Inter come to Camp Nou for Messi-less Champions League clash
It will annoy UEFA to say so - and that's something to be actively encouraged - but Barcelona's Champions League clash against Inter today is a good dress rehearsal for El Clasico.
The pressure of a must-win match at the Camp Nou. A big game without Leo Messi. And a more than decent opponent. Admittedly, that's not what is being offered up by Real Madrid on Sunday, on current form.
Ernesto Valverde did his best impression on Tuesday of a manager who has complete faith in his players to get out of the Inter game with a win, without the magisterial Messi.
"We hope we miss him by winning," noted the Barcelona coach who kept his tactical cards close to his chest. "I'm not going to give away what we are going to do," said Valverde ruining everyone's fun but almost certainly fielding Ousmane Dembele.
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Madrid stick with Lopetegui despite Champions League laboring
Real Madrid. That was pretty bad. A victory in the Champions League but that's about the only positive from the 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday.
Despite the now familiar boos from the Bernabeu, a Real Madrid bigwig in the form of Emilio Butragueno pledged temporary support for Lopetegui - "(he) will sit on the bench at the Camp Nou as normal".
What happens after that is anyone's guess. Unless the team loses El Clasico. Then Lopetegui is toast and Arsene Wenger will be guiding Madrid into a comfy Top 4 spot, Arsenal-style.
Aside from the team's dreadful form, the biggest concern for Madrid fans over the next few days will be over the fitness of Marcelo with the leftback - and scorer of two of Madrid's last three goals - limping from the pitch.
PSG faces familiar foe as Ancelotti returns to Paris
Tuesday's Champions League clashes proved to be entertaining affairs with the headline being Juventus coming out as very comfortable winners over Manchester United and Jose Mourinho having few complaints for one of the first times in his life.
Wednesday is lead by the familiar question of whether PSG can cut the mustard outside of Ligue 1.
There is a heck of a challenge in the Parc de Princes for Neymar and co with former PSG boss, Carlo Ancelotti, bringing his Napoli side to the French capital.
Troubled Monaco under Thierry Henry travels to Club Brugge, the very on-fire Borussia Dortmund takes on the football fire-extinguisher that is Atletico Madrid and Liverpool hosts Red Star Belgrade.
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Marcelo denies Madrid move and Mourinho's masterplan
Just time to squeeze in some transfer gossip on Wednesday and it sort of ties all the above stories in perfectly in a lovely bow.
Marcelo said on Tuesday that he had not heard any of the rumors linking him with a January move to Juventus. "No-one's more of a Madridista than I am," boomed the limping leftback.
And the Mourinho to Real Madrid hook-up - as bizarre at it sounds - now involves a plot where the Manchester United manager is actively trying to get the sack (and pay-off) from the Old Trafford club to return to the Santiago Bernabeu to work his defensive magic with the Madrid squad.
Part one of Mourinho's masterplan is certainly on track so far.