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Sunday provides the 247th official version of El Clasico, the eternal rivalry concerning LaLiga giants Barcelona and True Madrid (10:15 a.m. ET stream Reside on ESPN+). Although it’s nonetheless as well early to glimpse at one online games inside the context of the total title race — each individual aspect has 30 league online games after this weekend — it is in no way way too early for these two to land a crucial blow on every single other and set up a minor bit of joy amid a tough start off to the year.

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Will Barcelona get a morale-boosting victory at property, or will Serious Madrid insert even more woe to Ronald Koeman & Co., who are nevertheless processing the exit of Lionel Messi in the offseason? ESPN’s Sam Marsden (Barcelona) and Alex Kirkland (Real Madrid) crack down the video game from a tactical perspective, wanting at their variety, the critical gamers, the crucial battles all over the pitch and the intangibles that could make the variation.

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Marsden: Barcelona have gained back-to-again online games for the to start with time this period heading into the Clasico, but that has not served to lift the mood at Camp Nou. There was apathy all around the stadium, which was only 50 %-comprehensive, on Wednesday as Barca followed up a 3-1 earn towards Valencia by beating Dynamo Kiev 1- to register their to start with factors in the Champions League this year. Some supporters even whistled the gamers as they shut out the video game from Kiev.

The tension all around the club, which peaked during a operate of a single win in six game titles in advance of the international crack, has eased a minimal adhering to president Joan Laporta’s choice to publicly back again mentor Koeman, but the Catalan club are always just 1 defeat absent from another disaster.

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Kirkland: The mood all-around True Madrid was remodeled by their 5- Champions League get at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday. It was in depth, albeit from poor opposition, and a big self-confidence improve forward of Sunday’s blockbuster clash. Prior to that, we would witnessed some untimely euphoria created by significant early wins — beating Celta Vigo 5-2 and Actual Mallorca 6-1 — which swiftly evaporated with three games in a row with out a victory right before the global split. The – attract with Villarreal was suitable, the 2-1 dwelling loss to Sheriff Tiraspol absolutely wasn’t, and the way the staff slumped to a flat 2-1 defeat at Barcelona’s other workforce, Espanyol, was even extra concerning.

It is been a very blended bag, with motives for optimism and other people for pessimism, depending on your choice.

Workforce Information: WHO’S Fit, WHO’S Hurt

Marsden: Ansu Fati’s return to fitness in latest months has taken the stress off Memphis Depay in assault. Just after 10 months out with a knee injuries, he scored on his return off the bench from Levante in September and then all over again in past week’s Valencia earn, in what was his 1st start off due to the fact past November. He returned to the bench versus Kiev, but will be prepared for Madrid.

Elsewhere, Sergio Aguero has arrive on as a substitute in the previous two online games and the striker could have an impact off the bench this weekend. Even so, it seems like the game will arrive as well quickly for Pedri and Ronald Araujo. Pedri has a thigh problem, while Araujo injured his hamstring taking part in for Uruguay final week. Jordi Alba is also a minor question following hurting his foot on Wednesday. Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele are continue to out, as well.

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Kirkland: This week’s large return vs. Shakhtar was that of Ferland Mendy, who manufactured his first physical appearance considering that Could. It means Carlo Ancelotti can ultimately subject an professional, committed left-back soon after alternating concerning Nacho, David Alaba and youngster Miguel Gutierrez so considerably this time. Toni Kroos is back again from a groin personal injury, with 3 games underneath his belt now. He’s a participant you never usually appreciate when he is in the team, but pass up desperately when he is out.

The most sizeable doubt is ideal-again Dani Carvajal, whose modern calf injuries is the most up-to-date in a extensive checklist for him, and he is only just back in comprehensive teaching. Isco and Luka Jovic are out with brief-term challenges, even though Gareth Bale and Dani Ceballos will not be again right up until up coming month. Eden Hazard is an injury doubt as well, but isn’t really he constantly?

HOW Every single Workforce Need to LINE UP

Marsden: Unless of course he decides to swap back to the 3-5-2 development, which has brought loads of criticism at periods for how a great deal it deviates from the club’s philosophy, Koeman is probable to decide the same side that defeat Valencia 3-1 previous Sunday. It would necessarily mean Sergi Roberto at ideal-back again, with Sergino Dest continuing in a large suitable job along with Ansu and Memphis in assault.

The relaxation of the workforce fills itself out: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia, Alba, Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Gavi. Barca will search to have the ball and perform in Madrid’s half, but they are going to have to shield by themselves at the back towards the rate of Vinicius on the crack.

FC Barcelona vs. Serious Madrid — arguably the best rivalry in international soccer — is back again on Sunday, Oct. 24, at 10:15 a.m. ET. Sign up now to stream ElClásico on ESPN+

Kirkland: Ancelotti was categorical this week. “This group has to perform [in a] 4-3-3,” he explained on Monday. “You will find no other way.” He went on to clarify that 4-4-2 experiments this period hadn’t persuaded him: the players weren’t snug, and there was no time to change that at this stage of the year.

Most of the XI picks itself: Thibaut Courtois in goal Alaba and Eder Militao at centre-back again, with Mendy and Nacho at entire-back again the typical midfield of Casemiro, Kroos and Luka Modric and the team’s two most effective gamers this 12 months, Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema. The only question is no matter if Ancelotti opts for Fede Valverde on the ideal or Rodrygo Goes. Valverde, the far more conservative possibility, was on the bench against Shakhtar, when Rodrygo impressed and scored.

Ancelotti instructed that he’d played so perfectly that he’d be complicated to leave out. If the mentor feels Barca are there to be beaten, he’ll go for the Brazilian.


Marsden: Barca’s big danger will come from the still left-hand aspect. Alba was in great type versus Kiev in midweek, setting up the intention, whilst Ansu, positioned in advance of him, has strike the ground working right after practically a 12 months on the sidelines. Memphis, meanwhile, also tends to drift to the left, where he back links nicely with Ansu.

With Carvajal hurt, Barca may possibly see a weak spot on Madrid’s suitable, particularly if Ancelotti goes for Rodrygo over Valverde, which would depart Nacho much more uncovered.

Serious Madrid triumphed in the two conferences with Barcelona previous period, winning 3-1 at the Camp Nou in Oct 2020 and then 2-1 in Madrid in April, 2021. What will Sunday provide? JAVIER SORIANO/AFP through Getty Photos

Kirkland: It really is all about the midfield. If Casemiro, Kroos and Modric get the ideal of Busquets, de Jong and Gavi, Madrid get the get. They are going to require to protect a potentially fragile Madrid backline — Alaba is fantastic, but Militao generally seems to be capable of a blooper beneath tension — though supplying Benzema and Vinicius a system to execute at the other end. Madrid’s midfield are vastly skilled, but haven’t however tipped over into “getting old,” permit by yourself “past it” territory, as Modric continues to defy the passage of time at 36.

Casemiro relishes games like these — expect him to get trapped into Gavi, looking to provoke a response from the hot-headed youngster — and Kroos is overdue a big effectiveness.

Players TO View

Marsden: All eyes have been on Ansu in latest months, but Barca want a big recreation functionality from summer months signing Memphis. The Dutch forward begun the year effectively following arriving on a absolutely free transfer from Lyon, but his performances have dipped considering the fact that. He is scored 4 plans in 11 appearances, but hasn’t netted from open perform considering that Aug. 29, with his previous two ambitions each coming from the penalty spot. Nonetheless, though his figures are not befitting of a Barca ahead, his displays haven’t been all terrible. He’s a participant who doesn’t stop making an attempt and is capable of the chic on his day.

Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and other individuals to carry you the newest highlights and discussion the most important storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).

Barca will appear to get the ball to him in the closing 3rd and, from there, he will run at Madrid’s backline. The early symptoms propose that he and Ansu have a excellent comprehension as well.

Kirkland: Benzema. It can be genuine that the Ballon d’Or PR campaign has been overpowering lately, but it truly is not just discuss. His case is sound: Benzema is now the greatest participant in LaLiga by miles, and one of the best in the world. He’s scored as lots of league targets this season as Barca’s total forward line (Memphis, Ansu, De Jong, Aguero and Braithwaite mixed), and he is the major support supplier in LaLiga, far too. He’s a chief, and the hub around which Madrid’s assault revolves. He’s capable of scoring all kinds of objectives, with additional wide variety to his recreation than at any time prior to.

Peaking at 33, a participant who when seemed to shy absent from the spotlight now seems to be relishing it.




Karim Benzema clarifies why he thinks El Clasico is the most effective match in club soccer.

Marsden: If Koeman sticks with a comparable facet to the one chosen in the very last two video games, the aspect of shock could be supplied by Dest. He has pace, tips and assurance and will, at the incredibly least, give Mendy a thing to feel about. Proper-again may possibly be his prolonged-phrase posture but he’s giving stability on the wing at the instant for Barca, who just require him to discover an close products. He missed two chances in opposition to Kiev but, as lovers of the United States men’s countrywide group know, he’s far more than capable of delivering when it matters.

Kirkland: Vinicius. He’s no top secret weapon — his transformation this time has gotten absolutely everyone conversing — but he is totally a wild card. You never know what he’ll do upcoming he will not know what he’ll do following. But the facet of his recreation that created him a determine of enjoyable in the earlier, the extraordinarily inconsistent ending, has been vastly enhanced.

Tuesday’s brace at Shakhtar was a scenario in position. His 2nd goal set him in accurately the form of situation where he has formerly annoyed, but this time, a slaloming operate through the defence was adopted by an unerring end, alternatively than a mishit shot. The next move will be to continually produce in excess of the study course of a year.


Marsden: Neither group are as fantastic as they had been five decades back, but Madrid have the edge likely into this Clasico. Not only have Barca struggled this year, but they haven’t beaten Madrid or Atletico Madrid in LaLiga given that Koeman took cost. Barca 1-2 Madrid.

Kirkland: El Clasico is the major game that rarely disappoints, with just two – draws this century. There really should be targets in this 1 at both finishes. I’ll go for an entertaining 2-2.