La Liga’s big two have the opportunity to make a statement as they tussle in El Clásico on Saturday. Look ahead with our Barcelona vs Real Madrid prediction and preview.
Real Madrid travel to the unfamiliar confines of Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys to take on familiar foes in Saturday afternoon’s El Clásico, with the top spot in La Liga on the line.
Barcelona sit one point behind Real Madrid in Spain’s top flight and are unbeaten in 10 games this season with seven wins and three draws. Madrid have lost just once, winning eight and drawing the other.
Saturday’s game will be the first ever La Liga Clásico at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, where Barça are playing their home games while Camp Nou is refurbished. As such, it’ll become the third different stadium Barcelona have hosted a Clásico in the league; they lost 2-1 in February 1929 in their debut Clásico at El Corts and were also beaten in February 1958 (2-0) when welcoming their rivals to Camp Nou for the first time.
Hoping to buck the ‘debut’ trend, Barcelona will be looking to summer signing João Félix to provide inspiration in the continued absence of Robert Lewandowski. However, the Portugal international doesn’t boast an impressive record against Los Blancos, playing them eight times without registering a single goal or assist. It’s his second-longest run of consecutive minutes against an opponent (452) without influencing the scoreboard. The only team he has failed to score or assist against for longer is his current side, Barcelona (485).
If João Félix – or anyone, for that matter – is able to lead Barça to success, Xavi Hernández will become only the second Barcelona manager this century to win his first two home games against Real Madrid after Pep Guardiola did so back in 2009. The current Manchester City boss went on to win all three of his first games as hosts to Madrid.
Xavi’s counterpart, Carlo Ancelotti, has not drawn a Clásico in 13 matches, with six victories and seven losses during his time on the bench for Real Madrid. Only Miguel Muñoz has won more Clásicos (16 in 36) than Ancelotti as Los Blancos boss, with the Italian tied with Francisco Bru, Luis Molowny and Zinedine Zidane. His record against Xavi in seven Clásicos is three wins and four defeats.
While both coaches will undoubtedly still have plenty of talent at their disposal, each side has suffered their fair share of injury troubles this season. Madrid lost Thibaut Courtois and Éder Militão to ACL tears, and 18-year-old summer signing Arda Güler is yet to feature due to recurring muscle injuries. Kepa Arrizabalaga was signed from Chelsea to fill in for the Belgian shot-stopper and he has saved 78.6% of shots on target faced in La Liga this term; only Álvaro Vallés (79.1%), Unai Simón (78.7%) and Claudio Bravo (79%) can better this record among goalkeepers with at least 10 saves. In front of him, David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger have generally been solid in the absence of Militão.
Barcelona haven’t had injuries as significant as Real Madrid’s, but their issues have been no less bothersome given they’ve occurred on a larger scale. Jules Koundé, Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, Raphinha and Lewandowski are all out for the Clásico with a variety of injuries. Ronald Araújo is back, however, and should partner Andreas Christensen at centre-back.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid Head-to-Head
Real Madrid won on their last visit to face the Catalans, beating Xavi’s side 4-0 in last season’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg having lost the first 1-0 at home. That second leg was played at Camp Nou, whereas this will be the first meeting between them at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium in La Liga.
It’s by no means the first time Real Madrid will be playing a La Liga game in the stadium, however, as Espanyol called it home between 1997 and 2009. In fact, Madrid lost four of their last six games in Montjuic across all competitions, including the 2004 Copa del Rey final 3-2 against a Real Zaragoza side that included the likes of Gabriel Milito and David Villa.
Barcelona have won four of their last six Clásicos (along with two defeats). Those four wins equal their record in the 14 meetings prior to that. Real Madrid, however, have won three of their last four away games against Barcelona, losing once.
Barcelona are unbeaten in all competitions this season (10 wins, three draws) but that’s not to say they’ve hit top gear either. Since crushing Real Betis (5-0) and Royal Antwerp (5-0) in consecutive games in September, Barcelona have drawn two in La Liga (against Mallorca and Granada) and struggled to slender victories over Celta Vigo, Sevilla, Porto and Athletic Club.
The same happened again on Wednesday at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League, taking a 2-0 lead before conceding and suffering through the last 30 minutes. None of their last five wins have been by more than a goal and they’ve conceded seven times in seven matches. The biggest difference between this season and last is Barça’s defensive record.
In 2022-23, Marc-André ter Stegen conceded just 20 goals in 38 La Liga games (0.52 goals per game). After 10 games this season, they’ve already let in 10 (1.0 per game), meaning they’re on pace to concede 18 more than last term.
Real Madrid haven’t been humming either, but they have Jude Bellingham to paper over some of the cracks left behind by the departure of Karim Benzema. Ancelotti switched to a 4-4-2 diamond to accommodate Bellingham’s rare talent and that move has been justified.
The English attacking midfielder has scored 11 goals in 12 games during his short time in the Spanish capital and is seemingly on a mission to break as many records as he can. His brilliant start has also seen him score in his first three Champions League games, matching Christian Karembeu’s red-hot start to European football back in 1997 as the only player to do so for Madrid.
The next achievement in his sights will be to become the first Real Madrid player to ever score on his La Liga debut (Athletic Bilbao), his Champions League debut (Union Berlin) and his first Clásico.
Madrid’s record of eight wins, a loss and a draw in 10 games looks impressive but they’ve dropped points in two of their last five league games. They most recently beat Braga in the Champions League and got a chance to rest Toni Kroos and Aurélien Tchouaméni, but the latter did come on after the Portuguese side scored in the second half to make Ancelotti’s side sweat for the last half an hour. It finished 2-1 to Madrid.
Barcelona will have a day less to rest and prepare for the Clásico having played on Wednesday evening against Shakhtar. They were able to afford Alejandro Balde and Gavi some respite, however, with that pair likely to play key roles on Saturday.
Opta Power Rankings
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.
Ahead of kick-off on Saturday, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid Prediction
Despite Xavi’s side not hitting top gear this season and suffering from a raft of injuries, the Opta supercomputer gives Barcelona the edge if there is to be a winner on Saturday.
Out of the 10,000 simulations run, Barcelona came out on top in 41.6% of them. They have won their last six home games in La Liga and kept clean sheets in five of those.
The supercomputer gives Real Madrid only a 29.4% chance of prevailing against their Clásico rivals, though their record as the visitors against Barcelona might give them hope.
Almost as likely as a Real Madrid win is a draw, with 29.0% of the 10,000 simulations ending all square. The last time a league game between these two ended level was back when Lionel Messi played in Blaugrana in December 2019, as they fought out a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou.
The supercomputer can see the home side winning the battle here but prefers Real Madrid in the long run. Our season simulations see Real Madrid winning the title back from Barcelona 65.3% of the time, with the latter defending their crown in just 18.4% of scenarios.
Atlético Madrid and Girona are the flies in the ointment at the moment, with Michel’s side sitting second and level on points with Real Madrid (25) and Atlético two points behind Barcelona in fourth on 22 points and with a game in hand.