Saturday, July 20, 2024

Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: El Clasico gets first look at Jude Bellingham, Robert Lewandowski returns, and more

With UEFA Champions League wins on the board for both Barcelona and Real Madrid this midweek, attention now turns to Saturday and El Clasico in La Liga. These two giants meet at Estadio Olimpico Lluis Companys to renew their rivalry this weekend with Carlo Ancelotti’s men one point clear of Xavi’s side near the Spanish topflight summit.

Girona are the unlikely side enjoying an excellent start to the season and sitting above Los Blancos and the Blaugrana after a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo on Friday, that gives them 28 points, while Real Madrid and Barcelona enter with 25 and 24 points respectively. As with all Clasico matchups, there is no shortage of intriguing storylines to keep an eye on as this one plays out. Jude Bellingham, Madrid’s breakout star gets his first taste of the rivalry, Barcelona look to remain unbeaten, and Robert Lewandowski, the Blaugrana’s striker returns to the squad after weeks away through injury.

We look at the main points of interest heading into this encounter.

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Jude Bellingham could make El Clasico his own

With 11 goals and three assists across all competitions already this campaign, Jude Bellingham is enjoying an insane start to life with Real. The England international is still only 20 yet has not only become integral to the Spanish giants’ plans but he has also established himself as the talisman of this Merengues side.

Bellingham has already lifted it onto his impressively mature shoulders multiple times this term already and it is not even November. This weekend will be the Stourbridge-born talent’s first taste of competitive Clasico action and the chances are that we could witness the Englishman take his first step in stamping his mark on arguably the biggest club rivalry in European soccer.

Big Champions League nights have not fazed Bellingham who already had plenty of experience from his Borussia Dortmund days and he has netted in each of Real’s games against Union Berlin, SSC Napoli and SC Braga. In fact, the only thing that you could argue that Bellingham is missing for now in Madrid is domestic games of the same caliber as those big European nights.

Atletico Madrid in the Derbi Madrileno was arguably this biggest disappointment of Real’s season so far and it is the biggest setback of Bellingham’s individual and collective experience of La Liga to date. Sevilla was another example illustrating the difference between the Spanish clubs playing continental soccer and those not so he will be keen to stamp his mark on this and make a lasting impression on both sets of fans.

Unbeaten Barcelona cannot let Real go clear

The obvious impact of this game is that it could change the leadership situation in La Liga with Real currently one point and two positions better off than Barca in the Spanish topflight. A win for Xavi’s men could change that and the Catalans cannot afford to lose at home if they want to stay in touch with their bitter rivals and surprise package Girona.

A draw at least keeps Barcelona within a point of Real although it does open the door to their neighbors taking an unexpected lead at the top of La Liga. The possibility of putting daylight between themselves and the Blaugrana will appeal to Ancelotti and his Real players who could make life easier for themselves with a big performance and result to create a four-point advantage.

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No Camp Nou atmosphere favors Real

Contributing towards a different feeling Clasico will be the fact that Barcelona will not be at their Camp Nou home due to renovation work. Instead, the smaller Estadio Olimpico Lluis Companys will host the game and therefore dilute the atmosphere given that Barca and Real both habitually play in front of crowds nearly double the size of the temporary venue’s capacity.

A small crowd could make the atmosphere more hostile and potentially favor Xavi and his players on the home side although it is equally less daunting for the visiting Real side to produce an efficient performance to obtain the result that they need. Either way, it will not quite be the same spectacle that we are used to given its temporary delocalization.

Barca’s Robert Lewandowski could return

A possible game change for Barca might be the return of star striker Robert Lewandowski who has been out injured for the past few weeks. The Poland international hotshot not only brings a clinical eye in front of goal with six strikes and four assists across all competitions so far but also his vast experience which will be crucial for what is a very young Barcelona team at present.

Ferran Torres and Fermin Lopez did the business against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League this midweek and no other player has matched Lewandowski’s goal contributions since his injury so the former Bayern Munich man returning is arguably Barca’s best hope of getting the win. Frenkie de Jong and Raphinha could also return which would be a huge boost for Xavi ahead of a Clasico that he knows could prove pivotal in the title race.

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Saturday, Oct. 28 | Time: 10:15 a.m. ET
  • Location: Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys — Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
  • TV/Live stream: ESPN+ | Live stream: fubo
  • Odds: Barca +150; Draw: +260; Real +163

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