Real Madrid have a four-point lead on FC Barcelona in the La Liga table and could win the title even if they lose El Clasico on Saturday evening, but they will all but lock up the Spanish league crown if they avoid a loss at Camp Nou. Pep Guardiola has gotten the better of Jose Mourinho in all of the meetings between the two teams this season, but Barcelona has been less consistent than their rivals against lesser competition.
Both teams are coming off of surprising away losses in the UEFA Champions League semifinal. Perhaps both were caught looking ahead to this game, though it's more likely that Chelsea and Bayern Munich are just very good teams. In any event, the players will not all be fully rested like they have been for previous Clasicos because neither manager was in a position where they could rest their star players in the run-up to the game.
Alexis Sanchez picked up a knock against Chelsea and could be replaced in the starting XI by Pedro Rodriguez. Cesc Fabregas did not have a good game against Chelsea and might have been in danger of being dropped, but Sanchez's injury is likely to keep him in the team. Guardiola did rest one player against Chelsea, Girard Pique, and he should return to the lineup. Expect him to replace Adriano, with Carles Puyol sliding to left back.
Madrid are dealing with no new fitness problems, though their team selection is a bit of a mystery. Both Ricardo Carvalho and Lassana Diarra are injured, taking away options for Mourinho if he wanted to go with a defensive 4-5-1/4-3-3, but he still has Esteban Granero and Nuri Sahin available for that purpose. Mesut Özil and Angel Di Maria both started against Bayern Munich, and it's not clear whether they will retain their places. Gonzalo Higuain could come in for Di Maria while Kaka could replace Özil, but there's nothing concrete indicating that the Tuesday starters will lose their places.
The game kicks off at 2:00 p.m. ET from Camp Nou in Barcelona, Catalonia on Saturday.
Projected Barcelona lineup (4-3-3): Victor Valdes; Carles Puyol, Girard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta; Cesc Fabregas, Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodriguez
We'll have pre-game and live game coverage in our Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 2012 El Clasico StoryStream. For more on the two teams, head over to Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid and FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.