The final El Clásico of the decade is upon us, as Barcelona host Real Madrid in an almost identical run of form.

This is one of the tightest title races in recent years, with both teams level on points atop the La Liga table. The Spanish giants have recovered from shaky starts to the season and are now separated by only +2 goal difference.

Indeed, this re-scheduled clash looks to lay down the marker for the title race, however, the race would not be won in this fixture.

Barcelona’s early-season blip in form has seen them lose as many games as they did in the title-wnning 2018/2019 season; while Zinedine Zidane is yet to settle on his strongest line-up, having utilized different players in different systems thus far.

The most-anticipated game of the football calendar means so much to both clubs, with momentum and perspective gained from beating their hated rivals.

Barcelona come into this off the back of a 2-all draw with Real Sociedad, a game where they recorded 46.7% ball possession, the ninth time in Ernesto Valverde’s 141 games as Barça manager that they have recorded less than 50% possession.

Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring for Barcelona at the weekend

 

However, the Blaugrana have a 100% home record and boast 4.28 goals per game at the Nou Camp, conceding nine times this season. Momentum is also on their side after wins over Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund in recent weeks seeing their front trio in good form.

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Luis Suárez has hit a rich vein of form, scoring four and assisting five in his last six games, The Uruguayan has 11 goals and five assists from 15 games against Real. Antoine Griezmann has registered three goals and one assist in his last five appearances. While Lionel Messi has overcome his early-season fitness issues and would look to boost his Clásico record having not scored against Madrid last season.

With league 27 goals between them already this season, The Messi-Suarez-Griezmann link-up is the highest-scoring attacking trio in La Liga.

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Real Madrid, meanwhile, have the joint second-best defensive record this season behind neighbours Atlético Madrid. Despite being winless in the last six Clásicos, the Blancos have Karim Benzema -who is tied with Messi on 12 goals atop the Pichichi standings- in the form of his life.

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The Santiago Bernabéu side won a last-gasp point at Valencia last time out owing to some attacking heroics from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The much-maligned Belgian also made five saves at the Mestalla and knows a big performance against Clásico rivals would turnaround his Madrid fortunes.

Karim Benzema celebrates his late late equalizer at Valencia. (REUTERS)

After a decade of domination and success, Real Madrid and Barcelona are evenly matched this season. With only seven points separating sixth from first, the mid-table sides are getting stronger.

Notwithstanding the advantage gained by whoever wins this Clásico, the destination of the La Liga title might be decided by who loses the least points to the weaker sides.

 

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