For the first time in 11 years, neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo will take part in El Clasico. Barcelona will lock horns with Real Madrid this weekend in the latest
For Leo, his absence is due to injury. The Argentine broke his arm last weekend in the 4-2 win over Sevilla and has thus been ruled out. Ronaldo's story, on the other hand, is totally different, as he waved goodbye to Los Blancos over the summer.
Nonetheless, the show goes on and there are plenty of other talented players to excite the fans. Here's our Messi-less and Cristiano-less combined best XI for El Clasico.
GK: Marc-André ter Stegen
This was an easy choice. Barcelona's defense has been poor this season, but their goalkeeper has not. The German custodian continues pulling off incredible saves and has bailed the defending champion out on a number of occasions.
Right-back: Sergi Roberto
With Carvajal out, Sergi Roberto is the next best thing. The Spaniard may be a midfielder at heart, but he holds his own in the right-back role. He'll hope for a better Clasico this time around, having been sent off at Camp Nou last time around.
CB: Sergio Ramos
Neither of Real Madrid's two center-backs - Ramos and Varane - have impressed this season. The Spaniard is yet to return to his best after his disappointing World Cup; however, the Frenchman put in a horrid performance in their last league outing. Furthermore, Sergio's goal threat puts him slightly ahead of his team-mate.
CB: Gerard Pique
Yes, Pique has made costly errors this season and has been the biggesy culprit in the team's leaky defense. However, his form has picked up in the Blaugrana's last few games. Umtiti and Vermaelen are both injured, limiting Valverde's options. Additionally, Pique's experience in El Clasico gives him the advantage over Lenglet.
Left-back: Jordi Alba
Marcelo would have been a fair choice, but the Brazilian is struggling with fitness and might not feature. This does not take away from Alba, however, as he continues to help in the attack on top of the defense, having scored twice and assisted four goals in all competitions this term.
Central midfielder: Sergio Busquets
He still doesn't make the headlines, but Busquets remains a calm and composed midfielder who breaks up play and distributes the ball extremely well. He is a key player for Valverde and will be crucial for the Catalan giant on Sunday
Left midfielder: Arthur
The Brazilian only made his Barcelona debut over the summer, but he has quickly become an integral member of their midfield. He has been impressive as of late and has even drawn comparisons with the iconic Xavi. They may be premature, but the fact that he is being mentioned in the same sentence with the Spanish maestro is a testament to his rise.
Right midfielder: Luka Modric
The Croatian is yet to hit the ground running since returning from the 2018 World Cup. Fatigue is the likely culprit, but the Ballon d'Or contender could turn things around at Camp Nou give his immense talent and for this, he makes the cut.
Left winger: Philippe Coutinho
The Brazilian has contributed to four goals this season in La Liga, scoring three and assisting one. In Europe alone, he has contributed to another three. This is why he sees off competition from the inconsistent Dembele.
Right winger: Gareth Bale
The man touted to replace Cristiano is far off from matching the Portuguese superstar, but has shown moments of magic this term. Furthermore, he has tormented Barcelona in the past and thus makes our combined XI.
Striker: Luis Suarez
Why did we go for Suarez over Benzema? Both have come under heavy scrutiny for the below-par goalscoring form; however, the Uruguayan has contributed to more goals in La Liga this campaign. He has equaled the Frenchman's tally of four goals but has assisted another four - Karim has zero to his name. The former Liverpool ace needs to pick up his game in Leo's absence regardless of his inclusion.