The first El Clasico of 2020-21 takes place this weekend.
Club football’s greatest rivalry and spectacle, only this time with a difference; this is the first ever meeting between Barcelona and Real Madrid that will be played with no fans in the stadium.
That could be a great leveller, for if there were 99,000 Barca fans inside Camp Nou as normal, the hosts would almost certainly hold the advantage.
As it is, the Catalans go into the match three points behind their visitors, and looking to not only draw level on points, but also to draw level on league wins – Real currently have 73 to Barca’s 72, whilst they’re dead level on 96 wins each in all competitions.
Let’s take a look at three things that could decide the outcome of Saturday afternoon’s match.
Lionel Messi is due a goal
When was the last time that Leo Messi was trailing in the La Liga top scoring stakes?! The Argentinian is definitely due a goal in this campaign.
Moreover, in this particular fixture, he’s not found the net in 425 minutes – that’s 15 minutes shy of five full games.
In that time he’s had 16 shots of which six were on target, but none have helped him add to his all-time El Clasico tally of 26, in itself a record.
Expect to see Leo with the bit between his teeth in this one.
Dest vs Vinicius
One of the fiercest battles of the day is likely to come down Barcelona’s right side.
With Jordi Alba passed fit for this one, it gives Ronald Koeman the opportunity to play his first choice defence for the first time this season.
New signing, Sergino Dest, has looked excellent as cover for Alba, but in this one he’ll revert back to his usual right-back slot where he’ll face an in-form Vinicius.
The Brazilian is Real’s top scorer this season, and as we’ve seen many times previously, he does like to take his marker on.
How Dest deals with his forays deep into Barca territory could well author the outcome of this match.
A tale of two keepers
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been ruled out for this match meaning that Neto continues his stint between the posts for Barca.
An accomplished keeper in his own right, Neto is, nonetheless, error-prone, and he needs to be at it from the first whistle against the likes of Vinicius and Karim Benzema.
By contrast, Real’s defence looks shot to pieces, but they do at least have the knowledge of one of the world’s best keepers in Thibaut Courtois behind them.
He won’t always be able to save them, as has already been proved this season, but he’ll make a damn good go of doing so.
Barcelona face Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on Saturday 24 October 2020 at 15:00 GMT.