It's the most watered down Clásico of recent times, but history dictates that it still matters. The intensity, passion and desire to win cannot possibly be at the same level, though professional pride and fan expectation means that neither side will be happy to simply roll over. The sixteen-point margin in the table underlines the internal strife inside the Bernabéu dressing room, as well as the immaculate start to life for Barcelona under Tito Vilanova; until he unfortunately had to relinquish control due to illness. Tuesday's Copa del Rey result showed something different in a one-off game - the Catalan club are lacking in ideas and are short of leadership off the pitch, whilst this Real Madrid side displayed its capability of turning it on for the big occasion. Manchester United beware.
The Spanish media has reported that Cristiano Ronaldo will be left on the substitutes’ bench as a precaution ahead of the trip to Old Trafford, so there's likely to be a whole variety of changes with the likes of Michael Essien, Kaká, Luka Modrić and José Callejon able to start. A readers survey on the AS website on Thursday saw fans voting overwhelmingly for Madrid to field a team of substitutes. They may get their wish.
Xavi has been ruled out for Barça with a hamstring injury that he suffered at the Camp Nou, so temporary coach Jordi Roura will also look to freshen things up. But a strong side is still expected. Lionel Messi missed training on Wednesday with a fever, but should be fully recovered in time.
Despite their troubles Madrid are unbeaten at home in the league this season, but with focus moving elsewhere that record could be under serious threat. It's rare that Barcelona lose two matches in the space of a week, such are the standards set by the pass masters.
Ronaldo's two goals in midweek were meant he has scored on his last six visits to Camp Nou. Should his old club not be next up, he would surely extend his fine Clasico record. Both teams have scored in the last eleven times they have met, and can be backed to do so again at 1.44.
The consensus that the players are running the show at Barça has highlighted two things in the last week; that not anyone can manage the club and that they are without tactical guidance. Messi spoke this week of the importance of David Villa - playing him as a striker means defences can ill-afford to push up and crowd the Argentine due to Villa playing off the shoulder of the last man. Should teams drop too deep to counter Villa's pace, then Messi would be allowed space between the lines to exert damage. This maybe just part of the solution to a bigger conundrum. Villa to score first can be found at 6.50 or Messi to grab a goal at 1.70.
It won't be this match that defines the Mourinho era in Madrid, though avoiding defeat would help enhance it should they overcome Manchester United this coming week. Barcelona are wounded and will be looking to not only finish Madrid's league campaign once and for all, but show the world they're not a spent force. To make this point they are 2.20.
There have been over 2.5 goals in ten of the last 11 meetings. It's 1.50 to happen again.
Score prediction: Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona (9.50)