The first Clasico of the 2018-19 season takes place on Sunday, with neither Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo involved for the first time since 2007.
For the past 10 years the two have dominated the fixture, but with Messi’s fractured arm and Ronaldo having joined Juventus in the summer, neither will take the field at Camp Nou this weekend.
So now, both sides must find a way to win in the world’s most fiercely-contested fixture without the two footballers who have dominated the global landscape in the past decade.
Barcelona enter the clash topping La Liga, but the Blaugrana have won just one of their last five league fixtures.
Real Madrid head to Catalunya with Julen Lopetegui clinging onto his job after a dismal recent run, with three defeats in their last four league games.
They currently sit seventh in the table, and now the ex-Spain boss needs the three-in-a-row European champions big-game players to pull it out of the bag in another big game – or else he faces being sacked by Florentino Perez after just four months in charge.
But even without Messi and Ronaldo, the encounter features almost £1bn worth of talent, including the likes of Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos.
Which got us to wondering: if you had to pick, right at this moment, based on form, fitness and everything else, right at this moment what would be the No.1 composite starting XI?
Here’s what Mirror Football has come up with and be sure to watch el clasico live on Eleven Sports.
Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Real Madrid have both Thibaut Courtois and Keylor Navas – currently sharing duties – but neither is on Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s level right now.
The German, now 26, has been vastly impressive since joining in 2014, and since sending Claudio Bravo packing has got better and better between the sticks; his double save against Sevilla last weekend was sensational.
Right-back: Sergi Roberto (Barcelona)
Right now neither side is set on a right-back. Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto have shared duties for Barca, while Dani Carvajal’s injury problems have let in Alvaro Odriozola for Real, but he has failed to impress and was dropped for winger Lucas Vazquez in midweek.
Thus, the choice right now comes down to the Barcelona pair, and Spain international Roberto is the more solid pick at present.
Centre-back: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Gerard Pique was excellent in midweek against Inter, but the ex-Manchester United man has been wildly inconsistent in the early part of the season.
Raphael Varane shone during the World Cup and amid Madrid’s problems, he hasn’t played all that badly. He gets the nod as the right-sided centre-back right now.
Centre-back: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Love him or loathe him, the Spain and Real Madrid captain is one of the best defenders in the world and, like Varane, much of his side’s troubles and strife aren’t down to him this term; indeed, Madrid have conceded less goals than their great rivals in La Liga so far.
Barcelona have Samuel Umtiti out injured, Clement Lenglet is currently deputising, and so Ramos starts in our side.
Left-back: Marcelo (Real Madrid)
A left-back who plays like a No.10, Marcelo is crucial to Los Blancos in both the defensive and offensive phases of the game, and he should be liberated by Messi’s absence this weekend.
Jordi Alba has done well recently, but Marcelo is a different level.
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
A master at doing the basics to perfection. Busquets continues to defy age by running matches without so much as a bead of sweat.
Now able to link and combine with Arthur, to bring back memories of his relationship with Xavi, and still able to perform at the highest level.
Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)
Rarely heralded for club or country due to a litany of star players around him, but the Croatian is dependable and able to influence games without much fuss.
Capable of the spectacular, as proven vs Spurs at Wembley, Rakitic continues to be underrated.
Started superbly at the Nou Camp and proving why he is touted as the heir to Xavi.
His composure and decision-making have ensured he has absorbed the Barcelona DNA instantly and looks destined to be a key cog for years to come.
Isco (Real Madrid)
Wonderful change of pace when on the ball, but equally capable of hurting you without dribbling and just picking the pass.
Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
Still to showcase a complete performance consistently, but lethal from range and at free-kicks and able to make the difference.
Another who will be expected to step up his contribution in the coming weeks without Messi; an opportunity he is well capable of grasping.
Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Past his prime, but still contributing to benefit his team-mates, with assists against Valencia and Inter. Must step up in the absence of Messi.
Final score: Barcelona 7-4 Real Madrid
Courtois; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Dembele
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