Real Madrid head to Barcelona on Wednesday night in what could be a decisive game in the La Liga title race.
With the two sides locked on 35 points at the top of the table, this game has the added spice of being a potential title decider. It could also end up being vital for the futures of both Ernesto Valverde and Zinedine Zidane.
The two sides operate under huge expectations and will be under pressure to deliver both domestically and in Europe but this match will also secure the bragging rights for one set of supporters, making it the highlight of La Liga’s annual fixture list.
Check out our full preview, predictions and possible XIs below.
When is Barcelona vs Real Madrid and where can I watch live?
Competition: La Liga
Venue: Nou Camp, Barcelona
Date: Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Kick-off: 8:00 PM (UK time)
TV coverage (UK): Premier Sports 1
El Clasico last five meetings: Barcelona vs Real Madrid
23 April 2017: Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona (La Liga)
23 December 2017: Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona (La Liga)
02 May 2018: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid (La Liga)
28 October 2018: Barcelona 5-1 Real Madrid (La Liga)
02 March 2019: Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona (La Liga)
Aggregate Score: Barcelona (WWDWW) 14-5 Real Madrid (LLDLL)
Ones to watch
Barcelona: Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is a dominant figure in world football and in this fixture he has been outrageously efficient. In the 41 appearances he has played against Real, Messi has scored 26 times and has also got 14 assists in all competitions.
You know he will always have a say in how important matches turn out but with this one being as vital as it is, don’t be surprised to see Messi turn on the style.
Key stat: Messi has directly contributed to 18 goals in La Liga this season (12 goals and six assists), no player has contributed to more.
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema
The French forward has been reborn this season for Zindane’s side. He is their standout performer, top scorer and top creator.
In fact, they could be out of the title race already if it were not for his clinical edge. The team from the capital have struggled to keep scoring pace with Barcelona this season but Benzema has weighed in with a dozen strikes, 36% of his Madrid’s total league outlay so far.
His late goal against Valencia last time out could prove pivotal at the end of the season.
Key stat: Benzema has scored 12 goals for Real Madrid in La Liga this season, at least nine more than any other Los Blancos player.
The most surprising decision from a Barca perspective is the absence of midfielder Sergio Busquets who, according to assistant Jon Aspiazu, has been left out due to tactical reasons and a “misunderstanding”, contrary to speculation on social media that the Spaniard was “ill”.
“Sergio is fine,” Aspiazu told Spanish television. “He will be on the bench, it was just a misunderstanding with the line-up. Just a technical decision.”
Ivan Rakitic replaces Busquets, while Sergio Roberto also steps into midfield in the absence of Arthur, with Nelson Semedo slotting in at right-back.
Confirmed XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Roberto, De Jong; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Marco Asensio is out and may not play again this season following a knee injury, while Eden Hazard is also unlikely to play again in 2019 following a toe injury. Likewise, James Rodriguez will also be out until at least the new year.
Zidane has made three changes from Sunday’s draw at Valencia, with Ferland Mendy coming in at left-back, Casemiro replacing Luka Modric in midfield and Gareth Bale entrusted ahead of Rodrygo in the forward line.
Predicted XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Casemiro, Valverde, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Isco.
There is a definite trend developing in recent El Clasico encounters that gives Barcelona a strong advantage. They have been dominant for a while over their rivals and will be expecting to continue that trend on Wednesday.
Barca have been scoring more freely than Real in the league this season, hitting 43 goals compared to Madrid’s 33. However, they are fragile at the back and have leaked eight more goals with 20 conceded so far.
It should be another full-blooded encounter and one which could decide the title…. in Barcelona‘s favour.
Scoreline prediction: Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid