We are now incredibly close to El Clásico. Barcelona and Real Madrid face off on Saturday in the biggest club match in football, regardless of what the stakes are. In terms of winning (or losing) La Liga, this is a meaningless game for both teams. On a mental level, however, this is a huge fixture. Win, and your confidence goes beyond the stratosphere. Lose, and you might question yourself.
The tactics always matter on these games, as well as the stars involved. Let's take a look at the projected starting lineups for both sides on Saturday.
Alves - Piqué - Mascherano - Alba
Rakitic - Busquets - Iniesta
Messi - Suárez - Neymar
No surprises or changes necessary from Luis Enrique here. The league Gala XI, which has been picked just twice all season, should be used at Camp Nou. It has the experience of playing the Clásico and other big games, and it has the overall quality to defeat a difficult Madrid side.
Fitness could be an issue, since internationals like Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi have played difficult, demanding games in South America just over 72 hours away from the match. However, the entire midfield did not travel for national team duty, and they could be vital because of that.
Real Madrid (4-3-3)
Carvajal - Pepe - Ramos - Marcelo
Modric - Casemiro - Kroos
Bale - Benzema - Ronaldo
One player who did not start the historic 0-4 defeat at Bernabéu in this season's first El Clásico will be on the pitch and could alter the entire landscape: defensive midfielder Casemiro has become a key member of the first team, adding much needed security to the midfield. He is not Sergio Busquets, but has similar traits that serve Zinedine Zidane well. He is the closest thing to Xabi Alonso since the Spaniard left Madrid, and that player has always troubled Barça in previous Clásicos.
On goal, however, Madrid has its biggest asset: Keylor Navas has been beyond fantastic all season, and playing on the road against an attacking force like the 'MSN' trio requires world-class, goal-stopping performances like the ones Navas has delivered multiple times in this campaign.
Real are not even close to a great defensive team, but have a great keeper. That might just be enough. You never know in football. What we do know is this is going to be a badass football game.