This latest El Clasico between football’s two biggest powerhouses may be the least hyped in well over a decade.
There’s countless reasons for that, too. It’s the first league meeting between the sides without either Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi since 2006, Sky have lost the rights to the league and quite frankly, Madrid are crumbling.
Even Barcelona, who, while averaging two points a game and 2.5 goals on the same metric, have been way below their brilliant best.
But despite the lack of Sky-laden faux-excitement that usually accompanies these games, this Clasico is one of the most important over the last few years.
For far too long, the Messi v Ronaldo banner has been substituted in place of the legacies of these two juggernauts. And, if you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ll know that any Messi v Ronaldo argument gets tedious quicker than Baby Shark.
With these two superstars now taking their massive presences out of the limelight, we’ll get a more realistic standing of just where these clubs lie in the footballing ladder.
But, it’s not just subjective storylines that linger around these games – you’d have to figure any heavy defeat for Madrid will see an end to the disastrous reign of Julen Lopetegui at the helm of the club.
His introduction as Madrid boss on the eve of the World Cup was one of the most surreal moments we’ve seen in that regard and some may point to justice – but that would simply be giving him a free pass.
His side have been nothing short of disastrous.
But, to return to the match itself. Given recent political turmoil in Spain, this game shouldn’t need build from promoters in order to draw attention – yet, somehow it does.
You can put a lot of that down to the absence of Ronaldo and Messi if you like, but in reality, it’s probably more than that.
The two best players on the planet facing off will consistently draw attention and there’s only been one goalless draw between these sides for over 30 years in La Liga.
But, without the might of a broadcaster forcing the same old narrative down our throats, maybe this can be a lesson to us in engaging football for what it is.
If life without football is nothing, then football without politics is certainly far less interesting.
This game was long-stood as a sporting reliever for separatist tension in the region and two very differing viewpoints coming together over a game of football just vents the frustration through irrational, sporting means – and that’s healthy.
In Spain, this game matters for very different reasons.
Even foregoing politics, Barcelona v Real was seen as a Galacticos v Cryuff academy graduates tussle, which obviously had undertones of class associated with it. Then it became about two footballers.
While this game may be going under many people’s radars, for once El Clasico actually feels like it should – 90 minutes defining the winner of a cultural clash.
If Madrid lose this game, they’re out of a title race in October and that’s worth paying attention to.