Real Madrid realistically need to end Barcelona’s 24-match unbeaten run to maintain hopes of retaining their La Liga title when Spanish football’s two behemoths meet in El Clasico on Saturday (1200GMT).
Barca lead fourth-placed Madrid by 11 points at the top of the table, albeit Real do have a game in hand.
However, it was at the Santiago Bernabeu that Barca last tasted defeat in August as Real cruised to a 5-1 aggregate win in the Spanish Super Cup.
Here, AFP Sports looks at five keys to deciding who will end the year victorious.
Barca have overcome Neymar’s departure with relative ease thanks to left-back Jordi Alba’s return to form, in large part caused by the Brazilian’s absence on the left side of Barca’s attack.
“I have a lot more room to go forward and in all honesty for me it is much better,” admitted the Spanish international.
Lionel Messi has also benefited with three of Alba’s six assists this season setting up the Argentine.
The Alba-Messi connection also gave Barca a famous 3-2 win as Messi scored with the last kick of the ball at the Bernabeu in April when Neymar was suspended.
Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal has played just five games since September due to a long-term virus and a lack of cover offered by Madrid’s narrow four-man midfield could give Alba plenty of space to exploit.
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