As El Clasico approaches in November, Barcelona and Real Madrid stand knotted up atop the La Liga table. Only goal differential separates them at this point, and with both teams walking wounded right now they're both going to do everything they can to get healthy and improve their level of play before the big day. For Barcelona, that means a road match against 13th-place Getafe, a match that they'll hope to dominate.
Of course, Getafe won't be doing anything to make things easy on Barcelona. While they've got the short stick on talent in this match, they've got a solid defensive setup with plenty of threat on the break. Or at least they did, until Sevilla put on a clinic on how to break them down in a 5-0 battering last weekend. If Getafe can overcome that loss and get back to the better version of themselves from earlier in the season, they can give Barcelona a game -- but if the blaugranes learned a lesson from what Sevilla did, they could be in for an even more painful day.
Key player -- Neymar (Barcelona)
Neymar has been utterly fantastic this season, especially since Messi has been out. He's grown significantly as a player since he joined Barcelona -- no longer is he the guy always trying fancy tricks and wanting all the attention. Now he's a consummate team player, perfectly willing to play second fiddle when someone else is hot, and stepping up as soon as they cool down. No matter how this match plays out for Barcelona, he's going to be vital to their efforts.
What to follow -- Barcelona's central defense
With Mascherano out, all sorts of red flags could be raised for Barcelona in defense. He's been the most reliable presence they've had in the middle this season -- Gerard Pique has had some excellent moments, but also some head-shaking gaffes, and neither Jeremy Mathieu nor Marc Bartra have exactly been bastions of quality when deployed centrally. Thomas Vermaelen has generally been good, but he's hardly played thanks to injuries.
Whoever partners with Pique for this match will bear close monitoring, because Barcelona need to be able to rely on their depth this season. So far, that hasn't really been the case. They need to start getting positive performances from their reserve defenders, sooner rather than later.
Getafe injuries and suspensions
Out: Carlos Vigaray, Alvaro Vazquez, Alvaro Medran In doubt: Angel Lafita, Mehdi Lacen
Barcelona injuries and suspensions
Out: Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi, Rafinha, Douglas Pereira In doubt: Sergi Roberto, Andres Iniesta
Barcelona of course are missing the biggest piece in Messi, and Mascherano's suspension hurts them as well. Hopefully Iniesta and Roberto are ready to go, or else Barca will be facing a serious depth shortage. Getafe's guaranteed absences aren't so bad -- all three players are just backups -- but their doubts could leave their midfield pretty hamstring if they can't play.
Match Date/Time: Staurday, 3:30 p.m. ET, 8:30 p.m. local
Venue: Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, Getafe, Spain
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. - English), beIN Sports en Español (U.S. - Spanish), Canal + Partizado, Abono Futbol 1 (Spain), Sky Sports 2/HD (U.K.)
Online: Fubo TV, beIN Sports Connect (U.S.),