Real Madrid and Barcelona do battle this weekend in what is undoubtedly the biggest fixture in the Spanish football calendar; El Clasico.
Even those who pay very little attention to Spanish football often make time to watch this game when it rolls around given the stature of the two teams and the incredible players on show. In England, it may get even more attention than usual with Jude Bellingham in such good form and confirmed as fit to play for Madrid.
Barca are defending champions in La Liga after they beat Madrid relatively easily to the crown last season, but it’s Carlo Ancelotti’s side that lead the way right now with a narrow one-point advantage over Xavi Hernandez’s side.
With the title on their minds, here are three things Madrid must do in this Clasico to show they have what it takes to win La Liga this season at Barca’s expense.
This may sound odd as Bellingham is fit to feature and has been truly wonderful for Real Madrid so far this season. Obviously, they want that to continue throughout the campaign.
He has scored eight of their 21 goals in La Liga so far this season, but that is a problem in itself. In a season where Madrid no longer have Karim Benzema, Los Blancos have not been able to share the goals around enough. There are two players further up the pitch than Bellingham, generally Vinicius Junior and one of Joselu and Rodrygo, but those three players have only combined to have the same number of goals as Bellingham in La Liga.
While any goals from Bellingham in the Clasico are more than welcome, it would be of great comfort to Madrid if they showed they can beat Barcelona with players like Vinicius and Rodrygo both scoring, and for that form in the final third to carry into the rest of the campaign.
This is a game Madrid could do with showing some real unity in. There are a number of players who seem to be getting more and more angry with the positions they are being asked to play, which never bodes well for a title race that will likely go the full distance.
Manager Ancelotti has been asking players like Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga to play out of position and the international break seemingly allowed a group of first-team stars to have a moan about life at the Bernabeu.
Rodrygo has not enjoyed playing as narrow as the 4-3-1-2 formation calls for, while Camavinga does not want to be used at full-back as frequently as he is. Aurelien Tchouameni isn’t fond of the centre-back role he is occasionally asked to fulfil and Luka Modric is unhappy with his lack of minutes as Ancelotti pivots towards a younger midfield.
If they can beat Barcelona and show a real unified front, it might put a lot of these concerns to bed.
It may seem obvious, but there are a number of ways in which winning El Clasico would be really, really beneficial to Real Madrid. Obviously, it would put them four points clear of Barcelona, but it would also mean the Blaugrana lose their status as the only unbeaten team in La Liga this season.
There seems to be so little to separate the two teams on the pitch, so in terms of mentality, it might help Madrid if they can stop Xavi’s side from building up a reputation as an unbeatable team. It might not seem like the biggest issue, but any of these smaller elements can prove key in a title race as close as this one might be.
Special mention for Girona, though, who will end the weekend at the top of La Liga if they beat Celta Vigo and Madrid fail to beat Barca.