For the first time since 2007, Lionel Messi will not appear in ‘El Clasico’ – the eagerly anticipated clash is between hated Spanish rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid. The teams will meet in a round 10 La Liga match at the Camp Nou on Sunday, 28 October 2018, kick-off at 17:15 CAT.
Messi’s absence is a body blow for Barca. The Argentine master helped the Catalans to a 4-2 home win over Sevilla on Saturday night – which took them back to the top of the log – but he played less than half an hour of the game, after colliding heavily with Franco Vazquez and suffering a broken right arm.
“Obviously it’s a considerable loss,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde. “We know what he gives us and what we miss when he is not around. We have to deal with it and we will be prepared. It’s clear that we will notice his absence, but we will cope and we have resources, even though we will be facing some very difficult teams.”
Without Messi, Barcelona’s hopes of winning ‘El Clasico’ are certainly reduced, but they still have the talent in their ranks to get one over their arch rivals. Valverde will look to the likes of Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Arthur, Philippe Coutinho and even youngster Munir El Haddadi to raise their game and – temporarily at least – step out of the shadow cast by Messi.
Even with their talisman missing, Barca are still favourites due to Real’s dire recent form. ‘Los Blancos’ brought up a fifth successive match without a win across all competitions when they were beaten 2-1 at home by Levante on Saturday afternoon.
There is speculation that Real manager Julen Lopetegui may not survive the week, but the former Spain boss has played down suggestions that he will be axed before his team head to Barcelona on Sunday.
“I feel more encouraged than ever to continue because the team gave their heart and soul on the pitch,” said Lopetegui after their most recent defeat. He may be putting on a brave face, but a defeat to Barca – which would open a seven-point gap between the teams – would surely signal the end of Lopetegui’s tenure.
In addition, Real will be without one of their rising stars – Vinicius Jr – after he was sent off in a reserve match this past weekend.
In head-to-head terms, the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid dates back over a century. In La Liga, they have clashed 176 times, with ‘Los Blancos’ claiming 72 wins compared to 70 for the ‘Blaugrana’ (plus 34 draws).
Barca took four points off Real in the teams’ La Liga meetings last season: a 3-0 win at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in December 2017 and a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou in May 2018.