Barca News Network brings you three key talking points ahead of the El Clasico finale in the Spanish Super Cup.
1. Completely injury-free
The last time the two giants met, Los Blancos came out victorious as they beat their Catalans counterparts 3-1 in the Bernabéu earlier this season. However, one crucial thing Xavi lacked in that game was the fitness of such key players as Araújo and Christensen, but thankfully, this time the Spanish master has a fully fit, and injury-free squad at his disposal.
The abundance of options is a sweet burden for every manager. As he has all his players available for this crucial game, Xavi can field his best XI, moreover, he can adjust his gameplan with players with different profiles according to the eventual tweaks he prepares against Real. This freedom of choice can make his team more unpredictable, and harder for the opposition to prepare with a proper plan.
2. How to draw Real Madrid’s venom tooth?
As everyone knows, Madrid has one of the best-attacking records in the world, thanks to the brilliance of their individuals like the recent Balon d’Or-winner Karim Benzema and the virtuous Brazilian Vinicius Jr. leading the Royal Guard to numerous victories, and a sensational Champions League triumph last season among others.
In this brutal attacking machine, Vinícius is one of the most important cogs as his speed and dribbling enable him to boss that left flank and beat nearly any opposition he faces, creating havoc in the opposition defense and thus, great opportunities for his peers. But when I said he can do it against nearly every opposition, that exact exception is our Uruguayan monster, Ronald Araujo.
Previously, when these two met in the previous Clásicos, the Uruguayan, if match fit, managed to neutralize the threat caused by Vinícius on our right. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to participate in the 3-1 defeat due to an injury, but he managed to keep the Brazilian winger silent in the preseason 1-0 win in Vegas and the glorious 4-0 in the Bernabeu last March.
While the historical numbers are on our side this time, by all means, will this Araujo–Vinicius duel on the right side of our defense be a crucial one, which can decide the fate of the match?
3. A perennial problem: Clutch Clinicality
An ever-present issue for the Blaugrana has been the relatively low percentage of chance conversion. As one could get used to, Barcelona bases their play on a proactive philosophy, taking the helm into their own hands rather than leaving it to the opposition and waiting in organized defending patiently until the perfect moment comes to pounce on those limited number of chances they get.
Accordingly, in the vast majority of games they play, they dominate the ball and create many scoring opportunities, yet finishing those off leaves much to be desired. Especially it was true for the games of increased importance, and they were punished for their wasteful mistakes against the likes of Bayern and Inter too, on the biggest stage.
Against Real in October, they essentially did the same, creating more chances, but rather in quantity over quality. Ancelotti’s men did the opposite: from those fewer chances, they managed to maximize the potential and seal the victory in a Madrid-esque way. This is a fight between different philosophies and different mentalities.
To remedy this problem, Barcelona signed Robert Lewandowski, arguably the best striker in the world. However, since the Pole arrived at Camp Nou, although he leads the scoring charts, has not entirely managed to become that missing piece of clinical finishing that the Catalans wanted so badly. Moreover, since returning from the World Cup, the Pole started off quite rustily – hopefully, this will be the moment when he reverses his form.
Another individual whose role could be crucial in finding that final touch against Madrid is Ansu Fati. The young titan, despite being hindered by injuries, seems to slowly regain his form, and if you look at the statistics, his excellent numbers may come as a huge surprise. Although not as spectacular, he has been our most prolific forward after Lewandowski, adjusting to the minutes he played.
These two can have a prominent role in Barcelona’s attack, but we might see Ousmane Dembele and/or Raphinha too in the frontline, not to mention Ferran Torres. Anyways, it will be interesting to see what Xavi plans for today.