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El Clasico: A new dawn

Messi and Ronaldo might be missing from the game but that is unlikely to make it less of a match
Vinicius Junior

Agnideb Bandyopadhyay   |   Published 24.10.21, 04:44 AM

Change has forever been the only constant. Variety, the spice of life. The world has been conditioned to expect El Clasico to be the most awaited fixture of the year where one gets to see an oft-reticent Lionel Messi holding the jersey atop after scoring a vicious winning goal at the Bernabeu, or Cristiano Ronaldo brandishing a deafening Siu at Camp Nou. But this time it’s a new dawn.

For the first time in more than a decade, an El Clasico will be played without either star helming their team. Accepting a Messi-less Barcelona has been difficult for its fans, but that does not detract from the hype leading up to the most high-octane clash of the year. It is time for new names to be encrusted on the hallowed pillars as the world gears up for the El Clasico this evening at Camp Nou, Barcelona.

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It has been an onerous year for both the clubs. Barcelona go into the Clasico with lofty hopes of salvaging a win to remember, while for buoyant Real Madrid, it remains a test of their composure. With young guns taking charge, it will be tricky for both Ronald Koeman and Carlo Ancelotti to harness their arsenal and establish a statement at a charged Camp Nou. t2oS picks a combined 11 that’s likely to dominate the pitch tonight.

Goalkeeper

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona): Marc-Andre’s contribution and composure often go understated. The German wall has always been consistent in holding guard despite a regularly faltering Barcelona defence making it difficult for the goalie. With unimaginable saves over the last season, ter Stegen’s skills and intimidating vision often make it difficult for the strikers.

Defence

David Alaba (Real Madrid): David Alaba has always been a player to rely on. Guarding the left flank and infusing speed, precision and technical brilliance into the team, one can only hope that Alaba would take his signature runs drilling into the heart of the opponent’s defence.

Eder Militao (Real Madrid): Over the last season, this 23-year-old has been one of the most consistent central defenders. His flexibility and physicality on the pitch has made him a seasoned regular capable of holding the ball and resisting the speeding strikers.

Gerard Pique (Barcelona): Drawing a lot of flak over the last season for his lack of pace and intent, Pique remains one of the very few of the old guard charging up and leading the team. Pique’s marking, interceptions and heading abilities have always been key. Injecting experience into a blooming and rehashed Barcelona team, the vice-captain hopes to tower over Real Madrid’s deft attacking line. This will also be the first time in more than a decade that the Pique-Ramos rivalry will be missed on the pitch.

Sergino Dest (Barcelona): Easily one of the most consistent performers in the Barca squad, the 20-year-old American has stood out owing to his speed, control and tenacity, blooming into a dependable full back under Ronald Koeman. His ability to fall back and run down the flanks and turn in sumptuous crosses clearly makes him a player certain to deliver.

Midfield

Frenkie De Jong (Barcelona): The Dutchman has evolved into one of the most technically brilliant players, every game only adding to his finesse. His capacity to hold the ball, link-up and drill through passes with deft accuracy define his game. When Frenkie takes control of the game, it becomes incredibly difficult for the opponent to trouble his mojo. With Pedri injured, the onus is on Frenkie to fill the attacking spaces, link up and temper the counter-attacks.

Sergio Busquets (Barcelona): The Barca skipper is undoubtedly one of the best defensive midfielders in the world right now. Fresh off an impressive performance in the UEFA Nations League, Busquets’ immense experience and his inimitable qualities of reading the game, linking and holding the ball, make him the connecting factor in the Barcelona squad.

Luka Modric (Madrid): A veteran of the game, Modric’s vision and creative playmaking abilities have often proved to be instrumental in turning the tide of the game. His long-range efforts and offensive positioning off the ball make him a maverick of the game. It’s for Barcelona to fret, if Modric is at his usual charismatic best.

Attack

Ansu Fati (Barcelona): As the crown prince and the new number 10 of Barcelona, a lot is riding on Fati’s brilliance. His ability to control the game, penetrate through the defence and curl the ball into the net, make him stand out. He has very big shoes to fill — spearheading Barcelona without Messi showing the way — but is also Barca’s trump card. Ansu Fati is capable of turning the game around at any given moment.

Karim Benzema (Madrid): Ageing like the finest of wines, Karim Benzema is in the form of his life. The gifted French talisman’s scoring streak and precision cast no doubt on his capacity to seal the game. Banking on his consistency and experience, Ancelotti’s men look up to him for the much-needed initial spur, scoring ability and composure while leading the attack.

Vinicius Junior (Madrid): Riding on his recent form, and fresh off scoring a brilliant brace in the Champion’s League, the 21-year-old seeks to stamp his mark at the grandest clash. His much-needed speed and tenacity have proved to be an important highlight in Madrid’s gameplay this season. One can only hope that Vincius hones his finishing abilities as the Los Blancos walk into the Clasico.



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