Storylines aplenty as El Clasico looms in Catalonia

El Clasico Messi
Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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Wednesday is going to be a sneaky good day of world football.

There are three League Cup quarterfinals, a Club World Cup semi between Liverpool and Monterrey, and two rivals in Spain meeting in a rescheduled match.

Underplayed that last one, didn’t we?

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Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for a 2 p.m. ET Wednesday El Clasico at the Camp Nou in Catalonia, where the jailing of nine Catalan separatists caused an initial postponement.

The atmosphere outside the stadium will be monitored closely, as La Liga initially wanted the match switched to Madrid.

The match was originally scheduled for Oct. 26, and La Liga officials were so angry at the move of a marquee television match to midweek that they appealed to the courts.

The stakes are always high for El Clasico, and Barca’s controversial draw with Real Sociedad could see the two-time reigning champions enter the match behind Real Madrid.

The Blaugranas drew 2-2 after VAR did not decide to review a late shirt pull of Gerard Pique in the box, giving Barca 36 points. Real Madrid could climb to 38 points with a win away to Valencia at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

An injured Eden Hazard made headlines Saturday when video emerged of his telling a Chelsea fan that he’ll return to Stamford Bridge once he’s done at Real.

Hazard looks unlikely to be ready for Wednesday, but Real’s strength this season has been its defense. Only Atletico Madrid has allowed fewer than Real’s 11 conceded goals (and the remarkable Atleti has played two more matches).

Barca’s defense has been far less impressive, allowing 20 goals. That’s not great, but 43 goals scored is a pretty great figure.

The leader? No surprise here, as Lionel Messi has a league-best 12 goals and his six assists are tied with Valencia’s Rodrigo for the top mark. That’s despite missing five matches and only going 45 minutes in two others.

That’s nuts, and the 32-year-old Ballon d’Or winner will enter the match as the all-time El Clasico goal scorer (26). If he nabs a hat trick, he’ll pass Ferenc Puskas and Paulino Alcantara for the most in El Clasico history.