It will be a star-studded lineup as La Liga table leaders Barcelona take on their most hated rivals in Real Madrid and the storylines are endless.
Even with Leo Messi still out with a knee injury, Barcelona still find themselves at the top of La Liga. The Catalans have 27 points after 13 games and find themselves three points ahead of Real Madrid heading into the Clasico. After a disappointing draw in the first round of the Copa Del Rey around Halloween, Barcelona have reeled off three straight wins with most recently a 3-0 smashing of Villarreal. They also find themselves first in their Champions League group as they seem destined to finish first in the group stage once again. A lot of credit has to be given to both Luis Suarez and Neymar as the duo have picked up the slack with Messi out. The South American duo have gone on a rampage, scoring goals left and right for the club. With Neymar showing the potential of a future world great and Suarez showing the form he had at Liverpool, the Catalans are showing that they are doing just fine without Messi.
While Barcelona have been flying, it has been the same for Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid. Madrid are second in La Liga behind Barcelona and are looking to bounce back after a 2-1 defeat against Sevilla two weeks ago. But they are flying in Champions League play as they lead their group with 10 points. They most recently beat PSG 1-0 in Madrid with Nacho scoring the game-winning goal. With the form that Barcelona are in, Real Madrid will have to break out of their slump to win the Clasico.
The key player for Barcelona will be Neymar. The Brazilian has been on fire ever since Messi went down with injury and has been the workhorse of this team. Credit should be given to Suarez as well, but Neymar has stolen the spotlight at the Camp Nou. He has 11 goals in 10 games and will likely be against Danilo tomorrow, a matchup he should favor. Even if Messi returns, the Brazilian will be key to the Barcelona attack.
The key player for Real Madrid will be their superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. He hasn't been the same Ronaldo we are used to seeing and talks of him declining are rising. But he can put all of that talk away for a while with a win this weekend. Pending on where he plays, he will have to create chances for himself and his teammates. He will likely be matched up against Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano and if they can't stop Ronaldo, expect him to run rampant against Barcelona.
Manager Luis Enrique has said to the Spanish media that he will likely test out Leo Messi a few hours before the Clasico to see if the Argentine is fit to play.
For the first time in a long time, all of Real Madrid's players are fully healthy and Rafa Benitez will have his full squad healthy and he looks to finally implement all of his tactics
What they're saying
"I hope he can be with us - he is fundamental for the team," said Andres Iniesta in a news conference (via ESPNFC) when asked about Messi's readiness for the Clasico.
"Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez is how the Balon d'Or podium should look in January," said former Barcelona striker Hristo Stoichkov to Marca (via ESPNFC).
Messi should be favorite to win, but Neymar and Suarez are certainly worthy of consideration.