Barcelona’s trip to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday needs little introduction. The La Liga leaders travel to Real Madrid with a four-point lead over their fiercest rivals, and boasting an unbeaten record in the league so far this season.
Adding to the intensity of this already fraught fixture is the prospect that Luis Suarez could make his debut for the Catalan club, following a lengthy ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s World Cup win over Italy way back in June.
But in an attempt to dispel the hype surrounding Saturday’s clash, Barca coach Luis Enrique insisted that the season’s first edition of El Clasico comes too early to be a decisive factor in how the remainder of the league campaign pans out.
And while last season’s runners up have six wins from seven and their talismanic number 10 Lionel Messi on form, many would argue that they do not actually need Suarez’s services against Real. Should Messi score twice on Saturday, he will become La Liga’s all-time leading goalscorer – and because of his unrivalled game-changing abilities, Enrique admitted that it would be near impossible to omit him from the match.
Should Enrique play Suarez, the prospect of a three-pronged attack alongside Messi and Neymar is surely too tempting for the manager to ignore. But Barcelona are worried about one thing – the position in which he has to play – directly in front of Messi. Suarez, therefore, must constantly make penetrating runs behind Real’s back line in order to create spaces for himself and his fellow forwards.
That, coupled with a lack of significant game-time in the last four months, means that the Uruguayan can only have, at best, one half of football in his legs.
Barcelona took the spoils in the last edition of El Clasico with an unconvincing 4-3 win over 10-man Real at the Bernabeu, meaning that then manager Gerardo Martino became the fifth Barca boss to pick up a win in his first visit to the home of Los Blancos. In his first season at the helm, Luis Enrique will be hoping to emulate his predecessor’s success on Saturday.