In a clash of two of the best squads in world football, there are still some players who stand above the rest and make a difference. Here are five players who could decide the first Clasico of the season.
Barcelona have had their defensive issues so far this season, more so than in the previous two seasons under Ernesto Valverde. There’ll be a need for calm at the back as they face Real Madrid’s fearsome attack and this is where the experience of 32-year-old Gerard Piqué will prove crucial. Whether he’s partnered by Samuel Umtiti or Clement Lenglet in central defence, the onus will be on Piqué to organise the Barça back line.
The 18-year-old Brazilian has proved a revelation in his first season at the club following a summer transfer from Santos, scoring on his LaLiga debut against Osasuna and then netting a perfect hat-trick (left foot, right foot and header) in his first Champions League start against Galatasaray in November. Already a full Brazilian international, Rodrygo could well prove decisive in the latter stages of the Clasico.
Barcelona also reinforced this summer, bringing in Antoine Griezmann to reinforce their rich attacking options. While Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez are obviously players to watch out for and have single-handedly decided Clásicos in the past, Griezmann could prove the X-factor in his first Clásico. The Frenchman has scored eight goals against Los Blancos in his career; there are only two clubs against whom he has more goals.
Jordi Alba is a full-back with an almost unrivalled attacking potential. His duel with Dani Carvajal down Barcelona’s left flank will be fascinating to watch and if Alba gets the better of his international teammate then that could cause huge problems for Real Madrid. He provided a total of 17 assists last season, the second-most in the team after Messi, and has been a long-running problem for the side from the capital.
The middle of Real Madrid’s team sheet used to write itself, with Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić forming a midfield trio that dominated Europe for years. Yet this season that trio has been broken up by the emergence of Fede Valverde. The 21-year-old Uruguayan has burst onto the scene in 2019 and has become one of the first names on Zinedine Zidane’s team sheet thanks to his maturity, pace and decisiveness on the ball. Look for Zidane to use Valverde to break the deadlock as the encounter enters its final stages.
Watch El Clasico live this Wednesday on BeIn Sports, Kayo Sports, or BeIn Sports Connect from 6am AEDT.