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El Clasico, live! Real Madrid – Barcelona, with huge title implications

Real Madrid – Barcelona. El Clasico. Key game in the La Liga title battle. Need we say more?

Given the up-and-down nature of recent seasons for Real Madrid and Barcelona, it’s been a few years since El Clasico packed as much punch and importance as Saturday’s highly anticipated clash in the Spanish capital.

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After 29 of 38 games, it’s Atletico Madrid who lead La Liga’s title race by a single point over Barcelona, with Real Madrid only two more points behind them. In short, any one of the three giants could finish the weekend top of the table — and El Clasico is the fixture at the center of the intrigue.

It’s not only that both sides are alive and well in the title race ahead of Saturday’s colossal clash, but also the fact that form has been fantastic for each. Barcelona are unbeaten in 19 league games (16W-3D-0L) right on the heels of a shockingly poor start to the season (4W-2D-4L in their first 10 games).

Unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi has been the catalyst of the Blaugrana‘s turnaround, chipping in 23 goals and 8 assists in league play as he puts together yet another stellar, if rather quiet, season. No one else has scored more than 8 goals (Antoine Griezmann) and Ousmane Dembele is the only other of Barcelona’s stars to reach 5.

The fact of the matter is that Messi is almost singlehandedly dragging Barcelona to a possible title celebration in what could be his final act for the club. Yes, this could be the final ride in El Clasico for the undisputed greatest player of all time. And, there’s not a single Barcelona fan anywhere in the world who could begrudge Messi choosing to leave given the incredible failure by the institution to properly support his genius as he prepares to turn 34 years old this summer.

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And then there’s Real Madrid, also relying on a 33-year-old superstar to paper over the considerable cracks which have multiplied and widened in recent times. Karim Benzema’s 18 goals and 6 assists aren’t half bad for someone who’s played third fiddle for the entirety of his time at the club.

It’s quite eery just how similarly Real Madrid and Barcelona have traversed their respective campaigns — Benzema is the only Blanco with more than 5 league goals this season, thanks in large part to Eden Hazard’s inability to stay healthy and available for action (396 minutes played in La Liga) and the slower than expected development period still plaguing Vinicius Junior in year no. 3.

Real Madrid were 3-1 winners at the Camp Nou back in October, with neither Messi nor Benzema scoring that day despite both starting. Federico Valverde, Sergio Ramos (penalty kick) and Luka Modric each score to rain all over Ansu Fati’s star turn.

How to watch: Real Madrid – Barcelona – El Clasico, Lineups

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Saturday
Coverage, highlights and analysis: ProSoccerTalk

Follow @AndyEdMLS

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