BARCELONA

Barcelona boss Koeman: Important for Real Madrid that Ramos is there

Speaking on Friday, Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman looked ahead to his first Clásico since being appointed as Camp Nou boss.

Real Madrid need Ramos - Koeman expects 'more compact' rivals in El Clasico

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman says Real Madrid's chances of Clásico success will be heavily influenced by whether or not captain Sergio Ramos plays.

The first Clásico of the season takes place at Camp Nou on Saturday with the two teams not in vintage form.

Madrid have suffered back-to-back losses against Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk, piling the pressure on coach Zinedine Zidane.

Barça, meanwhile, lost at Getafe in their previous LaLiga outing and continue to deal with off-field turbulence after the Lionel Messi saga in the transfer window and a debate over wages with the club's players.

Ramos suffered a knee injury in the Cádiz defeat and Madrid struggled without him in Wednesday's 3-2 home Champions League loss to Shakhtar.

Koeman: "Ramos can influence Madrid"

Koeman is expecting a more compact Madrid regardless of whether Ramos - who is set to return to the squad - is fit to play from the start, but acknowledges the Spain international will have a big impact if available.

"I am sure they are not going to leave the spaces they have left in recent games," Koeman said at his pre-match news conference.

"We are going to expect a more compact Madrid, with fewer spaces and, for them, it is important that Ramos is there.

"He is one of the best centre-backs and has a great personality on the pitch. Ramos can influence Madrid on Saturday."

Facing an out-of-sorts Madrid will boost Koeman, given Barça have failed to score in their last two league Clásicos. A failure to net again would equal their worst-ever run, previously recorded in 1958.

"I don't expect a vulnerable Real Madrid"

Asked about Madrid's struggles, Koeman added: "First, we have to prepare ourselves. They have quality on the ball. Like any team and coach, when you make mistakes you want to improve.

"But neither they nor we will be lacking in motivation. Their players have experience at a high level. I don't expect a vulnerable Madrid, on the contrary."

Jordi Alba is back in Barça's matchday squad after suffering a thigh injury against Sevilla on 4 October.

Asked if the defender can start, Koeman said: "The player always has the last word. He knows if he is fit to play or not. I also have to speak to the medical team so we are going to wait.

"I see everything very positively but you have to wait if there is a reaction [in training]. Yes or no. If not, he has a good chance of playing."

Messi out to end longest Clásico lean spell

The Clásico will also see Lionel Messi look to end his second-longest goalscoring drought in the fixture. He has not netted in 425 minutes of Clásico action, with his last 16 shots against Madrid not being converted.

Messi is, however, the top scorer in Clásico history with 26 goals and also has the most goals in Clásico league meetings at Camp Nou (seven).