We are fortunate enough to be treated to another El Clasico tonight and although it may not have the intensity of a La Liga clash, Barcelona and Real Madrid will not be taking this any lighter as the first silverware of the Spanish season will be up for grabs.
No trophy will be lifted tonight as it is only the first leg but both teams will be looking to put a firm grip on proceedings before Wednesday’s return leg at The Bernabeu. Not only that but Real Madrid will be looking to already win their second trophy of the season.
That is because they have already lifted silverware thanks to their European Super Cup win over Manchester United in Skopje. That game on Tuesday night saw them run out 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Brazilian Casemiro and Spanish starlet Isco.
Isco has just reportedly signed a new contract with the Champions League holders which carries a buy out clause of £700m. That perhaps is not a topic that should be mentioned in Catalan quarters right now after the departure of Neymar for a world record £198m.
A buyout clause is only meant to act as a deterrent to any potential suitors but unfortunately for Barcelona it was not enough to ward off PSG with the Qatar backed finances. It may have been a drawn out saga but tonight will show if live does go on at the Nou Camp after Neymar’s departure.
Barcelona have added Nelson Semedo from Benfica at right back and there is also the return of Gerard Deloufeu after a somewhat prolonged European tour which has taken in such sights as Goodison Park with Everton and the San Siro with A.C. Milan.
La Liga winners Real Madrid have had a relatively quiet window in comparison with left back Theo Hernandez making the move across the Spanish capital from Atletico while they have also signed Dani Cabellos from Betis after his impressive showing in the European Under 21 Championships this summer.
Barcelona also have a new manager at the helm with Ernesto Valverde in the Nou Camp hotseat for the first time in a competitive fixture, the takes over the mantle from Luis Enrique who departed at the end of last season after winning the Copa Del Rey in his final act.
Real Madrid’s manager Zinedine Zidane has just signed a new contract as a reward for this trophy haul from the past two seasons and he will be looking to celebrate the fact that he has put pen to paper on a new deal by masterminding success this evening.
Barcelona are still in something of a state of flux after the departure of Neymar especially as they still look to find something resembling a replacement. Deloufeu will more than likely be the person given the task to fill the void out wide later tonight.
As for Real Madrid they have the supreme luxury of being able to call upon Cristiano Ronaldo after he was rested on Tuesday. That is a pretty ominous sign for Barcelona as Real were exceptional on Tuesday even without the Portuguese icon.
I think his return will make Real the favourites going into this game even though they are away from home. Barcelona undoubtedly will have a point to prove but they are unquestionably weakened without Neymar. I reckon this will be first blood to Real as they put themselves in the driving seat. An away win for me.