The upcoming ‘El Clasico’ will not be the first meeting between the two sides since the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner departed last summer. However, it will still be surreal to not see the iconic Argentinian striker wearing the Blaugrana colors, with Barcelona spending millions to try and replace him.
Naturally, Barca fared much better against Real Madrid when Messi was in the team. In total, the Argentine played in 45 Clasicos and was on the winning side 19 times. He was also involved in 11 draws and a third of all his encounters ended in defeat.
Messi was a key member of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side and scored 26 times against Madrid, which is eight times more than any other player. The forward missed three Clasicos during his Barca career due to injury. In the Argentine’s absence, the Blaugrana won one, drew one and lost one.
Throughout the fixture’s history, the Catalonian giants have a much worse win percentage without their legendary attacker. They have won just 77 of their 201 clashes, drawing 41 and losing 83 times while also scoring on fewer occasions per game.
The two sides played each other three times last season, with Madrid winning twice and Barca winning just once, which was the 4-0 win at the Bernabeu.
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Sunday’s encounter in the Spanish capital is one of the biggest between the sides in recent memory. The pair occupy the top two spots in La Liga after winning seven of their eight top-flight fixtures so far. Both clubs have picked up 22 points out of a possible 24.
Real Madrid are in fine form, although they needed a very late Antonio Rudiger goal to salvage a point against Shakthar Donetsk this week in the Champions League. Barca also endured a difficult week in Europe, as their hopes in the competition hang by a thread after a pulsating 3-3 draw with Inter Milan.
The clash will see two of Europe’s best strikers go head-to-head, with Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski both in fine form. Lewandowski is set to take part in his first Clasico, having scored for fun for his new team so far this term.