Real Madrid will attempt to end a four-match winless run in La Liga when they face off against Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Sunday, hoping to close the four-point gap between them and the league leaders.
Barca sit at the summit of the Spanish top flight and have lost only once this term. Los Blancos, meanwhile, have lost three times in their past four outings and could fall further than seventh unless they can get a results in Catalonia.
Lionel Messi will be absent from the clash after fracturing his arm in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Sevilla, and this will be the first Clasico to feature neither him nor Cristiano Ronaldo since 2007.
Real manager Julen Lopetegui is under great pressure to clinch a first league win since September 22, per the Guardian’s Sid Lowe, and anything but a victory for the visitors could signal the end of his stint at the club.
Real managed to snatch a 2-2 draw from the Blaugrana in their most recent trip to the Camp Nou in May, but they don’t look likely to repeat that feat on Sunday.
Both teams haven’t looked their best in La Liga this term in what’s been a surprisingly open start to the season, as Goal highlighted:
It’s only natural talk in the buildup to this encounter has gravitated towards the fact that it will be without Messi and Ronaldo for the first time in almost 11 years.
Sports writer Daniel Storey Recently put into context just how long it’s been since both Messi and Ronaldo were out of El Clasico:
Ernesto Valverde’s men have lost only once in their past 12 outings and extended their undefeated streak to five matches after beating Inter Milan 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
Valverde seems to have more tactical harmony among his troops than Lopetegui does in Madrid. Tifo Football dissected the strategies of both teams ahead of El Clasico:
Karim Benzema scored his first goal in almost two months when he bagged the opener in Real’s 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday, helping bring an end to their five-match winless streak.
Leading the other side of El Clasico’s front line is Luis Suarez, whose penalty against Sevilla was his first league goal in five matches. The Uruguay international has scored six times in 11 appearances against Real, per Transfermarkt, and shared his memories of El Clasico before Sunday’s showdown:
Barca can cement their spot as early favourites to win La Liga with victory in this season’s first Clasico, while Real chief Lopetegui faces what could be the definitive fixture of his brief tenure.
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