Barcelona, Real Madrid combine present and future in Clasico of fallen giants

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The 18-year-old Fati committing himself for another six years carried special significance for Barcelona.

Despite all the problems they face, one of the most exciting talents in the world had pledged his future, raising hopes he can be the leader of a new generation for many years to come.

More immediately, there was the desire for camaraderie ahead of the visit of Real Madrid at Camp Nou.

It will be a chance for Barca to regain lost ground in La Liga and to round off an encouraging week that has already seen them beat Valencia and scrape a much-needed Champions League win over Dynamo Kiev.

Those two intertwining threads navigating the present while nurturing the future feel like the defining feature of this Clasico, a meeting of two historic clubs, each of them trying to strategise, fix and rebuild while simultaneously flapping their arms just to keep heads above water.

Last summer, in the same restaurant, Barcelona president Joan Laporta met Ronald Koeman to discuss the season ahead.

Laporta told Koeman he needed two weeks to assess his position as coach, which was taken to mean he would try to find a successor.

But nobody could be found, or at least persuaded, and consequently an awkward, unhappy marriage has continued.

Across from Koeman on Sunday will be Carlo Ancelotti whose appointment by Real Madrid in the summer came as a surprise.

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