MADRID, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona against Real Madrid dominates Spanish football this coming weekend. Even at this early stage of the season, it could have a big influence on who will eventually win the title. Here are four things to look out for in the biggest domestic club game of the year.
1. No Messi no problem for Barca?
Leo Messi will miss the 'Clasico' with a broken bone in his right arm and Barca fans need no reminding that ever since the Argentinean made his debut at the age of 17, Barca have never managed a 'Clasico' win without him.
However, Wednesday's 2-0 win at home over Inter Milan gives hope that although Messi's absence is clearly a blow, the rest of the players can take a step forward to ensure the loss is minimized.
Brazilian midfielder Arthur added stability in midfield, while Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho all performed well in a balanced and effective display which means that although there will be no Messi magic on Sunday, Barca can live without him.
2. Can Madrid's luck change?
Failure to win in the Camp Nou will likely see Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui sacked after just 10 league games. The former Spain coach has pointed to bad luck in his side's recent run of results, with his players hitting the woodwork three times last weekend at home against Levante and on four occasions as they slipped to defeat by CSKA Moscow.
Should that luck turn in the Camp Nou, then despite a run of three defeats in four league games, Lopetegui's side can still spring a surprise. The coach's main worry however, must be that after a poor run and an unconvincing Champions League win on Tuesday, his side is lacking confidence.
3. Defensive issues a fear for Madrid
It's not just in attack where Real Madrid have struggled in recent matches: their defense also looks shaky. Sergio Ramos may try to inspire and is always a threat at set pieces, but he has been losing his position too often and may lack the pace that used to enable him to recover from positional mistakes.
Rafael Varene has also been below par since the World Cup and although Marcelo has scored goals, he too gives opponents chances to get in behind him. What's more, with Dani Carvajal injured, Alvaro Odriozola has shown he is another fullback who gets forward while giving rivals an option in attack.
Barca also look unconvincing at times in defense, so don't expect the Clasico to end 0-0.
4. Midfield the key
Despite the talk of attack and defense, the Clasico is likely to be won or lost in midfield and it will be interesting to see how Madrid deal with Barca's midfield trio of Arthur, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic.
With Coutinho also dropping back to help out, Barca look to have the edge over Madrid's likely quartet of Casemiro, Tony Kroos, Luka Modric and Isco, although much could depend on how fresh the respective players are. Modric and Casemiro have flat so far this season following the World Cup finals, but with the Brazilian being an effective shield for the defense and Modric being able to turn a game in a moment, Lopetegui will be hoping that on Sunday at least, they will be on the top of their game.