El Clasico preview, timing, live streaming: Four key battles that could determine the outcome

Sajith B Warrier

Bengaluru, October 27: For the first time since 2007, arguably the biggest game in club football will not feature either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

With the former injured and the latter departed to Juventus, both Barcelona and Real Madrid will need new heroes to emerge when they meet in El Clasico at Barcelona's home stadium of Camp Nou on Sunday.

The match kicks off at 5.15 pm local time (8.45PM IST).

In the absence of the two super stars, here are four key battles that could determine the outcome of the fixture:

Sergio Ramos vs Luis Suarez

Arguably Spanish football's two most famous pantomime villains, Ramos and Suarez are players whom opposition fans love to hate and there are habitual fireworks when they come up against each other.

In the absence of Messi, Uruguayan forward Suarez will be tasked with providing the finishing touch that his team-mate usually does. Central defender Ramos, heartbeat of this Real team, will be tasked with stopping him.

Gerard Pique vs Karim Benzema

At the other end of the pitch there is a strikingly similar match-up. With Ronaldo gone, French forward Benzema can finally play as a central striker, but has thus far fired mainly blanks.

Pique, who, if Ramos is Mr Real Madrid, is Mr Barcelona, has also made a number of errors that have resulted in his team making a sketchy start to the season. Without the threat of Ronaldo to deal with, the Spaniard will come up against a Benzema determined to make his mark.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen v Thibaut Courtois

With their stalwart central defenders enduring patchy form it is perhaps no surprise that both of these goalkeepers have been busy throughout the opening weeks of the season.

German Ter Stegen has, aside from Messi, arguably been Barca's standout performer, which gives an indication of how overworked he has been.

Courtois, meanwhile, was brought in by Real's club president Florentino Perez to much fanfare this summer after excelling at the World Cup.

Philippe Coutinho vs Gareth Bale

Without Messi and Ronaldo, eyes will be on Barca and Real's club record transfers to make their mark.

Coutinho, who arrived for 142 million pounds in January, took time to adapt to Barca's set up, but is now a key cog in their midfield. In the capital, Bale has yet to show he is the man to fill the Ronaldo void and provide moments of brilliance when his team need it most.

Match kicks off at 8.45PM IST

Live on SONY TEN2/ TEN 2 HD

EL CLASICO TRIVIA

1. For the first time since 2007, the world's greatest rivalry will not witness Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in an El Clasico. Sergio Ramos has been the key constant who has played the El Clasico since then.

2. The first El Clasico of the 2018-19 season of La Liga will be the 238th competitive match overall, with 95 wins for Real Madrid and 93 for Barcelona.

3. The all-time top scorer for El Clasico is, of course, Messi with 26 goals. From the current players, Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez are the only ones on the list and they will get a chance to improve their rankings.

4. The Los Blancos' best victory came in 1943 Copa Del Ray, when they smashed the Catalans 11-1.

5. This El Clasico will be a big face-off between Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric, the golden boys of Croatian football. They have shared a total of eight El Clasico matches, Rakitic securing the top spot with four Barca triumphs.

(With inputs from Agencies).

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