Battles to look out for:
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Gerard Pique
The first half of the season wasn’t good for Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact, many people started saying that CR7 is not the same kind of player he used to be. But Ronaldo had planned something else. Ronnie came back stronger in the second half of the season. The Portuguese who was once tagged as ‘over’, is now back in contention for the ‘best player’ title. Ronaldo has scored 41 goals and assisted another eight across all competitions this season. In addition, he is the highest goal scorer in the Champions League as well. In last 5 appearances in La Liga, CR7 has scored 10 goals.
Also, the Portuguese has scored 17 goals in 29 El Clasicos while the Argentine has scored 25 goals in 37 El Clasicos played across all competitions. In addition, the Madrid winger will be looking to score goals against the Catalans and close the goal gap little bit with his competitor.
Ronaldo will be a continuous threat due to his attacking awareness which makes him a serial goal-poacher. In addition, if Ronaldo will get any space to take a shot then there are huge chances that the ball will end up inside the net.
Gerard Pique has a lot of work to do in this El Clasico. There have been multiple occasions in El Clasico history in which Ronaldo got the better of the Spaniard. But still, one cannot deny that Pique is a solid defender and possesses the capability to shut down Ronaldo.
The 31-year-old defender must push Ronaldo out of the box and make sure that CR7 doesn’t get any space to take a shot. Pique has won 2.2 aerial duels in every game which shows that the center-back can contain aerial balls aimed at Ronaldo. That being said, in front of the Camp Nou fans, Pique will have to tread carefully. One mistake and he can be a scapegoat for the Blaugrana faithful.
Lionel Messi vs Sergio Ramos
In retrospect, Lionel Messi has carried FC Barcelona on numerous occasions in this historic La Liga campaign. Even though, the Barcelona forward couldn’t win the Champions League this season. Still, Leo was able to win double with his consistent performances. ‘The Messiah’ has scored 42 goals and provided 14 assists across all competitions this season.
Messi has scored the highest number of goals in El Clasico history and will be looking to increase his tally. Also, how can one forget his first hat-trick in El Clasico when he toyed with Sergio Ramos all around the 30-yard-box. Controlling and covering Leo is next to impossible and that is because of his quick dribbling skills and pace with the ball. The Argentine will play a major role in deciding the result of the game.
Sergio Ramos, on the other hand, had a mixed season as in one game he will be outstanding and then in other he will make a witless mistake. The Spaniard has 1.6 tackle rate and 3.6 clearances per game. These stats are not great, but also not bad. The Spanish defender must keep the pressure on Leo and reduce his movement around the 30-yard box. Ramos will probably need his full-backs to close in on Messi when he’s linking up with Barcelona’s wingers.
Casemiro vs Ivan Rakitic
Casemiro has been a solid defensive midfielder since his arrival at Santiago Bernabeu. This season Real Madrid’s defense has been sloppy, and it was Casemiro who has protected the team from conceding goals on many occasions. When Marcelo goes forward on the wing, the Brazilian midfielder always falls back and plays the defender’s role. The Brazilian has a 3.7 tackle rate this season which shows that how important part he has been on the back line.
Casemiro has been a strong tackler who specializes in breaking counter-attacks. The Brazilian’s tenacity allows midfielders like Luka Modric and Isco to contribute more on the offensive end.
Ivan Rakitic, on the other hand, hasn’t been in hot form this season. The Croatian has scored only four goals and assisted another four in 48 appearances this season. Still, he is a very capable box-to-box midfielder who quickly interchanges positions in case others advance on to the attack. Rakitic also is deceptive with his late runs inside the box which catch defenders by surprise. Casemiro will have to mark him tightly to prevent Rakitic from being a danger in crossing situations.
It will be interesting to see how both midfielders stop each other from making games for their side. Casemiro will close down on Rakitic and will make sure that the Barcelona Midfielder doesn’t get any space to make a game with Messi. Also, the Brazilian has good strength and pace which will help him in winning against aging Croatian.