Five key Cla­sico du­els

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MADRID: Real Madrid host Barcelona in the 231st meet­ing be­tween the Span­ish gi­ants at the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu to­day (1715GMT). Here, AFP Sports looks at five key du­els that could de­cide the out­come in the Span­ish cap­i­tal:

Marcelo v Lionel Messi Four-time World Player of the Year Messi looks set to re­turn from a two-month in­jury lay­off on the big­gest stage where he has so of­ten made the dif­fer­ence. Messi is the top scorer in the history of the fix­ture and Marcelo will have the un­en­vi­able task of mar­shalling the Ar­gen­tine de­fen­sively, whilst also play­ing a ma­jor role in Madrid’s at­tacks down the left-hand side. The Brazil­ian was in the form of his life prior to a thigh in­jury picked up two weeks ago. He will be fit to start, but whether he is ca­pa­ble of stop­ping even a rusty Messi will have a huge bear­ing in de­cid­ing if Madrid can draw level with Barca at the top of the ta­ble.

Ser­gio Ramos v Luis Suarez Suarez re­cently de­scribed Ramos as the tough­est de­fender he has faced, but it was the Uruguayan who got the up­per hand when the sides last met with the win­ner in a 2-1 Barca win. Ramos will play with a painkilling in­jec­tion to numb the dis­com­fort from a dis­lo­cated left shoul­der and Madrid need a cap­tain’s dis­play to pre­vent Suarez adding to his 13 goals in 17 games this sea­son.

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo v Daniel Alves Ron­aldo also has a for­mi­da­ble record in this fix­ture with 15 Cla­sico goals to his name. Yet, his form has come un­der the mi­cro­scope in re­cent weeks as he has failed to score in seven of Madrid’s 11 league games this sea­son. Alves has also had a dip in form since his ex­cep­tional dis­plays at the end of last sea­son earned him a new two-year con­tract, but through­out his ca­reer has at least mar­shalled Ron­aldo bet­ter than the vast ma­jor­ity of right-backs.

Luka Mo­dric v Ser­gio Bus­quets Of­ten over­shad­owed by the star strik­ers on show, Mo­dric and Bus­quets are the brains of both sides in mid­field. Bus­quets has been lauded by Barca coach Luis En­rique as the “best mid­fielder in the world” in re­cent weeks and has taken on the man­tle from Xavi Her­nan­dez in set­ting the rhythm for Barca’s pass­ing game. Mo­dric’s in­flu­ence on Madrid has grown with ev­ery sea­son at the Bern­abeu and, af­ter a slow start to his Real ca­reer, is now con­sid­ered un­drop­pable.

Rafael Ben­itez v Luis En­rique Of the two coaches it is Ben­itez who has most to prove. Just one de­feat, his first in 15 games as Madrid boss, against Sevilla last time out was enough to in­ten­sify doubts in the Madrid dress­ing room and me­dia about the for­mer Liver­pool man­ager’s metic­u­lous meth­ods. En­rique is a more emo­tional char­ac­ter, but al­lows his side more free­dom to ex­press them­selves as was demon­strated by the stun­ning suc­cess of a tre­ble in his de­but sea­son in charge. He is even more de­spised by the Madrid fans than your av­er­age Barca coach af­ter con­tro­ver­sially leav­ing Real to join Barca as a player 19 years ago. How­ever, he is yet to win at the Bern­abeu as a coach.— AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.