Welcome to SunSport’s live coverage of the La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
El Clasico is always a huge fixture in the football calendar – perhaps the biggest – but few would have anticipated just how crucial to the title race this contest would have become.
The La Liga trophy has been firmly in Atletico Madrid’s grasp since the start of the year, but a run of just four wins in ten games has seen their commanding lead vanish.
And with Diego Simeone’s team in action at Betis tomorrow, one of these Spanish giants will tonight take over at the top of the table for first time in five months.
A win or draw will see Barca back at the summit, and they are the team in form.
Ronald Koeman’s men are on an unbeaten run of 19 league games of which they’ve won 16, and next weekend they have the chance to pick up silverware by beating Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey.
Third-placed Real are peaking at the right time too. It’s ten wins and two draws from their last 12 matches in all competitions, and that includes the dominant first leg performance against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
Los Blancos are still without their first choice centre-backs – captain Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane – but Zinedine Zidane will have been buoyed by the performance of stand-ins, Nacho and Elder Militao, in midweek.
And the same can be said of young Vinicius Junior, scorer of a brace against the Premier League champions. With Eden Hazard injured, the 20-year-old Brazilian will surely keep his place on the left side of attack.
There’s better news for Gerard Pique, who is expected to be back in the Barca defence following a spell out, while Ousmane Dembele should continue up top after his last-gasp heroics against Valladolid on Monday.
We’ll have confirmation of tonight’s starting line-ups shortly before the action gets underway at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano at 8pm.