Barcelona v Real Madrid: Five Key Player Battles

Nou Camp

El Clasico is one of the most watched football matches in the world. Barcelona and Real Madrid meet at the Nou Camp for the first league meeting between the sides of the season.

Here are five key battles to look out for.

Gerard Pique v Gonzalo Higuain

Following the news that Carlos Puyol will miss the El Classico through injury, Gerard Pique is going to be tasked with leading the Barcelona defence. Pique has the height and strength needed to dominate a player like Higuain who may be favoured as the main Real Madrid striker owing to the innovative runs he makes off the ball. If Pique can keep Higuain quiet then he will go a long way to helping Barca win the match.

Dani Alves v Cristiano Ronaldo

Alves played on the right during the match with Benfica and this is the area that Ronaldo often occupies for Real Madrid. Ronaldo will be making runs constantly down the wing and cutting inside to find more room. If Alves can keep the wide areas quiet then it will be easier for the Barcelona defence to deal with Ronaldo if he is forced to play in front of the back four.

Xavi v Xabi Alonso

Both of these players play a similar role in the midfield and both will be looking to get on the ball and pull the strings. The added advantage for Alonso is that he is a more aggressive player and will not find it difficult to stick his foot in to try and get some influence on the pitch. If Xavi is allowed to receive the ball and turn easily on the edge of the area then Barca could create more than a few chances.

Cesc Fabregas v Michael Essien

Jose Mourinho could well choose to play Essien in his side to sit in front of the back four and break up the play. Fabregas is one of the best in the Barcelona team at dropping into the midfield and ghosting forward in attacks. He has been turned into more of an attacking player by Barcelona which means Essien is going to have to stick to him like glue. A lot of the focus will be on Lionel Messi but Fabregas can win this game for Barcelona if he can deal with the physical presence of Essien.

Lionel Messi v Sergio Ramos

On paper you would say that there is only one winner in this battle, Messi. Ramos has played enough times against Barcelona to know how they operate. He will sit in the defence and has to be the player to pick up Messi when he is playing on the shoulder of the defence. He is one of the only players in the Real Madrid team who is quick enough and talented enough to deal with the striker.

Whichever side wins the majority of these battles will win the match and take the three points.

image: © tchacky

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