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LaLiga and world football braces itself for the first El Clasico of the season

The first LaLiga El Clasico of the 2020/21 season sees both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid come into the game after suffering surprise defeats last weekend, when the ultra-competitive nature of LaLiga Santander was again shown by deserved victories for Getafe CF and Cadiz CF.

Defending champions Real Madrid remain just a point off the top of the early LaLiga Santander standings after losing 1-0 at home to newly-promoted Cadiz last Saturday, while Barça’s defeat by the same scoreline at a typically rugged Getafe leaves the Catalans a further three points back, down in an unfamiliar ninth position.

Another factor to consider is the staggered start to the 2020/21 campaign meaning that Los Blancos still have one game in hand on current joint leaders Real Sociedad and Villarreal, while Barcelona have played two games fewer at this point.

Zinedine Zidane’s side also picked up some new injury worries on Saturday, with club captain Sergio Ramos leaving the game at half-time with a knee injury which makes him a doubt for this weekend’s game at the Camp Nou. Zidane is already without Eden Hazard and Dani Carvajal for the first ElClasico of the new campaign, but has better fitness news with Eder Militao and Marco Asensio back available again after recent absences.

New Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman also has his selection issues ahead of the game, including left-back Jordi Alba being in a ‘race against the clock’ to be ready for Saturday. Either way new Blaugrana full-back Sergiño Dest looks set to become the first ever USA international to play in El Clasico, having settled very well since arriving from Ajax late in the transfer window. Sure to feature is Barça club captain Lionel Messi, whose 18 goals in 27 LaLiga El Clasicos is an all-time record.

Koeman will be looking forward to his first El Clasico as a manager, having picked up five wins and scored five goals in his 11 LaLiga meetings with Real Madrid during his time as a Barça player. The Dutchman scored a double as the Catalans won his first 3-1 at the Camp Nou in October 1989, and also found the net in the historic 5-0 for Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ in January 1994, although he was on the other end of the same ‘manita’ scoreline the following season at the Santiago Bernabeu.

As a coach Koeman has faced the reigning champions just once: a 3-2 victory at the Bernabeu when in charge of Valencia in March 2008, a game in which Ramos and Marcelo both featured for Los Blancos. Zidane had retired as a player by then but has his own enviable record in ElClasico since becoming a coach.

The Frenchman has lost just two of nine meetings with Barça across his two spells, and his two wins and three draws from five visits to the Camp Nou is the best record of any Real Madrid coach in history in this fixture.

Real Madrid’s 2-0 victory in the most recent LaLiga El Clasico, thanks to goals from Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz, means the Bernabeu outfit have moved just ahead in the all-time head to head record – 73 wins to 72. There have also been 35 draws – the latest of which was a tightly fought 0-0 at the Camp Nou last December. That game was an outlier given the fixture has regularly produced goals in recent seasons, as well as lots of drama, including Barça’s 5-1 home victory in October 2018.

Saturday will see a potential 650 million fans around the world tuning for the eagerly awaited match-up. The staggered start to 2020/21 has made it difficult to judge the teams so far, but a winner on Saturday would immediately become favourite to win this year’s LaLiga Santander title, while a loser would already have a lot of ground to make up.

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