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MESSI TO EQUAL RAMOS RECORD

Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi has played 44 times in the El Clasico and he would make it a joint record of 45 times when he leads his team out against hosts Real Madrid on Saturday night. The petite Argentine wizard will join Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos as the players with the most appearances in the El Clasico.

Real Madrid centre back Ramos would have maintained his one-game lead over Messi if he was fit for the game. The Spaniard will miss the latest instalment of the El Clasico as a result of the foot injury picked up while he was on international duty at the end of last month. The injury has forced him to miss the two games after the international break.

Ramos was absent for the last league game as Real Madrid beat Eibar 2-0 at home to close the gap on leaders Atletico Madrid to three points ahead of the El Clasico. The Real Madrid skipper was also absent for the Liverpool game in midweek. Without Ramos, Real Madrid conveniently dispatched Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie.

Brazilian attacker Vinicius Jr. played one of the best games of his Real Madrid career as he scored a brace to lead his team to a 3-1 win over the Reds. He would be hoping to replicate that form when his team welcomes Barcelona to the same Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano match venue. Marco Asensio was the other goalscorer for the 13-time European champions.

Liverpool pulled one back through Egyptian international Mohamed Salah at the end of the first half before the second goal from Vinicius in the second half gave Real Madrid a two-goal advantage going into the second half of the tie in England.

Real Madrid start the El Clasico this weekend in third place and they would need to beat an in-form Barcelona side to leapfrog them into second place and move ahead of league leaders Atletico Madrid who don't play until later this weekend.