It’s been a half-dozen years since an El Clasico didn’t feature La Liga’s reigning champions, and neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona is atop the table heading into Sunday’s meeting at the Nou Camp.
The Clasico rivals hold matches-in-hand on the field, but Real is three points off first-place Real Sociedad and Barca five back leading up to the match.
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona want to make Atletico Madrid’s table triumph a one-season blip, but both are averaging a goal or more conceded per game this season and are relying on their attacks.
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Barca will be tasked with harnessing Karim Benzema, whose nine goals and seven assists lead La Liga this season. Vinicius Junior’s five goals leave him third in the league and he is also the league’s leading dribbler.
That’s a category that sees USMNT wide man Sergino Dest just three off the top with 22, but Barcelona’s season is about youth… and Frenkie de Jong. Ansu Fati is back from injury and joins Pedri as the future and present of the tea, whose current leading producer is Memphis Depay.
That’s because Lionel Messi’s no longer at the Camp Nou — Should we have said spoiler alert? Doubt it — and Ronald Koeman is trying to figure out his best recipe for success with his job constantly in doubt.
So El Clasico’s all-time leading scorer is in Paris, as Messi’s 26 Clasico goals is eight more than Alfredo Di Stefano and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But this one may be won in the midfield, where De Jong and Sergio Busquets see likely to engage with the fabulous Toni Kroos and Casemiro.
It’s the first of several Clasicos of 2021-22, with the Spanish Super Cup semifinal pitting the pair in January. Who will draw first blood?
El Clasico lineups
Barcelona team news, lineup
Real Madrid team news, lineup
El Clasico: Barcelona vs Real Madrid how to watch, live stream link
Kickoff: 10:15am ET Sunday
How to watch, live stream link: ESPN+
El Clasico odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)
The odds are about as tight as you like, the hosts getting a slim edge presumably based on home field alone. Barcelona pays out +170 for a win, Real Madrid +140, and a draw +260.
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El Clasico prediction
Real Madrid has won three-straight against Barcelona and is unbeaten in four, still four off the derby record. It does seem likely to grow to five, though no one should sleep on many players getting the full Clasico stadium vibe for the first time in ages. Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid.
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El Clasico, live! Barcelona vs Real Madrid prediction, how to watch originally appeared on NBCSports.com