Five things to watch in 'El Clasico'
The biggest game in club football is on this Saturday. Here is why you should tune in
The Santiago Bernabeu will showcase one of the world's most famous fixtures on Saturday as Real Madrid battle their arch-rivals Barcelona in the first Clasico of the season.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the five talking points as the top two in La Liga go head to head.
CAN NEYMAR CONTINUE HIS RICH FORM?
Since Lionel Messi's knee ligament injury at the end of September, Barcelona have gone seven games unbeaten in all competitions but one man has stood out during this spell. At the beginning of the season, many questioned if Neymar could catapult himself into the Ballon d'Or conversation and the Brazilian has responded, topping La Liga's scoring charts with 11 goals in 10 appearances, including an exquisite lob in the recent 3-0 win over Villarreal.
The form of Neymar, alongside Luis Suarez, has lifted Barcelona to the top of the table, three points ahead of their opponents. But despite ongoing tax issues and interest from Manchester United leading to increased scrutiny over Neymar's future at the Nou Camp, the Madrid defence will need to be at their best to keep the 24-year-old at bay.
SHOULD MESSI START?
Messi, who has not featured since Barcelona's 2-1 victory over Las Palmas, could return in time for Saturday's clash. Despite the form of Neymar and Suarez, who has also chipped in with nine league goals, many would see the selection of the Argentinian, in place of Munir, as a no-brainer. Barcelona boss Luis Enrique could face a selection dilemma but in a hotly-contested fixture between two evenly-matched teams, tiny margins could make the difference and Messi's unquestionable impact could help Barcelona to victory.
BENITEZ IS UNDER PRESSURE
In such a high-profile match, both managers will face pressure but out of the two, Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez will go into his first Clasico with the spotlight shining brighter than most expected.
Madrid president Florentino Perez brought the Spaniard to the Bernabeu this summer after his two-year spell at Napoli and his defensive methods were briefly lauded after his side scored 17 times before conceding their first goal in a 2-1 victory over Bilbao.
Benitez's men were also the last team in any major European league to lose their unbeaten record in all competitions with a 3-2 defeat at Sevilla last time out. Yet reports of clashes with Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo early in the campaign and choice of tactics have led to the Spanish media questioning Benitez's style. Marca headlined, "You saw it coming" after the Sevilla defeat, adding even more spice to the fixture as the clock begins to tick despite just one defeat.
CAN REAL RIDE THEIR LUCK ON NAVAS?
Madrid's ongoing pursuit of Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea left Keylor Navas' future in doubt. Signed by Los Blancos for his heroics for Costa Rica at last year's World Cup, Navas has silenced critics, producing man-of-the-match performances to help Madrid pick up points and remain unbeaten before defeat prior to international break. Crucially, Navas has saved two penalties during that run; most notably his save in the Madrid derby against Atletico helped Real restore order in a fixture they lost 4-0 last season. However, there has not been a clean sheet in the last 18 Clasicos so it will be hard to see how the Costa Rican stopper will be able to keep a clean sheet against Barcelona's formidable strike duo.
David Fernandez Borbalan will referee Saturday's clash, the third time he has been assigned to the fixture. The previous two encounters officiated by Borbalan have added more scrutiny to the clash as he is most remembered for the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup in 2011 where he issued seven yellow cards and three red cards. With more than 10 years of refereeing in La Liga, one would feel as though Borbalan will have the experience to negate any heated exchanges between the two titans of Spanish football. But with talk of Barcelona's front three targeting the returning Sergio Ramos, this historical battle could boil into a bitter affair and Borbalan will look to avoid a repeat of 2011's encounter at the Bernabeu.