Real Madrid take on Barcelona this evening in the first Clasico fixture of the campaign. Never a game for faint-hearted, tonight’s match will have the extra element of Luis Suarez’ long-awaited debut.
The Uruguayan forward, a one-time target for Los Blancos, joined Los Cules in the summer but was banned for four months after biting an opponent while playing for his country at the World Cup. He debut for the Catalans come just hours after the ban ended.
Los Blancos go into this evening’s match in fine form, having won eight games in a row in all competitions. They are scoring an average of more than three a game in La Liga, and in Cristiano Ronaldo, possess possibly the most in-from player in the world.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have ground to make up though having lost two of the first three league games. They sit four points behind tonight’s visitors, and even though it is still early days in the campaign, a loss, and a seven point gap would be a big ask to close, even at this stage.
Barcelona come into the game unbeaten in the league, and yet to concede a goal. With Suarez set to make his debut, and Leo Messi looking for the two goals that would see him become the league’s all time top scorer, Madrid’s defenders will have their work cut out.
In terms of team news, the big absence for Los Blancos is Gareth Bale. The Welshman sat out the midweek win over Liverpool and hasn’t recovered in time to play Barca, who will have horrible memories of playing him after his stunner in the Copa del Rey final last season. Sergio Ramos is fit again having missed the last two weeks through injury and should replace Raphael Varane in the heart of the defence.
For Barcelona, Pedro will likely drop to the bench to allow Suarez to play, while Xavi is likely to drop to the bench despite a good display against Eibar last weekend. The veteran’s legs have caught up with him and Luis Enrique may feel that Ivan Rakitic is better equipped to deal with Luka Modric and James Rodriguez in midfield.
Probable line-ups:Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Rodriguez; Isco, Ronaldo, Benzema
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Matieu, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic; Suarez, Messi, Neymar