Real Madrid saw two fantastic goals from Barcelona level out a strong all-around display of its own in a 2-2 draw.
With first-choice center back pairing Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique both sidelined, Barcelona was forced to play with the unfamiliar team of Eric Abidal and Javier Mascherano at the heart of defense.
Additionally, Thiago Alcantara was given a place in the starting lineup in lieu of Xavi, while new signing Alexis Sanchez was given a baptism of fire against the Catalans' Clasico rival. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho opted to use the exact same team that lost 5-0 at Camp Nou last season.
Very quickly it looked as though Madrid was the hungrier of the teams for victory. Cristiano Ronaldo, looking fitter than ever, shot off down the left flank, finding himself enough space to weight a beautiful cross for Karim Benzema. The Frenchman's connection was weak, however, allowing Victor Valdes to make an important save.
Still just 13 minutes into the match Mesut Ozil found himself space in the box, allowing Benzema to provide the German with the assist that would open up the game. Finishing from close range, Ozil neatly put the ball low and hard past Valdes to give the host team a well earned early goal.
Barcelona would storm back soon enough.
Picking the ball up just past the halfway line, Lionel Messi pinged forward a perfectly weighted through-ball for David Villa, who was surging down the left. Executing a neat cut-back, Villa turned and skipped inside before curling a world-class effort around Iker Casillas to restore parity for the Catalans.
Having seen its opponent score completely against the run of play, Madrid moved to continue with its dominance of the game. Eager to restore the advantage, Ronaldo played in Benzema not once, but twice, with defense-splitting passes that really should have ended in goals for the home side. However, Benzema's initial touches were too heavy, and the chances passed him by.
As the missed chances piled up for Madrid, Barcelona struck again, this time through Messi.
In one of the few attacks that saw Barcelona in Madrid's final third, Messi shook off no less than three markers before finding himself half a yard to shoot low and hard past Casillas, putting the visiting side in the driving seat going into halftime.
The lead would not last long.
Barging its way back into the game, Madrid earned a corner five minutes into the second session. Ozil whipped the ball in at the front post, and it was Pepe who would tee up goalscorer Xabi Alonso to strike from the edge of the box. Finishing with great power through a sea of bodies, the Spain international brought the game back to level pegging.
Madrid's monopolizing of possession continued despite Barcelona's best efforts and some tactical changes, leading to a selection of golden chances for the capital side. Jose Callejon watched as his assist for Ronaldo sailed over the bar following a volley, while Ozil looked on as his cross for Benzema was one again met with a tame header. For all of its dominance, Madrid couldn't seem to capitalize on the chances.
Ronaldo then found himself as something of a symbol of Madrid's overall performance, as he first saw an edge-of-the-box effort saved by Valdes, before uncharacteristically letting the ball get away from him during a counter-attacking run that could well have otherwise resulted in a win for the home side.
The winner was not to be had, and both sides ended up settling for a draw, with the second leg still to come.