Two of the biggest rivalries in world football will dominate the weekend’s action in Europe, with the first Clasico of the season being followed by the Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke on Saturday.
AFP Sport previews the standout action on the continent this weekend:
– Clasico: Still the greatest game of all? –
Barcelona v Real Madrid, Saturday 1400 GMT
Once the undisputed greatest fixture in world football, the Clasico has lost much of its lustre.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Andres Iniesta were among the superstars to move on from Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent years, and this year Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez departed too. Lionel Messi would have left as well, had Barcelona let him.
Usually there would be 99,000 fans packed into the Camp Nou. This time, because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be none. The huge global audience will remain, but it’s a long time since these teams have been at such a collective low ebb.
Barca are struggling to get back on their feet under new coach Ronald Koeman and lost 1-0 at Getafe last weekend.
Real won La Liga last season but the last week gives a more accurate picture of where they stand: Zinedine Zidane’s team lost 1-0 at home to Cadiz and then went down 3-2 to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
Madrid have lost just once in their last seven visits to the Camp Nou though.
– Tension in the Ruhr –
Borussia Dortmund v Schalke, Saturday 1630 GMT
Another great fixture usually played before a huge crowd, only 300 fans will be allowed in to see Dortmund host Schalke, rather than the usual 80,000.
These sides are fierce rivals and tensions are running extra high after Dortmund prodigy Youssoufa Moukoko, 15, received alleged death threats and racist abuse from Schalke fans after scoring a hat-trick in last Sunday’s 3-2 win in an Under-19 derby.
Dortmund, with Erling Braut Haaland leading the line, will be favourites to get the better of a struggling Schalke who lost 4-0 on their last visit in May.
Schalke sacked coach David Wagner after their poor start this season followed a long winless run at the end of the last campaign. Manuel Baum has replaced him and got his first point last weekend against Union Berlin.
Dortmund’s 1-0 victory at Hoffenheim last weekend made it three wins out of four in the Bundesliga this season, but Lucien Favre’s side lost 3-1 at Lazio in the Champions League in midweek.
– Atletico on rebound –
Atletico Madrid v Real Betis, Saturday 1900 GMT
Atletico are hoping to take advantage of the struggles of Real Madrid and Barcelona to win a first La Liga title since 2014.
The signing of Luis Suarez from Barcelona underlined their ambition, but they head into Saturday’s home meeting with Betis on the rebound from their joint-worst defeat in Diego Simeone’s nine years as coach in Wednesday’s 4-0 loss at Bayern Munich.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis have been inconsistent so far but, with the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and the evergreen Joaquin, should not be underestimated.
– In search of the promised land –
Lyon v Monaco, Sunday 2000 GMT
Lyon and Monaco have been Champions League semi-finalists in recent seasons but are not in Europe at all in this campaign, so each is desperate to get back to the promised land.
Lyon have started poorly in Ligue 1 with just two wins in seven but have kept hold of star men Memphis Depay and Houssem Aouar.
Monaco have been inconsistent too under new coach Niko Kovac but in Wissam Ben Yedder they have one of Europe’s most lethal marksmen.
– Milan to maintain fine start? –
AC Milan v Roma, Monday 1945 GMT
Milan put their perfect start to the Serie A campaign on the line when they welcome Roma to San Siro on Monday.
The Rossoneri have won four out of four so far in the league with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in fine form, but Roma have some useful veterans of their own in attack in Edin Dzeko and Pedro and are also slowly building form.