Lopetegui fights for his job in first 'Clasico' without Messi or Ronaldo

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-27 20:24:58|Editor: Yurou
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MADRID, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona will entertain Real Madrid in the biggest domestic club game when the two sides face each other in the 'Clasico' in the Camp Nou Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The 16.15 kick off time is aimed at allowing as big a global TV audience as possible to see a match which leaves no football fan indifferent, with the attraction undimmed even though this is the first 'Clasico' in a decade without either Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch.

Barca will welcome Madrid as leaders of the Liga Santander and seemingly having recovered their form after a 4-2 win at home over Sevilla last weekend and a 2-0 victory at home over Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Wednesday's victory came with Messi watching from the stands with his arm in a sling after breaking the radial bone in his right arm against Sevilla. Recent Barca performances without Messi had been disappointing, but in the game against Inter, the side produced a much-improved display to show they can win without their talisman.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde is unlikely to vary much from the side which performed so well on Wednesday, with Brazilian midfielder Arthur keeping his place alongside Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets in the middle of the park.

Real Madrid will travel to Barcelona in a very different mood. Although Tuesday's 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen ended a run of five games without a win, the display did little to suggest they are out of their current crisis.

The five-game winless run saw Madrid score just one goal, and after a promising start to the season without Ronaldo, it is clear they are missing his ability to score vital goals from virtually nowhere.

Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will lead Madrid's attack in the Camp Nou with Marco Asensio probably having to wait for his chance on the bench. Meanwhile, Marcelo has recovered from an ankle injury he suffered on Tuesday and Julen Lopetegui will have to decide whether to play Alvaro Odriozola or Lucas Vazquez at right back for the injured Dani Carvajal.

Failure to win in Barcelona would almost certainly cost the Madrid coach his job, despite being given a vote of confidence on Tuesday, and the Spanish press have already debated who should succeed the former Spain boss.

However, such are the emotions in the 'Clasico' that if Madrid can spring a surprise, Lopetegui could go from 'zero to hero' in just 90 minutes and his side would see their season revitalized. Hero or out of work? There is no middle ground in the 'Clasico'.