Cape Town - One of the most engrossing aspects of any Clasico is seeing the various individual match-ups across the pitch: the world’s best full-backs jostling for territory, top-class goalkeepers meeting the planet's best finishers and midfielders used to dominating possession fighting for the right to dictate the flow of the game.
Jordi Alba v Dani Carvajal
There are few full-back battles as intriguing as Jordi Alba’s tactical tussles with his Spain teammate Dani Carvajal. The Barcelona left-back and the Real Madrid right-back both like to get forward, but they know that it's just as important to track back when they face such a dangerous opponent. It was Jordi Alba who provided the assist for the opening goal in this fixture last season, as well as playing the cross that produced a penalty to make it 2-0. Barcelona went on to win 5-1, but that was in the absence of the injured Carvajal, who’ll look to make a big impact this time around.
Arthur v Casemiro
The midfield battles in El Clasico are always fascinating and the duel between Arthur Melo and Casemiro promises to be so too. These two Brazil teammates will be occupying a very similar space on the pitch, with Casemiro looking to protect his back-line at the same time as Arthur tries to unpick it. Casemiro can get forward too, though, and both players have proven they can score from distance. Every blade of grass will have to be fought for and every inch will have to be protected.
Lionel Messi v the Real Madrid wall
Lionel Messi is the master of free-kicks. Defensive walls against the 2019 Ballon d'Or winner have to perfectly position and often that isn’t enough. The Argentine master has even put some free-kicks underneath the wall, something that prompted Real Madrid left-back Marcelo to kneel on the ground blocking the area beneath the jumping defenders during Brazil vs Argentina this summer. If Barcelona wins a free-kick in ‘the Messi zone’ then keep an eye on the Real Madrid wall.
Sergio Ramos v Luis Suarez
Two of the most energetic and intense players in world football are going face-to-face; Real Madrid centre-back and captain Sergio Ramos will be tasked with keeping Barcelona’s centre-forward Luis Suarez off the scoresheet. These two players have taken part in some hard-fought battles in the past, leaving it all on the line in search of a win. Expect the most physical tussle on the pitch to take place in and around the Real Madrid penalty area.
Karim Benzema v Gerard Pique
Real Madrid’s superstar Karim Benzema could be the difference-maker for Los Blancos. The French’s form means that Barcelona centre-back, Gerard Pique, will need to be on his guard. With Benzema being one of the best scorers in the current season so far, the Clasico could be the perfect game to show his ‘new’ skills as the Real number '9'. Pique is the man to stop him.
Kick-off is at 21:00 (SA time)