Madrid are under the command of Carlo Ancelotti, and sit third in La Liga, three points behind league leaders Real Sociedad and one behind second-placed Osasuna. They’re second in Champions League Group D, level on points with leaders Sheriff.
Ronald Koeman is in charge of Barcelona. They’re seventh in La Liga, two points off Sevilla and a Champions League place and five off La Real. In Europe, the Catalan club are third in Champions League Group E, six points off the pace-setters, Bayern Munich, and one behind second-placed Benfica.
El Clasico has undoubtedly lost some of its sheen following the departure from La Liga of Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, two iconic personalities of Spanish football. But there’s still plenty on the line and an intriguing contest awaits.
“It’s good to be afraid, because you cannot go into a match thinking you’re about to face a cat when it’s a lion,” Ancelotti said pre-match in comments carried by Marca. “Fear is something that appears before a game or after a training session, when you think the team isn’t right. It’s something constant. It’s a good feeling. I’m not talking about being terrified – there are things worse in life than losing a game.
“It’s a great rivalry and the quality is very high. The feeling is the same as Milan v Inter or Chelsea v Tottenham. The two teams are changing, but it will always be a great game. We are improving physically, and we don’t yet know how high players like Ansu Fati or Vinicius can go. But we do know this game will always be big.”