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Barca, Real meet in latest El Clásico on TSN2

Real Madrid Jude Bellingham - The Canadian Press

The latest edition of what is perhaps world football's most bitter rivalry goes down on Saturday morning as injury riddled Barcelona welcome Real Madrid to Camp Nou in El Clásico with first place in the table on the line.

You can catch Barcelona vs. Real Madrid LIVE at 10:15am et/7:15am pt on Saturday on TSN2, streaming on the TSN App and TSN+ and on

Xavi's Barca is the last remaining undefeated side in Spain, but side third in the table on 24 points, a point adrift of Los Blancos and Girona, the surprise team in La Liga this season, on 25.

That Barcelona has managed to stay above water this season has been remarkable considering the injury crisis that has gripped Camp Nou and one that will likely have immense bearing on Saturday's match. What we know for certain is that Spain right-back Sergi Roberto (muscular) will be unavailable for selection, but there are a number of other players whose participation will be limited at best if they are even fit to go at all. Spain midfielder Pedri (knee), Poland striker Robert Lewandowski (ankle), Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong (ankle), France defender Jules Koundé (knee) and Brazil winger Raphinha (leg) all returned to training this week. Still, all aren't fully fit and are certainly unlikely to play anything close to 90 minutes.

"I was surprised [that they were all training]," Xavi said on Friday at his press conference. "The sensations during the session were very good. We will see how they feel later and will name the squad on Saturday. It's fantastic to have them all back training. Players we had ruled out want to play. Everyone is making a huge effort because they want to be involved in the Clásico, but we won't start anyone who is not 100 per cent."

In the absence of established stars, Xavi has been leaning on La Masia products and they've delivered. Spain under-17 striker Marc Guiu became the team's youngest debutant to score for Barca in last weekend's 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. In Tuesday's Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk, it was 20-year-old Fermin Lopez who stole the show and helped lead the team to a 2-1 win.

"It was unthinkable at that time, but I did learn a lot," Fermin said ahead of a potential first encounter with Los Blancos. "Now, I am dreaming about winning a Clásico. We won in preseason, but this time is a competitive game and it will be a dream to win it."

At 16, should Lamine Yamal play on Saturday, he would become the youngest ever participant in an El Clásico.

"Everything I do, being so young, is a record almost," the Spain winger said. "People tell me, but the most important thing for me is for the team to win and that I enjoy it."

On the other side of the pitch, the story of the season thus far for Real has been Jude Bellingham. The 20-year-old England midfielder arrived from Borussia Dortmund in the summer for a mouthwatering €103 million transfer fee, but he's already lived up to expectations and beyond. The Birmingham City youth product has 11 goals in 12 appearances and leads La Liga with eight goals this season.

“Back when I was a kid in England, we still had the coverage of the Clásicos and Spanish football," the Stourbridge, England native told Spanish state TV this week. "I definitely loved the games as a kid and I always tuned in, no matter how late it was, even when my mum was telling me to get to bed. I’d always stay up until I got the last minute of every Clásico. I remember celebrations; [Cristiano] Ronaldo’s Calma’ [gesture] at the Camp Nou, stuff like that. It sticks in your mind: the iconic moments, the good, the bad, sometimes the ugly side of it as well. There have been so many classic games, so many magic moments, it’s a pleasure to be able to play it."

During Real's midweek 2-1 win over Braga in the Champions League, Croatian midfield maestro was handed a start after being relegated to a bench role for most of the season thus far. The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner starred in the win, but there's no indication that the 38-year-old Modric should expect more game time going forward. In fact, manager Carlo Ancelotti was prickly about the topic when he spoke to AS this week.

"They are all professionals and don’t ask for explanations and I don’t usually give explanations to someone who doesn’t play," the Italian, who is in his second stint at the Bernabeu, said. "There is nothing to worry about."

The 64-year-old Ancelotti, who lives in Vancouver in the offseason, cautioned that while there is great interest in the Clásico, the season is more than just Barcelona versus Real.

"It’s very important, but the season is very long," Ancelotti said of the match. "The season is very long, very long. It will be a very competitive league."

In the history of the fixture, El Clásico has been remarkably even over the course of La Liga play. Los Blancos hold a 77-35-74 edge over the Blaugrana, scoring 299 goals to Barca's 298.

Last season, the two teams split the series with the home team winning both times. In October, Los Blancos claimed a 3-1 win at the Bernabeu on goals from Karim Benzema, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde. Ferran Torres scored the lone goal for the visitors. In the return fixture at Camp Nou, Barca picked up a 2-1 win with Roberto and Franck Kessié finding the scoresheet.