Real Madrid hosts Barcelona to headline three blockbuster games across European soccer


Some of Europe’s biggest clubs will go head-to-head this weekend in what promises to be an exciting football carnival on the continent.

From local rivalries to historically vivid encounters, CNN looks at three of the biggest matches over the next few days — one even involving arguably the world’s greatest music artist.

First to Spain, where bitter rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona play at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

It was something of a return to normalcy in La Liga as the two teams once again battled for supremacy.

Financial troubles contributed to a difficult season for Barcelona last year but under the supervision of great club Xavi they appear to be returning to their best form domestically. He is currently at the top of the table – if only the goal difference of champions Real.

Madrid, who won last season’s title at a gallop, may have a mental advantage heading into the first El Clasico of the season.

While Madrid progressed to the knockout rounds of the Champions League thanks to a last-minute equalizer against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, Barcelona’s hopes of a place in the last 16 hang in the balance after a dramatic draw with Inter Milan.

Robert Lewandowski tops La Liga goalscoring charts.

With qualifying for the knockout rounds of the Champions League now looking unlikely, Xavi wants his side to use that frustration to face Barcelona’s biggest rivals on Sunday.

“What remains for us is to quickly turn our attention to El Clasico on Sunday, fight back and focus on La Liga because the Champions League has become very difficult and complicated for us,” Xavi told Movistar Plus on Wednesday.

Positive for Barcelona is the form of Robert Lewandowski, the Polish striker scored twice against Inter Milan in the middle of the week.

He currently tops La Liga’s goalscoring charts having scored nine goals in eight games this season.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid remain unbeaten in all competitions this season and will have home advantage against Barcelona.

But the hosts are not without their own troubles as starman Karim Benzema and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois have potential injury questions for the game.

And Madrid have also struggled to keep a clean sheet in La Liga this season as they conceded seven against Barcelona – but could count on the in-form Vinicius Jr to score when needed.

With both teams still undefeated in the league this season, you feel something has to give way.

But wait a minute, the game will also feature rap superstar Drake, who has lent his OVO logo to Barcelona’s home shirt.

The Canadian artist became the first to reach 50 billion streams on Spotify and his iconic owl emblem will replace the streaming service’s logo on the front of the shirt for Sunday’s game.

Spotify started sponsoring Barcelona this season and the initiative with Drake is part of the couple’s mission to “bring football and music together to reach new audiences around the world,” the club said.

“It doesn’t feel real but it is,” Drake added on Instagram while holding up the Barcelona shirt.

It may not be a historic rivalry, but these sides have been two of the most impressive teams in Europe in recent years.

Both clubs have brought each other to a ridiculous level of consistency, breaking numerous records in the process.

While previous encounters have been billed as potential title deciders, Sunday’s draw feels a little different.

Liverpool have really struggled with their performances in the league this season and are looking a shadow of their former self.

Sadio Mane’s loss to Bayern Munich appears to have unsettled a previously deadly front line and the form of key defenders such as Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold have contributed to mixed results.

According to sports data company Gracenote, Liverpool have conceded their first goals in six of their last eight league games. In addition, in every Premier League game in which a goal has been conceded at all, the opponent has always scored first.

Erling Haaland was rested before his team's trip to Liverpool.

Liverpool are currently 10th in the league, already 14 points behind second-placed Manchester City, who are just one point behind leaders Arsenal.

A cathartic 7-1 win over Rangers in the Champions League on Wednesday will do something to add momentum to the game, with Mohamed Salah also returning to form with a brilliant hat-trick.

“Yes it changed the mood completely but we all know who we welcome on Sunday and that will be a different game but it’s better to go into the game with that feeling we have tonight than with anyone others,” said manager Jürgen Klopp after the win on Wednesday.

Liverpool meet a City side who have stunned teams this season, scoring 33 goals in nine games.

Worryingly for the Reds, City manager Pep Guardiola rested key players in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with FC Copenhagen and they will be fresh for their trip to Anfield.

One of those players is Erling Haaland, who has been nothing short of a revelation this season.

He appears to be the missing piece in City’s bid for their first Champions League title. The 22-year-old is in unprecedented scoring form, having already netted 15 times in just nine league games.

According to Gracenote, Manchester City are creating three big chances per game this season, a scary stat when you combine it with the goalscoring form of attackers Haaland and Phil Foden.

However, if a defender can stop City, it’s probably Van Dijk. The Dutchman hasn’t been at his best so far this season but a fight against Haaland could prove to be just the motivation he needs.

With Anfield likely to bounce on Sunday, this City side may face their toughest test yet.

Finally to France, where reigning champions PSG host a historically lively duel against Marseille in a game called Le Classique.

Just three points separate the two sides – PSG are top, Marseille third – but this might not be a bad time for visitors to head to the French capital.

PSG have been rocked by swirling speculation about Kylian Mbappé’s future and the league leaders could be missing some of their biggest names for Sunday’s clash.

While PSG have downplayed rumors surrounding Mbappé, many top journalists said the star striker is not happy with the club’s hierarchy and is considering a move away from the team.

Kylian Mbappé rumors have made life difficult for PSG.

Meanwhile, PSG will be without suspended defender Sergio Ramos and possibly Lionel Messi, who missed the previous two games with a calf injury.

However, PSG head coach Christophe Galtier gave fans hope that the Argentine would be fit again during the week with reporters.

“We’ll see how it goes later in the week and it’s very likely he’ll be available for Marseille,” he said.

Marseille, on the other hand, are an up-and-coming side and can make life difficult for the hosts.

Such is the animosity between two of France’s biggest teams that Marseille fans were banned from attending the game last year over spectator safety concerns.

Marseille fans have not been allowed to go to the Parc des Princes to see Le Classique since 2018.


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