‘Maximum excitement’ awaits as El Clasico set to light up Vegas

Photos: AFP

Real Madrid begin their pre-season with a friendly El Clasico against arch-rivals Barcelona FC at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, USA on Sunday.

The match starts at 9:00 am Bangladesh Standard Time (BST).

After a disappointing 2021-22 campaign, Barcelona have been on a spending spree this summer and have also signed the likes of Frank Kessie and Andreas Christensen, besides Rafinha and Lewandowski.

Real Madrid, in stark contrast, have signed only one player so far in the form of defender Antonio Rudiger, a free transfer from Chelsea. The Los Blancos have also suffered some high-profile exits this transfer window, with the likes of Isco, Gareth Bale and long-time regular Marcelo moving on.

Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid won both La Liga and the UEFA Champions League last season, making it a long campaign. Consequently, they will be starting their pre-season later than other teams.

Barca, having played two pre-season fixtures already, will be ahead of their rivals in terms of fitness and will go into Sunday's El Clasico as the favourites.

Though Real Madrid lead the head-to-head record against Barcelona in competitive matches with 100 wins compared to Barca's 97, the Catalan giants have dominated Real in exhibition matches, winning 19 of the 33 matches. Real Madrid have only four friendly wins to their name.

This match will be nothing short of a cracker. Barcelona have started their pre-season with a 6-0 drubbing of Inter Miami, with Raphinha shining in particular, scoring once and assisting two goals. Even though they failed to win the Europa League last season, Xavi did a very good job at resurrecting what once seemed like a sinking ship.

Sunday's El Clasico may see another high-profile debut from the Barca ranks as Polish ace Robert Lewandowski looks poised to make his first appearance in a Barcelona shirt after signing on a four-year deal from German giants Bayern Munich.

This will be only the second El Clasico to be played in the USA. The first, in 2017, saw Barca edge out Real 3-2 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

"The team is excited to play El Clasico," Pedri said. "It's been a very nice pre-season and even though now the most important thing is to get minutes, beating Real Madrid would, of course, be good for us. There's always maximum excitement for El Clasico."

"A player like 'Lewy' can guarantee goals," Pedri added. "We saw it at Bayern Munich, and we are proud to have him here. We hope he can provide the same level of scoring."

Pedri also praised fellow midfielder Frank Kessie, another one of the team's new faces. "He's surprised me. I faced him at the Olympics and I was able to see he was very strong. I'll try not to run into him," joked Pedri.