Real Madrid - Barcelona preview: Suárez in line for Clásico debut
Real Madrid vs Barcelona preview: Suarez in line for Clasico debut

Real Madrid will play host to Barcelona at the Bernabeu this Saturday with Luis Suárez in line to make his long-awaited Barça debut. The visitors will go into the match four points ahead of Madrid in the fledgling La Liga table but Madrid will likely kick off as slight favourites thanks to a recent turnaround in form which has seen them score 13 goals in their last three games in all competitions.

With this game being billed as the biggest and most star-studded Clásico since the end of the Galactico era, at least one big name is likely to miss out through injury. Gareth Bale did not feature in Madrid's 3-0 stroll past Liverpool in midweek because of a gluteal injury picked up on international duty with Wales, and he is unlikely to return for this match; at least not in the starting eleven. That is likely to mean another chance for 22-year-old Spaniard Isco, who has found his route to the first team blocked by the arrival of World Cup wonder James Rodriguez at the start of this season.

Carlo Ancelotti is also monitoring the fitness of Sergio Ramos, another absentee from Madrid's trip to Merseyside in the Champions League. Should he fail to recover from his calf problem in time for this encounter, Pepe will continue at the back alongside Raphael Varane.

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique is experiencing his first Clasico as manager, and he has been blessed with close to a full bill of health with no new injury worries to contend with. Enrique's biggest selection headache is likely to be that of whether or not to include Suárez, who has reached the end of his lengthy ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, in his starting eleven. If he does, it will be the first time that Barça's electrifying attacking triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suárez have played together and Messi has said he is excited by the prospect.

"We are excited for Luis to play because he will add his strength to the team,' said Messi. "I'm happy for him because he has spent a long time off the pitch." Messi is the all-time leading goalscorer in Clasicos with 21 strikes against Los Merengues, and he could further etch his name into the history books on Saturday - he is just one goal behind Athletic Club's legendary striker Telmo Zarra's record of 251 in the Spanish top flight. The record has stood for more than half a century but Messi's form against his biggest rivals suggests that history could be made once more.

However, it is the goalscoring form of Cristiano Ronaldo which has grabbed the headlines so far this season. He has chalked up an astonishing 15 goals in seven league appearances and has insisted that the game on Saturday is Real Madrid - Barcelona, not Ronaldo - Messi. 

"It will be a difficult match because Barcelona are playing well," he said. "I'm not going to play against Messi, I'm going to play against Barcelona. They are a great team. Real Madrid and Barcelona are playing each other."

Real Madrid started the season poorly with defeats against Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad but they have turned it around in recent weeks and look to be in unstoppable form. They have scored four or more goals on six occasions already, including five-goal salvos in both of their last two games in the league - though they have conceded more than any other side in Spain's current top six.

In contrast, Barça have led the division from the off and, thanks to the work of a new-look defence and Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, they are still yet to concede a goal in domestic football. Neymar and Messi top the goalscoring charts as expected but a welcome bonus is the fact that the pair have assisted a good number of each other's goals; Enrique will hope that the addition of Suarez will improve their partnership further rather than upset the balance.

Barça won both encounters in the league last season, with a hat-trick from Messi proving the difference in a thrilling 4-3 away victory last time out. In fact, Madrid have had a torrid time against their eternal rivals in recent years - out of the last twelve encounters in the league, Madrid have notched just two victories compared to Barça's eight though this weekend's home side do have the better overall record with 70 wins and 66 losses.

With countless millions of pounds worth of playing talent on display on Saturday, this promises to be a titanic encounter and one which can't afford to be missed. If you can't get yourself in front of a tv screen for one reason or another, we'll have minute-by-minute buildup, commentary and analysis right here on VAVEL - we'll see you then.