a lot tighter at the summit.

However, their start to the season has been rather indifferent, being held to draws by Getafe, Mallorca and Granada, but they have won their other seven games to collect 24 points, which has left them third, one point behind both second-placed Girona and leaders Real Madrid after 10 matches.

Barcelona needed a monumental goal for 17-year-old debutant Marc Guiu to beat Athletic Bilbao last week, before emerging 2-1 winners over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Xavi has thus far been unable to guide Barcelona into the knockout round of the Champions League, but the La Liga champions are top of Group H on nine points and in a brilliant position to advance to the next stage.

Barcelona have been victorious in two of their last three league games against Real Madrid, including a 2-1 victory in the corresponding fixture last season, although this match is not at Camp Nou due to the renovation work that is being completed, which could level the playing field in that sense.

In all competitions, the Catalan side have won four of their last six meetings with Real Madrid, and although the title will not be won or lost on Saturday, securing a positive result in these matches is always important.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, will enter the contest off the back of a 2-1 success over Braga in the Champions League on Tuesday, with the result leaving them top of Group C on nine points.

Carlo Ancelotti's side currently lead La Liga, boasting a record of eight wins, one draw and one defeat, with their loss coming away to Atletico Madrid on September 24, and it was a poor display from the visitors to Wanda Metropolitano.

Real Madrid were also far from their best against Sevilla in the league last weekend but managed to gain a point after falling behind, and the narrow success over Braga in Portugal means that they will enter El Clasico off the back of a win, with confidence high in the camp due to a strong start to the campaign.

Jude Bellingham has been the team's standout player this season, scoring 11 goals and registering three assists in 12 appearances in all competitions, and the 20-year-old will now play his first Clasico of what is expected to be a long and prosperous career in the Spanish capital.

Los Blancos thumped Barcelona 4-0 when the two teams last met in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final back in March, while their last away success over the Catalan side in the league was in October 2021.

Real Madrid actually boast the best defensive record in La Liga this term, only conceding seven times, while Barcelona have shipped 10 goals, but Xavi's side have outscored the capital outfit 22 to 21.

Barcelona will definitely be without the services of three first-team players for this match, with Jules Kounde, Sergi Roberto and Pedri unavailable for selection.

Joao Felix is set to start despite limping off against Shakhtar following a heavy knock, while Raphinha is widely expected to overcome a hamstring problem to be a part of the squad.

There are still question marks over Frenkie de Jong and Robert Lewandowski, but the pair are both expected to train on Friday, as they attempt to recover from ankle problems in time for El Clasico.

Lewandowski is being tipped to start, providing that he comes through Friday's session unscathed, while 16-year-old Lamine Yamal could get the nod on the right, with Ferran Torres expected to drop to the bench.

Real Madrid's injury situation at this stage is clearer, as Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao are definitely out with long-term knee problems, while Dani Ceballos will again miss out due to a muscular issue.

Arda Guler is back in training after recovering from a thigh problem which followed a knee operation, but the Turkey international is unlikely to be considered for selection here.

Eduardo Camavinga is widely expected to be moved into the left-back position for this match, with Toni Kroos then featuring in midfield alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Federico Valverde.

Joselu should recover from an illness in time to make the squad, while Bellingham has confirmed that he will be available despite suffering an injury scare against Braga, and the Englishman should operate behind a front two of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:Ter Stegen; Cancelo, Araujo, Martinez, Balde; Gavi, Romeu, Gundogan; Yamal, Lewandowski, Felix

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:Kepa; Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, Camavinga; Valverde, Tchouameni, Kroos; Bellingham; Rodrygo, Vinicius

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