Five key duels which could decide this weekend’s ELCLASICO

All eyes will be on Real Madrid and FC Barcelona’s latest meeting this Sunday night, when ELCLASICO takes place at the Bernabéu. This is always a big occasion, but even more so this time around given that Barça 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 LALIGA EA SPORTS title.

Ferland Mendy vs Lamine Yamal

The last time Lamine Yamal was at the Bernabéu, 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 LALIGA EA SPORTS 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 Cubarsí vs Rodrygo and Vinícius

At the other end of the pitch, Real Madrid’s explosive Brazilian duo of Rodrygo and Vinícius will be looking to cause problems for the FC Barcelona defence. They have scored a combined 22 goals this LALIGA EA SPORTS season and were brilliant in the most recent ELCLASICO, when Real Madrid won 4-1 in the Spanish Super Cup final and when Vinícius scored a hat-trick and Rodrygo the other goal of that game. Since these old foes last met, however, Pau Cubarsí has made his debut for FC 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 ELCLASICO as he takes on Rodrygo and Vinícius.

Jude Bellingham vs Andreas Christensen

Another mid-season change FC 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 ELCLASICO of this LALIGA EA SPORTS 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 ELCLASICO 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 Olímpic. 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 Simón, 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 FC 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 Araújo or Aurélien Tchouaméni 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 Bernabéu.

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