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El Classico dominates football headlines this weekend

El Classico

Photo: The World’s best Critiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi come face to face in the season’s first El Classico (Getty Images)

 

 

One of the most anticipated match-ups in world football takes centre stage this weekend as the Galacticos of Real Madrid welcomes Catalonia giants Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeau. This monumental clash is being hyped around Madrid’s superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and La Masia hero Lionel Messi. However, former Liverpool striker Uruguayan Luis Suarez could steal the headlines if he is given his Blaugrana debut by manager Luis Enrique.

Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo has returned this season stronger than ever after a very poor World Cup display. The 29 year old forward has been in scintillating form hitting the back of the net on 15 occasions in just 7 La Liga games so far this season. He is in perhaps the form of his life, at the peak of his power and will be hoping to carry on his scoring run when the greatest enemy visits the capital.

The Portuguese will be assisted in the final third by Columbian World Cup hero, James Rodriguez, Javier Hernandez and Karim Benzema with Welsh speedster Gareth Bale likely to miss out due to injury. James seems to be coming to grips with the Spanish style and has been in great form over the past month or so scoring twice while providing 3 assists. French striker Benzema hasn’t been setting the league alight thus far but has 3 goals and 3 assist in 6 league appearances. Hernandez on the other hand seems to be enjoying life in the Spanish capital and looks happy in his new surroundings. The Mexican has scored 3 times in the league and has an assist in 4 appearances.

Carlo Ancelotti should recall Sergio Ramos to the first 11 after he returned to training from an injury lay-off and could be partnered by Raphael Varane in central defence with Pepe a slight doubt. The midfield should be marshalled by Croatian schemer Luka Modric and Germany’s World Cup winner Toni Kroos. The German has slotted in well since moving to Madrid in the summer and looks as if he has been a part of the team for the last 3 years.

Luis Enrique has many options with Lionel Messi and Neymar leading the charge up front. The Argentine master has been very influential for the Catalans dictating play in the final third, linking up brilliantly and scoring goals. He has made a quiet start to the season by his usually high standards, scoring a mere 7 goals from 8 league appearances while bagging 7 assists; 4 of which has set-up Neymar.

The Brazilian superstar seems to have settled well and finally feeling the love in Catalonia, making a brilliant start to the season. His link-up play with Messi has been immaculate and a joy to watch while he has also dazzled his opponents with his sublime skills. In 7 league appearances, the 22 year old has 8 goals and has a solitary assist. He has seen the likes of Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez from the Academy impress in their performances so far this season and will take nothing for granted as competition for places is very intense.

Luis Enrique should recall Claudio Bravo in between the stick and he should be protected by impressive Jeremy Mathieu and Gerard Pique in central defence. The manager has the luxury to use Javier Mascherano in central midfield even though he is likely to play Sergio Busquets who has not been in good form of late.

The craft and creativity from midfield should be provided by Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic. Iniesta is now the central figure from midfield with Xavi not seen as a first choice anymore. He has been showing his class, getting past the opposition midfield players and displaying his wide range of passing. The Croatian Rakitic, looks at home in midfield for Barcelona working tirelessly from box-to-box dictating play, retaining possession and also proving that he is an excellent passer of the ball.

Barcelona’s wild card could be the debut of striker Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has been out of competitive action since the World Cup but has looked happy in training with his new teammates and has played in friendly matches for his country as well as matches for Barca B. He is coming off an exceptional season in the Barclays Premier League and was last season’s PFA Player of the Year.

The Galacticos are perhaps slight favourites with Ancelotti warning that they are where they want to be. The Bernabeau is a difficult place to play but the Catalans will not be scared and will always fancy themselves wherever they play. The Catalans will be motivated by the possibility of Messi becoming La Liga’s all-time leading scorer should he net a brace. Real will try their best to prevent this from happening in their stadium but the result of the match could go either way. The outcome may be decided by a moment of magic from one of the superstars on show or a mistake from one unfortunate player.  

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