The biggest game of Barcelona’s season is here. The leaders of La Liga take on their biggest rivals Real Madrid in the latest edition of El Clásico, and Barça can increase their lead at the top of the table to 12 points with a win and take a gigantic step towards their first league title since 2019.
The Catalans enjoyed a full week of rest and preparation for this one and are looking to go into the international break in high spirits while Los Blancos try to give themselves a real shot at the title if they can win at Camp Nou and cut the gap to just six points with 12 matches to go after Sunday’s high-profile battle.
Remarkably this will be Xavi Hernández’s first Clásico at Camp Nou, and here’s how we think the boss will line up his troops for battle this weekend.
The seven days of rest and training after the trip to Bilbao are very much welcome for a Barça side still recovering from a very busy run of games over the last six weeks, and they’re also getting crucial pieces back for the biggest game of the season.
There’s some major help at the back as Ronald Araujo is back from suspension and will move to right-back for a direct matchup against Vinicius Junior, which the Uruguayan has dominated in the last several games. There should be no surprises in the rest of the backline with Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Alejandro Balde reuniting the “BACK” quartet to take on the league’s best attack.
There was serious optimism about the return of Pedri for this one, but the Spanish magician suffered a setback during Friday’s training session that leaves his status very much in doubt. The most pessimistic reports claim Pedri could miss the next month, which is terrible news at the worst time.
With his most creative weapon likely ruled out for Sunday, Xavi will once again turn to the four-midfielder system with Franck Kessie in Pedri’s place, Frenkie De Jong and Sergio Busquets in the middle of the park and Gavi on the left wing.
Ousmane Dembélé continues to recover slowly from his injury, and like Pedri could have his return delayed to be back at 100% next month. The Frenchman’s skill and speed have been sorely missed since his injury, and his absence is a big reason for Barça’s offensive struggles the last month.
With Dembélé missing and Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati out of form, only two options remain to complete the front three for this one: Raphinha on the right wing looking to continue his scoring run, and Robert Lewandowski up front in desperate need of bouncing back from a poor performance in Bilbao.