Julen Lopetegui’s future uncertain as Real Madrid meet Barcelona today

Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui
Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui

Under-pressure Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui would not discuss his future as his side prepare for Sunday’s El Clasico against Barcelona.

Reports suggest he is on the verge of losing his job with his side eighth in La Liga – although only four points behind leaders Barca.

“We have a game that is sufficiently attractive without having to think about these types of stories,” he said.

“They don’t help me to prepare for the game.”

The former Spain manager, who only took the Real job this summer, was irritated by questioning in his pre-match news conference and added: “I expect to keep breathing. I don’t think I’m about to die.”

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde is “expecting Real Madrid to be at their best”.

He added: “The more wounded Real Madrid are, the more dangerous they are.

“They have good players, a lot of options at their disposal and a great defence. They have enough quality to fight back and they are a great all-round team.”

This is the first Clasico since December 2007 to feature neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo.

Barcelona captain Messi is out with a fractured arm, while Real Madrid legend Ronaldo joined Juventus for £99.2m this summer, scoring twice against Empoli on Saturday.

Valverde does not expect the rivalry to lack an edge without the two iconic rivals.

“The Clasico existed before that. The Clasico has always been the Clasico, and there were even flying pigs,” he said.

Team news

Messi is the headline absentee for the game – although Barcelona defenders Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen are also out.

Real Madrid left-back Marcelo is fit after recovering from a knock which saw him come off against Viktoria Plzen in midweek.

And Brazilian teenager Vinicius Jr is in Real’s squad after successfully appealing against a red card for the B team which would have ruled him out.

Analysis from Barcelona

BBC Sport’s Patrick Jennings was at Barcelona’s pre-match news conference.

“There was talk of tactics, emotions and the absent Lionel Messi, but most of the questions posed to Ernesto Valverde focused on Real Madrid, perhaps a reflection of what are difficult times for Barca’s bitter rivals.

“Barca boss Valverde had only words of solidarity for his Madrid counterpart Julen Lopetegui, whose job seems to be hanging by a thread.

“Many people believe Lopetegui will face the sack regardless of Sunday’s result, with a Friday report in national newspaper El Pais suggesting Madrid favour Jose Mourinho or Antonio Conte as potential replacements.

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“El Pais also carried news of former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ reported reaction to the options: ‘I left London to not have to go through something like that again,’ it quoted him as saying. Courtois tweeted to strongly deny he had said any such thing.

“Back to the game then, and Valverde did at least acknowledge Madrid will arrive at the Nou Camp carrying wounds from a rocky start to the season. But as I’ve heard so many here say already, this is El Clasico and anything can happen. Valverde appeared to support the point himself, as he reminded the room: ‘There’s even been a flying pig…'”

Match Facts

  • Barcelona have scored in each of their last 21 league games against Real Madrid (48 goals) and could equal the best scoring streak in El Clasico history in the competition – Real Madrid (22 games) between 1959 and 1969
  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last three league games at the Nou Camp (W1 D2) – they have never managed to stay unbeaten in four consecutive away Clasicos
  • Barcelona are unbeaten in 41 league games at the Nou Camp (W33 D8), their longest such run since February 1977 (67)
  • Real Madrid have lost their last two La Liga games, the last time they lost three successive matches in the competition was in May 2009 (five)
  • Barcelona have not won either Clasico without Lionel Messi (D1 L1) since his first appearance against Real Madrid
  • Real won two games against Barcelona without Cristiano Ronaldo during his time at the club
  • Barcelona’s Luis Suarez has scored six league goals against Real Madrid since his debut in 2014-15, more than any other player in that time
  • Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has scored four headed goals against Barcelona in La Liga
  • Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has lost 12 of his 20 league games against Real Madrid (W6 D2). He has previously managed Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Villarreal and Valencia
  • Julen Lopetegui will manage in his first El Clasico game – five of the last six Real Madrid managers have lost their opening match against Barcelona – only Zinedine Zidane (2-1 at Nou Camp in April 2016) managed to win
  • Real Madrid have collected 14 points in their opening nine La Liga games, their worst record since 2001-02 (10). Their goals tally (13) is their lowest since 2004-05
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