The first El Clasico of the season takes place on Sunday with Real Madrid and Barcelona locked together at the top of the La Liga standings.
The two giants of Spanish football have identical records after eight games, laying the groundwork for a Bernabeu battle that’s likely to be decided by the finest of margins.
Two players who could have a big say in the outcome are the focal points of the Blaugrana and Los Blancos’ attacks - Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski.
This will be the first meeting in a domestic contest between two of Europe’s premier strikers and both are expected to have a major impact on Sunday’s proceedings with Benzema 21/20 to score anytime and Lewandowski 5/4.
Much like the two clubs they represent, there’s little to choose between ‘King Karim’ and ‘Lewangoalski’ on paper. Both men are the same height (1.85m) and age (34), and have impressive CVs, but if you take a closer look at their stats it becomes apparent who you should trust to decide El Clasico.
|What||Real Madrid v Barcelona, Spanish Primera Liga|
|Where||Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid|
|When||15:15, Sunday 16th October 2022|
|How to watch||bet365 live streaming, Premier Sports 1 or La Liga TV|
|Odds||Real Madrid 6/5, Barcelona 21/10, draw 13/5|
Given Barcelona’s financial situation, landing Lewandowski from Bayern Munich this summer was a huge boost for a club in desperate need of a shot in the arm. At 34, questions were asked as to whether the Poland international was on the decline, only for Lewandowski to silence any doubters by hitting the ground running at the Nou Camp.
He currently leads the Pichichi standings with nine goals in eight appearances and is 1/4 to finish as Primera Liga’s topscorer, an accolade Benzema earned for the first time in his career last season.
The France international bagged 27 goals in 32 games as Real were crowned champions and is 6/1 to retain his crown, but has been slow out of the blocks this term. A couple of minor injuries have restricted Benzema’s game time and he subsequently has three goals in five league outings for the Galacticos.
Benzema also netted once in the European Super Cup but is yet to open his account in the Champions League, while Lewandowski has scored five times in four matches, moving him ahead of Benzema (86) up to third amongst the competition’s all-time topscorers on 91 goals.
Lewandowski’s excellent start to life at Barca should come as no surprise with the Pole having bagged a remarkable 523 goals in 688 games at an average of a goal every 108 minutes across his club career.
That dwarfs Benzema’s 393 goals in 762 games at an average of a goal every 138 minutes but the Frenchman has been far more productive than those stats suggest in recent years.
Since Cristiano Ronaldo left the Bernabeu in 2018, Benzema has revelled in his role as Madrid’s main man, rising up to second in Real’s all-time topscorer list with 327 goals.
Benzema has hit at least 27 goals in all competitions in each of the last four seasons, ending the last campaign with 44 goals to his name, including 15 in the Champions League as he finished as the competition’s topscorer.
He’s now the heartbeat of this Real side and brings more than just goals to the table, tallying 12 assists in Primera Liga last season, a tally only bettered by Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele (13).
Benzema’s efforts last season are expected to be recognised by him being named the Ballon d’Or winner the day after El Clasico.
That’s one honour that has eluded Lewandowski in his career, despite him surpassing 50 goals in two of the last three seasons. Detractors of the Pole might say that’s down to his lack of a contribution outside of the box but he’s had a respectable return of seven and nine assists the last two seasons to go along with his huge haul of goals.
Lewandowski’s flying start to his Barcelona career - he became the fastest player to reach six goals in Primera Liga (five games) in the 21st century - has put him on course for another big season.
He unsurprisingly ranks first in the Primera Liga in expected goals and shots on target, but Benzema isn’t far behind, despite his limited game time.
Benzema is second in expected goals and has registered the fifth most shots on target, suggesting he too is set to maintain the high standards he’s set in recent seasons.
Keeping pace with Lewandowski in terms of goals over the course of a season won’t be easy but Benzema’s all-round contribution means he won’t easily be overshadowed, setting the stage for an epic showdown in the Clasico.