El Clásico: The Best Game In Football Makes Its ESPN Debut On Sunday

It’s the first Clásico without Messi, but there’s more than enough storylines and talent to make up for his absence.

It’s El Clasico 2021 time! After years spent in the clutches of beIN SPORTS, the world’s greatest rivalry finally gets the grand American audience it deserves over on ESPN. Unfortunately, El Clasico will be behind the paywall of ESPN+, but that was always going to be the case after the network dropped $1.4 billion on an eight-year deal for LaLiga broadcast rights.

They need to recoup that money, beginning Sunday with $6.99 from you (there’s no free trial but you can cancel at anytime). 

This’ll be the first Clasico without Lionel Messi following his move to PSG, but there’s no shortage of star power (three Ballon d’Or nominees, three Golden Boy nominees), and the stakes remain high: Real Madrid goes top of the league with a win, whereas Barcelona can move above Real and into second-place with three points. 

When Is El Clasico 2021?

El Clasico 2021 is scheduled for Sunday, October 24, at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium. 

What Time Is El Clasico? 

El Clasico kick off time is set for 10:15 a.m. ET.

El Clasico USA TV Schedule

Pregame coverage for El Clasico begins on ESPN2 at 9 a.m. ET. The game streams live on ESPN+ from 10:15 a.m. ET. 

Real Madrid Recent Form

Carlo Ancelotti’s second spell as Real manager began with an eight-match unbeaten run that made Zinedine Zidane a distant memory. But shit really hit the fan from there with perhaps the biggest Champions League group stage upset ever (Sheriff 2 — 1 Real Madrid) and defeat to Espanyol. 

Los Blancos rebounded with an impressive 5-0 away win over David’s Shakhtar Donetsk in the UCL with Vini Jr. scoring two and providing one while Karim Benzema got a goal and an assist. Benzema is a deserving Ballon d’Or finalist at the top of his game, but the 21-year-old Brazilian winger has been this season’s revelation after three inconsistent previous campaigns at the Bernabéu.

Barcelona Recent Form

On Sunday, Barcelona is aiming to win back-to-back league matches for the first time this season. Signs of progress, like the 3-0 win over Levante on Sept. 26, have almost always been followed by regression, like the 2-0 loss to Atlético on Oct. 2, but Barça has still only suffered one defeat in eight matches.

The club’s main source of outcry has been in European competition, where a pragmatic approach at home yielded a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich before Benfica hammered the Blaugrana by that same scoreline in Lisbon.

On Wednesday, Barcelona finally got its first goal and win of the group stage, but it was a nervy 1-0 victory over Dynamo Kyiv at the Camp Nou.   

Real Madrid Leading Scorers In LaLiga

Karim Benzema: 9 goals

Vini Jr.: 5 goals

Marco Asensio: 3 goals

Barcelona Leading Scorers In LaLiga

Memphis Depay: 4 goals

Ansu Fati: 2 goals

Martin Braithwaite: 2 goals

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Real Madrid Leading Providers In LaLiga

Karim Benzema: 7 assists

David Alaba: 2 assists

Vini Jr.: 2 assists 

Barcelona Leading Providers In LaLiga

Frenkie de Jong: 2 assists

Memphis Depay: 2 assists

Sergiño Dest: 2 assists 

Real Madrid Injuries and Suspensions

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Out: Dani Ceballos (ankle), Gareth Bale (knee)

Questionable: Dani Carvajal (calf), Isco (back), Luka Jovic (knock), Eden Hazard (who knows at this point) 

Barcelona Injuries and Suspensions 

Out: Moussa Wagué (patella), Martin Braithwaite (knee), Pedri (something to do with playing 100 games last season), Ronald Araújo (hamstring), Ousmane Dembélé (knee) 

Predicted El Clásico Starting Lineups

Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois; Ferland Mendy, David Alaba, Éder Militão, Lucas Vázquez; Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modrić; Vini Jr., Karim Benzema, Rodrygo 

Barcelona: Marc-André ter Stegen; Jordi Alba, Eric García, Gerard Piqué, Sergi Roberto; Gavi, Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong; Ansu Fati, Memphis Depay, Sergiño Dest

El Clasico Prediction

With Messi and his record 18 league goals in El Clasico gone, Benzema is now the leading active scorer in the rivalry with seven. He’s gonna score two in a 2-0 win, moving him level with Luis Suárez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskás and Santillana on nine. Ronald Koeman's time is up.