The fixture computer is spoiling us this weekend.
While Man Utd vs Liverpool heads up the action in the Premier League in Sunday’s late kick-off, La Liga serves up an incredible appetiser as Barcelona meet Real Madrid in the first El Clásico of the 2021/22 season.
It’s a reset moment for this fiercest of rivalries, with some of the familiar faces that have defined this rivalry over the last decade notable for their absence this weekend.
Barca and Real Madrid fans will have to adjust to the new reality of a Clásico lacking its two longest-standing protagonists, with Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos set to be taking in all the drama with the rest of us in their plush new Paris boltholes.
With both of the Spanish giants in a state of transition, and neither entirely convincing in the early title chase, it could come down to which players step up to dictate the fine margins at the Nou Camp.
Having started the campaign slightly the stronger, Real are marginal favourites at 31/20 to inflict further pressure on Ronald Koeman as they travel to Catalunya, while Barca are a 9/5 chance to ease some of the pressure on the Dutchman.
📺 What time is El Clásico and where can I watch it? 📺
Barcelona and Real Madrid trade blows in the league on Sunday afternoon at 3:15pm, with live coverage on Premier Sports 1 and LaLiga TV.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid Predictions & Tips
Real Madrid have started the season in the mould of their returning manager Carlo Ancelotti – quiet and unfussy in their manner of going about their business, whilst appearing a little too unhurried at times.
The Italian suffered a few slight bumps in the road prior to the most recent international break with defeat to Sheriff in the Champions League and a shock loss at recently promoted Espanyol.
However, a thumping midweek win in Shakhtar should ensure his players have shaken that recent malaise out their system as they travel to the home of their great rivals.
The avuncular Ancelotti has enjoyed some early success in changing the mindset of some of the stars in the notoriously ego-fuelled Real dressing room.
Vinicius Jr. looks to finally be fulfilling his potential having already made his best goalscoring contribution to a Primera campaign since arriving in 2018, while Karim Benzema is showing no signs of slowing down in front of goal as he enters his second decade with the club.
The Frenchman is so far averaging a goal every game, netting the fifth goal in Real’s 5-0 thumping of Shakhtar in midweek despite his recent legal concerns.
Ronald Koeman will be hoping what could be a make-or-break fixture in his underwhelming reign ends with the hosts finally coming out on top in this fixture for the first time in five attempts.
Chastening defeats against Bayern, Atlético and Benfica so far this campaign are indicative of just how far Barca have fallen from their 2010s pomp.
Another damaging result here would add to the sense club legend Koeman is the wrong man to guide Barca through one of the most turbulent spells in their history, although the Dutchman has plenty of mitigating factors to point to in his defence of his side’s ropey start to the 2021/22 campaign.
If losing Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann last summer wasn’t enough, the former Everton manager has also had to contend with a crippling injury list that has left him unable to call on the services of Pedri, Kun Agüero, Ousmane Dembélé and Martin Braithwaite up top in recent weeks. That leaves his fellow countryman Memphis Depay as his most recognisable attacking outlet.
Agüero could play some role in Sunday’s El Clásico as he continues to build up match fitness following a calf injury.
El Clásico Betting Predictions
Will Barcelona go for broke as they look to get their 2021/22 campaign finally up and running… or will Real be relentless in their quest to land a fourth league win in a row over their great rivals?
Here are our top four Barcelona vs Real Madrid betting tips…
Both teams to score @ 53/100 – neither set of defences are in great shape so far this Spanish Primera campaign, with Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Atlético Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal all posting better defensive records than the league’s traditional big two.Goal between 75-90 minutes @ 77/100 – could Real leave their hosts reeling on Sunday? Late drama has been a running theme since Carlo Ancelotti’s return to the club, with Real snatching goals in the closing stages against Levante, Celta and Valencia.Barca to score in the first half @ 47/50 – Real have been slow starters at times this campaign, conceding in the first half in three of their last five games. Building some early momentum could be Barca’s best hope of a morale-boosting win here.Real Madrid and over 3.5 goals @ 95/20 – while derby days can often be cagey affairs in the Premier League, that’s rarely been the case in El Clásico. Eight of the last 10 meetings in all competitions have seen two goals or more scored, with only two 0-0 draws in league meetings since the turn of the millennium.
Our prediction: BARCELONA 1-3 REAL MADRID
Odds correct at time of writing but subject to change.