El Clasico: Five key duels which could decide showdown between Real Madrid and Barcelona

All eyes will be on Real Madrid and Barcelona’s latest meeting this Sunday night, when El Clasico takes place at the Bernabeu. This is always a big occasion, but even more so this time around given that Barcelona need a victory to shake up the title race and cut the gap to the league leaders.

How will Carlo Ancelotti and Xavi go about trying to secure the three points? Well, this is a match which will surely be decided by the fine margins and by a few individual duels. Here, we take a look at five match-ups which could determine who wins the game and, just perhaps, the La Liga title.

Ferland Mendy vs Lamine Yamal

The last time Lamine Yamal was at the Bernabeu, he put on a show in a friendly match for Spain against Brazil and was even given a standing ovation when he was substituted off. The 16-year-old right winger already has 10 goal contributions this La Liga season, with four goals and six assists, and is averaging 1.6 successful dribbles per game. He has caused defenders problems all season long, but this weekend he’ll be going up against Ferland Mendy, one of the best defensive-minded left-backs in world football. If Mendy can keep Lamine Yamal quiet, that would be a big boost to the home side’s chances.

Pau Cubarsi vs Rodrygo and Vinicius

At the other end of the pitch, Real Madrid’s explosive Brazilian duo of Rodrygo and Vinicius will be looking to cause problems for the Barcelona defence. They have scored a combined 22 goals this La Liga season and were brilliant in the most recent El Clasico, when Real Madrid won 4-1 in the Spanish Super Cup final and when Vinicius scored a hat-trick and Rodrygo the other goal of that game. Since these old foes last met, however, Pau Cubarsi has made his debut for Barcelona and wowed everybody with his performances in central defence. The 17-year-old has been so solid at the back and demonstrated excellent passing too, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs in his first El Clasico as he takes on Rodrygo and Vini Jr.

Jude Bellingham vs Andreas Christensen

Another mid-season change Barcelona have made has been the decision to move Andreas Christensen out of central defence and into central midfield. Xavi realised that the Danish player could be effective in the centre of the pitch at snuffing out opposition attacks, and that would mean keeping a close eye on Jude Bellingham this Sunday night. The Englishman has been brilliant in his debut season in Spain and almost single-handedly won the first El Clasico of this La Liga season for his side, scoring a brilliant long-range goal and then a stoppage time winner. This time he will have to evade Christensen if he wants to be similarly impactful.

Andriy Lunin vs Robert Lewandowski

When Real Madrid won that previous El Clasico in October, Andriy Lunin didn’t play. At that stage of the season, the Ukrainian goalkeeper was on the bench, with Kepa Arrizabalaga starting for Los Blancos at the Estadi Olimpic. However, Lunin has now won the goalkeeping gloves in the absence of the injured Thibaut Courtois and is having an excellent season. He won’t be able to win this year’s Zamora Trophy because he won’t have played enough games, but his ratio of 0.58 goals conceded per game is actually better than the 0.90 of Unai Simon, the likely winner of the prize. This Sunday, Lunin will look to impress once more and he’ll be going up against a lethal striker in Robert Lewandowski. The duel between the Ukrainian and the Pole could be the most decisive of all.

Carlo Ancelotti vs Xavi

There will also be a duel in the dugouts, as Carlo Ancelotti and Xavi try to outsmart each other. They have met in nine previous Real Madrid vs Barcelona duels and there has never been a draw, with five wins for the Italian and four for the Catalan coach. Over the years, they have each experimented with interesting tactical tweaks, such as moving players like Ronald Araujo or Aurelien Tchouameni away from their usual positions. In this 10th meeting, and coming after an intense week of Champions League football, both these coaches may have another tactical trick up their sleeves at the Bernabeu.

Tags Barcelona El Clasico La Liga Real Madrid
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