Though neither Barcelona or Real Madrid have enjoyed a vintage start to the 2018/19 La Liga season, that won’t impact on the first El Clasico of the campaign.

No matter the narrative, when the Blaugrana play Los Blancos it’s the fixture of the year in Spain.

When Barcelona won at the Santiago Bernabéu last season, it all but ended Real’s hopes of retaining the domestic title.

Only bragging rights will be at stake this time, but that’s enough motivation for the likes of Bale, Suarez and Benzema et al.

It’s difficult to know which coach is under the most pressure heading into the fixture.

Ernesto Valverde has rotated his staff relatively heavily this season, taking note of the words of senior players who were unable to give of their best at the back end of 2017/18.

Had the Barcelona players arrived fresher than they were at the business end of last season, there’s every reason to expect they’d have got much closer to the Champions League title that they desperately crave.

Equally, since taking the reins at the Camp Nou, the Basque has rarely lost in the league.

On that basis it seems a little unfair to be talking about a coach under pressure, but such are the demands on Catalonia’s finest.

Moreover, a pragmatic rather than exciting style of play continues to be frowned upon by the locals.

Julen Lopetegui, on the other hand, hasn’t won over Real’s supporters since taking over from Zinedine Zidane.

Whomever came in was inheriting a poisoned chalice, but had the former Spain coach excelled, fingers wouldn’t be being pointed in his direction.

Unable to decide on which goalkeeper he prefers out of Keylor Navas and Thibaut Courtois, not playing Vinicius Junior regularly enough, undecided on two other new signings in Alvaro Odriozola and Mariano Díaz… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A goal drought that’s been amongst their worst and the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo has only compounded Lopetegui’s situation.

But a win in the back yard of their fiercest rival will go some way to repairing the fracture that exists between bench and board.

In Real’s favour is that Barça have the harder Champions League fixture in midweek. Inter will present a stiff challenge and whilst Madrid can rotate against Plzen, Valverde will have to play all of his big guns against the Italians.

Or will all-out attack from the visitors see a brittle Barça back line breached again? Real to win is priced at

As is customary with this game it will be a chess match of epic proportions, and with no real favourite it promises to be one of the more absorbing clashes between the two.

Strap yourselves in!

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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